I watched as my daughter Hadley brazenly stepped into the Wolf Tail launch pad at Great Wolf Lodge. This was a slide unlike any I’d ever witnessed. She followed the staffer’s instructions to cross her arms and legs and wait for the countdown. Then just like a magician’s trap door, the bottom DROPPED out and she free-fell 20 feet before being catapulted around a 360-degree high-speed loop.
My son Bode was almost purple with worry and we made a pact. “Don’t worry, Bode. I’ll only go if you go.” Surely, there was safety in numbers when my cautious son was involved?
Despite the certain death that awaited us on the Wolf Tail, my family was having a fabulous time at the grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs’ expansive indoor water park, fun-filled attractions and family-focused entertainment. This was our first visit to the popular resort, its 14th location in North America, and certainly the most scenic overlooking Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy.
Indoor Water Park
The centerpiece of the resort is the 50,000-square-foot indoor water park, featuring water slides and attractions intended for children and grownups of all ages. Signature water rides and attractions include the thrilling five-story funnel slide, Howlin’ Tornado (and my favorite attraction); Slap Tail Pond wave pool with gentle, kid-friendly surges and Fort Mackenzie – a multi-level interactive tree house with a massive tipping water bucket.
Admission to the indoor water park is free and exclusive to resort guests to minimize overcrowding, with the exception of being open to the public for birthday parties.
The (Additional) Fun
Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs has dozens of weatherproof, year-round activities and entertainment offerings for an additional cost. The Great Wolf Adventure Park houses several attractions, including a rock climbing wall and the Howlers Peak Ropes Course, where our entire family had a blast on this multi-level climbing challenge. Try your hand at discovering keepsake gemstones at Oliver’s Mining Co. (hint: everyone’s a winner), avoiding sand traps and a ball-eating fishbowl at Howl in One Mini Golf, bowling a strike at Ten Paw Alley (their half-length lanes are perfect for little bowlers) or exploring a variety of games at the Northern Lights Arcade, the only attraction that is open 24 hours a day–the Las Vegas of arcades.
The fun doesn’t stop there! Additional activities at the resort include MagiQuest, the brand’s exclusive live-action adventure game where players follow clues and use interactive magic wands to discover relics needed to defeat a fierce dragon, and Scooops Kid Spa, the perfect place for ice cream-themed manicures and pedicures (where else can you get pampered while sitting on a banana split chaise wearing a tiara?)
Great Wolf Lodge feels like the Disneyland of Colorado but without the mouse and a whole lot of forest friends. Wiley the Wolf is the star of the show, along with fellow woli Violet, Oliver and Rachel (the raccoons), Brinley Bear, Sammy the Squirrel and the Beaver Brothers, Tooth and Nail. There are plenty of opportunities to interact with these woodland creatures including a Creation Station where you can watch the plush toy of your choice come to life (think: Build-a-Bear) by picking out their outfit and even going on your very own scavenger hunt.
Free daily children’s activities can also be found in the Grand Lobby including Yoga Tails, The Forest Friends Show and the charming evening Story Time by the fireplace – a Great Wolf Lodge family tradition.
It’s difficult to designate an ideal age for Great Wolf Lodge. My kids, ages 10 and 12, were numbered among the teens who loved the Water Park, arcade and adventure park. Younger kids were enraptured in the magic of the wolves, the free daily programming and the zero-depth Cub Paw Pool. There were several parent sightings at The Outpost (adjacent to the water park) for the very best in craft beers, signature cocktails and refreshing lemonade.
My food expectations for Great Wolf Lodge: Greasy kid-friendly burgers and fries. Reality: Care and consideration is taken with every meal. The resort provides an allergen-friendly zone by removing all peanuts and tree nuts out of their menus and also offering several gluten-free options. Even the on-site Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop only carries nut-free options.
The Loose Moose Family Kitchen restaurant offers delicious breakfast and dinner buffets (my favorites included brisket with marmalade, curried cauliflower, and Jambalaya) and the Hungry as a Wolf eatery is known for its handcrafted pizza and pasta.
The Barnwood is a lunch and dinner spot that offers farm-to-fork freshness with dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients such as mushrooms from Fort Collins-based Hazel Dell Organic Mushrooms. We sat down for a lunch with Great Wolf Resorts’ Executive Chef Chris Hammond for a gourmet sampling of their Chile-coffee rubbed lamb, potato puree, roasted squash and chile-dusted popcorn. The restaurants are open to the public and I predict Barnwood will become a local favorite.
New to Great Wolf Lodge is the Great Wolf Candy Company, where you can make your trip a little bit sweeter by choosing from a wide assortment of packaged candies and chocolates. Don’t miss the mango-flavored gummy bears and take a glance upward at the gummy-bear chandelier that is (sadly) inedible.
The Lodging & Deals
The 311 spacious guest suites found at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs are a great respite for families looking to relax after a full day of water park play. Families can choose from several suite styles, including the kid-focused Wolf Den and KidCabin suites that will leave pups howling for bedtime, complete with bunk beds and Great Wolf Kids character theming. Larger suites offer second bedrooms and bathrooms for multi-generational families traveling together. All suites come equipped with an in-room refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker.
The resort’s busiest times are weekends and school breaks but there are several deals during low season and mid-week. In celebration of their grand opening, save up to 30 percent when you stay two or more nights (now through March 31, 2017). Be sure to visit greatwolf.com/colorado-springs/deals for regular discounts.
Tips and Tricks
- The Great Wolf Lodge’s wristband is all-powerful. Not only does it grant you access to the water park, select activities and allows you to charge items back to your room but it also doubles as a room key. And for someone who is constantly misplacing (OK, losing) theirs, this was a major perk.
- Floors 3-5 of the resort can get busy with people seeking the enchanted realm of Vellara while playing MagiQuest. If you like quiet time during the day for a napping baby, do not request these levels. Don’t worry; the wands are deactivated in the evening and early-morning hours.
- Avoid the elevators during check-in, check-out and when the water park closes. With only three elevators, a long wait is inevitable.
- A two-night stay is optimal at Great Wolf Lodge but if you’re short on time or money, you can check-in for a one-night stay at 1 p.m. (though your room won’t be available until later that afternoon) and enjoy all the attractions for the rest of the day. Even though check-out is at 11 a.m., you may enjoy the resort’s attractions until 9 p.m. the following day.
- Great Wolf Lodge offers month-long seasonal events. Spring-a-Palooza in March has spring-themed activities, scavenger hunts, and bubble dance parties. Howl-O-Ween in October has family-friendly Halloween celebrations including trick-or-treat trail, a daily costume parade, and a Monster Bash Dance Party. Snowland in December boasts daily snow showers in the Grand Lobby, a life-sized gingerbread house, Santa Claus appearances and North Pole University.
To Go Or Not to Go?
There is no question whether or not you should go to Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs because it’s family fun for all ages.
The question remained whether or not I should go down the bottom- and stomach-dropping Wolf Tail slide. I thought Bode and I had a Pansy Pact until I returned back to the water park following a property tour and learned he had betrayed me and had gone down the slide not once, but twice.
“Mom, you promised you would go if I did,” he reminded me. I relented.
I stepped into the launch pad that was suspiciously shaped like a coffin. Heartbeat audio matched my own pounding heart as I listened to the staffer’s instructions before the countdown began. 3-2-1.
The bottom gave out, I was suspended in mid-air for only a second before racing through my watery grave. Ten seconds later, I was at the bottom, sputtering yet exultant I had done it.
In typical Amber fashion, I had an exponentially worse time on Mountain Express Raceway whereupon I somehow overshot the race mat during the four-story drop and was like a rock getting repeatedly skipped. On my face.
You win some, you lose some but guaranteed, everyone emerges with a big smile on their face at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs.
In partnership with Mile High Mamas. All opinions are our own.