As Disney pass holders, we have watched this place being built from the ground up every time we took Harbor to the park. When we were notified of their upcoming opening (and offered a discount!) we booked two nights to try it out. We knew better than to book opening weekend since it’s never a good idea to be the first to try a new hotel and based on the reviews from that weekend, we are so glad we waited! You have use of their facilities from 1pm the day you check in, until 9pm the day you check out. We chose 2 nights at the hotel because we didn’t want to be without a room and dependent on public showers/toilets for so many hours, and wanted to have a quiet place to go to should Milana need a break. It was definitely the right choice! Keep in mind, you cannot use the water park without being a hotel guest but can use the rest of their facility without staying the night. If you have friends staying the night, they are allowed to buy additional wristbands (the same # as people in their room) for $50 each, so that’s the only way to use the water park without paying to spend the night. We got the family suite, which had 2 queen beds and a sleeper sofa as well. Milana had her own bed which worked out perfectly.
The 3rd time we went, we were upgraded to the Wolf Den room. It’s similar to the family suite and also sleeps 6, but there is a little area with a bunk beds and tv for the kids. Milana liked having her own little area to play in!
We checked in on a Wednesday and the place was deserted! I’ve heard horror stories of massive crowds, but there were literally 5 other families in the water park that day, it was so awesome! When you check in, you can purchase a pass for your child, which offers a discount on the activities they offer. Because Milana is under 5, we bought the Pup Pass (39.99) since the other things were for older kids. She got a stuffed toy from the Creation Station (similar to build a bear), glitter tattoo, arcade credits, and ice cream among some other things. It’s definitely worth it if you are there more than one day, since you can’t possibly do all the activities in one day. When you check in, everyone in your party gets a wristband that is to stay on for the duration of your stay. The adult ones have a chip inside, which opens your hotel door and allows you to charge to your room without carrying stuff around. It’s a similar concept to the MagicBand at Disney World, makes it easy to store your info without having to take out your wallet every time you want to buy something! You also use the band to get in and out of the parking structure if you choose to self park.
The water park hands out wristbands based on height. Kids under 42 inches receive the red band, meaning they can’t use a good portion of the park. No tube slides at all for that height, and that was by far the highlight of our trip. Thankfully Milana received the yellow band (42-48 inches) so we got to do the tube rides along with the smaller slides, so it was worth it. We didn’t know about this until we arrived, and would have been really disappointed if we paid so much money for essentially a splash pad. If you only have one small child or if all your kids are under 42 inches, I would wait a little bit before going, since they won’t be able to use more than half of the attractions. Milana loved the water park, especially the big tube rides and her favorite was the Mountain Edge Raceway where you lay on your stomach and go head first on a mat down a 4 story drop! She did that one multiple times, definitely a favorite!
The only disappointment at the water park is the lazy river. The actual lazy river is so tiny, that if 20 people are in it, there wouldn’t be room for more! Our 3rd visit was during spring break, and there was no chance of getting a tube because it was so packed.
Here are some videos of the water park:
Besides the water park, there are a ton of other activities to do. They have a movie theater (we didn’t try it), a spa for kids (again, didn’t try it), bowling (Milana’s favorite and we had the whole place to ourselves!), mini golf (again, we were the only ones in there!), arcade (fun but can get expensive if you keep buying points!), laser tag (didn’t try it) and of course the popular MagiQuest game for the older kids. The Pup Pass came with a Clubhouse Crew game. After you get your stuffed animal, you register it and it has a chip inside. You walk around the hotel looking for clues at the various stations and when you complete the game, you go back to the store with the bear to receive a bracelet. This game is geared for younger kids, since they can’t really play MagiQuest.
Here’s a video of the mini golf: Mini Golf
The food at the hotel wasn’t great but we didn’t expect it to be and planned on going out to eat. Just down the street is the Anaheim Packing District, which has some really awesome restaurants (try the poutine at the Kroft!). The only restaurant in the hotel we did try was the Lodge Wood Fired Grill which was ok, but nothing spectacular and definitely not worth the prices with so many good food options outside of the hotel. The only good thing at this restaurant were the tiny shot glass desserts, they were actually really good! This food definitely looks better than it tastes.
The hotel has some kind of kid activity going on pretty much all day. In the evenings at 6, we would play bingo (in the Grand Lobby). The winner gets to choose a prize from their prize box and Milana won the second day! At 7, was the dance party also in the same location. They also have pajama story time at 8pm, and after that kids can meet some of the Great Wolf characters. And during the day, they had some kind of craft activity near the lobby area.
If you are staying here and visiting Disneyland, they do offer shuttles but they are $5/person for adults and something like $3 for kids. Not worth the price, since they don’t run very frequently and it would be more convenient to just park closer to the parks which is what we did. And honestly, I don’t recommend this hotel if you are traveling to the area for Disneyland. I feel like Great Wolf Lodge is a place you go to and stay all day, it’s definitely designed that way. There are a ton of other hotels that are much closer to the Disney parks (I hope to have a blog post soon about one!) so I would head into actual Anaheim and not this hotel (which is in Garden Grove) if you are going to Disney.
Overall, we had a great experience because the crowds were low. We’ve been 3 times now and had relatively low crowds each time since we go midweek (except spring break-it was pretty crowded then but still manageable!). If you can book a weekday, I’d do that. You’ll have the whole place to yourself, without massive lines for all the attractions. This was the wave pool as we were leaving around 5pm on Friday. There were a handful of people in there on Wednesday and Thursday, and based on the check in line as we were leaving Friday, it was only going to get worse! Definitely book a weekday if possible. We also came around Milana’s birthday and purchased the birthday package, which honestly is not worth it. They put balloons in your room with a cake and cookies, and a banner on the door. You can easily do something like that yourself for a fraction of the price!