Monday, September 24, 2018

Why We Enjoyed the Great Wolf Lodge In Gurnee, Illinois

I was not asked to write a review for the Great Wolf Lodge. This was a vacation that we chose to take on our own and I decided that I would write a blog about my trip. I've not been compensated. 

     My family and I don't go on vacation very often. We live on my husband's income while I stay at home with the kids and we like to be sure that we can handle something financially before we decide to do big things: things like buying a car or going on vacation.

     A few years ago, we were walking around in the Bass Pro Shop/ Outdoor World in the mall when we were approached by a "vacation agent" to book a mini vacation at such and such a place for only $100 or something low like that and we could use it to go anywhere within 12-18 months. (Sorry, it was a couple of years ago, so my memory is a little vague.) At the time, I had a 5, 3, and almost 1 year old and didn't know if I wanted to be traveling with them, but the guy had mentioned that one of the places we could go to was the Wisconsin Dells and that would include water passes and our hotel. I told him that we would think about it and gave him my phone number and address and then was plagued with phone calls and mail for a few months.

     One day, I got a call and the salesman pitched me a deal that was too good to be true and we could schedule our visit within the year. I put the man on speaker so my husband and I could both talk with him and we had decided to schedule a trip to the Dells that July.

     It really could have been an awesome experience, the prices were just right, but we had some difficulties along the way, but due to my persistence, everything turned out alright in the end. Our hotel got switched to Mt. Olympus and we had a big room with bunk beds. My then two-year-old wouldn't leave that alone and actually fell off and bumped his head, but other than that, we had a lot of fun.

     However, when you do deals like this, you have to go to a presentation where they try to sell you time shares. My youngest was too young to accompany us, so our kids stayed in the hotel with grandma. the presentation was only supposed to take two hours and I think we were there for four. That really cut into our time to swim with the kids, but we made the best of it.

      After the presentation, we went back to the hotel and by then, my youngest was crabby and needed a nap. I offered to stay behind with him while the others went out. By the time we were ready to meet them, the sun was high and we had to cross a parking lot to get to the pool. I had no shoes or flip flops and burned my feet very badly. Actually, we all did. Even though we could have swam the next day, we declined and went home.

      Even through all of that, it was still nice to get away and let our kids experience something new. So when we heard that the Key Lime Cove in the next town over was being converted into a Great Wolf Lodge and that they were going to add more slides and attractions, we were very excited.

      As soon as we heard that they were taking reservations, my husband booked us a big suite to fit us during his birthday weekend. We were so excited, that we forgot that the kids would have started school by then, so my kids were extra excited to miss a couple of days of school.

      Because the drive for us is only about fifteen minutes, we left our dogs home and I went back and forth to let them out during the day. It was the perfect set up. We didn't need to pay to board the dogs and if we left something at home (our brush) then it could easily be brought back during one of the short trips home instead of having to go to the nearest store and pick it up.

      But that's enough about me, let me tell you about the Great Wolf Lodge:


Right when you pull in to the lot to check in, you're immediately greeted by this awesome wolf statue.




      It was even cooler to see at night when it was all lit up, but the camera on my phone made it look a little demonic, but I can assure you, there was nothing wrong or scary about this wolf.

We were given wolf ears for each child.... yes, I know my youngest's shoes are on backwards. 

Such a sneaky wolf pup

He's so excited to go in!

Room Decor

There were only two elevators in the wing that we were staying in, so when we first came in, it was a bit of a walk, but we enjoyed taking in our surroundings and we eventually found the entrance and elevator that was closest to us.
I took this picture as we were walking, I should have stopped. The carpet had animal foot prints leading the way to our rooms. Where there wasn't an animal print, there were "stone" paths. 

This was just one light fixture in the hallway. Others had moose, caribou, and wolves. I wouldn't mind this for my house. 


One of the first things I did was open up the curtain in the living quarters and saw that we had a balcony. We were on the 4th floor and I discovered that maybe I'm a little bit more afraid of heights then I thought, although I got over that after going out there so much because the kids wanted to look out. 
Six Flags is just within sight.

I loved this lamp.


     This was our little kitchenette. I bought ice cream for the cake we would have for my husband's birthday, but discovered too late that there wasn't a little freezer at the top. So don't buy ice cream for your room. 
 This was the master bedroom with a king size bed. This got to be our room.


 Every room had its own tv.


     Master bath. It was humongous. I could have fit all of my kids in there and an adult. I should have taken a picture, because that would have been pretty funny. 


     This was the living room area. I thought that the furniture could have all been a little more rustic and thought that this was actually a little boring for the room. The love seat folds out into a couch bed. That was very useful our first night when my in-laws stayed the night. 

     Mini dining area. This was the cleanest it had been all week. It had been completely covered by our things. oops.

I really should have rotated this, but alas, I did not. This is the second bedroom. It featured two queen size beds, a television and had another bathroom attached to it. 



     Overall, the suite was really nice. I think that if we wanted to pay extra, we could have had a themed room. This met our needs, nicely.

Inside the Hotel

The first two floors are dedicated to the attractions that the hotel offers.


 One thing that they have is a little mining area where kids could mine for gems.

This is a little mini bowling alley. The balls were bigger than a soft ball, but smaller than your average bowling ball. 

 Another thing that they had was the Northern Lights Arcade. What was really cool about this, and I didn't mention before is that the bracelets that we were given could be scanned for entrance to the water park, our room, or be used as a charge card instead of having to carry around your wallet and cash. Thankfully, only the person who is in charge of the money can scan their bracelet for charging things. Otherwise, my kids would have been scanning their bracelets to play all of these games.



This was one thing that the hotel offered that was kind of cool, but also not because we didn't let our kids play because it was a bit pricey and we wanted to keep the price within our budget.

This was a MagiQuest game. Every kid who played this had to purchase a wand that would get activated. They were able to chose their own Magi name and then were sent on a scavenger hunt to find different object within the hotel. (I believe it was just the two bottom floors and in the lobby areas.) It was kind of cool to see the kids activate treasure chests which opened or the random screens that would give them a challenge. The goal was to get through these and then defeat the dragon in the end. If they completed their quest, they got to go through a knighting ceremony the next morning.



 There was also an adventure climbing park. Kids and adults could climb through the obstacles and also the climbing wall that isn't pictured.



Gift Shops

      There were a ton of gift shops, both on the first and second level. If you like to pick up souvenirs, there was a place for you.




Restaurants

    If you live there forever and never leave, you really could do it as long as you're able to work from home or on a computer. There were several eating options in the hotel. This was just a couple of them. They actually have Dunkin' Donuts and a Ben and Jerry's on the second floor- a person could gain a lot of weight living there.




But if you want to go out somewhere, that's fine too. Gurnee has many places to eat because it has the Gurnee Mills Mall and Six Flags and the Naval Base a few towns over. It's a great tourist spot so there are many good places to eat. We actually went out both nights that we stayed. 

Inside Portillos

 We brought the kids some McDonald's and brought the adults back some Italian Beef and Fries. Yum!

      The first night, we actually went to Giordano's for my husband's choice for his birthday. If you haven't had their deep dish pizza, you're missing out.


My youngest, who doesn't like ketchup or any other sauce, has discovered marinara sauce. This is his new favorite thing and my husband and I were very amused and astonished that he like it.

The Water Park

     Ok, so lets get to the real reason that we went... The WATER PARK!!!!

You can view the water park from both floors.

 They had a small area for the toddlers and babies. 

 I think every age group could go in Fort Mackenzie. My youngest decided that he hated it when he was blindsided by the bucket at the top falling on him as soon as he entered. There were three bigger body slides to go down and two smaller slides for the less adventurous kids. Adults could go in here too! You had to be careful where you walked because water would fall and dump on you from all sides. If you were going to go into this park area, your hair is going to get wet.

     This was one of my oldest's favorite slides. It's basically a giant toilet bowl. You slide down quickly and then ride on the sides until you swirl down and out.

Here's the little splash area for the small kiddies. This is where my youngest liked to go because he was traumatized by the big bucket. By the last day, he was adventurous enough to ride in the bigger areas.

The park offered two large body slides. My daughter was a die hard fan of these until the first shift change and we were told that she was an inch too short to ride on them. The slides are almost pitch black inside with just a couple of lights shining here or there. They were very fun. 

The two bigger openings are where the raft slides led out. These were extremely fun and small kids could go with you as long as they were like 42 inches or taller. All of my kids fit that height, so they could go on with us. My oldest was able to do all of the rides by himself. 

You can enter every water slide from inside, but they loop around and all over the place outside of the hotel. We were worried that we would have to go outside to access them, but they all start inside. It makes the inside look smaller, but it's really much bigger than it seems. 

     Other than the wave pool (which I forgot to take a picture of) the lazy river was one of our favorite things to do. By the end of our stay, my kids forgot how it should be used and walked the course, racing through all of the rafts that were left behind. At times, you felt like you were one of those rubber duckies in that carnival booth in fair where you were surrounded by other rubber duckies.

       Two other things that I don't show here is the biggest water slide which separates into two lines. Both are designed to be like you are going on a white water raft trip. Everyone can go on it at the same time as long as you fit because you sit on a giant round raft and ride it together. The blue one is a more straight forward and more gentle ride. You don't slosh around on that one too much because it's mostly a straight shot. It's still a lot of fun, but if you ride the orange/yellow one, you're going to get thrown around and also go down a toilet bowl feature.

      The last thing also not pictured was the outdoor pool. This was just a normal pool that has a few places to sit. There is a bar next to it, so I'm sure that it's meant for night swim for drinks and company. We enjoyed swimming in it during the day because it offered us just a normal place to swim without waves or water spraying us from every which way. It was very comforting.

Bed Time

     Getting my kids to wind down usually comes with it's own struggles, but when we're at a hotel with many exciting things, it can be very difficult. One thing that the hotel offers its guests that is free is a chance for story time.

We let my kids each pick out their own stuffed animal at the gift shop. Together we went into the second floor lobby and listened to story time. (You can see how happy they were to get lined up for a picture.)


They transform the information screen to a little puppet like projection movie that plays as the kids all come from their rooms and settle in for the story. It was so cute to see the different kids run to the elevator in their pjs. 
This is the stillest he has been for the whole three days. 

Once the little puppet/projector movie scene was over, they had different "animals" come out each night to help read the story. We didn't listen to story time the night before, but we did see that Violet the Wolf was going to help that night as we left for our very late dinner. 


Afterwards, the kids got to meet that night's animal. I think this one was Brinley? My oldest didn't want to get into the picture. Apparently 8 years old is too old to hang out. 


In Conclusion

     This was a really great family vacation for us. My kids LOVE to swim and they loved the water park. Because we went in September from Wednesday- Friday, the park wasn't very crowded and we never had to wait in line.

     Is this something that could replace the Wisconsin Dells for us? I think so, or at least for now. There was so much to offer that even if you didn't go to the water park every day, you could still bowl, do the arcade, miniature golf, climb the rock wall or adventure ropes, or even do a scavenger hunt to get a dragon on one day, and then go to Six Flags another day. I think that will probably be an option that we'll have to do when my kids get older because even though the water park is great, three days is a lot to continue to enjoy it.

     Needless to say, everyone went home without arguing on Friday and everyone slept like rocks, that night.

      Lastly, you get a lot of exercise. Wednesday is when we first arrived. We didn't start any activities until after we checked in around 2:30.  Thursday, I had forgotten to put on my fitbit after I had taken a shower, that morning. Once I went back in to grab it, I still got more than 10,000 steps. Friday is the day we went home. After we got there, we didn't do a single thing except lounge.
     Is this something that you think you would enjoy? Have you ever been to a Great Wolf Lodge before? There is plenty to do, so consider Gurnee, Illinois' Great Wolf Lodge for your next family adventure!

28 comments:

  1. I loved the review, the game room, the room look cozy. I loved the pictures and I loved the wolf. After lions wolves are my favorite.

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  2. Replies
    1. It was very fun! Next time, we'll be looking out for a groupon.

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  3. I love hotels that have kitchenettes in them!! Makes me feel way more at home as I love to bring my own food with me places!

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  4. We like to bring food along so we don't spend a fortune eating out. I snuck in a toaster since they didn't have one of those. My daughter only likes toast or donuts for breakfast. I went with toast.

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  5. As a mom of four, we are constantly looking for a place that both the kids and adults would enjoy. Adding this to the list!

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    1. It was so nice. There were moms floating in the lazy river with their toddlers asleep on their chest. I was envious!

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  6. We are hooked on Great Wolf since our first trip there last year! We got a random upgrade to a similar suite and it was simply AMAZING!

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    1. Oh I'm so glad! We wanted to stay there a few years ago when we went to the Dells, but we weren't able to choose our hotel because it was for a time share presentation.

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  7. We really want to plan a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. We were thinking the one in GA. Thanks for sharing this.

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  8. This place is really very lax. Love The Animal foot print part. When I scrolled down the animal print looks like it was moving. Really good innovation in this. As for the hotel, I would love to go to there. Seen enough of Lions and Deer. Would love to see a wolf.

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  9. It was very nice and they have activities to do all through out the day too like yoga and dance parties. We were to busy splashing in the park, so we missed those.

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  10. It looks like you had a lot of fun. The details will be helpful for someone planning a similar trip!

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  11. What a great family fun day! This is close to us.

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  12. I've never been to the Great Wolf Lodge, looks like a fun family experience though. Lovely pics, and the room look so nice with the little kitchenette.

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    Replies
    1. It was very nice. I don't think we could have expected a more family friendly place than what they were.

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  13. So fun. We have one in Kansas City and it is on our list of to go places.

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  14. Such a great post. Me and my family always wanted to go to Great Wolf Lodge as a family, my children love the water and amusement parks. Thanks for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. I hope the next time we go, my youngest won't be afraid of the slides.

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  15. I've heard great things about Great Wolf Lodge and reading this it sounds like a blast! I think we would have a wonderful time here with our littles if we ever have the chance.

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  16. The waterpark is included with the hotel package, so that made it worth it.

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  17. What an excellent review. I told dad that next time we come to visit, we should look into staying there.

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