Without doubt, Great Wolf Lodge leaves a distinctive paw print with its wildly imaginative offering of first-class, full-service, year-round family destination resorts. Comprehensive amenities are designed to capture the atmosphere and adventure of being at home in the great North Woods during an indoor waterpark vacation full of rides, slides and splashdowns.
With a recent opening of the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, NC, there are now an even dozen Great Wolf properties scattered across the U.S. from the state of Washington to Pennsylvania, with one resort on the Canadian side at Niagara Falls.
According to company spokeswoman Jennifer Beranek, the concept of a family-focused, waterpark destination resort started in the Wisconsin Dells in the mid-90s, “providing a one-stop, weather-proof vacation experience. It worked and early on, we recognized that this was a concept that would translate very well to regions throughout the country. Our guests come mostly from each resort’s respective region, usually within a 3- to 4-hour drive. For the price of a room—ballpark figure cost of $240 for a suite accommodating a family of four—our guests—moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas with kids of all ages—receive waterpark admission every day of their visit, as well as nightly story time in the Grand Lobby, activities in Cub Club and more.” Beranek feels that for the level of resort services and attentiveness to guests, Great Wolf has no peers in the hospitality industry and, she adds, “Our waterpark facilities are reserved for our guests, and our guests only.”
Central to the theme of outdoors-while-indoors environment in all Great Wolf family resorts is the 3-story grand atrium, embracing an indoor waterpark area called Bear Track Landing that can measure as large as 100,000 sq. ft., depending on the resort. Certified life guards keep watch over kids of all ages who ride waterslides with names like Howlin’ Tornado, family raft rides, 4-lane mat racers, body slides, tube slides and a kiddie slide. Carrying through the concept that wetter is better, families have a choice of pools: a wave pool, recreation pool with water walk and floating creatures, zero-depth entry children’s activity pool, and family activity splash pad. A further feature of the entertainment center is Fort Mackenzie, an interactive treehouse with a 1,000-gallon tipping water bucket, and indeed there are places to dry off in family cabanas.
When the weather turns family-friendly, Raccoon Lagoon offers outdoor waterpark attractions, including a Howling Wolf spray fountain, as well as umbrella tables and lounge chairs.
Moving away from water, family facilities include Elements Spa Salon, featuring Aveda products in eight treatment rooms; Scoops Kid Spa, with ice cream-themed treatment for the under-12 crowd; the Iron Horse fitness center; a Northern Lights Arcade with some 100 video games; a Cub Club with daily crafts, activities and bedtime storytelling; and gr8 Space, where a tech jockey acts as concierge for Internet stations, karaoke staging, movie and musical entertainment. Two floors of the resorts are dedicated to MagiQuest interactive attractions that offer a high-tech, multi-player fantasy environment. The amenities package continues full tilt in signature branding, with family-themed restaurants such as Camp Critter Bar & Restaurant, the Loose Moose Cottage Restaurant, and a confectionary cafe called Bear Paw Sweets & Eats.
Needless to say, the kids-love-the-darndest-things motifs do not stop at each resort’s all-suite guestrooms, generally 300 to 400 per property. There are nine suite configurations, ranging from family suite, luxury king suite and whirlpool suite, to Wolf Den, KidKamp, KidCabin, Majestic Bear, Grand Bear and Grizzly Bear.
The Great Wolf hospitality company has recently made the news by achieving Green Seal Certification ranking for the lodging portion of all its operations, making it the first—and only—national hotel chain to earn that distinction. Green Seal is a 20-year-old independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more sustainable world.
“We believe green tourism is the most important travel trend of our lifetime, and we wanted to do the right thing by taking a leadership position on this,” says Kim Schaefer, CEO, Great Wolf Lodge. “Our properties have already seen a return for the environmentally responsible changes at the resort.”
Schaefer adds that while, “It’s nice to be recognized as the first national hotel chain to achieve Green Seal Certification, we felt it was important to make an impact on every part of our resort and introduced the company’s own, even more sweeping, environmental program called Project Green Wolf that includes both the hotel and waterpark portions of the business.” Schaefer points out that to reduce the resorts’ paw print and create sustainable fun, the company adapted the latest in pool filtration technology so that most of the water in the waterparks can be recycled.