Great Wolf Lodge New England Resort Review

Tipping Bucket Great Wolf Lodge New England

Fort Mackenzie Tipping Bucket at Great Wolf Lodge

Disclosure: My family and I were provided with a one night stay, which included water park admission, plus vouchers for food and activities for the purpose of this Great Wolf Lodge New England Resort Review. Any additional opinions are my own.

I can’t believe it, but we’ve never really been to an indoor water park. We stayed at a hotel years ago in North Conway on a Storyland trip that had a small indoor area for kids, but we really just started venturing out on more hotel stays now that Gavin is older.

When we were invited to spend a night for the grand opening of the Great Wolf Lodge resort in New England (Fitchburg, MA), I had heard rave reviews of their location in the Poconos, NY and knew that we’d have a blast. The Fitchburg location was formerly another hotel and water park that Great Wolf Lodge purchased, re-themed and renovated.

Below you’ll find a list of our comments under different areas of the hotel, as well as a YouTube video featuring all of our photos.

We were there only a few days after the hotel officially opened,  I’m sure that some of our comments may be just glitches that have yet to be worked out.  Having personally met the General Manager of the hotel, as well as the CEO of the company Kim Schaefer, I have no doubts that there is a significant amount of attention to detail provided and Great Wolf Lodge is committed to creating a memorable family experience.

2 Indoor Waterparks

  • At the Fitchburg location The Fort Mackenzie water park area was apparently a pre-existing  area that was re-themed by Great Wolf Lodge when they purchased the hotel formerly known as Coco Keys. People we met at the hotel who had  been to the prior resorts were a little disappointed because they felt like that side was to similar. In this section there is a tipping bucket that drops hundreds of gallons of water at one time onto the Fort where children are playing, climbing, activating water features and sliding down slides. This same waterpark area also had 2 enclosed tube slides, a large heated hot tub  pool, and a lazy river.
  • The new waterpark area, on the other side, also had another smaller zero entry Cub Paw Pool for children with kiddie slides, as well as  a wave pool and 3 different thrilling slides geared for older children and adults. The Howlin’ Tornado raft ride was definitely my favorite. Guests lie down in a raft with up to 3 other riders, then drop into a 6 story funnel slide. I tried to wear the Go-Pro camera but could only hold on with one hand and I definitely needed 2! I wish I had time to ride it again, but after 2-3 hours in the park, Gavin was exhausted and needed a break so we headed up to our room to change.
  • Only guests staying the night in the hotel are allowed in the water park areas to reduce overcrowding, which I really like. There were certainly a lot of people coming and going, but it would have been much more chaotic I think if there were people only there for the day trying to commandeer tables and towels in a certain location all day.
  • The water on the Fort MacKenzie side was a little chilly the weekend we were there. Certainly the kids didn’t mind, but sometimes as parents we need to accompany our kids and help them acclimate to different environments and for me it wasn’t the easiest to get sprayed with cool water. The zero entry Cub Paw kiddie pool on the other side was a lot warmer.
  • The watersides were a lot of fun, but Gavin, at 4 1/2 was to afraid to go on any of them right away.  He eventually enjoyed the Cub Paw Pool, Whooping Hallow kiddie slides, and the Hot Springs warming pool. He also enjoyed Big Foot Pass, which completely reminded me of “Wipeout!”. There kids or parents crawl or step from one moving raft to another trying to get to the other side of the pool.  Gavin also loved swimming through the lazy river, which was way more fun for us than riding on a tube.
  • There are towels in the pool area but they are small. If you are going to head back to your room, definitely bring a cover-up or a larger towel
  • There is a hot tub or warming pool  in the far right back corner and given that the water was a little chilly that day it was a nice place to warm up and relax.
  • Make sure once you are wet and acclimated to the climate, just stand under the tipping bucket. You just have to.

Room Accommodations

  • We had a Double Queen Suite room that included 2 queen beds and a pull out couch. The room also had a small flat screen television, table with 2 chairs, microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, hair dryer, iron and ironing board.  The beds were comfy and Gavin loved sleeping on the pull-out couch, which was nice for us, because it’s lower to the floor and I didn’t worry so much about him falling out of  it as much as I would a regular bed.
  • There are bigger, wolf den themed rooms available for larger families that include a smaller bunk bed area for kid with their own television. The themed rooms seemed a little closer to the water parks than the rooms in the main hotel. If you go down the elevators, then you’ll need to walk by the shops and through the arcade before entering the water park area.
  • Showers in the room were kind of slippery for kids and there wasn’t a clothesline anywhere to hang our bathing suits to dry overnight

Safety

  • All children are measured upon entering the water park based upon height for a certain colored wrist band. This determines which slides and experiences they can utilize within the water park areas. Not only is that great to know what kids can ride, for some reason kids listen way more to someone else than their parents. So if you have a thrill seeking child they won’t be begging you to do something they aren’t tall enough for yet.
  • There are life vests available for use free of charge, which we utilized. It not only kept Gavin above water, but unlike most vests that just flip kids on to their back, Gavin was able to wear it and swim with it in the lazy river. We had brought his “bubble” because I wasn’t sure, but he much happier with the life vests that were provided on site.
  • The lifeguards were amazingly attentive. This isn’t like a pool or the beach with the lifeguard sitting in a chair swinging a whistle around their finger. The lifeguards are up, moving and actively searching the water all the time. I was still very aware of Gavin, where he was playing and what he was doing, but I felt confident that if I was distracted that a lifeguard would have been able to attend to him immediately if he was in trouble.
  • Gavin got a cut on the back of one of his heels from one of the watersides in the play area. Within a few minutes of him telling me, we sought out an attendant who quickly put on gloves, cleaned it, put on an antiseptic cream and a band-aid.

Food

  • We received vouchers for a pizza and drinks at the Hungry as a Wolf location, as well as another voucher for a meal to use at the full-service a la carte restaurant at the Lodge Wood Fired Grill.
  • At Hungry as a Wolf, the pizza was good and the salads and pre-portioned meals looked delicious
  • You can get fudge, ice cream and other cupcakes at Bear Paw Sweets and Eats shop near the arcade
  • There is a Dunkin Donuts adjacent to the lobby of the hotel which is great for breakfast, a snack or an afternoon jolt of caffeine
  • We did have a voucher for a full meal at the Lodge Wood Fired Grill which included an appetizer, 2 entrees, a kid’s meal, soda and a few petite desserts. I had the filet mignon and my husband ordered the rib eye steak. The steaks were delicious, but served with only a few vegetables, so definitely order a side or appetizer to share. From the kid’s menu, Gavin ordered a grilled cheese (standard orange cheese on white bread) that arrived with french fries. The bite-sized dessert cups were delicious. Overall our meal totaled about $90, for which we paid the tip for our server out of pocket. I thought the food was good, but priced to be a little expensive. On the night we were there, the service was slow which may have been related to the resort having just opened, but we had a very attentive server. It was refreshing to be in a restaurant with everyone dining with kids with all sorts of interesting table manners.
  • In the water park area the  Buckets Snack Shop is a grill that serves drinks and snacks.

Special Needs and Sensory Considerations

  • We met several families who were there vacationing with children with special needs. The side with the water tipping bucket is great, but the bucket tips over every few minutes, non-stop, without warning when the  water park is opened. At first it was pretty scary initially for my 4 1/2 year old. Given that it’s a loud whooshing sound, the first few times it sent him scurrying off the play area quickly, which was a little unsettling.
  • The wave pool has a loud buzzer to let swimmers know that the waves will come and for little kids playing in the kiddie area on the same side, this could be difficult. However, if you have kids that need a place to get acclimated to the whole scene, start in this Cub Paw Pool, it just seemed to be a little calmer and smaller.
  • I did bring it up to management in one of our discussions about incorporating sensory-friendly timeframes where the noises were minimized or perhaps the tipping bucket might not be activated. They seemed receptive to this idea.
  • I saw many children with disabilities at Great Wolf Lodge. The resort encourages families to let them know about any special circumstances they can assist with to make a family’s stay more enjoyable.
  • There were some slides that could only be utilized by children who were seated. Some parents were concerned that they weren’t able to sit with their child and help them get over their fears of sliding. I think most parents understood that these rules are certainly for safety, but there are some kids who need a little extra help to experience all of the fun of these areas.
  • The water temperature of the park was a little inconsistent on the day we were there, which could be hard for some kids. Outside of the water, the water park areas were warm, there is a bit of a temperature transition when walking from one park to the other.
  • One of the kids at the park had on an Ear Bandit that his mother had purchased online because he had just had  surgery to put tubes in his ears. If you can get your kids to wear it, this may help muffle some of the sounds as well.

Arcade & Bowling

  • We received a Paw Pass card that had 100 credits pre-loaded on to it, which was a value of $25. Most of the games ranged between 2 and 4 credits to play, with the bowling in Ten Paw Alley being the most expensive.
  • The Ten Paw Alley in the Timber Hollow play area isn’t like a traditional bowling alley. However, for our 4 1/2 year old, it was perfect. There were bumpers on the side and the pins were lifted and re-set very quickly which was awesome for his attention span.
  • Many of the games in the arcade were family friendly. Several games involved target games by throwing balls at clowns, etc. It was a lot of fun that all 3 of us could play together at the same time.
  • Your performance will award you “tickets” which can be traded in at the store in the arcade for all sorts of toys, stuffed animals and candy
  • If you are a “Beirut” fan, the ping-pong red cup game, make sure you save some credits for Sink It!
  • The arcade had a bunch of those claw like games full of desirable My Little Pony, Minecraft and Despicable Me toys. Gavin had a little melt-down when he realized that you didn’t just use the crane to pick the toy and win every time.

Scooops Kids Spa

  • There is an indoor spa for girls where they can be treated like a princess and receive ice cream themed pampering treatments, like manicures, pedicures and facials. I received a voucher valued at $10, for a Sprinkled in Scooops service. It included a tiara, pink princess sash, scented hair spritz, and brief hand massage. Pedicures are about $50 and manicures are $45. Tax and gratuity is not included.

MagiQuest

  • After buying a magic wand of the child’s choosing, you can pay an additional fee to play the MagiQuest game. Children can use the wand to activate different experiences within the hotel, and there is a hallway between the two buildings dedicated to MagiQuest where kids use their wands to engage in a virtual scavenger hunt. Each time a family returns you can continue your game and re-activate the wand. There is also a store where kids can purchase accessories for their wand and various capes to wear. We didn’t have a chance to play the game, but older children appeared to be enjoying themselves while playing. It would also be an activity to do early in the morning when the water park is closed.

Howlers’ Peak Indoor Ropes Course

  • Included in your stay at the hotel is access to an indoor ropes course. My husband completed the big kid version and my son loved the smaller course. Best part for me, since he was attached by a carabeaner from a harness to the course, he couldn’t get off of it unless the attendant helped him. For at least an hour I didn’t have to worry about him wandering away!

Howl at the Moon Mini-Golf

  • We didn’t play, but for an additional fee, there is a 9 hole indoor mini-golf course.

Gym

  • There is a small gym with a few pieces of equipment (bike, stair climber, treadmill). I was up early and thought I’d take a walk on the treadmill but it was already being used. So I put on my headphones and actually just walked around the hotel, it’s so big that there’s plenty of places to walk and still get exercise.

“Is Great Wolf Lodge Worth it?”

Since we returned many people want to know about how much to budget, and if it was worth the price.

I’d suggest booking a room off-season, mid-week and taking the kids out of school if need be to find a more affordable rate, which is probably around $200/night for a family of 4. In our family we’d frequently pay $150 per night for a hotel with access to a boring indoor pool. Considering this price includes the room, the water park, and the ropes course for 4 people, to me that particular rate would provide a lot of value.

If you are looking to minimize costs while at the resort, considering brining your own food and snacks. Depending upon the ages of your kids, I’d budget another $50 per kid to allocate spending on any combination of Magiquest, the spa, arcade, mini-golf or on merchandise (hat, t-shirt, stuffed animal) in the stores.

There are different packages, the Paw Pass, Pup Pass and Wolf Pass that bundles the arcade tokens, magiquest, ice cream, tattoos, and other resort amenities. To minimize the spending on-site, purchasing these ahead of time may help you stay within your budget or it could be a great gift idea from a grandparent during the holidays if you have a trip in the planning stages.

Here are some other tips:

-Water parks and other activities like the mini-golf and ropes course do not open until 10 a.m. so for those of you with early risers like our son, options include hanging out in the room, playing MagiQuest, or enjoying yourselves in the arcade.

-While in the water park, set aside 2-3 hours of playtime and plan to take a break in the room, especially if you have young children. Even though room check-in is at 4, you can enter the water park at 1:00. Definitely plan your time around using as much time in the water areas as you can. The water park closes at 9 p.m. and when Gavin woke up at 6 all he wanted to do was swim, so we had a few hours to entertain him before that could happen. If I had an option, I’d get in at 1, swim the first day and night, then spend the following morning before check-out playing MagiQuest or games in the arcade.

– Bring 2 sets of bathing suits and a water proof bag to take them home in. We swam the night before and it was nice to put on a dry bathing suit in the morning, rather than having to put on a damp one.

Disclosure: My family and I were provided with one night stay which include water park admission, plus vouchers for food and activities for the purpose of my Great Wolf Lodge New England Review. Any additional opinions are my own.

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