Our family regularly cruises down I-64 past Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg to visit relatives. Sometimes the backseat remains quiet as we pass, but more often than not I find myself fielding questions from our three boys, ages 4, 6 and 9, like “Can we go there sometime?” and “What is that place?” As is so often the case in parenting, the questioning gained in intensity until we finally cracked and said, “OK, let’s go!”
We arrived around 1 p.m. on Saturday, pulling into an open parking spot faster and closer to the lobby than expected. The parking lot and landscaping were well maintained and the Lodge made a striking impression with exposed log architecture and larger-than-life concrete sculptures.
Stepping inside, we found ourselves in a cavernous lobby with impressive Halloween decor. Exposed beams supported the 50-foot high ceiling, and dangling menacingly from those beams was a massive spider crafted of what must have been 1000 or more velvety, black balloons. GWL apparently takes its seasonal themes very seriously, and based on the torrent of ooh’s, ahh’s and whoa’s pouring from our boys mouths, their efforts paid off.
We spent maybe a minute waiting for the next available front desk attendant to greet us and give us the quick rundown of room location and amenities. We knew our check-in time was 4 p.m., but the attendant assured us the room would be ready before that and we would get a call to let us know when we could get in. Our plan in arriving so early of course was to maximize our water park time, so we headed down to the entrance.
If not for the noise of the water and families having fun, I’m sure you could have heard our jaws hitting the floor. The huge Fort MacKenzie is front and center with a giant bucket perched atop. Every four minutes the bucket tips forward, dumping 1000 gallons of water (yes, seriously) onto the fort roof where it sprays and splashes everyone beneath. A quick look around shows the Raccoon lagoon with tot-sized water slides, a wave pool, a labyrinth of slides with some woven out through the walls then back inside, a hot tub, an obstacle course and basketball goals in a heated pool.
A short walk to the back of the room reveals a lazy river on one side and an endless wave where kids and adults lined up to try riding a body board on the upward blasting sheet of water. The park’s Howling Tornado slide is the largest and most thrilling…an instant magnet for our 9-year-old. We quickly changed clothes, and it was on! The kids all found plenty of fun suited to their age and comfort level, and they couldn’t get enough of it.
After a couple hours of non-stop fun we checked the phone to discover our room was ready. We dried off with the warm towels provided at the water park entrance and headed upstairs.
Now came a big moment of truth for us: opening the room door. As anyone with kids knows, the condition of a hotel floor is hugely important to overall enjoyment of a stay. A clean floor lets you relax and feel at home. Boy were we happy when that door swung open! The room was spacious, nicely decorated, fresh smelling and the floor looked great. Ahhhh. The view from our 4th floor balcony was very nice as well, overlooking pine trees and a pond.
Another quick change of clothes and snack, and the kids were ready to check off a few of the many remaining activities. GWL offers several “Pass” options that bundles the resorts’ numerous offerings. Our Paw Pass bundle allowed the kids to participate in the resort’s many activities at a big savings.
We chose to first tackle the MagiQuest, an interactive scavenger hunt of sorts, where a magic wand leads you on quests throughout the resort. GWL Williamsburg had recently overhauled the game system and now offers the newest and most up-to-date MagiQuest of all the 14 Great Wolf resorts. My 9-year-old was immediately hooked. Solving the mystery, with the end goal of finding and slaying the “Dragon” became his evening’s entertainment. Our younger boys enjoyed using their wands to open treasure chests and find animals and statues through the resort that would wink, swing and light up upon a wave.
You’d think we’d all be about to drop with exhaustion from water play and questing, but there was so much more to do! We headed back down to the Kid’s Store, which truly fits its name. Inside is a “Creation Station” where our boys each chose from a selection of animals to have stuffed and outfitted. The Kid’s Store offers coloring stations for the little ones as well as a photo both, Glitz Glitter tattoos, candy cup fills and many kid apparel selections.
We had all worked up quite an appetite and headed to dinner at the Loose Moose Bar & Grill. The Loose Moose offers a breakfast and dinner buffet and menu selections for lunch. While there was a lot to choose from, the children’s dinner selection was very limited, and I found myself wishing for a menu to order something for my boys. Service was great at the Loose Moose, but it was a typical buffet with food under heat lamps, with a lack of flavor.
Great Wolf was just beginning its month-long Halloween celebration. The night-time was alive with energy from trick-or-treating, costume parades and story time. The staff seemed excited to be a part of the festivities and did a great job interacting with the guests. It was a positive, family-filled atmosphere, but when it was time to call it a night, our room was nice and quiet and everyone easily fell asleep. Great Wolf has a great way of keeping the energy centralized and away from the guest rooms so they serve an oasis away from the activities.
Breakfast the following morning was a much better showing for the Loose Moose. The buffet offered an omelet station, waffles with paw prints (a favorite of my tykes) and a large variety of breakfast meats, pastries, cereals and fruits. Dunkin Donuts is also available in the lobby and fully loaded with a variety of coffees, donuts, bagels and muffins.
Check out is at 11 a.m., but we were free to use the water park and facilities all day. We decided to take advantage of the water park first thing. After a couple of hours everyone was ready for a break. We cleaned up and checked out…but no way we were leaving yet (still too much to be done)!
While my husband and oldest headed back to MagiQuest, I took our younger boys to Ten Paw Alley, a bowling alley with half-length lanes and five-pound balls. It was perfect. My 4-year-old was getting spares and strikes and feeling like a pro! We then headed to Northern Lights arcade for a few games. It was a well-lit and very loud arcade, but with game offerings for all ages.
For lunch we hit up Hungry as a Wolf, which offers pizza, pasta and salads. There is no eat-in seating, but tables are available in the water park and around the resort. Maybe it was all the activity or all the distractions, but my boys gobbled up their pizza in no time flat! I’d say that is a sign of happy bellies and good food. My husband opted to grab a sandwich from the water-park grill, Buckets, and had the same tasty experience.
With the dragon slayed and little legs worn out, we decided it was time to head home. We hadn’t made it to the mini-golf course or Bear Paw ice cream and sweets shop, but we promised to try them next time.
Before we got to the car, all three boys wanted to know when we could come back. I know our trips down I-64 will never be the same. With their questions answered about what that building is, our conversations will surely involve how much fun we all had that weekend!
Great Wolf Lodge
549 East Rochambeau Dr., Williamsburg, VA
Meet the Reviewer!
Stacey Craig is a preschool teacher, wife and mom to three energetic boys ages, 4, 6 and 9.