At a time when the kids were home from school due to a professional activities day, we decided to take a road trip to Niagara Falls and book a stay at one of our family-favourite resorts, Great Wolf Lodge, known for its indoor waterpark.
Prior to the pandemic, we visited this resort around once a year. This trip would become our first trip back since the pandemic began, and the kids were really excited.
As much as they enjoy flying, it was nice to be able to pack light and not have to make the journey to the airport. Instead, we packed up the car and made the short trip down to Niagara Falls for some family fun.
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls – Booking
Great Wolf Lodge is an American hotel chain known for its indoor waterparks with resorts located all over the USA. The Niagara Falls location is currently the only Canadian resort; however, news was just released of plans for a resort in Cornwall, Ontario.
There are two other waterparks in Niagara Falls: Waves Americana Resort and Fallsview Indoor Waterpark. Having been to all three, I have to say Great Wolf Lodge is my favourite.
It is well known for its indoor waterpark and family-friendly activities and hospitality. It is constantly adding new features to the resort, has the most on-site family-friendly amenities, and is the most well-kept of them all.
Families with toddlers may actually prefer the other two waterparks, but as my kids are getting older, Great Wolf Lodge has increasingly become their favourite, too.
Use of the waterpark is reserved for hotel guests only and they do not sell day passes as some other waterparks hotels do. The only downsides are the cost and how busy it can get on weekends and holidays.
We spent a total of two nights at the Great Wolf Lodge. I booked my first night through Amex Travel, as wanted to use up my annual $200 travel credit the comes with my American Express Platinum Card.
It’s a perfect stay to use it for, as because the resort doesn’t participate in any member reward programs, I don’t have to worry about elite benefits not being honoured due to booking through a third-party service.
In addition, rates can be over $500 (CAD) per night for their lowest room category on certain days, so a $200 (CAD) discount goes a long way to making it more affordable.
I booked a Kids Cabin Suite about a year out for $369 (CAD) plus taxes and fees, before my travel credit was applied. We ended up booking a second night through a promo code provided by Entertain Kids on Dime in a base-level Family Suite for $249.99 (CAD).
When choosing a room, be aware that there is a difference between the number of guests they allow in a room and the number of guests included in the room price. For example, their Family Suite can accommodate between four and six guests.
Four guests are included in the room price, and for any additional guests, up to a maximum of six in the room, you have to pay an extra person fee of $75 (CAD) per person aged three and up.
In some cases, the standard Family Suite may not end up being the cheapest option. A themed or larger cabin that would normally be more expensive for a family of four just may work out cheaper for larger families.
Another option is inviting another family to travel with yours to shuffle the extra child(ren) around, or split the cost of a larger cabin.
If you’re looking for a discount, the earlier you book, the cheaper the rates tend to be, and weeknights are cheaper than weekends.
One thing to be aware of is Great Wolf Lodge’s booking policy. A deposit is taken on all bookings, which is equivalent to the first night’s rate.
Their cancellation policy is also stricter than most hotels; however, there is no fee to change your dates, other than paying the difference in the room rates (if any).
Great Wolf Lodge will often run promotions offering up to 25% off your stay. There are other offer codes floating around as well, so be sure to check for corporate discounts and sites like Perkopolis. Of note, CAA and Presto pass users also receive discounts.
There is also a Facebook group, Entertain Kids on a Dime, that releases last minute discount codes usually one or two weeks prior to travel dates that can give some substantial discounts.
There are various things you can add onto your hotel stay, like food, game, and activities packages, which can make sense if you think you’ll make use of all the amenities at the resort. Check-out is usually 11am, but late check-out till 2pm can be purchased for $89.99 (CAD).
I’ve had luck asking for check-out up to 12pm without being charged anything extra.
Lastly, if you notice a price drop in your stay, you can call the resort’s reservations line to change your booking to the lower price and they will refund you the difference.
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls – Location
Located in Niagara Falls, it is just a 90-minute drive from Toronto. It makes for a great place to stay if you’re heading out to the waterfalls anyway, which are only a 10-minute drive away.
Close by is the Outlet Collection at Niagara, which is just around 15 minutes away by car, for all your shopping needs. Niagara-On-The-Lake is a quaint town not too far off, and has some of Ontario’s best restaurants and wineries.
Aside from visiting the waterfalls, there are also a few attractions nearby if you need a break from the waterpark.
In downtown Niagara, Clifton Hill offers a world of entertainment options, including mazes, arcades, and mini-golf, just to name a few.
For animal lovers, MarineLand is a small amusement park and aquatic zoo where sea lions, whales and dolphins reside. Otherwise, Bird Kingdom showcases some exotic feathered friends, and the Butterfly Conservatory can make for a laid back outing.
If you prefer the outdoors, there are some great hiking trials along the Niagara River. If the season is right, there are plenty of fruit-picking opportunities in nearby orchards.
Lastly, if you would like to add in a bit of a history to your vacation, be sure to visit the Fort George National Historic Site, a military base during the War of 1812. Here you can see soldiers in redcoats, visit their barracks, see cannons, and watch live musket demonstrations, in addition to other activities.
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls – Check-in
The resort is an enormous three-story wooden lodge. When you pull into the resort, you’ll notice that there is plenty of parking spaces available.
You can pull up to the entrance to unload the car, and there are baggage carts available to help with bringing luggage up to your room.
When you enter the building, there are two check-in desks on both sides of the lobby. Note that the staff will ask you to present the same credit card that you booked the room under, so be sure to keep track of which one you used.
A quick overview of the property is usually given, although this time it wasn’t necessary as we advised the staff that this was not our first visit. Typically, they’ll ask if you would like to add any packages to the room, if you have not already added them, and give you a schedule of the events for the week.
Signs are located throughout the park reminding you of activity times, too.
RFID-enabled wristbands are given out to each guest. Other than identifying you as a guest for entry into the waterpark, it also serves as your room key and can be enabled to allow for room-charging privileges.
As you walk past the check-in desks, you enter the Grand Living Room, where many group activities take place throughout the day.
The lodge then splits into two wings of suites. With the exception of cottages, all suites are located within this main building.
Check-in is officially at 4pm; however, you can start using the waterpark as early as 1pm on the day of check-in. On a few occasions, I have been able to to check-in as early as 12pm.
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls – Suites
There are a variety of suites available. Over the years, we’ve stayed in a few different ones, and the great thing about suites is that they can accommodate up to 10 guests in a room.
In most room types, the décor is traditional and a bit rustic, with wooden log accents to match the wilderness theme throughout the lodge. If you are looking for accommodations with more modern décor, then choose the newer King Cabins, Woodland Bunk Suites, Grand Wolf Suites, or Timber Wolf Cottages
Regardless of the room type, they all offer plenty of space.
This time, we chose the Kids Cabin Suite, as my kids always wanted to try a suite with a bunk bed. It can accommodate between six and seven guests, and the defining feature of this suite is the small replica of a cabin within the room.
The cabin has a bunk bed, night-table and another twin-sized bed inside, fitting three kids very comfortably.
Outside the cabin, you’ll find a queen bed and a sofa bed.
There is a sitting area with a small coffee table, fireplace, TV, dresser, a dinette set, and a kitchenette with a beverage station, a microwave, and a mini-fridge.
All bathrooms at the Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls are equipped with a bathtub, which is great for families with younger kids.
The toiletries have their own Great Wolf Lodge branding. In the shower, one dispenser mounted on the shower wall just low enough for kids to use on their own, and contains body wash, shampoo, and conditioner, all-in-one.
The tub is equipped with a curved curtain bar which allows for more space for showering adults. One drawback is that there is only one sink in the bathroom, but there is a second sink in the room.
The Family Suite, their standard room, can accommodate between four and six guests. Rather than a single queen bed, it has two queen beds.
There’s a half-partition separating the bedroom area from the living room area. Otherwise, the features of the room are relatively the same.
If you’re travelling with a big family or with another family, you may want to consider staying in one of their Timber Wolf Cottages, which have three bedrooms and can accommodate up to 10 guests. The cottages are freestanding cabins located outside of the main building and waterpark, but they offer a shared fire pit and barbecue area with two barbecues for guest use.
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls – Waterpark
The 100,000 square-foot Bear Track Landing Waterpark is the highlight of the resort, designed to accommodate children and adults of all ages. There are usually staff monitoring for wristbands at the entrance and to check heights of children.
Aside from the toddler areas, most rides generally have either a height restriction or 42 inches or 48 inches. Some rides with a 48-inch height restriction will allow shorter kids to ride if accompanied by an adult.
The waterpark is divided into different areas, including a toddler zone with small slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, a water fort treehouse, a challenge course, a pool for water basketball, a hot tub, and plenty of single-rider and multi-rider water slides.
The most exhilarating ride is the Wolf Tail, where the floors drops out from under you, resulting in a 20-foot free fall. On certain rides, including this one, there are automated machines taking photo of you during the ride.
It’s important to remember your photo time for ease of finding it afterwards.
In the summer, there is an outdoor pool area, which consists of a large pool and an adults-only hot tub.
There is quite a bit of seating in the waterpark. We were never seated while in the waterpark unless having a meal, so finding seats was never an issue. We often found just needed one seat to throw our belongings onto.
Waterproof phone cases or lanyard pouches are a great asset here. Other than on the Wolf Tail, you are permitted to wear lanyards around your neck.
Lifejackets are available for kids. You can bring and use your own personal floaties as long as they are not air-filled ones.
Towels can be picked up from the towel station in the corner of waterpark. Towels are signed out with your wristband so make sure to tap your wristband when you return them. I have yet to see someone actually count the number of towels being returned, though.
No outside food is allowed in the waterpark. There are dining options within the waterpark itself if you don’t want to leave the area.
If you arrive before your room is ready or are planning to stay after check-out, there are female, male, and family change rooms inside the waterpark. These are equipped with toilets and showers, and lockers are also available for rent.
Cabanas can also be rented if you prefer your own private, sheltered area with seating, drinks, and snacks.
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls – Dining
There is a variety of dining options at Great Wolf Lodge and pricing, in general, is quite reasonable.
There are a couple of cafés, Bear Claw Café and Canoe Coffee, that serve light snacks, baked good, ice cream, and pre-packaged to go food items. Be forewarned: the ice cream scoops at Bear Claw Café are huge.
Antler Shanty is the resort’s main seated restaurant that serves breakfast and has a dinner buffet. The food served is typical American fare, with a variety of palatable food choices for children.
The quality isn’t amazing, but it’s decent. For dinner, there is a variety of hot food items, a carving station, salads, soups, and dessert station.
The breakfast buffet is priced at $18.99 (CAD) per adult and $12.49 (CAD) per kid. The dinner buffet is priced at $24.99 (CAD) per adult and $12.49 (CAD) per kid. Kids under the age of three dine for free.
Camp Critter serves a seated à la carte menu at lunch. Buckets is located inside the waterpark and offers burgers, fries, and chicken fingers.
The Watering Hole is also within the waterpark and serves nachos, tacos, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty drinks and slurpees.
Aside from pizza, Northwoods Pizza also serves sandwiches and salads.
All-day dining packages are available for $59.99 (CAD) per day for adults and $29.99 (CAD) per day for children aged 4–12. Doing the math, I saved a few dollars per child, but for adults, I don’t think I saved anything.
We purchased the package for one of the two days we were there and were given vouchers to exchange for our meals. Options for breakfast and dinner was limited to the buffets at Antler Shanty.
For lunch, there were a few options, including at Camp Critter Bar & Grille, Buckets, Northwoods Pizza or The Watering Hole, but what you could redeem your voucher for at each venue was quite limited.
Unfortunately, there are no good dining options that are within walking distance from the resort. There is a Tim Hortons and McDonald’s less than five minutes away, but if you’re willing to drive farther, Niagara Falls has plenty of better options.
Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls – Other Facilities
Aside from the waterpark, there are a plenty of activities to do onsite. The Grand Living Room hosts many complimentary activities throughout the day, including character meet and greets with the Great Wolf Lodge mascots, story time, magic shows, morning yoga, and balloon twisting, as well as arts and crafts.
There is Cub Club open from 10am–4pm, which offers arts and crafts, colouring, and games for kids under the guidance of Kids Experience Specialists. Unfortunately, it’s not a drop-off program and the activities need parental supervision.
In the evening, the hotel hosts a supervised PJ Party from 6:30–8:30pm for children aged 5– 11 for a fee, so parents can enjoy a bit of a break.
In Cub Club are also private areas for nursing infants.
Northern Lights Arcade is the hotel’s 24-hour entertainment centre. Much like a Chuck E. Cheese, it has plenty of pay-as-you-go games, and many earn tickets that you can redeem for prizes.
You’ll need to purchase a game card, load it with credits, and tap it on the games to play. Games vary in the number of credits required and tickets earned are stored on your play card. There’s also a virtual reality experience in the arcade for $12.99 (CAD).
Just outside of the arcade is Northern Lights Laser Tag. Each game is $9.99 (CAD) or you can pay $24.99 (CAD) for unlimited play for your entire stay, plus bonus tickets to redeem for prizes at the arcade.
There is also Ten Paw Alley, you can play a game of bowling for $7 (CAD) per person per game.
When the weather permits in the warmer months, there is a mini-golf course outside. Single games cost $8.99 (CAD) per round, but children three and under play free.
By far the most popular activity outside the waterpark is MagiQuest. With a wand, you embark on different quests lasting 15–30 minutes solving riddles that will take you all around the resort in search of different treasures.
Wands are priced $37.99 (CAD) and up, but this includes game activation. The wands can be purchased at the MagiQuest Cottage located in Trading Post Gift Shop.
Once you activate your wand, you can play as much or as little as you want and whenever you want. When the trip is done, keep the wand for your next visit and your child can pick up where they left off after reactivating the wand for $16.99 (CAD).
Even younger kids can join the fun, as a wave of the wand will cause crystals to glow and treasure chests to open.
Also within the gift shop is the Great Wolf Stuffing Station, where you can choose a furry character, fill it with fluff, and then choose an outfit for it, all for $29.99 (CAD).
For parents who are missing their fitness buzz, there is the Iron Horse Fitness Room that is open around the clock.
Quiet time, or “hibernation hours” are from 10pm to 8am. Most activities are open from 10am to 10pm, but MagiQuest is open until 11pm for the night owls in your family.
My family always has a great time at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, and it’s still is one of our favourite trips to take when we just need a quick getaway for a night or two. It is much more than just a waterpark, which is what makes it a great year-round resort for the family.
Room costs can be pricey, but hopefully you can offset it with a group code, credit card travel credit, or by using a fixed-value points currency that can be redeemed against the cost. Don’t forget to look into activity and dining packages too, to see if they make economical sense for your family.
We’ll be back for another visit at some point throughout the year, and I’m sure my kids will be happy to pick up where we left off.
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