A First-Timer’s Guide to Great Wolf Lodge


This is not a sponsored post. This is just advice from a mom and dad trying to help out other moms and dads as they attempt to travel with their kids.

With three young kids, ages five, three, and nine months, my wife and I racked our brains to figure out a local, overnight getaway that we could handle. There’s so much within a morning’s drive from Columbus, so we actually struggled from too many choices, not lack of options.

One recent weekend we decided on what is surely a classic for many families: Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio. Food, hotel, water-park, and all kinds of fun under one roof? Count us in for an overnight stay.

We had an absolute blast. My wife and I enjoyed ourselves, and the kids were on the move, smiling and laughing, the entire time. A major plus for us: no sunscreen needed!

While we are only first-timers at Great Wolf Lodge, we learned plenty from our stay. If you’ve never gone and are thinking about a family trip, learn from our mistakes.

Here are the six things we learned on our first getaway to Great Wolf Lodge:

  1. If grandparents can join, then bring them along. There were times when our infant needed to be in one place (napping), when our daughter wanted to be on kid slides, and when our son wanted to join me on the bigger slides. With grandma and grandpa around as extra eyes and hands, we could keep everyone happy and maintain our sanity. The place is big, so having those extra eyes kept everyone safe. The bonus when grandparents join? Mommy and Daddy can enjoy the park without kids for a few hours, too.
  2. Don’t forget flip-flops! We did. And we wish we had brought them for everyone. Did we survive with shoes and socks? Yes, but flip-flops would’ve been so much better.
  3. Bring snacks. We did, so this isn’t really a mistake we made so much as something we feel like we did right (a parenting miracle!). Load up the cooler and the backpack with food and drink, and you’ll save some time and money.
  4. Don’t kid yourself: you’re not going to get perfect sleep. The walls are thin. We heard every footstep, stomp, yell, and conversation in the hallway and in the room above us. If you can reserve a room away from elevators and stairways, then you might get a reprieve from noise. But then there’s the a/c unit, which roars like a dragon. At night, you’ll undoubtedly be jolted from sleep unless you can sleep through the apocalypse. But really, a getaway here isn’t about your room. You’ll hardly spend time in it, anyway. Your room is just a place to crash after an amazing day at the water-park.
  5. Bring extra swimsuits. This might be an obvious one for those used to vacations near water. But even after three kids, my wife and I still can’t remember to stock the diaper bag, so packing extra bathing suits was not on our to-do list. No one likes putting on a cold, damp bathing suit, so pack extra.
  6. The raft rides are great for little kids, especially the family raft ride at the tip-top of the tower, next to the “roller coaster” slide. Both my three-year-old and five-year-old LOVED the family raft ride. They were obsessed, actually. We did it three times in a row. Don’t hesitate on most of the raft rides. They’re great for kids and adults, alike.

Visiting Great Wolf Lodge, despite the sleep-deprivation at the hands of our infant, was a relatively pain-free getaway. And our older kids had a blast. They wish we were still there today. Since it’s only a 90-minute drive for us, we’re sure to visit again soon.

For the Great Wolf Lodge regulars out there, what else would you add? What would take our family from novice to pro?

family waterparkBe sure to check out our other posts on Road Trips and Road Trips for Free Science Museums for family fun ideas!