Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, Texas Review
Pros & Cons First off, let me say this – Wow. Just wow. The place is enormous & overwhelming. The lobby is much more welcoming and inviting than the deadpan desk staff. The help at the information desk is less than knowledgeable, too, so if you have a question, you’ll need to chat with an online representative, or refer to the daily itinerary sheets you are given at check in. Nope, there is no “Great Wolf Lodge Channel.”
It is a 3 Star, not a 5 diamond, so I’ll cut them some slack. However, I’ve stayed at Embassy Suites that had more enthusiastic staff. Along those lines, let me warn you about the long lines to purchase food & beverages. The line at the concession stand style “restaurant” at the indoor pool area was ridiculous. There were always a minimum of 4 people waiting in line. Some were there to get free refills, while others wanted to order a drink or some food because well, you work up quite a hunger playing in the water for a few hours. We waited 6 minutes to order a sandwich & fries. Then we waited 12 more minutes to get the order. So, yeah, that sucked. This is fast food? Very, very slow fast food.
The day before I had wanted a margarita by the pool, so I walked over to the outside bar. I must have done it wrong, since after I stood there 3 minutes, another woman walked right up with her 2 kids, and the bartender got right to her. While she fixed her 5 drinks, talking to the adult couples at the other end of the bar, I inquired if one of the other 3 bartenders who kept waking around could help me, as I just wanted a simple margarita – the recipe a friend of mine created specifically for this resort- but I was ignored. I finally got mine, after almost 7 minutes. It was delicious, but not worth the 7 minutes of excruciating pain being inflicted by the verbal assault on my ears from my daughter who was begging to get back into the water.
Oooookaaaaaay, bitching aside, let me take you on the thrill ride that is Great Wolf Lodge. Water, water, everywhere . . . If you can’t have fun here, you need to give it up. My kids had the time of their lives, and since we live about an hour away, it is a terrific, low stress getaway. Three weeks later, and Diva tells me once a day how much she misses Great Wolf Lodge, and inquires as to when we can go back. Yeah, as soon as Daddy gives me a few grand to just drop on a weekend of fun, kiddo . . .
Now, to the good stuff; what to bring!? First off, aside from the basics, like swimsuits, cover-ups, & flip flops, waterproof phone/camera, and a credit card, I’d recommend food. Yes, food! You could tell the seasoned professionals who were veteran patrons right away; they brought full cases off bottled water, and those super huge totes were all jam-packed full of snacks. Some people even showed up as if they’d just gone grocery shopping. The rooms have a decent sized mini fridge, and 2 free bottles of water “to get you started.” Load that baby up. Also, bring paper towels, and paper plates. Everyone goes to the 1st floor to get pizza for dinner, since leftovers go right in the fridge. Perfect. Also, skip the $15/pp breakfast, and either hit the sweet shop or Starbucks. You’re welcome. Also, if you’re cool with soda, grab those $12 cups, and make sure to fill those up on the 1st floor, too (but remember, don’t be in a rush, because you are going to be in a line). Oh, and Moms: BRING COMFORTABLE WALKING SHOES!!! Nobody cares if you walk around in your yoga/lounge/jammies. Seriously. Nobody cares. But you are going to have some barking dogs if you walk 2 hours in that hotel wearing your flip flops, or cute flats you just bought. Skip it. Slide on something that supports you, because the rest of your body is already screaming to just sit down for 5 minutes.
Birthdays aren’t really special, unless you want to blow $100 on a cake & a door poster, and some arcade credits. Don’t expect to have the wait staff sing happy birthday to your kid, either. One lady at a table near us got that, but the staff at The Lodge was too busy for my son. I don’t get it, either. I’m a 20% or more tipper. Oh well. Ce la vie. After I chatted with a hotel rep online, I was told the desk staff at check in should have given him a special set of wolf ears, and a special greeting, but upon arrival, when I told the lady about his birthday, she just said to let our server know. Wow. Really? Ok, this place is definitely NOT bringing their “A game.” At least not for our family. So, you may or may not be treated special. Go in with low expectations and you will be fine. Go in expecting a $400/nt room, and the service that typically goes along with that, and you will be disappointed. Also, you get fresh towels & linens every 3 days, so make that count.
It really is a gimmick, but when it comes to kids & theme parks, what isn’t? Adult drink prices are in line with what you’d expect from a typical bar. Food prices are legit. I mean it’s what you would expect; Overpriced resort food. Duh. It’s a no brainer there, but the horrible service was unexpected, I must admit. Slow. I didn’t say anything at one meal. But the look on my face, and even Hubs, who never makes a scene, was enough to garner attention from management. We were served our meals (dinner salads) almost 15 minutes before the kid’s meals came out. Yeah, if you have kids, you KNOW that is a no-no. ALWAYS bring the kid’s food first, if they can’t be served together. The manager apologized, and even comp’ed the kid’s meals for us. Nice gesture, Lodge. I tried to give them a second chance, since the night before was so bad (too busy to sing to my son), but this was just as bad.
Luckily, the food and service isn’t what we came for. It would have been nice, just sayin, but it was the crazy fun that we craved. And we got it! Make sure you buy the passes at check in. I got my 4 year old a pup pass, and my 10 year old a paw pass. Those were perfectly age appropriate and adequate to satisfy each child, in between swimming.
Indoor chlorine smell? I was concerned about this. I’ve been to indoor pools, and there is a fine line between that sour milk smell, and the chlorine & urine lung burn. My first impression was that the chlorine smell was present, but it didn’t knock me down when I walked in. I have asthma, so I am a bit sensitive. My kid’s don’t have it, thankfully. However, my son loves to swim & play hard, so after a few hours on the second day, he could barely stand up, was dizzy, coughing, and completely out of breath after playing in the indoor pool area after roughly 2 hours. We spent the 3rd day in the outside pool area, mostly. We tried the indoor in the late afternoon, but he didn’t last quite an hour before we decided to finish up the Dragon Quest.
Quests? In addition to swimming, and the themed rooms, there’s the whole magical realm of an ongoing quest in the hallways and stairwells. Included in the Pup Pass, was the basic quest, basic wand, etc., so Boo went his way, as soon as he had his magical wand in hand. Let’s be completely honest here. I have a tween & a preschooler, and Hubs made an appearance, but I had my hands completely full, and my kids had two seperate ideas of what is fun. If Boo had an active adult to be with him on the Quest, he would have had much more fun. As it was, I attempted to go on the Quest with him, but after about 8 minutes with Diva, we both were regretting this. He was armed with my mace and his cell phone, and made it 15 minutes before getting tired out. The next night, we attempted to let him go off, while Diva and I entertained ourselves a few yards – up to a few floors – away. He was spooked by a man who he believed was stalking him in a hallway, ran immediately to an employee, called me, only to realize I was literally feet away from him, and the “stalker” man, had gotten separated from his wife & son. Better safe than sorry. Keep in mind that we are miles from a major international airport, and human trafficing is a very real problem, so, I’m bringing it up. The Quest is fantastic, and your school-aged kid will want to do this. You will need an adult to participate, and by participate, I mean fully participate.
Kid’s Club is included . . . but, better have a paid pass. Diva’s Pup Pass entitled her to one free item in the actual Kid’s Club. She chose to make a pillowcase. She and I colored it with permanent fabric pens. She and I had a nice time. Boo watched, and also admired the girls in the arcade, just around the corner. There were board games, and lots of “for pay” activities that could be done. Nice for a break from swimming, but really, not necessary. Wait, Diva said no, it was absolutely necessary . . . so for your tiny tots, yes, it’s worth it. Go ahead and have a 10 minute break from swimming. I do want to mention that the staff has little activities and fun prizes for the kids. We happened to be there during a luau, so the outdoor pool had fun music, and a barrel of leis for everyone. That was fun. Leis and wolf ears at night. I was quite the site, I’ll tell ya! There are no balloon animals, and that, for some strange reason, is what Diva wanted more than anything. Sadly, even though it was on their website, it had been discontinued about a year ago, according to a “manager” I asked.
The first floor is where it all happens! That’s where you enter the indoor water wonderland. It is also where everything is located, from the arcade (most games cost $4 and up to play), the Kid’s Club, the pizza place, the Build an animal shop, sweet shop, photo booth, the Quest check in areas, the shop where you can outfit your little quest-goers, a glitter tattoo parlor, and the personalized everything shop. Yeah, it’s a little busy on the first floor. That’s the floor below the main lobby. There is also a 4-D movie theater on the way to outdoor pool, at the very end of the hallway on the first floor. We didn’t do that. Hubs was wanting to, but after realizing that these are just little cheesy movies, not like epic big screen flicks . . . ya know, he didn’t think it was worth it, and I have to agree. Entering the first floor, and you have to if you want to swim indoor or outdoor, is where you are thankful you bought that pass hanging from your kid’s neck!
Great Wolf stuffed animals are fun. Again, get ready for a wait. Once you get the animal you want, then wait to have in stuffed. Activate it, and get ready to go on a journey, as the animals of Great Wolf Lodge send you on a scavenger hunt. We made it to 1 successful check in before both kids were as frustrated as me. It sounds great! Family fun, and you give them your e-mail, and at different check points there are photos that are taken and e-mailed to you. Yeah, I got one photo. When I mentioned trying to go again, I got “let’s just watch TV.”
Bottom Line: We’ll be back! Do the themed room. Bring food, since the resort obviously isn’t geared towards impressing adults with their cuisine. Swim during the day, check off the items on your pass during the night. Rock the passes, and use that as your evening agenda! Again, can’t stress enough that you need comfortable clothes and shoes for the end of the day. Oh, and keep that card handy because if you want to keep your stuff in a locker while you swim . . . that’s gonna run you $20. No joke. So, lock up your stuff in the room safe, or the lockers on the first floor. Good luck, and I hope you have as much fun as we did!