Ever since I first heard about the Great Wolf Lodge I have wanted to take my family there. With the indoor water park and other amenities, it looked like a place my family would really enjoy. On a recent trip to California, we decided to spend one night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim. Here’s what we thought of our visit as well as a guide to everything you need to know to plan your trip.
The Great Wolf Lodge is an independent hotel chain with 18 locations in the United States and Canada. Great Wolf has its own loyalty program, so you aren’t able to redeem points with other major programs for a free night here. While it’s not the best value, you can use points you have earned with credit cards that have the “price erase” feature. Cards like Capital One Venture Rewards card give you the option to receive a statement credit towards travel purchases at the rate of 1 cent per point. For example, a $100 statement credit would require you to redeem 10,000 of your points.
When I stay at hotels where I can’t earn points with major hotel or airline partners, I will book my stay using Hotels.com. Their reward program allows you to earn free nights on virtually any hotel stay. Hotels.com’s reward programs gives you a free night after you book 10 nights directly with them. The free night you earn is valued at 10% of the cost of the 10 nights you booked through them.
Regardless of where you decide to book your stay, you’ll want to maximize the number of points you earn on your vacation. Be sure to use a credit card that gives you bonus points on your travel purchases. My favorite is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You can read all about why I love this card here. If you travel a lot, you may also want to consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the American Express Platinum Card.
The Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim is actually located in Garden Grove, right on the border of Anaheim. It’s 3 miles directly south of Disneyland on Harbor Boulevard. If you’re planning to go to Disneyland, they do offer a free shuttle to the parks. However, when you’re at the park I would strongly recommend staying at one of the many other options in the area. Not only are they closer to the parks but you can redeem your points for free nights at many of them.
The closest airport to the Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim is the Orange County Airport (SNA) which is about 11 miles away. Another great option that’s just a little bit further, is the Long Beach Airport (LGB). It’s a lot less crowded and I’ve usually been able to find reward flights there when there’s no availability to Orange County.
While there are several dining options at the Great Wolf Lodge, there are numerous fast food and other restaurants close by as well. This can be really beneficial if you’re on a budget, have picky eaters, or just want to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. If you’ll be renting a car, take a look at this easy way to save money on car rentals.
As you probably guessed from the name, the Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim is decorated to have a mountain lodge feel. The lobby was incredibly spacious and had a giant sitting area opposite the front desk.
The day before you arrive, they will email you to give you the option to complete the check-in process before arriving. If you do this at least an hour before arriving, you can bypass the front desk and collect your wristbands for the water park when you arrive. Check-in is at 4pm but you can arrive as early as 1pm to begin using the water park. We arrived at noon and hand no problem getting our wristbands a little early
The adults’ wristbands also double as your room key. Once your room is ready, they’ll text you your room number. When you’re ready for a break from the water slides, you can head up and unpack.
One great feature that I really liked about the Great Wolf Lodge is that you can use the water park the entire day you’re leaving. While you have to be out of your room by 11am, you can ride the slides and play until the park closes that night.
One thing to be aware of is that the Great Wolf Lodge charges a daily resort fee when you stay there. While it varies by location, the resort fee at the Anaheim location was $34.99 per night. There are several reasons why I hate resort fees but there two big ones.
First, they’re not optional. If you don’t plan on using the “services” included in the fee, you still have to pay for them. Second, the services typically include in the fee are for things you won’t ever use. A few examples are the ability to use the hotel fax machine or making local calls from the phone in your room. Does anyone even do that anymore? And the one thing almost everyone does, which is park your car, isn’t included in the resort fee. That will cost you an extra $20 per night at this location.
While each location varies in size, the Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim has over 600 rooms. They had both standard hotel rooms with one or two beds as well as larger suites that are perfect for families. I have a family of 7 so we booked a themed suite that could accommodate up to 8 guests.
The room had a queen sized bed, a sofa bed, as well as this fun little room with bunk beds. My younger kids thought the bunk bed room equipped with its own TV was the best thing they had ever seen.
While the little “kid’s cabin” was a fun touch, the rest of the room was pretty average. Each room comes with a microwave and a mini fridge that can be useful if you’re staying for more than a night. There’s also a small table in the corner as well as a flat screen TV mounted on the wall. The bathroom was basic and very similar to what you would get at a larger chain’s hotel that caters to business travelers.
There are 9 different dining options inside the Great Wolf Lodge, so there was something for everyone. At the high end is their signature restaurant Lodge Wood Fired Grill which serves everything from steaks to macaroni and cheese.
You also have several casual dining options to choose from. One option is the Loose Moose Family Kitchen which serves buffet-style meals throughout the day. There is also a pizza parlor, an ice cream shop and a donut store for breakfast. If you don’t feel like leaving the water park to eat, the Buckets Incredible Craveables is located right inside.
The prices for each dining option were typical for what you would find at most resorts. If you book your room directly through the hotel, you have the option to purchase a meal plan at a reduced rate.
The biggest amenity and the reason why everyone visits the Great Wolf Lodge, is the giant indoor water park. Entrance to the water park is included in the price of the stay for all registered guests. If you have family or friends who would like to join you at the water park, you can purchase a day pass for an additional charge. The prices will vary each day but when we were there, a day pass was $55 per person. At this price, your friends would be better off staying at the resort with you.
The water park has 14 slides, four pools and other activities, so there’s something for everyone. They keep the inside of the water park set at a warm 84 degrees all year. While you definitely won’t feel chilly, it can get a little humid. They also provide free life jackets for your children if you need them.
At the center of the water park is a large water fort that looks like a treat house. Designed for younger children, there are water slides and other activities that will keep them busy for hours. They also have a designated area for children under 48 inches where they play in pools and on small slides designed just for them.
In the back corner of the water park is the tower leading to all of the larger slides. About half of the slides require inner tubes that range from 1 to 4 passengers. These can be a lot of fun to ride as a family. They even have a slide that’s more of a thrill ride. You start by standing in a tube and the bottom falls out from under you to get you started. This was a couple of my kids’ favorite slide.
They is also a lazy river, a wave pool, and a boogey board wave rider. My youngest especially loved the wave rider.
The Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim had several other amenities you can enjoy during your visit to the resort. They have activities for the kids, a miniature bowling alley and a large arcade.
If you have any energy leftover after a day at the water park, there’s a fitness center on the second floor.
The Great Wolf Lodge in Anaheim was definitely a great experience. Everyone loved it and by the end of two full days at the water park, we were all exhausted. While the rooms were average, when considering the use of the water park, I thought it was a good value for the price we paid. Personally, I wouldn’t stay here any longer than I thought we could enjoy the water park. After that, I think you could find a better value elsewhere, especially when redeeming your points.