Once stepping inside of Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine’s indoor water park and resort, it’s easy to lose all sense of time and space. Every inch of the kid Mecca is filled with something to do or some interactive feature that will keep every kid entertained until bedtime. Well, good luck with bedtime!
The appeal of visiting an indoor waterpark is obvious: no sunscreen, no weather restrictions – just fun. The temperature-controlled park has everything from your favorite waterparks packed into one facility, from a lazy river to a wave pool to several tube slides. And it isn’t the biggest draw of the resort, with smaller activities like character story times and evening yoga that underline the lodge’s comprehensive, family-focused approach.
My family of four visited the park for the first time this year, and per the requests (demands, rather) of our 4-year-old, it definitely won’t be the last time. Just minutes from the DFW International Airport and a little more than three hours’ drive away from Austin, it’s the perfect getaway for any Texas family.
Great Wolf Lodge features both an indoor and outdoor waterpark with its indoor component as the star. When you walk through the sliding doors into the park for the first time, you can almost hear angels singing: there are play areas and attractions for kids of all ages – really! The highlight for my toddlers was Fort Mackenzie, a massive tree house with water pouring down and squirting out from every crevice. There are a few slides at the top that are great for preschoolers. For kids ages 3 and under, Whooping Hollow has three gentle water slides and a shallow play area with a miniature fort and lots of water features.
And the tube slides, reaching four stories high, are an absolute blast. The lines move fairly quickly, and even when they don’t, there’s the benefit of not standing outside in the scorching heat.
Another benefit of swimming indoors comes when parents of families with kids of varying ages inevitably have to divide and conquer; it’s so much easier to find one another and maintain a “family base” at nearby chairs or cabanas. Regarding the latter, Cool Cabana rentals, which are available inside and outside, include a covered cabana with chairs, a TV and mini fridge stocked with non-alcoholic beverages. They’re a nice splurge when the crowds are intense, and they take away the stress of finding chairs at the beginning of the day.
The outdoor pool, Raccoon Lagoon, is open Memorial Day through Labor Day and has a gradual-entry swimming area with water features and sprays perfect for younger children. For the daring, there are the two tube slides, Lightening Falls and Thunder Run. If you’re visiting during warmer weather, it’s a nice escape from the indoor noise and a great chance to soak up some sun.
Great Wolf Lodge houses 605 guest suites, all of which received a makeover during a massive facility-wide renovation scheduled to be completed this spring. Room options include themed family suites, which I can’t recommend enough. They’re a fun twist on a traditional room, with a themed bunk area for kids that includes their own TV.
And walking around the resort is where Great Wolf shines. A game called MagiQuest will keep your crew entertained for a long time. Granted, it does require the purchase of a customizable magic wand for $22.99 (add an optional $19.99 for a fun wand topper) and game pass for $14.99. If the costs are in your budget, it’s worth it.
While the game itself is geared toward older kids (not because of how scary or intense it is, but it will just be over younger children’s heads), my toddlers thought they held the power of the universe in their hands every time they waved their wands to see a light fixture flicker and change colors or to see a recycling bin reveal its hidden face. It’s a fun distraction that will keep kids busy when they’re airing out after hours in the pool.
And down in the main lobby, you can catch the Great Clock Tower Show featuring some of the lodge’s characters, catch a story time, work on a craft or participate in one of the many activities hosted there. You get an itinerary upon checking in so you won’t miss out on the fun.
In terms of restaurants, the buffet serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as entertainment on the hour. Characters parade in and give high fives and hugs. There’s a small cafe and pizza shop below the lobby and a more upscale, sit-down restaurant above the lobby.
Main Street and More Fun
Just outside the indoor water park is Howlers Peak Ropes Course, a fun challenge for guests 48 inches and taller. One floor beneath the lobby is what one can only describe as Las Vegas for kids. Walking down “Main Street,” you’ll find the Northern Lights Arcade (we spent many hours here), the Howly Wood XD Theater, Lazer Frenzy laser tag, Creation Station (similar to Build-A-Bear) and the Cub Club, where kids can work on crafts, color and play with toys.
It’s a fun area, but can quickly become overwhelming. My advice: Go in with a plan. Know where you plan to spend your time (and money) before walking down. For example, bring snacks or go between meals if you don’t plan to buy food. Set a time limit in the arcade and set expectations for Cub Club, where basic crafts are free but painting a specific item costs extra.
Tips and General Information
Great Wolf Lodge will leave your kids talking about the trip for weeks. Most likely months. And they won’t stop talking about it until you book your next round. There’s no shortage of engaging activities for everyone. The only thing Mom and Dad will need is another vacation … to recover.
Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine
Grapevine, TX 76051
Carrie Taylor is a freelance writer, editor and mother of two boys, with a daughter on the way.