(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

When the Great Wolf Lodge in Gar­den Grove, CA first opened, I did­n’t see how an indoor water­park could sur­vive, or even be of inter­est, in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Who would want to go? Leave the sun­shine for a bunch of indoor water­slides? I had heard there were 19 of these indoor water­parks spread through­out the coun­try but I had nev­er heard of this fam­i­ly resort. But when the Great Wolf Lodge, near Ana­heim, invit­ed us, through L.A. Par­ent, I was pret­ty con­fi­dent we’d have a great time. Any week­end that involves no rush­ing from sport to sport, no cook­ing, no clean­ing is a good weekend.

Plus, we’re all water peo­ple and we love hav­ing fam­i­ly adven­ture so nat­u­ral­ly, this place held a draw for us but I feared the weird smells and gross germs that could pos­si­bly fes­ter in an indoor envi­ron­ment. Still.…we were excit­ed to get away. We arrived and received swag bags with Paw Pass­es to expe­ri­ence the entire resort, which appar­ent­ly had a lot more to offer than just the water park. We also got these cute lit­tle pink wrist­bands that have RFID chips embed­ded so they act­ed like room keys, pass­es to the water­park and allowed you to buy any­thing on the resort sim­ply by wav­ing your hand. Who would­n’t like that?

 

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The boys loved their room, which includ­ed their own pri­vate lit­tle Wolf Den.

 

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Roar! We love our wolf ears!

 

And their very own bunk beds.

 

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They wore their bathing suits to school because they did­n’t want to waste any time!

 

And after fight­ing Fri­day grid­lock on the 405, Mom­my and Dad­dy loved our cham­pagne welcome!

 

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Dad­dy does­n’t real­ly like cham­pagne (he’s just pre­tend­ing for the pic­ture). More for Mommy!

 

The boys could­n’t wait to get into the water park! Who are we kid­ding? Mom­my could­n’t wait either!

 

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This is the life.….

 

The indoor park was much big­ger than I imag­ined it would be. There were 12 slides, some big enough to accom­mo­date sev­er­al raft sizes. The tem­per­a­ture was a cozy 84 degrees.…and at my age, I also appre­ci­at­ed not hav­ing to hide from the sun as my baby oil slather­ing days are long gone. No hats to keep track of, no chas­ing the kids around with sunscreen.…..I start­ed to see the ben­e­fits of this crazy indoor water park idea…especially as we were expe­ri­enc­ing a rare SoCal rainy day out­side (imag­ine if we had planned this exten­sive out­door week­end only to be thwart­ed by the rain…).

 

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Best thing EVER!

 

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What would a water park be with­out a lazy river?

 

At Fort Macken­zie young explor­ers could find adven­ture cross­ing sus­pend­ed car­go nets, aim­ing water can­nons at passerbys

 

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I got ’em!

 

and bar­rel­ing down tree top slides. There’s also a giant buck­et that dumps 1000 gal­lons of water after a sequenced crescen­do of beeps alert­ing those below to.…..

 

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Here it comes!

 

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Watch out below.….

 

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Every 4 minutes.…

 

Much too quick­ly it was time for din­ner but the kids were okay leav­ing since they knew there would be some for­bid­den fruit at the buf­fet to look for­ward to and by for­bid­den, I mean tons of sug­ary desserts which is a no go in our house. I was already cring­ing on the inside to what I antic­i­pat­ed would be a fried food fies­ta and an oasis of sug­ary hell. But the din­ner buf­fet was actu­al­ly very impres­sive. A few veg­e­tar­i­an options and many exot­ic veg­etable prepa­ra­tions as well as some suc­cu­lent cuts of meat, seafood and orig­i­nal chick­en preparations.

 

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Sur­pris­ing­ly yummy

 

And of course, there was the promised dessert. I let them each choose one and they both went for a cup­cake that looked very tempt­ing actually.

 

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I approve, Knox says. (in his jam­mies pre­pared for storytime!)

 

In addi­tion to the Loose Moose Fam­i­ly Kitchen, which is buf­fet style din­ing, the resort has four oth­er restau­rants. Lodge Wood Fired Grill, is a lit­tle fanci­er and offers some gourmet style options but is still casu­al, after all it’s an indoor water park resort. Anoth­er is a grab and go, of the piz­za and burg­ers vari­ety, called Hun­gry As A Wolf and smart­ly sit­u­at­ed by the arcade. Final­ly, two are locat­ed inside the water­park, Griz­zly Jack­’s Bar and Grill, a full ser­vice restau­rant, in the small sec­tion of out­door space the resort holds and a more lim­it­ed selec­tion of fast food can be had at Buck­et’s Incred­i­ble Crave­ables. There’s also a Dunkin Donuts some, like me, might find essen­tial for stay­ing caf­feinat­ed to keep up with the kids and a wicked lit­tle shop called Bear Paw Sweets and Eats for those who are plan­ning on doing extra Boot Camp class­es next week. The GWL offers kids a dai­ly ros­ter of activ­i­ties, depend­ing on the sea­son. Dai­ly, there is yoga and arts and crafts. Sea­son­al­ly, there is Howl-O-Ween in Octo­ber and Snow­land in December.

 

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Namaste

 

You can also find fur­ry lit­tle pals, Wiley Wolf and Vio­let Wolf, roam­ing around the hotel.

 

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The kids gath­ered in the lob­by after din­ner to enjoy a tale where the fuzzy crea­tures were part of the action, which always makes a tale more enjoy­able. (This is a night­ly event)

 

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At the end of sto­ry­time, we ran into some friends, the Prince fam­i­ly, who were also invit­ed to fam­i­ly media week­end. This was great because any week­end with friends makes a week­end way more fun.

 

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Boys will be boys!

 

The Paw Pass around Howard’s neck allows access to areas around the resort. Guests could buy them to gain access to a set num­ber of bun­dled activ­i­ties which saves mon­ey instead of pay­ing for them indi­vid­u­al­ly. One of the activ­i­ties both fam­i­lies enjoyed immense­ly was called Mag­iQuest. Mag­iQuest is a type of dig­i­tal, fairy­tale scav­enger hunt around the hotel. You start at the Mag­iQuest gift shop and select a mag­ic wand that is pro­grammed with your play­er name and vital stats (obvi­ous­ly a mar­keters dream machine 😉

 

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Kim Prince is clear­ly impressed

 

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This young pup will soon be trans­formed into a king or a knight to slay drag­ons and stuff.

 

Then you pick one of the many avail­able quests and off you go to fight mon­sters, find mag­ic crys­tals and save pixies.

 

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Just point your mag­ic wand and the crys­tal is stored inside. I wish I could car­ry all my trea­sures that easily!

 

Deposit your good­ies at one of the video por­tals scat­tered all around the hotel and fight vir­tu­al bat­tles as you progress through your journey.

 

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I can slay drag­ons in my board shorts!

 

There’s also an option for the younger guests to try their hand at mini adven­ture by join­ing the Club­house Crew, a scav­enger hunt cre­at­ed for the lit­tles. They start by pick­ing pieces to put togeth­er a stuffed ani­mal char­ac­ter in the same way that Build-a-Bear is born at

 

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Then the nice Wolf peo­ple help them fill their new friends with stuffed ani­mal fluff.

 

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The fin­ished prod­ucts — guess which is mine?

 

These are the cuties that lead younger guests on a much short­er quest through a small­er por­tion of the hotel. That night we uncov­ered anoth­er lit­tle GWL secret. What we thought were just adorable lit­tle ani­mal dec­o­ra­tions in the kids Wolf Den, actu­al­ly came to life and sang songs when you point­ed that mag­ic wand at them.

 

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Sneaky lit­tle.….

 

 

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Tru­ly a delight!

 

Every­one real­ly did actu­al­ly enjoy the sur­prise. Although I bet, if our kids were any small­er, we might not enjoy that sur­prise, say at 3 am, if they decid­ed to see if the ani­mals would wake up then. The next day, we had break­fast with the Prince fam­i­ly and learned about the after­noon tour Kim and I would have get to go on.

 

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Brady, Kim, Kyle and Stu­art at their very best at 8 in the morn­ing! (Well she looks great anyway!)

 

Our friends, Mor­gan and Justin, who live local­ly also joined us. Although the water park is open to hotel guests only,  peo­ple can join by pay­ing for a $40 day pass. You can request an equal num­ber of day pass­es to the num­ber of peo­ple stay­ing in your room. We decid­ed to test out the water­proof pouch the hotel pro­vid­ed on one of the raft rides.

I swear all that scream­ing equals fun! Then my brave boy decid­ed to try out the Wolf Rid­er Wipe­out, which is an arti­fi­cial end­less wave where peo­ple can surf or boo­gie board until their lit­tle mus­cles give out.…as long as they can stay bal­anced or hold on!

Well.…there’s always next year but dad­dy did pret­ty good!

OK, I sped that up for brevi­ty’s sake but he did pret­ty good! The lady who took us on the media tour said she had nev­er seen a grown up actu­al­ly surf, only teenagers and kids — low­er cen­ter of grav­i­ty and all — so I think my hon­ey has earned his pat on the back. Speak­ing of media tour, Kim and I left our love­ly fam­i­lies to con­tin­ue explor­ing all the avail­able activ­i­ties at the Great Wolf Lodge resort — all so we could share with you. Aren’t we sweet? First we were tak­en down “Main Street” where all the oth­er attrac­tions of the resort await. There is the Howl at the Moon glow in the dark mini golf.

 

Howl at the Moon Glow Golf

Pho­to cour­tesy of GWL — because we ran out of time and did­n’t get a chance to try this!

 

There is also mini bowl­ing at Ten Paw Alley, which we did find time to do and it was real­ly cool. Per­fect for pint-sized bowlers.

 

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Bowl­ing in flip flops!

 

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What form! Strike for the boy in the rash guard!

 

Ten Paw Alley

This is what it looks like if you’re a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er not tak­ing pic­tures of your kids — pho­to cour­tesy of GWL

 

There is also a spa for kids,  per­fect if you have girls — which I don’t.

 

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Cute girl who I nev­er birthed — pho­to cour­tesy of GWL

 

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More hap­py strangers enjoy­ing their treat­ment which includes a scoop of ice cream at the end!

 

There is also the North­ern Lights Arcade which allows you to win tick­ets for toys you will soon throw away and can­dy that you will try to throw away when your chil­dren aren’t looking.

 

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But they love it and there’s cute lit­tle games and vir­tu­al rides too

 

There’s also the How­ly Wood XD the­ater that acts like a vir­tu­al ride/video game. It’s great because the whole fam­i­ly can play at the same time which real­ly is a blast (lit­er­al­ly as you’re shoot­ing zom­bies etc.). Kim and I were treat­ed to lunch, along with the oth­er media guests, and heard the Exec­u­tive Chef, Chris ham­mond dis­cuss the care­ful approach all the resorts bring to their food selection.

 

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Chris Ham­mond, right, cor­po­rate direc­tor of food & bev­er­age, Great Wolf Resorts

 

We found out Ham­mond’s wife reads a blog called 100 Days of Real Food and the mom blog­ger ripped the food apart at a Great Wolf Lodge she vis­it­ed. Ham­mond read the blog post and real­ized she was right. They need­ed to cater to peo­ple with food aller­gies and had to offer more health­ful and tasty options. As a result, I was thrilled to find out! they removed corn syrup from all their food prod­ucts and their ketchup, as well as many oth­er foods, is organ­ic. They use non-GMO foods (hooray!), offer many gluten free options (includ­ing the fried chick­en!) and seek out local­ly sourced, sus­tain­able ingre­di­ents. They under­stood that 1 out of 4 guests have aller­gies to tree nuts (!) so they don’t serve any prod­ucts that con­tain them on their premis­es. Also, a chef will walk any guest with con­cerns about aller­gies down the food menu and address spe­cif­ic ingre­di­ent con­cerns. Now that is thought­ful! And what’s more thought­ful is they know not every guest cares about eat­ing organ­ic or non GMO so they kept the menu prices the same even though their source costs had increased!

 

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It’s most­ly organ­ic or at least non-GMO! Yay!

 

I final­ly got back to the water park to observe the oth­er attrac­tions like the Amer­i­ca Nin­ja War­rior style obsta­cle course at Chi­nook Cove per­fect for adven­tur­ous souls to navigate.

 

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I was going to try this. And then I didn’t.

 

There were also cute lit­tle ani­mals float­ing around to swim on.

 

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Who are we kid­ding? I’m just throw­ing in cute pic­tures of my kids!

 

And for the ath­let­ic-mind­ed, there’s a bas­ket­ball court.

 

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Some­thing for everyone

 

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Prac­tic­ing his layups for the next time he has a match in a pool.

 

Since I was Face­book­ing the entire expe­ri­ence (because real­ly, unless you see it on Face­book, did it real­ly hap­pen?), I had friends post­ing ques­tions about our trip. My friend Diana has a one-year-old girl and two old­er boys and won­dered if there would be any­thing for her lit­tle one to do. There is a tod­dler area…

 

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Pho­to cour­tesy of Kim Prince since for some rea­son I nev­er took a pic of this area

 

…and there is also this small out­door area that is suit­able for tod­dlers as I kept hav­ing to wait for them to walk by so I could get this pic­ture and right behind me is an out­door bar. Plus the resort offers the free use of float­ies and life­jack­ets so real­ly, they could go wher­ev­er there aren’t height restrictions.

 

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So it’s not all indoors

 

We had to rip our­selves away form the water park to enjoy a mock-tail hap­py hour for the media fam­i­lies invit­ed. I told the kids we were going to a par­ty and they were okay with that since, of course, we still had anoth­er fab­u­lous day of water extrav­a­gan­za to look for­ward to and who does­n’t love a par­ty? Plus they planned to go back to the water park after din­ner since the it stays open until 9pm. Plus you know they were all about the desserts which are always part of any good par­ty and they were not to be disappointed.

 

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Ummmm.…..help!

 

Read This Next: If You Love the Great Wolf Lodge, You’ll Love It Dur­ing the Hol­i­days!

 

 

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Grape­fruit juice with pineap­ple garnish.….yum!

 

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There was a salty option too.…..

 

And the Lodge was so sweet to pro­vide a vis­it from Wiley Wolf and a bal­loon artist who hand­ed out his crafty creations.

 

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They all want­ed swords…such boys!

 

For din­ner, we went back to the buf­fet and again were not disappointed!

 

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The boys got to go back to the water park after din­ner so we did that for a while. Then mom­my and dad­dy went back to the room for a night­cap and some room ser­vice snacks while the kids slept in their cozy Wolf Den. The next morn­ing, after break­fast, we decid­ed to pack since we want­ed to stay longer at the water park and did­n’t want to come back to the room to do it lat­er. The resort lets you stay at the water park until it clos­es, even though check-out is at 11am. We loaded all our stuff in the car and brought what we’d need to be com­fort­able at the water­park and a change of clothes for the trip home. There are lock­ers but we just kept our stuff in our chairs since every­one was so friend­ly and we were feel­ing so good.

 

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How can you not trust a per­son in wolf ears? And most peo­ple wore theirs every­where, all weekend.

 

There is a very thrilling ride there called the Wolf Tail. We passed it on our way to tamer expe­ri­ences. The rid­er steps into what appears to be a ver­ti­cal cof­fin and the door shuts auto­mat­i­cal­ly and sud­den­ly, a trap door opens and the poor sap is released to a straight drop through an enclosed slide. No way, I thought. I’m a mom and although I like lit­tle spikes through my com­fort zone, this would cre­ate a huge hole and after all, my kids need me in one piece and I have that tricky back and.…..my son Kaleb want­ed to do it. Well, there was no avoid­ing it then. I grew up going to amuse­ment parks with my fam­i­ly and rid­ing all the rides by myself or with my lit­tle broth­er while my par­ents brought a news­pa­per and read at a near­by bench. It felt lone­ly and I always wished for that big per­son to hold my hand and rev­el with me as I walked through my fears. I want to give that to my boys so I do every­thing with them. (Although I hope they don’t become X‑game com­peti­tors or big wave rid­ers because at that point, we may have to part ways). So we stood in line. I con­soled myself that there were young girls doing it. If they could do it, I could too! The line was long enough for us to real­ly think about what was about to happen.

 

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Kin­da scared, kin­da excited.

 

Final­ly we were almost at the front of the line! I want­ed to go first but I would­n’t be able to film Kaleb if I did, so my war­rior stepped into the cham­ber of doom.

All I can say is I did it, my hands were shak­ing, my heart was thump­ing but if the line was­n’t so long, I would have done it again! Final­ly, we show­ered in the lock­er rooms and changed into our clothes. The boys kept ask­ing why we could­n’t just live there. Every­one had a great time and weeks lat­er, they still ask if we could go back. I’d say that’s a big hit and since the hotel room price includes water­park pass­es, it’s actu­al­ly afford­able and con­ve­nient. And those are the mak­ings of a great fam­i­ly vaca­tion. And in case you are wor­ried about the cir­cu­lat­ing water like I was, here is a pret­ty nifty graph­ic that explains the painstak­ing process of fil­ter­ing and recy­cling it. H2O Infographic

 

Getting There

 

 

You can take the I‑5 S or the I‑405 S to the CA-22. Check your favorite traf­fic app before you go but on a clear day, it’ll take about forty-five min­utes to get there from Down­town Los Angeles.