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It started on our family trip in the lobby of the Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove, Orange County. A big, black spider clung to the ceiling, its sharp fangs hovering over the little guest's heads, an eerie spiderweb covered the entire front window. This sight alone would have turned any sensible creature to a pile of mush - if this spooky Howl-O-Ween spectacle wasn't crafted entirely of balloons.
"Is that more balloons than anywhere?" asked 6-year-old Knox. "I don't know honey," I answered, wondering about the world record for balloon exhibits, "but it sure is a lot!"
The giant wolf den into which we had stepped this past February, when the Great Wolf Lodge first opened its doors in Garden Grove, CA , was now transformed into a mock house of horrors with decorations designed to bring smiles instead of fright to young and old alike. If your adventurous family is planning a visit to Disneyland to check out the new Galaxy's Edge attractions or the Anaheim area during any time in October, a stop at the Great Wolf Lodge to check out their Howl-O-Ween activities should be on your itinerary.
Multi-hued spiders crawled along every wall.
A haunted house mysteriously appeared in the back of the lobby.
Pockets of decay lay in every nook and cranny.
Even the wolf ears had changed colors.
Yet, we discovered although our favorite lodge had transformed to celebrate the fall season, all the fun we had first fallen in love with, was still there.
Once we arrived, the boys decided to investigate the newest exhibits later and wasted no time in throwing their luggage into their den,
donning their ears and racing off to seek soggy adventures!
Great Wolf Lodge Water Slides by Age
The restrictions have more to do with height than age. There is a handy guide, as you walk into the water park, that puts adventurers into color categories.
They are then given a wristband that alerts lifeguards and attraction hosts whether they are tall enough to appreciate the various slides and adventures around the waterpark. Kaleb is over 48 inches tall so fell into the green category, which meant he could do anything there, while Knox was pushing yellow but still within that range. He sported a yellow wristband, which showed he was taller than 42 inches. The wristband saved on time since the hosts didn't have to measure him before every ride. The yellow designation meant he could go on every attraction except the Howling Tornado and Wolf Tail. So that just meant, I had to go on the Howling Tornado with Kaleb.
And how was it? Glad you asked.....
The only other thing Knox couldn't do was the Wolf Tail and since I did it last time, I didn't feel like I had anything left to prove and didn't want to wait in that long line again. Or so I told my kids 😉
Daddy and Kaleb decided to try out their surf tricks on the Wolf Rider Wipeout. Knox wasn't tall enough to ride it on the surfboard but he could have done the boogie board.
Daddy went first.
He didn't do as well as the first time he tried it.
Kaleb braved the current too.
I think he did better than Daddy! Daddy might need a little more practice.
We splashed around in the lazy river Crooked Creek....
They chilled on a floating log in Chinook Cove.
Then they wanted to get their sports on, so shot some baskets in a different area of the same "cove".
Life vests are available for anyone that wants them.
One area they didn't explore but looked fun for those who are still growing into their height was the Cub Paw Pool.
The waterpark stays open until 9 pm from Friday to Sunday but we hadn't had any dinner, so we wrapped it up shortly before then, showered off, put on our jammies and had a late buffet dinner at the Loose Moose which thankfully stays open until 10:00pm on weekends.
I was impressed again by the creative and healthy options offered by the restaurant.
They were impressed again by the dessert.
The Regular Rooms and Holiday Rooms
I got a chance to meet Harrison and tour the various rooms on the property and also learned about the various holiday and winter themed activities that the Great Wolf Lodge will offer its guests for the next few months.
There are various rooms available at the lodge. We stayed in the Wolf Den,
which is perfect for a family with two kids as the boys have their own space where they can chill out with their own TV and animals that come to life when you wave the magi wand at them and the adults have their own little retreat and don't have to hear those cute little sounds all night.
For families with three or more children, there is another themed suite called the KidsCabin.
And if that wasn't enough, during the winter holidays, there is even the option of having a Christmas-themed suite for families who still want to celebrate Christmas but are far from their tree.
I didn't see where the Chanukah themed suites were but I guess a menorah is more portable than a tree.
There's even options if you're traveling with grandma and grandpa...or with family that snores!
Santa will arrive at the lodge the weekend after Thanksgiving on November 26, offering him a chance to eat his turkey with Mrs. Claus. The wolves, Wiley and Violet will accompany him in their convertible car. That day is sure to be howls of frozen fun!
The Free Activities
We went to bed way past our bedtime so we didn't get a chance to start our next day with the free yoga class the resort offers in the lobby.
Not to miss out on that great way to begin our day, we decided to do yoga in our room before breakfast.
Besides free yoga, there's a whole array of free activities offered daily to guests of all ages. It really is an amusement park that you can sleep in, as the assistant General Manager, Diana Harrison described the resort.
After yoga and breakfast, daddy took the boys for a while so mommy could enjoy some downtime. There is an outdoor area that is perfect for those who need a little escape from the chlorinated air inside the water park and is also perfect for toddlers and babies.
In this outdoor area, there is also a bar and a place to order lunch that doesn't involve fried meats or breads topped with cheeses. There are also a variety of adult beverages. In other words, this area is perfect for all ages.
When the boys came back, we all dove back into the water park and got a chance to have some thrilling family fun.
Great Wolf Lodge Howl-O-Ween and the Holidays
We could have spent the entire day and night in the fun water park but we had Halloween business to attend to in the dry parts of the indoor amusement park. The entire month of October, all the hotel areas transform into a mock haunted house with a trick-or-treating trail that begins at the haunted house in the lobby every night at 5pm. The path goes through seven haunted stations where the pack members (aka the employees) live out their own fun childhood fantasies by bringing them to life for your kids, says Harrison.
The kids get candy and activity books. But who says kids get to have all the fun?
And we weren't the only ones who got in the spirit with the kiddos.....
The haunted house will be remodeled after Thanksgiving into a Gingerbread House, and the lobby will transform into Snowland. Families can sign up online to eat a private meal inside the Gingerbread House for only $10. The Great Wolf Lodge donates all proceeds from the special venue to Ronald McDonald House to support families with sick children.
After going through all the stations, the boys wanted to seek their fame and fortune by taking on one of the MagiQuests that was included in the Paw Passes we got.
Battle stations are spread throughout the hotel....
They loved their quests and it's an activity that's good for kids and teens. The younger ones can have their own, shorter, adventure with the Clubhouse Crew, stuffed friends they can build at the Creation Station.
Also include in our pass was a bunch of souvenirs the boys got to take home and show to their friends at school.
The leather bracelets, included with the Pass, were cool but the Great Wolf Lodge band is still on Knox's wrist. He refuses to take it off. It's going on three weeks now.
When their sentences, weeks later, begin with, "Do you wish you could live at the Great Wolf Lodge forever?" you know you're going back.
Things I noted:
- The floors in the waterpark are new and less slippery. Last time we saw a woman take a big slip and we wondered how long it would take for them to make a change....not long at all!
- The lifeguards are more observant than any I've ever seen.
- We ran into two families we knew from home. Kids loved that.
- In fact, people can come from the surrounding community and dine or have drinks there even if they're not guests of the hotel.
- There are DAY PASSES you can buy if you want to have all the play but don't want to stay. There are also DEALS to save money.
- Although we were all fine and spent HOURS inside the waterpark each day, it's important to take breaks if you have asthma or other respiratory issues. Luckily, there is a ton of fun options.