Best indoor water park
Most detailed review
We recently went on a family vacation where we wanted to go someplace warm during Thanksgiving. But we live in Idaho and are on a budget and wondered where we could go.
Thanks to Groupon emails we first learned of The Great Wolf Lodge in Centralia, Washington State. We had no idea that place existed before and that there is a whole chain of those indoor water parks across the US and even Canada.
They all operate the same with a few differences due to construction and location, but it is indeed a fun family place to be for every season. The temperature inside remains the same, warm and cozy in the winter and cool in the summer.
The decorations are always so pretty and woodsy and ready for every season.
We went for Thanksgiving and it was all decorated for that theme with a huge meal buffet style. It was a little spendy (adults $84 each and children $30) but amazing. Anyone could go eat there on Thanksgiving-day even if they hadn’t booked a room.
On the very next day when we got up, everything was already decorated for Christmas. Staff there had worked all night to leave it all ready at the nick of dawn. It was beautiful!
The park is for all ages, though beware that families with children younger than 12 were mostly seen at the Lodge. We did see a teenager about 15 years-old entering with his parents and having a meltdown saying: “But this place is for little kids!”… Ooops!
I would say most of the activities at the Lodge are for children, and the children at heart. But any teenager would love the water park, even the ropes course outside.
There are also arcade games, where we did see more teens and the Moon Howling Mini Golf under UV light bringing the characters alive.
Check those out here in these videos, we have several in our Youtube Channel: Rosie’s Family Travel and Adventure Channel …
Check out different fun rooms that children and parents will love!!!
Even the standard room is fun, but for a little more money, you can choose these types of rooms.
No pets are allowed at the lodge except service dogs.
However, as we were walking in the Lodge, we did hear a few dogs barking from one of the rooms.
It was Thanksgiving and I am sure most Pet Vacation shelters were all busy for the season, so book that ahead during a holiday season.
There is a pet resort close to the Lodge in Centralia, WA that charges $21 a day and has had great reviews from several dog owners.
You may check in at the lodge at 1 pm and start playing right away. Check out is at 11 am though you may request a late check out until 2 pm depending on current offers.
Either way, whenever you check out from the room on your last day, you are welcome to come back and stay, play, and hang out anywhere in the Lodge until 8 pm on that day.
It is recommended to stay at least 3 nights to be able to play and see all that is available to do at the Lodge. We did that and there were still a few things we weren’t even able to complete. But it was still a load of fun.
Here is a summary of our first day there…
While you are checking in by the very friendly staff, your children will receive cute wolf ears. Our children were very excited with those.
Then you are given three different Paw Pass offers for your children. Those are for all other activities available for the children, apart from the water park.
The water park is free with hotel stay.
When I read instructions about the Great Wolf Lodge, I had read that you couldn’t only do the water park, you have to book a room in the Lodge.
This item purchase, apart from the room stay, will be of very importance for your children.
There are so many other activities to do at the lodge that if you bundle the activities together into Paw Passes you can save up to half the costs or more for each.
Here is a copy of the paper they gave us explaining how the paw passes work.
They recommended the Pup Pass for our 5 year-old daughter, but she could have easily done the main Paw Pass as well, it’s up to parents criteria, but she did enjoy her Pup pass and all the activities it included.
Our 9 year-old son was recommended the most common Paw Pass. It had a few different activities than the Pup Pass but he was still very happy with it too.
The next level is the Wolf Pass. Our 9 year-old could have done it too, with unlimited ropes course, but it was more expensive and we were on a budget, so we just got the Paw Pass.
The good thing about the Passes is that if you don’t like one of the items in there, you can trade it off for an activity or item that you liked more and want to do it again.
Many children love doing the MagiQuest or ShadowQuest with the magic wands, finding the posts all over the lodge with interactive devices that come alive when using the magic wand.
Our son however did not want to do that activity. He watched other children playing it and lost interest.
He asked me if he could trade that activity for the Howl at the Moon Glow Mini Golf.
We asked the staff and they did that switch for us. Since there was credit left over they added that to the Arcade Games and he was able to play a few extra games there as well.
Other fun, sweet, cute, and free activities
Every few hours there is a Great Clock Tower show. You will find real size dressed up character appearances that come walking to the Lobby, similar to Disney that the children love to hug and take pictures with.
There is exercise time with the kids that have too much energy in the morning. There are crafts to keep them busy when parents need to sit and have a little break.
At night the children have a story time with one of the dressed-up characters. Right after they have Wiley’s Bingo where half the children get prizes. Our children got lots of prizes there.
Then the last activity of the night at 9:15 is the Hustle & Howl Dance Party.
Our son was not interested in that at all, but our daughter was, she was going bananas over the parties each night! LOL!
Even after we came back home she would tell me: “Mom! We have to go back to the Great Wolf Lodge because I have to dance! It’s the best place ever to do that Mom! Let’s go now!” So cute.
The Best Indoor Water Park
And last but not least, let’s talk about the amazing water park that takes away all your stress, is a load of fun, re-energizes you for days afterwards, opens your children’s appetite, and you all get to sleep soundly and relaxed like bears during hibernation.
The wave pool
One great feature that will catch your eye as soon as you come in is the great wave pool. There are 6 lifeguards surrounding the pool at all times, however, parents are advised not to take their eyes of their children.
If they are not strong swimmers, the facility has lots of free life jackets of all sizes to share while inside the water park.
The giant bucket
Another next great attraction that will immediately catch your eye if you didn’t see water exploding everywhere at first, is the great water bucket splash.
This bucket dumps 1000 gallons of water every 5 minutes. It is a very fun feeling to be right under receiving the full dump. Some people lay down on the ground looking up, or looking down, just waiting for the splash on their faces. It could work for a good water massage.
Underneath the whole bucket structure there are countless hoses and constant squirt guns and smaller buckets you can plan on throwing at other passers-by.
When you finish climbing the structure there are 2 water slides to choose from. Children 42 inches-tall can use these.
For all the rest, if your children are over 48 inches-tall they can use the other big slides. Most of those big slides, the slides and structures go out of the building, do a few turns and tosses, then come back in the building, landing the sliders on different pools.
The Big Slides
On the River Canyon Run slide you go in inflatable tubes. You can choose to go single or double with someone with you.
I was sure glad for all the lifeguards making everything so safe. My son had gone to several slides by himself and even this one and when he went with me, our added weight, especially mine, made us go extra fast.
The efficient Lifeguards
The funny thing was that one time, when we hit the pool at the bottom, because of my weight and speed we were going, my son got expelled from our inflatable tube, dove in front of the tube, then the tube with me ran over him and he was under me.
I saw my son coming up right away and gasping and tried to grab him from the tube and almost chocked him, when the lifeguard told me, “Let go, I got him!”
Oh! What a relief that the lifeguards were so efficient!
Once on the side of the pool my son was laughing his head off and saying, “Mom, what were you trying to do? That was the best fun ever! I want to go again!” LOL!
The Scariest Howlin’ Tornado slide
My son absolutely loved this one. You go in it with a raft up to 5 people. It has a big drop and I screamed my lungs off. Once was good enough for me but he wanted to go again and again and again.
If you go at night, it’s all dark outside with a few disco-type of lights they place there. Still, you can’t see anything and orientation of how and where you are dropping from and to is impossible to know once in the tube. It was fun either way.
For the smaller children
Smaller pools for toddlers and squirt game structures for them to play in are also available. The water is up to knee deep, however there are several lifeguards there as well. Again, parents should still keep a constant eye on their children. There are a few smaller slides available too for children 1-5 years-old.
Another fun activity pool has basket ball hoops and a few balls to play with. There is also a log and other floatable structures for kids to practice climbing on without falling.
One area that attracts a crowd is a ropes obstacle course in one of the pools where kids and adults can grab onto the ropes and go through floating logs to the other side. If you miss your step and lose your grip, your splash in the water will be pretty big. Those that can finish it will get to the other side without getting wet.
The water park has a constant temperature of 85 degrees and the water is warm too. However, after playing for a few hours, some of us get cold. There are hot Jacuzzi pools to get your temperature back in check. One of those pools is indoors and another one outdoors.
Other items at the water park
There are towels to grab at different parts of the water park and containers to leave them after they were used as well. There are lots of beach benches and chairs to rest if needed, as well as private tables and cabanas.
That was our hardest part. We really didn’t want to leave, especially our children. They both cried and begged to stay forever. If only we could!
Yes, we loved it and now we have to come back! Maybe we will do a Thanksgiving tradition and do this again.
This is much more affordable than Disney and as cute in a different way.
It was so worth it, every penny!