Certain hotel experiences cater to the entire family, where parents can tend to their own needs while children can engage in activities that best suit theirs. Great Wolf Lodge is not one of those experiences. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. Too often on vacation, I’m all too quick to drag my children to a kid’s club or babysitting room, rationalizing they’d rather hang out with kids their own age. Whether it’s true or not, they usually oblige, and then our trip becomes a “family vacation” only after 3:00 pm.
On a rainy weekend in November, we visited Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, where we engaged in 40 hours of non-stop family time. There was no drop-off, no adults-only restaurant, no 18-and-over pool – only pure, uninhibited childhood fun. If you’re game, you’ll have a blast. If not, you should wait in the car, because Great Wolf isn’t a part-time hang. It’s a full on, all-encompassing kid-zone, complete with giant storytelling bears, a complex scavenger hunt, candlestick bowling, mini-golf, a tremendous game room, and the Great Wolf calling card – an 80,000 square foot indoor water park featuring a lazy river, wave pool, water playground and a series of hair-raising slides. Essentially, Great Wolf Lodge is Las Vegas for kids. And, like Vegas, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a sensorial experience that’s super fun and slightly exhausting, but if you step it up and go big, it will be one of the best weekends of your parenting life.
The Great Wolf Poconos location joins the brand’s 17 other locations throughout the US, in regions ranging from Traverse City, Mich. to Colorado Springs to Charlotte, N.C. The first lodge opened in southern Wisconsin in 1997. Fast forward to today, Great Wolf is on a recharged growth trajectory to open additional locations in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Manteca, Calif. while renovating its existing hotels. While each location differs slightly depending on its age – the newer ones feature updated rooms and a different structural flow – the common thread running through each property is the gigantic indoor waterpark and its trademarked MagiQuest scavenger hunt, a “Dungeons & Dragons” style maze where kids navigate the quest with the help of magic crystals, prophetic tomes and nymph-like fairies.