Planning a trip to Great Wolf Lodge? Here’s a few things you should know

Recently, I took the family for a mini-vacation at a Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Williamsburg is about an hour from where we live, so we weren’t too far from home, thus gas cost was at a minimum, a good way to start of any vacation, long or not. My son and I have stayed at the resort on two other occasions and cost was never much of a concern then.  We had either planned for the trip or, as luck had it, I had extra disposable income.  Those were several years ago and, apparently, the cost of staying at this particular resort has gone up quite a bit.

I understand that the cost of running such a massive hotel (it is a large hotel) that contains:

  • a full water park
  • a sizable arcade
  • a full spa
  • bowling alley
  • mini gym
  • mini golf
  • outside pool
  • one of the largest water slides on the east coast (there are actually three of them, two right here in Virginia)
  • dance club
  • full service restaurant
  • Pizza Hut express
  • Store
  • Several snack/sweet shops
  • Gift/Souvenir stands and mini stores

That’s quite a bit, yes.  The upkeep on all of that, well, I imagine it is pretty high.  However, this is the problem I have with the resort: it’s too bloody expensive.  The rooms, on a normal stay, are $300 and higher per night. A good size room, one that can accommodate a family of four, for example, is in the $450 range.  If your party is bigger, you could spend $600 or more.  While comfortable and very clean, these rooms do not warrant such a high cost.  Imagine, a family of four staying for five nights.  You hit $2000 just for the room and the ONLY amenities you get? The waterpark and the gym.  Everything else is an up-charge.  The mini-golf is five or eight bucks, depending on age, per game, per person. Same with the bowling.  The arcade requires tokens, which you have to purchase.  The spa…well, you get the idea.  Oh, that full service restaurant? Be prepared to shell out twenty bucks per person for the buffet dinner and fifteen for the buffet breakfast. Not including drinks. That’s $80 plus drinks for that family of four, for one night.

Throughout the day, the kids will want a drink and snack, so there goes another twenty to thirty dollars there. Maybe a souvenir. You see how quickly this adds up.  How in the world does this company expect families to stay for any length of time?  My guess is they don’t.  Each time we’ve stayed, it’s been one or two nights. For us, that’s about all we want. The waterpark, while tremendously fun, is small and it takes just a few hours to exhaust everything.  There’s only so much fun to be had going down the same slides all day.

Fortunately, since this particular lodge is in Williamsburg, Virginia, there’s plenty of other things very close.  For example, just a few miles west of the lodge is a go-kart park, complete with thrill rides and mini golf. To the east, there is Busch Gardens, a world class theme park.  Then you have colonial Williamsburg itself. Beautiful and very charming. If you like to shop, there are a ton of outlet centers around and there is even a Ripley’s attraction. So, there is a lot going on around the lodge.

Don’t get me wrong, you CAN stay there on the cheap.  For example, they regularly have promotions that can end up getting you up to half off the cost of a stay. Some require a minimum two night stay, others are during the week.  You just have to watch the web site as many are not advertised.  Subscribe to the newsletter as there are discounts there as well.  Other ways to save: go to the Wal-Mart that you must past when you exit the interstate and get you the basics: bread, peanut butter, jelly, soda/juice/whatever, etc.  Each room contains a mini-fridge and a microwave so you can make some of your meals there.  Als0, there’s several fast food places around the Wal-Mart and there is a restaurant right off the entrance to the lodge called Jungle Jim’s. The prices are reasonable and they have free delivery to the lodge. Just avoid the dine in restaurant for most of your meals and you will save a ton of cash. It is worth a breakfast, though, as the breakfast foods are pretty decent.

The sweet shop, while expensive, is worth a treat or two.  They have Starbucks coffees, ice-cream, chocolates and fudge.  I wouldn’t venture there too much though, or your waistline and pocket book will suffer.

We have found the staff to be both pleasant and not so pleasant and I suppose that is to be expected.  Well, no, not really. For the cost of a stay, the staff should ALWAYS be pleasant, no matter what.  I understand that some guests will be difficult, but that is no excuse to be rude to everyone or even the next guest.

Staying at this resort is a lot of fun, but it can be quite costly. My advice to anyone who is considering (and you should, if you like water) a stay is to be prepared to spend money. A lot of money, even if staying ‘on the cheap.’  Plan ahead. Book your room or rooms far enough in advance to get a good deal.  It is possible to have a great time there and not need a loan to do so.  And, if staying for more than three days, be sure to venture out to surrounding area. Williamsburg is a beautiful place and full of history. Make the young ones learn while on vacation, that, in itself, will be worth every penny.

Oh, one more thing…if you bring your camera or cellphone into the water park, you need to keep two things in mind: it is likely to get wet and it is hot and humid.  They keep the temp at 84 degrees and, with all of that water, it gets humid in there as well. Wet and humid do not mesh well with electronics. Bring a baggie to store them in while in the park. If possible, get a waterproof case for them.

And, watch for that big ass bucket…

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