Full disclosure: I had never been to an indoor waterpark resort until March 4 when I attended the grand opening celebration for the new Great Wolf Lodge Southern California resort in Garden Grove, Calif.
Yes, I have been an editor at Aquatics International nearly five years. And yes, I write and cover waterparks regularly. But until a few weeks ago, I wasn't afforded the opportunity to visit one in person. After all, Great Wolf Lodge Southern California is the first indoor waterpark in the state. And although they aren't just for kids, it's simply not something that's been on my to-do list. I've also been quite busy raising my 20-month-old daughter who has yet to visit an amusement park.
But this is going to change very soon. I'm sure of it! Unfortunately for us, we live a mere 12 minutes from the new Great Wolf Lodge, and the waterpark is only open to hotel guests (with a few passes available for purchase for their day visitors), so we won't be spending a night in a room that costs, on average, $350 a night. But there is so much more to the facility than the 105,000 square foot attraction and the suites to dry off and relax in after a long day of water play.
Sure, it's possible other indoor waterpark resorts offer the same amenities, but I must say I was thoroughly impressed. Located just a few miles from Disneyland, and nestled across the street from houses and in between the adjacent shopping center and fast food chains, Great Wolf is surprisingly unsuspecting. Sure, a massive wolf statue and flumes grace the exterior of the 600+suite hotel, but somehow it maintains a low-key profile. Which is probably a good thing. (Read: the locals won't be complaining about the increased traffic or noise.)
Not to mention, it's really what's on the inside that counts. And what an inside it is. I felt like I was a 10-year-old kid again. It's literally a Las Vegas resort for children. From the consistent lodge and bear theme that starts in the lobby and is found in every nook and cranny of the six-story structure, to the arcade and black light miniature golf, it's a paradise for tots (and the young at heart).
First and foremost, of course, is the amazing waterpark, which has a constant and comfortable temperature of 84 degrees. Attractions include several water slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and the centerpiece of the park, the Fort Mackenzie play structure, a multistory, interactive treehouse with suspension bridges, swinging cargo nets and multiple water effects.
The resort also features a number of family attractions that are open to the public, including a motion theater, miniature golf, an arcade, a kids spa and a child's size bowling alley. There's also the MagiQuest game, which sends players on a journey through all levels of the hotel to rescue a princess from a dragon. Players can purchase wands that they use to aim at TV-like screens to access clues that help them to find the princess.
After a day of fun, guests can dine at seven restaurants, with choices including a pizza place, a bar and grill, a Dunkin Donuts and a sweets shop. If a bathing suit or shoes got left behind at home by mistake, guests can find what they need at one of several shops in the resorts. If a kid forgets to pack his or her favorite stuffed animal, a new one can be customized at Creation Station.
Equally impressive was the staff. Everyone was clearly excited for the opening, willing to help, professional and genuinely happy. This extended to the lifeguards on deck, who were attentive and doing their jobs properly when the first guests splashed into the park for the opening celebration. All of this goes a long way and makes patrons feel special.
Needless to say, Great Wolf Resorts has done an amazing job with its newest resort. And my family might not be able to use the premier part of the resort, we definitely plan to bring my daughter to Great Wolf to check out the other attractions, including the arcade, golf and bowling. And if we ever travel to a region that hosts one the company's other 13 resorts, we'll definitely be booking a night!