What you should know about Great Wolf Lodge and its plans to build near Disney World
Who is ready for another water park option in Orlando? This one could be one at least partially protected from the elements, so visitors would not have to worry about scheduling their days around Florida’s daily thunderstorms in the summer.
Last week, it was reported in the Orlando Sentinel that an affiliate of Great Wolf Resorts bought about 50 acres of land near Walt Disney World. This came after the company told county officials in November that it was considering building its first resort in Florida.
Great Wolf is about to open its 13th resort in Colorado Springs, and most of the existing hotels and adjacent indoor water parks also are located in climates colder than that of Florida. The attraction is, of course, being able to spend the day at a water park when it’s too cold outside to otherwise even consider putting on a swim suit.
And these water parks aren’t just a pool slide and a lazy river with inner tubes. Great Wolf water parks vary by location, but common features include a thrilling six-story funnel ride; four-story tube slides; family raft rides; mat-racing slides; multi-level water fort with body slides; water basketball; and zero-depth entry to wave pools and play areas for toddlers. The water parks are only open to guests staying at the resort. A limited number of day passes can be purchased for friends of those staying at Great Wolf Lodge, but you cannot just walk in and purchase a day pass.
Water parks aren’t all that Great Wolf Lodges offer, though. There are enough other family-friendly activities and dining options that guests say they don’t have to leave the property during their stay if they don’t want to. From spas that welcome children to miniature golf, a MagiQuest scavenger hunt, an awesome aracade, and arts and crafts, there is something or everyone. Each evening, an interactive story time with appearances by the Great Wolf Kids characters is held in the lobby, and families are invited to gather round in their pajamas. And there are several restaurants and take-away food options, including a pizza place, an ice cream parlor and an on-site Starbucks.
As the name indicates, the hotels are designed to resemble cozy lodges. Fans of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge will feel right at home! Many of the rooms have rustic-looking bunk-beds that are enclosed in either a “camping tent” or a “log cabin” to give “wolf pups” their own space. And it’s pretty common to see kids in the hotel wearing wolf-ear headbands to indicate they are part of the “Great Wolf Pack.” Hmmm … did a certain mouse we know and love give them that idea?
Great Wolf Resorts has several lodges in the Midwest, so I asked friends and family who live near the Cincinnati - Mason, Ohio, lodge and are repeat guests to tell me why they return time and time again, especially when the resort is not inexpensive. (Standard rooms start at about $200 and suites start at about $250 and go up from there.)
My friend Julie and her two children have stayed at Great Wolf Lodge six times. What keeps her coming back (in addition to the water park and other activities):
** “There are a lot of restaurant options in the lodge and rooms come with microwaves and refrigerators. I appreciate not having to leave the premises during our stay if we choose, especially since everyone usually has a wet head from being in the park or is exhausted from all the water fun.”
** "We lock up all electronics and usually go with another family. It is true family time playing board games, making forts, or watching movies.”
** “Service is incredible! Last year the Colts were playing in the AFC championship game, and I talked with a manager about big screen viewing options. He opened up their conference room and we watched it on a giant projection screen.“
My sister Jennifer, her husband, her two children and extended family have stayed at Great Wolf Lodge four times. The water park is a draw for them, too, but they also point out:
** “We like that it is right next to Kings Island [amusement park] so we can just walk over from the hotel.”
** “The lines aren’t as long as the ones at outdoor water parks, and it’s nice to be able to go back to your room or do other things in between being at the water park as well.”
** "There are lots of holiday activities and Great Wolf Lodge is beautifully decorated for Halloween and Christmas. When we went over fall break, there was trick-or-treating."
Perhaps my biggest question, though, is whether Great Wolf Lodge can attract the same amount of business and loyalty in Orlando as it does in the Midwest. After all, the resort will be competing with world-class theme parks, water parks, hotels and other entertainment in a city that caters to tourists.
Would you plan an Orlando vacation that included a stay at the new Great Wolf Lodge? Please tell us in the comments.