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Swim, slide, splash

Enjoy indoor water park fun at Great Wolf Lodge Resort

Slides await and the bucket fills at Great Wolf Lodge’s indoor water park in Centralia. Photo credit: Kristi Berry

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Just 45 minutes south of JBLM, Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound is home to a family-friendly indoor water park. Whatever your thrill tolerance, you'll find it here -- from waves and water cannons to a take-your-breath-away plunge into a giant funnel.

While Great Wolf Lodge is a full-service resort, its main attraction is the water park. This is not a lounge-by-the-pool kind of place -- it's a place to get wet with your kids and have fun.  No matter the weather outside, it'll feel balmy when you walk in. That's because the park's air and water temperature are a constant 84 degrees.

Head to the back of the park for the four big slides. In the Howlin' Tornado, you'll drop through darkness into a six-story funnel and ride up and down the funnel walls before heading down another tunnel. Riders must be at least 48 inches tall.

River Canyon Run is a family raft ride where two to five riders glide down twists and turns before splashing into a plunge pool. Its minimum height requirement is 42 inches. Added bonus: You don't have to carry rafts for these two slides. A raft escalator delivers them to the top.

One level down are the two Alberta Falls slides. Choose from a single or double tube to careen down four stories of drops and turns. Expect five to 15-minute waits for the slides -- perfect for a game of rock, paper, scissors or I spy. Another family favorite is the wave pool. Wave sets start every five minutes and alternate between gentle rollers and larger crashing waves.

A three-story fort with a giant bucket on top is Fort Mackenzie. Discover interactive water toys around every corner, and slide down two body slides. Get ready to be drenched if you're anywhere near the bucket when it tips. In fact, if you brave this water playground with your little ones, be prepared to get soaked. Someone will spray you or dump water on your head.

Other park features include Chinook Cove, where you can play water basketball or balance on floating logs and lily pads. Little ones enjoy the activity pool, where they can shoot water from jet skis and glide down kiddie slides. If you get chilled, warm up in the hot tub.

Chairs are scarce and typically claimed early in the day. Life jackets are available, and towels are provided throughout the park.

When you're ready to get out of the water, try out Great Wolf Lodge's many dry activities, including an arcade, spa, indoor miniature golf and the popular MagiQuest game. These do cost extra. A popular free activity is the Clock Tower Show featuring a singing moose, tree and owl.

The hotel feels like part mountain lodge, part theme park. You'll drive up to an entrance flanked by giant wooden wolves, then walk into a vaulted lobby with a floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace and antler chandeliers.

Rooms have a cabin vibe with lodge-pole furniture and woodsy decor. Several suite options are available, some with separate cabin, cave or tent-themed sleeping areas with bunk beds. A mini-fridge, microwave and coffee maker are provided. You can't take food into the water park, but you can stock your room with snacks.

Check-in is at 4 p.m. or when your room is available. Once checked in, you'll have access to the water park at 1 p.m. Check-out is 11 a.m., but you can use the park until close that day. Locker rooms with showers are available. Be sure to pack swimming suits and travel clothes in a separate bag.

Rooms can be pricey, but they do include family access to the water park. Look for deals online, and ask about the Howling Heroes discount that can save active-duty and retired military up to 30 percent on rooms.

Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound, open daily, 20500 Old Hwy. 99 SW, Centralia, Reservations: 800.640.9653, Resort: 360.273.7718,

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