So, this year, instead of two class parties, which probably would have cost upwards of six hundred dollars, we suggested a trip to The Great Wolf Lodge. The idea being that we’d rather spend money making family memories, than on a two hour class party at some sort of fun complex (with kids my kids might not even remember in a few years).
I had heard a lot of positive things about the Great Wolf Lodge and though I’m not exactly a fan of water parks and their inherent gross factor, I was willing to give it a try. Actually, I was more than willing, I was excited to give it a try.Before I go on, let me preface the rest of this post by saying that the kids LOVED the Great Wolf Lodge. They loved the water park, the arcade, and staying in a hotel room. There were other activities that cost more money, but we (thankfully) didn’t have time to do them, since we only stayed one night. They loved it so much that, this morning, second son wanted to know when we were going back.
Um, let’s see…never.
As my husband pointed out, my feelings did not exactly match the kids’. In my opinion, the Great Wolf Lodge was not that great. I can’t say that there was one thing that bothered me specifically about the place (though being cold in the water park was a major negative), as much as it was a combination of factors, that led to a feeling of blah about the whole experience.
I think a great family resort has to cater to both adults and children. I think they have to strike a delicate balance between making money and not taking advantage of their guests.
I think a family resort needs to offer a restaurant that opens up before 7:30 a.m., so people, who wake before seven, have an option. I think if The Lodge doesn’t want to open up a restaurant before 7:30, then the lady at the front desk needs to be more specific than “go to the entrance, make a right, drive, and you’ll see some diners,” when I ask her for help. Had she offered a little more guidance, than perhaps we wouldn’t have ended up at the local, musty diner, with the questionable, though grossly cheaper, fare.
I don’t think a family friendly lodge should house impossible to win games, containing a dangling Nintendo DS and Sony Play Station, where overstimulated and exhausted kids (read mine) are encouraged to feed money in, again, and again, sure they can win if the plastic cutters would just cut the rope. And, I don’t think a mini-bowling game should cost five dollars per game, per child.
I think a resort that centers itself around its water park should provide multiple towel racks in its rooms so you can hang all your wet garments. I think a resort that has an express Pizza Hut should have a copious amount of cheese pizzas available at lunch time, not ones you need to wait 20 minutes for, thus negating the idea of express.
I think a resort of the Great Wolf’s magnitude should offer more than a sub par buffet for dinner, and that their chefs need to be better trained in food allergy management, ie, don’t tell me that you don’t use sesame and then point out five dishes that contain sesame and forget to point out two more that obviously do. Buffets aren’t really the best choice for food allergy sufferers, anyhow, but after the chef pointed to the pecan covered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as an option for my tree nut allergic son, I completely lost faith in the chef’s knowledge of food (tree nut vs. peanut) and his knowledge of what’s in his food.
And, I think if you are going to advertise and build up a story time, as an activity for your younger visitors, the kids should be able to hear the actual story being told, especially when they are sitting right next to the story teller.Like I said, all this stuff, besides the story time and the cheesy Lodge show (don’t even get me started on that), my kids didn’t notice. Through their eyes, it was fantastic. Through the eyes of the person paying the bill, the picture wasn’t so rosy.
I went online when we returned home, just to see what other people had to say about the Great Wolf Lodge and for the most part, the reviews were positive. The negative reviews pretty much matched what I wrote, above. In most cases, when people questioned the value, the Lodge Management responded that their prices were comparable to similar experiences and water parks. Maybe. Maybe, not.
I’m pretty sure the comparables they are alluding to are the Hershey Hotel, the Hershey Lodge, and Disney. If I’m right, than I would have to disagree. Hershey, though just as expensive, seems to get it right, especially the hotel experience. Disney, which at a value resort, with a meal plan, might even be cheaper than a stay at the Great Wolf, also seems to get it right. These resorts give you, and treat you, just well enough, to ensure that you don’t feel like your getting bilked, even if you are.
Maybe that’s all I wanted. It’s not so much that I mind being manipulated, as long as I don’t feel like I’m being manipulated. That might not make sense, but really, isn’t that what determines value? That we feel we are getting the experience we want for the money we are willing to pay.
It wasn’t a terrible place, and I’m glad we went. The children had a great time, and I know my boys will cherish the memories we made, which was the whole point of the trip. I just hope they don’t want to go back.