The Great Wolf Lodge is now open in Bloomington, and my family recently stayed for an amazing weekend. It’s perfect for a mid-winter stay-cation in Minnesota, plus it was our daughter’s 10th birthday weekend so she brought a friend, which made it the best celebration ever!
(Update: ALSO CHECK OUT MY SECOND REVIEW after our Summer Visit to the Great Wolf Lodge!)
After undergoing a $30 million renovation, there are now a ton of new features in addition to the 75,000 square foot water park. We got to experience them and have to say – even a weekend was not enough to fully experience it all, but we definitely did more in one hotel than we ever have before!
We arrived on a Friday evening and checked into our room which was a Standard Family Suite, the most common room you’ll find here. It had 2 queen beds and a sofa sleeper. It was very nice, though there are many other room options including some with bunk beds (see my other post with details and pictures).
After we arrived, we ate at the restaurant upstairs called Hungry as a Wolf, and we sure were hungry as we gobbled up this pizza and salad.
Afterwards we went to a fun media reception where the kids got to decorate and eat cookies.
Soon the kids made a dash for the arcade, where they quickly racked up tons of tickets to redeem for prizes.
Then the kids tried out the nearby mining activity. The kids get to pan and sift through their own bag of sand where they’ll find beautiful gemstones and minerals that they get to keep. This was my 7-year-old son’s favorite activity. I loved that they even included a guide to help you identify the different gemstones and minerals.
Every day there are activities including an interactive story time, balloons and even yoga for kids. The place was always hopping! The big screen was a hit for story time and parents could take pictures of their kids with the characters including Wiley and Violet, the wolves.
Here’s what one of the two story time shows includes:
The next morning, I attended a great media breakfast and the rest of my family enjoyed a breakfast buffet at the Campfire Kitchen restaurant. Then it was water park time!
There was so much to do here, between the slides, the tubes, the lazy river and wave pool. I admit that the majority of the time my son and I relaxed on a tube on the lazy river, while my daughter and her friend went down the slides. I really wanted to try the River Canyon Run, where 4 people can ride down a slide on a tube together, and they can pick one of four movie themes for your ride! However, the lazy river and other activities kept us pretty busy.
After the water park we had lunch at the fast food restaurant in the water park, called Buckets Incredible Craveables. The food was good but pricey – it was over $40 for four of us.
Now it was on to the rest of the hotel, including the Great Wolf Adventure Park!
There are several shops to visit including the Great Wolf Kids Store, which is next to the Buckhorn Exchange. Here, kids can stuff their own animal at the Creation Station.
And at the Scooops Kids Spa, kids can get pampered with scented hair products and glitter. For my daughter’s birthday, I got her and her friend each a package deal for $15 which included a sash, tiara, scented hair treatment and lotion sample. Honestly, I didn’t think it was a good deal, as it only took about 5 minutes and the items were pretty simple. But the girls liked it. (Summer 2018 UPDATE – Scooops is now closed and was replaced by a larger candy store.)
But they definitely liked creating their own character at the Creation Station. They had all the Great Wolf Lodge characters to pick from, and even a red dragon from MagiQuest, which my son chose.
Ten Paw Alley is a kid-sized bowling alley with half-length lanes and five-pound balls. We played a game – you need one token per player.
The kids loved that they could choose a themed game. They picked a fairy themed game which had animated characters on the screen during the game.
This is outside the bowling alley, near the harness station for the Ropes Course, which we didn’t even have time for. I love the sense of walking through a forest that you get everywhere!
We even had a fun surprise – we walked in on a “flash mob” marriage proposal, happening right here later on! It was so neat! (And yes, she said yes!)
We finally decided we should try MagiQuest. Each of the kids picked out a wand and a character name (anything they can think of) which was displayed on a screen.
Off to slay the dragon and other adventures!
We didn’t get through the whole quest, but we sure did a lot! There are stations all around the hotel, on both level one and two, and kids can use their wands to open treasure chests and find relics to move on to the next level.
They had friendly helpers all over the hotel too – one showed us how to find out where we were in the game and what to do next.
It’s quite complex and extensive! We walked so many steps all over the place going from one quest to the next. Be warned, parents – you’ll get some good exercise here!
That evening we enjoyed a dinner buffet at the Campfire Kitchen. I tried a lot of foods; nothing made the girls happier than platefuls of mac and cheese!
That evening I enjoyed a workout in the fitness center, which overlooks the water park.
The next morning we all enjoyed a media breakfast and pictures with the characters! My kids were too shy to meet Wiley the Wolf and Violet the Wolf so I got my picture with them instead!
Our Overall Thoughts
First of all, we were super sad when our weekend stay was done. We wanted to stay longer! But we were very happy with how our visit went. Overall, we were blown away by all the things you can do here. We didn’t do it all – we didn’t have time or energy for the ropes course or rock climbing wall, and we would have liked to go back to the water park – but we fit in a TON of stuff. Having Paw Passes for each of the kids worked out well so we could do a variety of things.
I also LOVED that every guest gets a wristband with your room account information on it. Everyone can use their wristband to enter their room (there are no keys!), and to even purchase items to be billed to your room. This made it convenient especially when going to the water park (they’re waterproof!).
I also loved that the water park was only for hotel guests. When it was the Water Park of America, the water park was open to the public too. This made it crowded a lot of the time. With it now being for hotel guests only, it didn’t feel as crowded as it did when it was the Water Park of America.
There were a few things I wish I had planned better for, and learned from our visit. Here are my tips for saving money and making the most of your visit!
10 Tips to Save Money!
First of all, a stay at the Great Wolf Lodge isn’t cheap, as there is so much to do above and beyond the typical hotel experience. But it’s still more affordable than a typical trip somewhere, and can be more affordable with these tips!
- Book at least 60 days in advance to save up to 50%.
OR reserve your tickets via my exclusive link and save up to 25% when you stay at least 2 nights!
Also, they have a deals page with all their specials and typically you can save the most by booking your stay two months out. Great for spring break or summer planning if you book now! Or check Groupon as they have deals throughout the year!
- Stay during the week rather than a weekend or holiday. It’s cheaper and less busy. I actually stopped by on Monday, the day after we checked out, just to see what it was like. The place was so empty (totally the opposite of how it was during the weekend), but everything was open, so it was an ideal time to be there. Plus, at check-in time on Friday, the parking lot – and check-in area – was insanely busy. There was a long line of cars by the entrance so we actually parked on the far end of the parking lot and walked all our bags in from there. I didn’t dare move my car the whole weekend because I was afraid to lose my space, even as far away as I was parked. The line of people waiting to check in was also long. They keep things moving but if you do stay on a weekend, be prepared for this.
- Go with a standard room instead of a themed room. Though the themed rooms are awesome, the standard rooms are the most popular and cost the lowest. Honestly, you’ll hardly be in the room so if cost is an issue, keep the amenities basic.
- Because each room has a refrigerator and microwave, bring your own milk and snacks from outside. There is no place to get milk or convenience foods for cheap here. They have a place to buy some convenience foods, but they’re not typical foods or beverages. You can get smoked cheese and turkey jerky and some other fancy snacks, but they’re a bit pricey and not very kid-friendly. You can get milk at Dunkin’ Donuts, but it’s $2.50 for a 1/2 liter, which quickly adds up. I needed milk for everyone in our room though so I spent the $10 to get four single-serving bottles of milk. It was better than driving to some gas station nearby and losing my parking spot.
- To save more on food, bring cereal, oatmeal, and other simple meals from home, or order from outside. The food at the hotel is delicious, but the cost can add up. Eat your own breakfast and possibly other meals in the room. And consider ordering food from outside – we saw many pizza deliveries to families at the hotel.
- Maximize your use of the waterpark! You can start using the water park at 1pm on the day of check-in, and all day the day of check-out. This is a GREAT deal, and is most advantageous if you’re doing a stay-cation here. We could have used the water park all day Sunday, even after checking out. But we didn’t because we were tired from everything else we did. Still, it’s good to know so you can make the most of your money spent here! (Just note that many other people arrive to use the water park at that time too.)
- Enjoy all the free activities here! There are free activities for kids around the hotel morning, day, and night. We found coloring and crafts by the Ropes Course, and balloon animals being made in the grand lobby. Here is some of the free fun you’ll find here:
-Lunch Time Lineup
-The Northwoods Friends Show
-Great Wolf Kids Activities
- Take advantage of the Paw, Pup and Wolf Passes for the activities. You can save up to 46% by buying a package deal vs. buying activities separately. Plus it’s convenient to just pay one time for all the activities your kids want to do.
- Plan your spending in advance and budget for souvenirs! Get familiar with all the options at the hotel beforehand, and prepare for something to catch your child’s eye that you didn’t anticipate. Though keep in mind there will be fun, free things for your child to take home like balloons and crafts.
- Maximize your time by starting your day early. Kids’ yoga is early plus if you’re starting early you’ll beat the crowds. And arrive early for activities like story time for the best seat.
One more tip – you can enjoy all of the “dry land” activities without being a hotel guest. Consider this if a hotel stay isn’t an option, though a hotel stay is the best way to enjoy the Great Wolf Lodge.
Your family can have a fantastic stay-cation here at the Great Wolf Lodge Bloomington, and you can save a little money (and time) here and there with my above tips!
Learn more at https://www.greatwolf.com/minnesota.
And save up to 25% with via my exclusive link here!
Update: We came back for a second visit in the summer!
Check out my SECOND REVIEW of the Great Wolf Lodge! There were a few changes…
(Disclosure: The Great Wolf Lodge Bloomington provided us with a complimentary stay in exchange for sharing our honest thoughts. In addition, this post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no cost to you. All opinions are 100% mine.)