Indoor Family Fun at Great Wolf Lodge
By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
Resorts with indoor waterparks are one of the most popular weekend travel destinations for families. These hotels with large indoor waterparks are proven family pleasers, and are packed with features such as waterslides, water basketball courts, water forts, huge tipping water buckets, and more. Great Wolf Resorts operates North America’s largest family of waterpark resorts, so we traveled out to the Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun, Pennsylvania, to learn more about this latest family vacation craze.
This property in the Poconos is the sixth Great Wolf Lodge built in the U.S. The first Great Wolf Lodge opened in 1989 in Wisconsin Dells. Great Wolf’s mission is to create family traditions by encouraging togetherness in a time when so many families have lost the art of just “hanging out” together. “Lodge Life”, a brochure outlining daily events offered by the resort, is given to you at check-in to help your family plan your vacation time at the resort.
Upon our arrival at the Lodge, we immediately noticed the resort’s rustic atmosphere. The lodge is a four-story, log-sided structure with a lobby furnished with handcrafted furniture, elk antler chandeliers, and a three-story stone fireplace with a family of timber wolves above.
The resort offers 401 all-suite, non-smoking guestrooms, most with a deck or patio. Guests have a choice of 10 different suite configurations to accommodate all sizes of families. All suites are Northwoods-themed , some designed for younger children, some that are tent-themed, some with a separate in-room sleeping area with bunk beds, and some have a day bed inside a log-cabin fort. Our Family Fireplace Suite proved to be very spacious and comfortable.
The major attraction at the Great Wolf Lodge is their indoor waterpark. This makes the resort a 365-day getaway destination. The weather outside cannot wreak havoc on your family vacation. Because the waterpark is exclusive to resort guests, we did not have to wait in long lines for slides or experience crowding in the pools. Lifejackets are provided for those who need them and nearly 100 lifeguards are on staff.
We took advantage of almost every attraction in the waterpark. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., the waterpark boasts 11 waterslides, six pools (including recreation pools, a wave pool, a lazy river and an adult and family whirlpool), and a four-story interactive treehouse waterfort with 12 levels of water-based adventure including suspension bridges, cargo nets, web crawls, and a 48-ft. tall tipping bucket. The water and air temperatures are a pleasant 84 degrees. Our favorite slides (and those of the many kids we spoke with) were Hydro Plunge – an uphill water roller coaster that travels 727 ft. and features a 52 ft. vertical drop, and Coyote Cannon – a tube slide featuring a cannon bowl and a 40 ft. plunge. In addition to bouncing on tubes in the wave pool, we also enjoyed shooting hoops in the pool that had four basketball nets set up.
If you can tear your family away from the waterpark, you will find many other great activities that the resort offers. The Cub Club activity room has crafts and activities featured all day long. A Wolf Walk (educational children’s tour through the Lobby ending with each child making their own origami wolf) and a Scavenger Hunt (for prizes) are offered daily. Throughout the property we saw many children sporting their own customized Great Wolf T-shirt, created and colored by them. The Animated Clock Tower in the lobby puts on a 12-minute show three times daily with storytime by the fireplace following the nighttime performances. One evening we watched pajama-clad children as they intensely listened to the five different songs that the forest friends entertained them with.
To add to the family atmosphere, The Northern Lights Arcade has more than 100 games with a ticket redemption area and black-lit area for adventure and racing games. We noted that even in the arcade most children were enjoying the games with parental interaction.
Parents, you haven’t been forgotten. The Great Wolf Lodge offers the Iron Horse Fitness Room and Elements – an Aveda Concept Spa. There are eight treatment rooms in Elements and you can sign on for facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. Arrive early and experience some peace and quiet in the Serenity Room as you relax awaiting your treatment.
During the summer months, guests can enjoy Raccoon Lagoon. This outdoor pool ranges from zero-depth entry to a four-foot depth and has floor geysers and spray features. And don’t forget your souvenir shopping at the Buckhorn Exchange. Board games and cards are always available for checkout as well.
Hungry? Try the buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Loose Moose Cottage and Camp Critter Bar and Grille. Food choices are very family-friendly. Kids will find all their favorites here, including chicken nuggets, pizza, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, waffles, and even gummy bears. We especially enjoyed the omelet station at breakfast, pasta station at lunch and dinner, and carving station at dinner. The ambience was campsite dining – private tents with canopy overlays and suspended lanterns. The Bear Claw Café/Pizza Hut Express is popular all day long. Kids and their parents can be seen running in and out in their bathing suits to grab coffee, ice cream, pastries, bulk candy, soup, salad, and of course personal pan pizzas. Be sure to sample and take home some of their famous homemade fudge. Even more convenient are the snack bars located at the indoor and outdoor pool areas.
The Poconos area is a great family destination during any season of the year. The area boasts many attractions such as Camelback Ski Area, The Crossings Premium Outlets, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Bushkill Falls. Great Wolf Lodge has many specials located on their website, which include packages with some of the aforementioned sites. For more information, call 1-800-768-WOLF (9653) or visit www.greatwolflodge.com for more information.
Jeff and Stephanie Sylva are retired high school teachers and have been professional travel writers for 18 years. Their daughter Jennifer, who is currently in college, often travels with them.