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Head south for a break from the rain

Enjoy balmy 84-degree weather at the Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge is a hit with JBLM teenagers. (Left to right: Michael Cleveland, Nathan Parker, Raymond Lanza and Charlie Cleveland) Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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I'm heading south on I-5, my destination "The Great Wolf Lodge". I am traveling with my friend and six children between us; the husband's away on a military commitment. My expectations for an enjoyable time are rather low as I am not fond of crowds.  I was to be pleasantly surprised.

The night of our visit, the lodge was sold out.  Our group arrived at 1:00 p.m. - which is peak time - and we quickly got through the line, checked in and were soon on our way to the indoor waterpark.  All the children were given Wolf Ears to wear which were a huge hit even with the teenagers. In less than an hour, the children were happily swimming and enjoying all the thrills of the many attractions.  My friend and I were soon sipping very good frozen cocktails from Grizzly Rob's Bar conveniently located inside the waterpark. Even though the resort was at peak capacity, it never felt overly crowded and the lines at the waterpark moved swiftly. I soon found myself relaxing and having an enjoyable time.

My first job was working at Disney World and I am very picky about good customer service. From the smoothly running check-in experience to the patient interaction of store clerks with all the children, the staff at the Great Wolf Lodge was consistently excellent.  One thing that stood out for me is that you never saw any trash sitting on the tables, which can be attributed to employees like Libby Draskovich who spends her shift cheerfully greeting guests, seeing if they need anything and keeping her area in ship shape.

The Great Wolf Lodge is a destination and should be done as a stand-alone trip to maximize the experience.  In addition to the waterpark the resort has other activities to fill your time such as mini-golf, a ropes course, interactive games such as MagiQuest, and the Scoops spa for kids.  The adults aren't left out as there is a fitness center and the Elements Spa.  When planning your trip, view the website for all the attractions and dining options. The resort offers discounted packages for dining and attractions. Some must be booked prior to arrival.  Our group used two "Paw Passes," which included 10 different activities and retail items that we split among the six children.

The lodge has multiple places to eat.  We breakfasted at the Loose Moose Cottage buffet and found the food to be good. You can bring your own coolers with food and drink to the lodge. Each suite has a refrigerator and microwave.  You just can't bring any offsite food or drink into the waterpark.

"Great Wolf Lodge recognizes the tremendous sacrifices made by members of the U.S. military and their families, so we are pleased to offer up to a thirty percent discount to military personnel with our Howling Heroes discount program. It's a small way Great Wolf Lodge can give back, and offer military families with an unforgettable family getaway.  The discount is available at any of our North American resorts," said Jason Lasecki, Director of Communications, Great Wolf Resorts.

Insider Tips:

  • Official check-in is at 4 p.m. but guests can arrive at 1 p.m. and check in to use the waterpark. We lucked out and our room was ready.
  • After check-out, lockers and changing rooms are available. You can swim the day you check out until 9 p.m.
  • If traveling with groups, consider renting a larger Majestic Bear Suite which has a large breakfast bar that seats six. It is a nice place to gather for snacks and planning the day.
  • Pre-purchase package deals to save money.
  • School holidays are the most expensive days.  Consider a weekday stay. Twice a year, there is a promotion on Groupon and don't forget the HEROES discount.
  • With multiple families, have one book a reservation, and then send out the referral link to everyone else.  You will each receive a $50 resort credit.

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

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