Well, you are the new hero of the household ever since you booked your family’s trip to the Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington, Minnesota! The kids are so excited for the mini vacation, and they should be because they don’t have to do any of the planning, packing, and preparing for the fun adventure. I’ve been through that and am here to help you out with the planning, and hopefully make your trip just as much fun for you as it is for the kids! We recently visited the new Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington, Minnesota and I returned with this list of everything that you need to know before you go! This post has been updated for our most recent visit in November 2018.
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The Lodge – What You Need To Know Before You Go
Everyone in your group gets a wristband at check in. These wristbands are your entrance into the water park, your room key, and for the lucky one in your group, they can be used to charge purchases to your room. You designate the bands that have charging rights, just don’t mix them up!
You also get a packet of information when you check in. The packet contains a map, the hours that everything is open, and the times of all of the activities throughout the day.
If you enter the lodge through the water park entrance, you will have to walk through the arcade area to get to the elevators. Not very convenient if you are hauling luggage, and your kids may get a little distracted as you are trying to hurry up and find the elevators before you drop everything.
The wifi signal at the Bloomington location is very strong….but don’t tell your kids that!
Go to the Mall of America in the evening for dinner and entertainment. The water park closes kind of early during the winter months, so you will want to take advantage of Great Wolf Lodge’s prime location near the Mall of America. Your family will have almost unlimited dining choices at the mall and the kids will be besides themselves with all of the fun activities they can do at the Mall of America.
Another must-read post: Mall of America – 9 First Experiences for the Whole Family
The Lodge offers a shuttle service to and from the Mall of America, and it looked like a lot of people were taking advantage of it. The mall is about a mile away and couldn’t be easier to get to.
If your family is looking for more dining options and want to stay away from the Mall of America, there are a lot of good restaurants further down American Blvd. Just head west.
We tried to call and order pizza from Hungry as a Wolf, as advertised, but there was a message saying you had to place your order in person. A little inconvenient, and we ended up heading over to the mall for dinner.
Pack nice pajamas for everyone, preferably matching ones with footies (just sayin’). It’s common for families to wear their pajamas for the evening story-time and morning programs held in the lobby area. I guess it’s the thing to do at Great Wolf Lodge.
There is a Dunkin’ Donuts and Ben & Jerry’s at the Lodge and the prices are actually reasonable. The cost of a kids scoop of ice cream is $3.69 and donuts are just over $1 each. These two places are a good option for a somewhat cheap snack or meal. Donuts and ice cream three days in a row? Yep, you’re on vacation, remember?
Related Post – 16 Easy Ways to Save Money at Great Wolf Lodge
Don’t think that you’ll make a quick run downstairs to Dunkin’ at 7:30 on the weekend mornings. You won’t. The line is unbelievably long. Unbelievably. Long. There is no line during the week (except during the summer), and you will have your fresh donuts and hot coffee in no time!
Dunkin’ Donuts has cards out in a bin that you can take and fill out to place your donut order. Grab one of these cards the night before and have your kids read through and make their choices. This will save time in the morning, and the first person up can easily go on the donut run.
The Scooops Kid Spa is no longer at the lodge, although it is still listed on the information you get at check in.
Since your kids are only concerned about carrying their stuffed animals and blankets into the hotel, there are small luggage carts in the lobby to help you carry all of the rest of the stuff. There was always a supply of carts available whenever we walked by.
The Water Park – What You Need To Know Before You Go
It is 84 degrees inside the water park. Nice!
Go to the water park as early as you can. It will be less busy!
Overall, the lifeguards were very attentive and well trained. When on duty, they were always walking through their area and were constantly scanning the water.
You need to check in and check out the towels by scanning your wristband. If your room shows towels not being checked back in, you’ll get to pay $20 for each missing towel.
The towels can’t leave the water park. Bring a cover up for the walk back to your room.
The inner tubes don’t have bottoms in the center hole. Having bottoms would be nice for the families with the littlest of kiddos, but a lot of babies looked pretty comfy cuddled up on their mama’s lap while floating around in the lazy river.
You aren’t required to use a tube in the lazy river. The lazy river is 3 feet deep and has a pretty quick current. The lazy river also goes through the wave pool which then creates waves in sections of the lazy river. There’s a tunnel too…super fun!
The wave pool is 5 feet deep at the deepest section, which is at the front. Keep an eye on your kids once those waves start! It can get pretty crowded with all of the people who are using tubes in the wave pool.
There are two tube slides for Alberta Falls. The slide on the right is a little bit tamer than the slide on the left.
Don’t forget that you have to carry your tube all the way up the steps for Alberta Falls. There is a sign, but it seems that not everyone takes the time to read it. We can only wish for a water park that magically has stacks of tubes at the tops of the slides, and doesn’t require the awkward hauling of tubes up hundreds of steps.
If you are using the water park on the last day after you check out of your room, bring a plastic bag for the wet swimsuits. They don’t provide any in the locker rooms. There is a swimsuit dryer, but you’ll still want a bag.
Lockers are available to rent inside the water park. A regular size locker (about 12″x12″) is $15 per day, and a family size locker is $20 per day. Yes, those prices are right…I had to look twice.
There is a very nice “little kids” area in the water park. There are a lot of slides and fun things to do. The water is 6” deep and is warm.
Adults and big kids can go down the slides in the little kid area. There is just one person allowed on the slide at a time, and the lifeguards enforce that rule.
The center of the little kids area has a bucket that fills with water and tips over splashing water on all of the kids and unsuspecting adults below. Since there is no warning when the bucket tips, watching this is very entertaining.
The food at the cafe inside of the water park is pretty decent and an easy lunch since you don’t even need to leave the park. The cafe also has Coca Cola Freestyle machines that you can get refills from throughout your trip. The cup costs $14 (what?!), but may be worth it for your family. Challenge your kids to try a new drink every time they go for a refill, but be prepared for how fluorescent green the lime flavoring is!
The Room – What You Need To Know Before You Go
There is a small dining table and two chairs in the room. Perfect for holding that bag of donuts and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.
There is no clothes line in the bathroom for those wet swimsuits. Seriously!
If you think your room is lacking on wash cloths and hand towels, just look behind the bathroom door. There are more hanging on the hidden towel bar.
The tv channel guide does not match the channels on the tv. Of course we discovered this after exclaiming disbelief when my youngest couldn’t enter in the correct channel for cartoons. Oops, sorry kiddo.
There is a hotel channel that broadcasts children’s stories about Great Wolf Lodge. Similar to the stories that are read down in the lobby. Mom gets the night off from reading bedtime stories!
The room has a large cabinet above the microwave to store your snacks.
I have never seen this luxury in a hotel room before, but the rooms here have two large garbage/recycling cans. These are about three times the normal size for a hotel room. Nice!
The fridge may have two complimentary bottles of water. A nice touch that is always appreciated. On our last visit, there was no complimentary bottled water, but there were Kid’s Kind bars.
Check the alarm clock and turn off that super early alarm that the guest before you set. Although the early alarm is a necessity if you want to beat the long line at Dunkin’.
There is one small bottle of a combo shampoo/conditioner in the room. I would recommend bringing some of your own hair products, or at least a detangler for the kiddos with the long hair.
There is an extra blanket and pillow on the shelf in the closet.
The cabin rooms, with the 2 sets of bunk beds, have a second tv in the cabin. My daughter and her friends watched a channel that showed people making slime. They loved it and never changed the channel.
Each bunk in the cabin room had their own personal night lights by their pillow. This was a nice touch!
The room does not have a safe for your valuables, so leave the expensive jewelry at home.
To save some money and time, we recommend bringing your own breakfast food and snacks to keep everyone happy. We bring oatmeal cups for the morning and mac n cheese cups for the evening. Good snacks for the room are fruit cups, granola bars, and microwave popcorn.
The refrigerator in the room does not have a freezer.
People seem to be having trouble adjusting the heat/air conditioning/fan and then complaining about the room temperature. All you have to do is select the heat or a/c symbol and adjust your temperature. If the symbol isn’t showing on the screen, then you will get nothing.
General Tips and Info
You will receive two emails from Great Wolf Lodge in the days leading up to your stay. Read the emails for the check in information and arrival tips. One email has coupons for the shops and activities at the lodge. Print the coupons before you leave if they are useful to you.
The arrival tips email warns you about the potential for a long check in line. We had no line at all on our first trip, but there are reviews of people having to wait up to an hour to check in…not a good start to your vacation! There was a line to check in for our second trip, but it moved fast. Sometimes the line looks really long, because whole families are waiting in line and not just one person, so keep that in mind.
Let the check in clerks know if someone in your group is celebrating a birthday. They will receive special birthday ears.
Our room wasn’t available when we checked in for our second trip, so they sent us a text when it was ready. I actually received an email saying the room was ready, before the text came through.
The website for Great Wolf Lodge has a FAQ page that is very helpful. I would suggest reading that too if you want to “know even more before you go”.
It’s very convenient to be able to charge your purchases to your room, but you can’t check your portfolio on the tv in the room. To eliminate a long check out time, I stopped by the front desk the morning of our departure and asked for a print out of my portfolio. There were no errors and I didn’t waste time at check out trying to review my charges and figure out what we bought for $55 dollars at the gift shop.
Since my room charges were correct, I was comfortable checking out via a text message. On the morning we were to check out, I got a text saying that we could text them when we were out of the room. They would handle our check out from there and we didn’t even have to stop by the front desk. This was very convenient and I think many families with small kids appreciate this.
You can save a little money on the non-water park activities by buying an activity pass. Read through the options for the three different passes before you arrive at the resort so you know if any of them are worth it for your family.
The additional activities (Magiquest, bowling, ropes course, etc.) are available to the general public. This is good to know if you buy one of the Magiquest wands and want to play the game another time without shelling out the big bucks for a room. The wands work at any Great Wolf Lodge. If the resort is very busy, the attractions will close to the general public.
The weekends are crazy busy at the Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington, Minnesota, especially during the winter season. If you can, schedule at least part of your trip for a weekday and you won’t regret it. The room rate is probably cheaper too.
There were special events celebrating summer, going on from mid July thru August. There were movies in the wave pool, celebrities reading bedtime stories, and more. Check the calendar of events on the website for info.
Be prepared to spend some money on this trip. Your adventure doesn’t have to break the bank though. Here are 16 easy ways to save money on your trip.
Ok, now you are set. I’ve told you everything that you need to know before you go. Now it’s time for you to go pack and get the kiddos ready for some water park fun!
Does your family LOVE water parks? Check out these posts and start planning your next getaway:
- The Hyatt Regency at Coconut Point in Bonita Springs, FL
- The Wilderness Resort at Wisconsin Dells
- The Venetian Water Park in Maple Grove, MN