The ultimate guide for travel with children from birth to 5 years.

Review of Great Wolf Lodge,

            Grand Mound, Washington


Halfway between Seattle and Portland, near the Centralia factory outlet shops in southern Washington, we found the perfect place to relax and recharge during our Pacific Northwest tour. If you're already familiar with Great Wolf Lodges and their indoor water parks, you'll appreciate that this is the only Great Wolf Lodge in the western United States (and western Canada for that matter). And if you're familiar with the Pacific Northwest climate, you'll appreciate that inside this water park it's always a balmy 84 degrees with nice, warm water for everyone--even the littlest guys.


While the water park at Great Wolf Lodge is the definite main attraction, there is also plenty of fun to be had at this resort out of the water as well, from daily crafts and organized activities in the Cub Club to the MagiQuest virtual treasure hunt throughout the building. Here's a peek at what you'll find, and you can read details of all the activities and rooms below.


Travelers with infants may also be interested to know that I saw a surprising number of families there with infants under 3 months old -- not in the water, but in the seating area taking advantage of how easy it is to let one parent park with a sleeping infant in the stroller and a good book in their hands while the other parent enjoys the water fun with the other child(ren).


Activities at Great Wolf Lodge


A large baby and toddler water play area with zero entry depth makes it easy to enjoy the water park even with a 1-year-old. We were in good company with numerous babies and toddlers frolicking in the mostly ankle-deep water. Infant- and toddler-size life jackets are provided by Great Wolf Lodge for good measure (life jackets are available in all sizes, through adult). Our son loved riding the “jet skis” and spraying water at us, or at least thinking he was.


While the stair-climbing slides may look very intimidating to parents of preschoolers, the River Canyon Run is very doable with a 42” or taller child. Up to 5 people can sit in a self-contained hexagonal raft for a fun ride set to music, complete with a nice landing with a helper who pushes you all the way to the steps if you like.


Alberta Falls is another option for 42" and taller kids accompanied by an adult, where both ride on a "2-holer" inner tube. Again, there is help for your dismount at the end of this waterslide, so except in rare cases, no swimming is generally required.


Aside from the water park, young children enjoy the evening clock tower shows with animatronic storytelling and song. After the 8 p.m. show, a Wolf Pack member reads a story to the kids--many of whom come dressed in PJ's. The mechanized performance repeats an 9 p.m., but without the additional story read afterward.


The Cub Club is open daily with a toddler play area (not drop off) and a variety of craft and nature-related activities, most targeting 5- to 12-year-old children. Each day's activities are listed on a chart outside the door, so you can plan ahead for a good time to take a break from the water fun.


School-age children also enjoy the MagiQuest interactive game played at points throughout the resort, with a "magic wand" and book of clues (purchased by you). For our part, the kids were young enough to simply enjoy standing back and watching big kids wave their wands to activate hidden treasures and messages, though I suspect this is the last Great Wolf visit we'll be able to get away with out using the wand!


If all of that isn't enough to keep your kids busy, there is also a complete arcade, girls' spa, and an interactive family tech hangout with games.


The rooms at Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound


There are a head-spinning 11 different room types available at this Great Wolf Lodge, so I've done my best to show the main differences in the rooms I tour in the video. Foremost, parents with young children will appreciate that every Great Wolf room includes a small refrigerator, microwave, safe (which is mounted up at a toddler-proof height, thank you!), and a pull-out sofabed. As well, I found that each room type, from the most economical Queen Sofa Suite (Queen bed + Queen sofa sleeper) on up, had plenty of space for an extra Pack 'N Play portacrib, which the lodge can provide free on request.


We slept in a Wolf Den Suite, which is similar to the Kids Kamp Suite (shown right) in that each has a small nook created just for the kids with bunk beds, themed paintings on the walls around the nook, and a separate flat screen TV with remote for the bunkmates. In the main part of the room, parents have a Queen bed, small table with 2 chairs, larger TV, and though we had no need for the sofa sleeper, it was great having the extra seating and space in our room (see below). The bunk area also provided space for the children's suitcases as well.


The lodge is also a great option for large families and people planning vacations with extended family or friends as there are several room types available that can sleep 6 and even 8 people very comfortably in beds.


With a large family (3+ kids), consider:


Family Suite (sleeps 6) - Features a partial wall between the Queen sofa sleeper and 2 Queen beds.


KidCabin Suite (sleeps 7) - Similar to the Wolf Den and Kids Kamp Suites, this has the sleeping nook with bunkbeds plus a daybed for a third child.


Grand Bear Suite (sleeps 8) - Features a private master bedroom with its own bathroom in addition to a main room that sleeps up to 6 people in 2 Queen beds and a Queen sofa sleeper.


For vacations with grandparents, consider:


Grizzly Bear Suite (sleeps 8) - Features two private bedrooms, one with a King bed and full bathroom, and one with two Queen beds. The living area has a Queen sofa sleeper and bathroom.

If you hope to eat in a lot during your stay, consider the Majestic Bear Suite with a private master bedroom and breakfast bar area that seats up to 6 (no stove, however).


Having stayed at numerous hotels and resorts as a family of 4 and now 5 -- too often finding we've been accommodated in beds but not in linens -- I add a special note here about the thrill of finding a whopping 6 bath towels neatly stacked and waiting for us in our bathroom. Thank you, Great Wolf Lodge, for "getting the full picture" about a family stay. Additional hand towels and wash cloths were also ready at the sink.


Dining at Great Wolf Lodge


There are multiple restaurant and snack options within the Great Wolf Lodge, ranging from a simple snack counter with hot dogs right in the water park to an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Loose Moose Cottage for breakfasts and dinners.


There is also a Starbucks café on site and Pizza Hut Express (both carry-out only), which are convenient for those who want to eat at the water park tables or in their suites. We found the Starbuck's oatmeal with stir-ins a great option for breakfast at $1.99, and refills in your Starbuck's cup are only 52 cents.


The dinner buffet includes an island of options tailored for tots, with favorites like chicken nuggets, mini corndogs, mac & cheese, goldfish crackers, grapes, and many others. While the buffet is not cheap at around $17 for adults, I was happy to not have to decide between prime rib, steamed mussels, pasta, salads...and certainly felt I got my money's worth (bread pudding, ice cream sundae...). A non-alcoholic beverage is included and kids under 3 eat free.


You can also get family meals to go from the Camp Critter Bar & Grille. Look for the details in your room, such as the $11.99 16” cheese pizza (more toppings 99 cents each), or other family-size combination offers including breadsticks and/or garden salad.


Words to the Wise


To make the most of your stay, arrive at 1 p.m. or as soon after as you can, with your daypack and swim suits ready. When you "pre-check-in," you can get your wristbands and begin using the water park before your room is ready (4 p.m.).


Lockers are available in the water park at $10 per day (pay $20, refund $10), though you may wish to simply keep your valuables in your car until your room is ready.


Cover up! As you roam the halls and frequent the elevators going to and from the water park, you'll want to have your cover-ups and flip-flops, (e.g. men must wear shirts.)


Bring swim diapers, and lots of them. The lodge is very committed to keeping a clean, healthy water park for everyone to enjoy, so be sure to do your part.


A diaper changing station is available at the BACK of the shower/changing rooms, without signs to guide you to them.


Complimentary life jackets are available for all ages and sizes. Look for them on racks throughout the water park.


Remember, you can stay and play in the water park as late as 9 p.m. on your day of departure, so plan accordingly!


The Bottom Line


Did we enjoy our stay at Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound? Yes. Would we recommend it to a friend? Yes. Would we stay there again? Definitely.


Click here to see the latest offers at Great Wolf Lodge Washington.








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