This week, we spent 2 nights and 3 days at Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. We went with my sister, her husband, and their 3-year-old son. We had looked at a few water parks in the area, but decided on Great Wolf Lodge because of its price (not only was it cheaper than other, but we also had a 25% off promo code) and because it catered to younger kids. Since we were going with 2 toddler, this was very important!
We had a GREAT time! The boys had an absolute blast too! Here are 10 reasons why this is such a great place to go with toddlers!
1. Quick check-in/check-out
Check-in at the Sandusky location begins at 4pm, but you can start using the water park at 1pm the day you arrive. We wanted to make the most of the trip, so we were there promptly at 1. We had planned to leave all of our belongings in the car, had to the park until 4, and then check-in once our room was ready. When I got to the desk, I was pleasantly surprised that our room was already available! The entire check-in process was pleasant, and they even had little wolf ears for our boys, and told us to teach them to do a “high-paw” instead of a “high-five” during our stay!
Check-out was simple, with no need to even return to the front desk. We cleaned our bags, packed our room, made sure the receipt they left us was correct, packed our car, and headed to the water park! Even though check-out was at 11am, we were able to use the water park all day on the day we leave. We took advantage of that to enjoy a few more hours of fun before we hit the road.
2. Water Park passes included with room
The main reason people come to Great Wolf Lodge is the awesome indoor water park. What is awesome about Great Wolf Lodge is not only are the passes for the park included with your room, but the park is only available to individuals staying at the resort. I didn’t learn this until we arrived, and I was super excited. This was great because it meant the size of the crowd was relatively controlled and could only grow as big as the capacity of the rooms at the resort. The lines never got too long, and we never felt too crowded at any point during our stay.
3. Fun water play for all comfort levels
I had been to several water parks before, but never with a toddler. I wasn’t sure how much the boys would be able to do besides maybe splash around. We were excited to see that there was plenty to fill our 3 days at Great Wolf Lodge!
Soak’n Oak Springs was where we spent a lot of our time. It had a zero-depth entry that was great for easing our 15-month-old into the water. In the entry area there were little in-ground fountains that our son loved splashing in. In the middle of the area was a tree that had a couple of small slides and water spouts. There was also a sprinkler and buckets of water that continuously filled and dumped in the deeper side of the play area. My nephew enjoyed waiting under the buckets until they would dump on his head and swimming around in the 1.5 foot area.
Chinook Cove Activity Pool was a big open pool area, with an area for water basketball, a floating snake and log to play on, and an open space to swim around. Our boys enjoyed this area, but with the deep water we either needed to hold them or have their life jackets on.
Fort Mackenzie is a huge structure with spray stations, climbing nets, bridges and slides. The main attraction of this play area is the large bucket at the top. About every 5 minutes, you hear a dinging bell, followed by a crowd forming at the bottom of the structure. This crowd is waiting to get drenched by the 1,000 gallon bucket when it dumps over them. By the end of our stay, my nephew was one of those waiting for the powerful shower of water!
Manitoba Tubs has two sides: one for the family and one for 21 and over. Both sides are a whirlpool hottub, but the family side is cooler. My husband took our son into the family side, and he enjoyed the bathtub-like water. My sister and I were able to escape to the adult hottub a few times during our stay for some much needed mommy relaxation!
Alberta Falls is a 4-story tall, twisting, inner-tube water slide…and my 3-year-old nephew’s favorite part of the park! He enjoyed riding (with his life jacket on in his dad’s lap of course) over and over! The line, even when long, moved fast too.
Caribou Creek is the winding, lazy river. I enjoyed this, and when the boys were sleepy and needed a rest, they would ride with my sister and I.
Whooping Hollow featured smaller water slides, perfect for toddlers. Our son rode with his dad, while my nephew was able to ride on his own.
There were even more areas, including a small outdoor pool, agility challenges, and slides designed for older kids to ride without parents, that we will look forward to using on future visits. There is so much for our boys to grow into still!
4. Water safety for dummies
With this being the first trip to the water park with our little ones, we weren’t exactly sure what they would be allowed to do, and what was too much for them. Luckily, Great Wolf Lodge takes the guesswork out of water safety. On top of your bracelet for park entry, each day you arrive at the park your child gets a second wrist band. This band is either red, yellow, or green, and is based on their height. The color of that bands determines what rides and activities they can do alone, which ones they need an adult for, and which ones they aren’t permitted on at all. This link includes all of their safety guidelines, including specifics for each area.
5. Rooms with family in mind
We shared a room with my sister and her family, so it was a little of a tight squeeze. We stayed in the family suite, which had 2 queen beds (very comfortable), a full bathroom (a little small), and a semi-private living area with a sleeper-sofa. We brought our own pack n’ play because when we called, then couldn’t guarantee that one would be available. We were able to hang out in the living area while the boys slept on the other side. Some of the bigger rooms have fun sleeping areas with bunk beds for when the boys get older. There was also a mini-fridge, microwave and coffee pot in the room. We ended up in one of the few rooms without a balcony or patio, which was probably best with the boys.
6. Out of the water fun at Cub Club
On our second day there, we took a break after our first trip to the water park and checked out the Cub Club. This was a fun area for kids, with lots of activities and crafts for them to participate in.
At 8pm, the lobby is transformed into a sea of children anxiously awaiting storytime. It begins with some songs from the animatronic animals and people (creeped out my husband a bit), followed by a visit from a Great Wolf Lodge character and the story of Great Wolf Lodge. Afterwards, kids can get their picture taken with the character. We opted to skip this and head up our room since our boys were getting sleepy.
8. Sensory overload at the arcade
Although not quite old enough to play the games at the arcade, our boys had a fun time running around and watching all the lights and hearing the music to the games. Their dads had a blast playing though! The boys did reap the benefits of the tickets that the guys won!
9. No need to leave for meals
To save money, we stopped at the local grocery store to buy food for breakfast, lunch and snacks during our stay. We planned to enjoy the restaurant the resort had to offer for dinner. The first night, we ate at Gitchigoomie Grill, which had a great selection! We shared the loaded fries and mozzarella sticks. Dave enjoyed his 4-cheese macaroni with chicken and shrimp, I had a chicken quesadilla, my sister and her husband both had the pulled pork sandwich, and the boys had grilled cheese. Their margaritas were yummy too! Everyone left happy, except for my nephew, who fell asleep at the table (see reason #10).
The second night we ordered pizza from Hungry as a Wolf. The pizzas were LARGE, and delicious. We ordered one pepperoni, one roasted veggie, and a family salad, which was more than enough for 4 adults and 2 kids.
We stopped at the Bear Paw Sweets & Eats for coffee in the morning, and ice cream one night. The cream was perfect after a long day of play. The coffee however was a little overpriced for coming out of a machine.
10. Guaranteed to WEAR THEM OUT!
Our boys were so worn out, they fell asleep all over the place! At dinner, in the lazy river, in the pool…they were exhausted! This was great for the parents at the end of the day, because we were tired from a long day of play too!
I would definitely recommend Great Wolf Lodge if you are looking for a fun, budget-friendly family getaway with little ones. We are looking forward to going back soon!