Slowly and quietly throughout areas other than the Sunbelt portion of the United States, Great Wolf Lodge has been assembling a winning combination: a chain of gigantic indoor water park destination resort properties built as part of first class hotels designed with kids in mind from the ground up. The results, as in Williamsburg, are rave reviews from parents and most importantly, its core audience: kids.
If you haven't seen it, the concept is almost too impossible to describe. For kids, it's too good to be believed! Opened in 2005 with 301 all suite rooms, the four-story Williamsburg Great Wolf Lodge has the signature look from the outside of a childhood "Lincoln Log" or log cabin building. The difference is that inside is a 55,000 square foot water park with eight waterslides, four pools, two whirlpools, a lazy river and even a wave pool. The water park amenities make it equivalent to many conventional outdoor water parks – and it's all under roof and heated for use 12 months out of the year.
"The water park is exclusive to Great Wolf Lodge guests," explained Chris Stuart, director of Aquatics. "This keeps capacity at a comfortable level, eliminates long lines, and allows for more personal attention from the lifeguards." Currently there are eight Great Wolf resorts, with Williamsburg being the furthest south. Three other resorts are under construction.
Before you can even make it to the water park portion of the resort, you have to check in at the hotel's front lobby – not any old stuffy hotel lobby. This is a lobby featuring talking raccoons, squirrels and other animals hidden throughout its Northern Woods or backcountry motif that features a massive stone fireplace and a three story tall Great Clock Tower.
During check-in, you'll notice the lobby and hotel is literally teaming with kids, many running around with wands. The wands are part of a wildly popular activity at the hotel - the MagicQuest game. It cost extra to play the game and to rent or buy the wand, but that didn't impact the tremendous number of children playing the game.
MagicQuest is basically a very large game of hide and seek throughout large areas of the hotel. When a child finds an item and points his or her magic wand at the item, a treasure chest may open, an animal may come to life or other magical event may occur – much to the delight of the youngster. The game even has an accessory story devoted to it where players can buy capes or accessorize their wands. It is very popular with the 8-14 year old group.
Back to the water park, some other highlights include the Beaver Tail Lake wave pool, which is a zero-depth entry pool. (A zero-depth entry pool is a pool with a gently sloping beach-like entry that eliminates the normal poolside curbing or rim.) Surrounded by 3D murals of happy go lucky beavers, the waves come at you in 10-minute intervals. For some faster action, try River Canyon Run, the longest waterslide in the park. At 450 feet, the waterslide takes two to four riders on toboggan-style tubes on a twisting and turning adventure.
The heart and soul of the water park is Fort Mackenzie, a four-story interactive waterfort located in the center of the park. With 12 levels of interconnected suspension bridges, cargo nets, web crawls, squirt guns, hose sprays and bucket dumps, the Fort is guaranteed hours of fun.
As far as rooms, there are a variety of different types of rooms including rooms catering to MagicQuest fans and kid-themed suites, some of which feature bunk beds, always a favorite with kids.
For more information on Great Wolf Lodge, visit www.greatwolf.com or call (800) 551-WOLF (9653).