Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review of Great Wolf Lodge: The stuff no one tells you

We just came back from two nights to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.

Let’s start with the good stuff: the kids loved it: the waterslides, the wave pool, the basketball pool, the obstacle course, and the Magic Quest.

Now, onto the stuff no one tells you.
- There is a US$14.99 “resort fee” PER DAY that isn’t included in the rates you see when you book. Supposedly this covers things like “free” Wi-Fi (which, by the way, wasn’t a great connection). But wow, it comes as a shock when the room rates are already so pricey.
- The rooms do not provide corkscrews. No, it’s not an oversight. Say you made a pit stop at Trader Joe’s enroute (which is a MUST, either in Bellingham or Olympia) and picked up a little TJ Reserve (bottles worth about US$30 sold for $13); well, once you’re ready to relax, you will not be able to open it. Your options: go to the gift shop and buy a corkscrew for around US $6 (unless they’re sold out, as in our case) or take your bottle in hand and have the people at the front desk open it for you. It kinda feels like going to your parents and asking them permission to drink.
I never did get around to asking the rationale behind the lack of essential utensils, but wonder if they’re worried some kid is going to poke her eye out with the thing. Come on, GWL, it’s not the kids who are paying the bill here.
And you’d better enjoy drinking that Meritage out of a plastic or paper cup, because there isn’t a shard of glass to be found. Sure, kids are prone to breaking things. But come on, GWL, parents are known to watch out for such things, and besides, the floors are covered in (pilled) carpet not Italian tile. Every other hotel in North America does alright putting glass and children in the same room. Once again, it’s not the kids who are paying the bill here.
- The website says the place prides itself on cleanliness. Cleanliness my bumbum!!! On our first morning here we got to the waterpark right when it opened at 9 a.m.(the best time to go; you’ve got about half an hour before the lineups start). You would think the place would be spotless. The place SHOULD be spotless. It’s not. Have a look at the stairs you climb up to the Howlin’ Tornado and you will see old Band-Aids, sopping pieces of paper and plastic (from what, I’m not sure), clumps of hair, and used hair elastics. You will also walk by drain coverings COVERED in clumps of hair. Same goes for the area surrounding the hot tub (“lukewarm” tub would be more accurate). This is at 9 a.m., when things should be sparkling. And have a look at the window ledges on your hike up the stairs to the top: used Band-Aids, bits of paper, and used hair elastics. How they got there I have no idea, but clearly this place isn’t one that gets a deep clean very often.
And let’s look at the room itself. We found a hair elastic in our washroom and a Cheerio on our living room floor. A closer look revealed tomato sauce on the couch and some kind of white substance on one of two office chairs (with rips in them) tucked into a table.
- You’ll be thirsty at the waterpark, but don’t expect to find any water fountains. You’ll be encouraged to buy the bottled stuff.  (Only $2.50 in your room for 500mL of Dasani!) Everything costs extra here—the Magic Quest, the wands, the glow-in the-dark mini golf, etc. Tell your kids ahead of time that there are limits on the activities you’re going to do.  
- The hide-a-bed sucks. ‘Nuff said.
- The Internet connection was not great.
- We didn’t bother with the restaurants, but ordered pizza one night from the in-house pizza place. It took about 15 minutes just to get through by phone. The lineup in person was long. Once we had it, it was pretty good. Just be sure to order well before you get hungry.
- The fridges in the rooms are a decent size. We brought our own breakfast, lunch, and snack items.
- We did the Magic Quest, which was pretty cool. But we had to return to the shop a coupla times to fix our kids’ wands. The guys who work in the Magic Quest shop were FANTASTIC: patient and helpful. And if you can't solve a clue, they'll tell you the answer if you ask.
- You only need to stay for one night. You can start using the park at 1pm on the day you check in and as long as you like the day you check out.
- We fled during the afternoon to check out nearby, beautiful Olympia, Washington—the state’s capital—which was fabulous. Indie stores, fabulous coffee shops, lake and sea, big parks, great playgrounds. Well worth the 20-minute drive. Especially for the fresh air.

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