Duration: 22-ish Hours

Destination: Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Water Park and Hotel

Budget: $700+ (will vary based on time of week, meal choices, activities, chosen, etc.)


Although it ranks as having one of the top 10 indoor waterparks*, Great Wolf Lodge is not just a waterpark – it’s a kids’ paradise with so much more to offer!


I never truly appreciated what it had to offer until our recent (and first) visit with our 2 kiddos! Our kids were over the moon about this place! Their every pace was pre-planned to give them maximum excitement, and they loved it!


They loved it despite the fact we only stayed for about 24 hours (by accident, read more below)! At GWL (Great Wolf Lodge), time slows down. Everything you need is within walking distance – indoors.  It’s like you’re on a cruise ship, but on land.


Affiliate Note:  This post may contain affiliate links.  This means that if you click on the link and purchase something, I might receive a commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend items I’d use myself or recommend to the friend sitting next to me.


Here’s how we had an awesome GWL vacation in only about 24 hours…by accident.


On accident, my family proved that we can have an intensely fun, deeply bonding adventure in only about 24 hours!  We’d planned to stay for 3 nights, but, during the drive to GWL, I got sick.


I thought it was allergies, and now I’m not sure what it was, but it resulted in me being too tired to do anything. I rallied as much as I could.


While I rested, my husband took the kids out on some adventures around the lodge.


When I wasn’t getting any better, we eventually decided to drive back home.


So, we had a family bonding experience in only about 24 hours (not including driving to and from resort), even with me laid out sick.  Imagine what more I could have written about if I had been fully able to participate in all the GWL activities!


So, here’s what we achieved in those 24-ish hours, proving that this can be a fantastic one day getaway with the family. In our case, we intended to stay 3 nights, so we ended up paying for 2 nights because we arrived about 6:30pm on night one and left the next day at about 9pm, way after check-out time.


But, here’s how you would pay for only one night and still stay about 22-ish hours.

Starting at 1pm on your day of arrival, GWL allows you to use the facilities while they prep your room for the official check-in time at 4pm!  So, you could arrive by 1pm and enjoy hours at the water park, at the buffet, etc. before you even arrived in your room!


With checkout at 11am the next day (or later, if you score late check-out), you’ll have quality GWL time for 22-ish hours!  Totally do-able and worth it, especially if you score a great room rate by visiting off season / during the week.  (GreatWolf.com has a super-handy money-saving feature that allows you to view how room rates change throughout a period; this takes the guesswork out of finding a good rate).


To keep the price down, I recommend booking during the week, if you can.  That will leave extra money you’ll need for activities around the hotel, like participation in the MagiQuest game, magic wands for the MagiQuest game, “Wolf Passes”, food, etc. With this 1-day plan, it’s true that you won’t likely do everything, but you’ll get a taste of most things and know what your priority activities are for your next visit.


I say ‘next time’ because I’m confident that you’ll find GWL to be a family-friendly oasis you’ll want to return to over and over again.


Helpful Tips –


Use the GWL app to ask for customer service assistance.  We used it to request more towels, and it can be used for pretty much anything that requires communication with, or assistance from, the hotel staff.

Take advantage of the the grown-up wrist bands that can be linked to your credit card. That way, you won’t need to lug your wallet to the waterpark just in case someone wants a snack. Go the old-fashioned bring-your-own food route.

Save time (and money) by preparing easy meals (like PBJs) in your room, so you don’t waste extra time sitting in a restaurant.




How we got the most of our 24-hour-ish stay…


1. Before we ever arrived, we made sure we got our sleeping quarters set up as part of the adventure!


I highly recommend staying in a themed suite like the KidKamp or the Wolf Den.

When I saw the photos of the suites online, I was excited to see that GWL understands that rooms can be part of the adventure. We stayed in the KidKamp suite, which simulated a stay at camp with bunkbeds in a tent, and my kids LOVED it!

They investigated every nook and cranny of their KidKamp space, popping their head through the “windows” on top and bottom. Bedtime was a true adventure for them!  And, some locations sell a Build-Your-Own Fort Kit.

Here’s what the bunk bed tent in the room looks like…



2. On arrival, we entered Great Wolf Culture Immediately. Don your free (and surprisingly sturdy) set of fuzzy wolf ears upon check in!  Then, go tour all that the resort has to offer in the main areas.

Even the parents love wearing these!


3. We started the MagiQuest game immediately. This game is brilliant!  It’s played all around the hotel and in a hallway near you. You can literally play as you walk to the water park or to the buffet because it’s so genius in how it’s integrated into all that hallway space that’s so vacant at other hotels.

GWL finds a way to weave fun into EVERYWHERE!

I’m not a big video game person, but who doesn’t love waving a magic wand to light up an otherwise clear crystal or tiara?  It’s great for all ages.


As soon as possible, have your children choose their custom magic wands and get them started playing MagiQuest, which will literally have them running all over the hotel (read: exercise!) on a quest in the game’s fantasy world of “Vellarta”.


My husband and my son literally clocked 4 miles of walking while following clues and playing this interactive game! It’s like a video game but is the complete opposite of the typical sedentary types.


This is also a great game for before and after the operating hours of the main attraction, the water park.



4. We lived it up as a family at the weather-proof, fun-for-everyone waterpark! There are slides, pools, tipping water buckets, a lazy river, a wave pool, just to name a few. The 2-person water slides were my kids’ faves, and we got a MAJOR WORKOUT from climbing and climbing the stairs to get to the top of the slides.



5. We took advantage of the other kid-friendly activities like Creation Station and pint-size bowling at Ten-Paw Alley!


The kids are showered with things to do, like pint-size bowling, but also showered with toys and make-your-own plushies and candy at the on-site gift shops. My kids picked a stuffed animal, stuffed it and dressed it (similar to Build-A-Bear) while also picking out a leather bracelet to have their name lasered onto it.




Seriously, where was this place when I was a kid!


Although we accomplished a lot in 24 hours, we still have so much to experience. Next time, we can’t wait to check out the nightly storytime, the arcade, morning yoga for the kids and even the Scoops spa (for kids and grown-ups!)

Writing this has made me so pumped to go again!

If you’re now as pumped as I am, check them out at GreatWolf.com.  Just choose your preferred location.  There’s even one in Canada (Niagara Falls).


What have you done on a quick trip to Great Wolf Lodge?


*Click here to go to the 2018 list of the best indoor water parks as ranked in the USA Today 10best Readers’ Choice Awards.


Affiliate Note:  This post may contain affiliate links.  This means that if you click on the link and purchase something, I might receive a commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend items I’d use myself or recommend to the friend sitting next to me.