Monday, December 11, 2017

Great Wolf Lodge (Niagara Falls) Review

Let's take a break from posting about beauty products and instead do my all-time favourite type of review: One to do with travel. Husband is starting a new job and that means no 2018 winter vacation for us. However, since he did have a week off between his old job and his new job, we decided to do a quick trip to Niagara Fall's Great Wolf Lodge with our two-year-old daughter.

We only went for one night but the next time we go back (and there will be a next time), I think we'll do two nights. Even though the actual property isn't that big, it has a ton of stuff to do, especially during the holiday season.

The Good

  • Great Wolf Lodge did a fantastic job at injecting their space with the Christmas spirit. There were plenty of decorations but without crossing into that zone of clutter/tacky. There were also plenty of seasonal activities including an afternoon visit from Santa and a twice-a-day indoor "snowfall."
  • Our room wasn't the prettiest one I've ever seen but it was clean, spacious and had everything we needed. Okay, the bathroom was a bit small but the idea of having the sink in the main room is a good one. While Great Wolf offers a number of room types, we went with the cheapest, most basic one and for two adults and a toddler, it was fine. It had two queen beds, a mini-fridge, a microwave and a seating area that was separate from the rest of the room by a partial wall. I do wish that there was a blackout curtain that you could pull across to fully cut the seating area off from the sleeping area but maybe they'll add that feature into future rooms. If you do require a separate room for your kids, there is that option, for a price.
  • I've seen some grumblings about the check-in process but ours was quick and painless. And even better, our room was ready when we showed up at around 2pm (the standard check-in time is 4pm).
  • I enjoyed the waterpark far more than I thought I would. Okay, the wave pool could have been deeper and wavier and sure, there could be more slides, but considering that this is an indoor park aimed at families, I was happy with the park. It kept my toddler quite entertained and I had fun too, even going down a few of the slides (though not the Wolf Tail, that one is just nuts). And maybe it's just because we were during the week but the park never seemed too busy.
  • I had low expectations for the food at Great Wolf so I was thrilled to discover an
    My daughter enjoying the ice cream bar
    amazing dinner buffet. Besides plenty of kid-friendly options, there was teriyaki-glazed salmon, ribs, roasted chicken, even mussels. And the desserts! In addition to an ice cream bar, cotton candy and warm bread pudding, there was at least a dozen different kinds of made-in-house squares, cakes and cookies. Pretty much everything tasted far better than I anticipated and if I hadn't have been there with a squirmy child, I would have gone back for seconds. I also had a glass of sangria that was quite tasty and packed with fresh strawberries.
  • While Great Wolf's primary attraction might be the waterpark, the resort is packed with stuff to do, especially if your children is preschool-to-school age. There's a nightly dance party, twice-a-day story time with animatronic animals (my daughter loved the moose), crafts in the kids club, bowling, an arcade, a kiddie spa and in the summer, miniature golf and an outdoor pool. Oh, and there's a "no parents allowed" pyjama party that gives the adults a bit of alone time. Some of these activities do have a fee but many are also included in the room price, including access to the waterpark that starts at 1pm on check-in day and lasts all of check-out day.

The Okay
  • After the excellent dinner buffet, I had very high hopes for breakfast. But it was just okay. Yes, there was an omelette/egg bar but my omelette was kinda bland. Actually, all the breakfast food was on the bland side and the variety wasn't an extensive as with dinner. I was particularly surprised at the lack of baked goods, given the amazing desserts we had at dinner. 
  • We had lunch at Buckets, the snack shack inside the waterpark. We had poutine the one day that okay but nothing special and the next day I had chicken nuggets that were quite tasty. Husband though had a burger that he outright disliked. The prices though were downright reasonable considering the location.
  • The water temperature inside the water park is supposedly 29C but on the first day we were there, it felt colder. We spent around hour in the park on that first day and by the end, both myself and my daughter were quite cold. However, we didn't have that issue when we went on the second day so maybe they turned up the heat? Thankfully there are a couple hot tubs to warm up in, including an adults-only one that's outside. 
    This slide, Canada Vortex, was quite fun
  • The park is often criticized for having long lines for the waterslides. Since we were there during the week, we didn't have too much of an issue with lines. In fact, I went down one of the more popular slides, Canada Vortex, without having to wait for a single minute. But that was around 10am on a Friday morning. Not even an hour later, we had to wait almost 10 minutes for the Wooly Mammoth slide. It was nothing outrageous but I can see how it could get annoying. My key takeaway here was that if you want to do the slides, timing is everything.  
  • Finally, let's talk about the price. Yes, Great Wolf Lodge is not cheap but I don't expect it to be. To keep our costs at a reasonable level, we went during the week and used a discount code. We paid $269 (before tax) for our room and yeah, while I would have loved to have paid less, I didn't feel ripped off. We also purchased two adult meal plans (my daughter eat for free), each for $50. While I didn't love my breakfast and Husband didn't love his lunch, we both felt that this $50 was appropriate for the quantity and quality of food we consumed. We were also both impressed by the pricing for alcohol. Again, it wasn't cheap, but it did cost less then at a Toronto bar. 

The Bad
  • The waterpark is home to two eateries and right outside of it are two more food options, a coffee shop/bakery and a pizzeria. There is not enough table and chairs for any of these places, especially inside the waterpark where the few full-size tables are snapped up by people who park their stuff and then go off and swim. I wish that these tables were reserved just for eating and that you weren't allowed to "save" them with your crap. As well, I suspect that when the park is busy, it's hard to grab even a lounge chair, meaning you might be eating standing up.
  • Great Wolf Lodge is a family resort so I expected it to be loud. And because of that I also
    The standard room & the too-soft mattress
    expected the rooms to fairly soundproof. I was wrong. Noise easily bled into our room from not just the hall but also from the neighbouring room (and no, it wasn't the sound of a blaring TV). All of the rooms have balconies, which seems like a great feature, until the neighbouring family is out on their balcony, screaming about the falling snow. Thankfully that family at least slept soundly through the night.
  • And that meant that our sleep was pretty good except for the overly soft mattress. However, I realize that mattress firmness is a very personal preference so while this was a Bad area for me, it might be a Good area for you.

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