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How to Score Cool Parent Points with a Weekend Vaca at Great Wolf Lodge

You won't find a better family vaca than at GWL. They have something for every kid, every age, from water slides to wave pools to MagiQuest to rope climbing.

***The following is a sponsored post. All statements are true and reflect my own opinion.***

Truth time! I absolutely loathe thrill rides, rollercoasters, and waterslides with drastic drops that make me feel like my stomach has exited my body. Really, really not a fan. Also, after 10 years of chasing toddlers and checking swim diapers and applying sunscreen to slippery uncooperative eel babies and adjusting goggles and refereeing fights over the “good goggles,” I’m also sort of all done with pools and the beach. So when Great Wolf Lodge Gurnee, IL asked me if I’d like to visit their resort with my family, I of course said Yes! (I mean, hello, I do love them) but I also sighed and thought to myself, This is going to be exhausting.

But seriously, guys, it was the best family weekend we’ve had in a long time. Of course we were exhausted by the end (we are parents, after all), but we’d go back tomorrow without hesitation. GWL (we’re besties now so I can use the acronym) knows what we need. They know we are all one meltdown away from cashing it in and saying, “Peace out! They’re all yours, Wiley the Wolf!”

This is Wiley doing story time. (And I’m pretty sure my kids would love it if he and his lady friend Violet were their substitute parents for a while.)

Anyway, it turns out, GWL has not only kids, but also parents in mind. For example, the hotel offers theme rooms like this one that will make your children feel like they are camping in a real-life cabin in the wilderness (yet somehow still have WiFi).

But also, there is a BAR called The Watering Hole right next to Slap Tail Pond wave pool (one of my kids’ fave attractions). That’s right friends. You can sit atop a barstool and sip a fun grownup treat while your kids wear themselves out jumping over waves and yelling “Watch this, Mommy!” 98,000 times. (And, there’s also another bar called The Outpost Bar elsewhere in the resort.) I love you, GWL.

And while we’re taking our whistle-stop tour of the waterpark, let me highlight a few other favorite slides and fun areas to play. This slide was a family favorite (except me because I almost peed a little the first time I tried it. I didn’t, Wiley, promise.) It’s called Coyote Canyon, and yeah, my kids were obsessed.

And the other slides didn’t disappoint either. Some require tubes, some don’t. But all were thrilling and exciting and had my kids climbing up the stairs over and over to go again. And bonus—two slides, called Double Whirlwind and River Canyon Run—can fit our entire family of 5 on one raft. This is great for family memories and terrifying for a mom who likes to wait at the bottom taking pictures. But I did it, held my breath (and my pee) and showed my kids what a fun mom I can be (when forced).

If you’ve got little bitties who are too young for the big kid stuff, Fort Mackenzie Tree House, Whooping Hollow play pool, and Chinook Cove water playground will entertain your kids for days. Plus, there are ample chairs throughout the park on the off-chance that you get 4 minutes to sit and relax. (Here’s hoping anyway.)

But the best part, honestly, about spending the weekend here is that the waterpark is just one piece of the Great Wolf Lodge experience (albeit a large piece). If you’re planning a visit, I cannot say this enough—go for an entire weekend.  You only have to stay one night in order to get two full-day passes to the entire resort. Because once they see it, your kids are going to want to try so many other things other than swimming. For example…

MagiQuest. When you visit GWL, you’ll see kids (and parents) running around waving wands at statues and screens and sculptures that come to life, almost like… wait for it… MAGIC. My son spent as much time chasing the dream of defeating the dragon to become a Master Magi as he did at the water park. I followed our younger kids (who mined for rocks, mini-golfed, did some bowling, and completed Howlers Peak Ropes Course while my husband MagiQuest-ed all weekend with our oldest son.

Yes, that’s right friends. THIS brave mommy completed a ropes course, that I’m not lying, is only for the most courageous of souls. And before you say, “Ummm isn’t it designed for kids? Didn’t your five-year-old do it with you?” let me stop you right there, Janet. This ropes course was no joke and ranks quite high on my list of “greatest physical achievements”, but yeah, my 5-year-old and 7-year-old did it with me. As soon as I was done I was ready for a beer, but also pretty convinced I could totally be on American Ninja Warrior.

And… if your kids STILL have time for more fun, after mining for gold, mini-golfing, bowling, completing a ropes course, swimming for hours, and becoming a Master Magi, GWL Gurnee offers a huge arcade, a rocking climbing wall, dance parties, crafts, face painting, and yoga for kids. Yes, YOGA. (They have thought of everything.) I’ll also mention that this resort does have an outdoor pool, but as residents of Wisconsin and northern Illinois know, our summer is about 11 days long some years, so the indoor stuff is key for year-round entertainment.

Also, as a person who loves all the foods, I can’t forget to mention the restaurants throughout the resort. Barnwood was my favorite as I’m still salivating over the omelette I had, and it’s been weeks. This restaurant follows the farm-to-table model and sources their meats and produce and whatever else they need to make such delicousness from local farms. GWL also has a taco truck called Timbers Taco, Campfire Kitchen, which is buffet style, and Buckets Incredibles Cravings inside the water park (so you don’t even have to dry off), where you can get hotdogs and fries, etc. We actually ate twice at Hungry as a Wolf because they have pizza and, well, our family likes pizza. All pizza.

Plus, GWL has a national policy to be completely nut free throughout the entire resort! That’s right—ALL Great Wolf Lodges are nut-free. Even their Ben & Jerry’s has no nuts in the ice cream. As a mom to a child with a peanut allergy, I was incredibly grateful for this peace of mind as we ate at the various eateries throughout the resort all weekend.

Seriously, you will not find a better weekend vaca for your fam. Check out Great Wolf Lodge Gurnee, IL for rates and availability. GIVE YOURSELF TWO DAYS AT LEAST. You will not get to experience it all in one. Also, I recommend getting your kids either Pup, Paw, or Wolf Passes. The pass you purchase ensures they get to try the Adventure Park activities and you won’t have to worry about paying as you go (because trust me, they’ll want to try all that GWL has to offer once they see it.) For example, the most expensive is the Wolf Pass, which is $54.99 + tax. This is the one my kids had, and it includes access to the MagiQuest game, a wand for the MagiQuest game, arcade tickets, a round of bowling, a round of mini-golf, a try on the ropes course and on the climbing wall, and a cup of candy and a scoop of ice cream. If you’ve got toddlers who are too young for some of these activities, obviously a different pass is a better fit, but for mine (ages 9, 7, and 5), these passes were perfect.

Okay so to sum up: Go for a whole weekend, get a pass for your kids, try the ropes course to feel like a bad a**, and score cool mom points on the slides. GWL Gurnee, IL for the win. We will be back.

***I received an all-expense paid weekend visit to Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, IL in exchange for this post.***