As part of her WePlusThree series on affordable family fun ideas and travel, Rania Walker shares why the adventures at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls never cease.
Great Wolf Lodge Fun for the Whole Family—and More!
How do you turn a party of five into a party of 23? Mention that you’re going to take your daughter to Great Wolf Lodge for her birthday, and that you’ll be checking out their new attraction, MagiQuest. As has been our experience in the past, Great Wolf Lodge is such an easy getaway for families that it hardly takes any convincing to join the party. In fact, most just invite themselves along for the adventure. I know what you’re thinking: 23 people?! How do you manage that? How do you handle meals? Isn’t it exhausting? Um, yes! We upgraded to a bigger room, had catering and buffet, but who cares, I got to scream my head off to my kids delight going down the Niagara Rapid Run!
Now, I’m going to be honest with you—in my quest to find great staycation destinations I was overlooking the obvious in order to prove my commitment to finding great out-of-the-way places for large families. I’ll admit that I’m probably one of the most outspoken fans of Great Wolf Lodge, having first been to it when it debuted its moose antlers and animatronic forest friends years ago.
In fact, I wouldn’t be much of a journalist if I didn’t just come clean and tell you that my family and I have been there eight times. That’s right, eight times— they told me so when I went to book this trip, bringing our tally up to nine—but who’s counting anyway? Having said that, my goals for this series were to showcase places that were education and exploratory, places we could go to as a family that involved doing something out-of-the-ordinary or out-of-the-way. And then Great Wolf Lodge got the best of us—they introduced MagiQuest. And you know what? We explored, we discovered, we imagined, we played, we splashed and we had fun!
The Excitement and Magic of MagiQuest
Having kids that are huge Harry Potter fans, it didn’t take long for them to hear about MagiQuest and get into a frenzy over it. While it’s not a Harry Potter adventure, it is a magic-laden quest using a sensor-controlled magic wand that has the ability to not only open treasure chests, but make pictures light up, animals talk and unlock video messages. The folks at Great Wolf Lodge describe it best as “an interactive live-action, role-playing game where players embark on quests and adventures in an enchanted fantasy world using real magic wands to solve the mysteries of the game.” Your journey’s direction is in your hands, literally. And young or old, you can still play and love the game.
We had two-year-olds to 11-year-olds, and well, almost 40-year-olds scavenging through the corridors and secret caches scattered throughout three floors, with “The Ancient Book of Wisdom” in hand, trying to complete a quest. Each completed quest earns a Rune, building towards your goal of battling the dragon. Part of the intrigue of these journeys involved solving riddles and rhymes and getting direction from the QuestMaster. It’s so intuitive that when you went off course and tried to gather runes outside of your quest, the interactive ‘beings’ mocked you with funny commentary, suggesting course corrections. If nothing else, the stylized décor throughout the corridors for the quest, with names like Whispering Woods and Forgotten Hall, just added to the mystic of the whole adventure.
Even though the younger kids had no idea how to play the game, the fact that your individualized character was tracked and achievements recorded was enough. My two-year-old nephew just got a kick out of raising his wand to make the treasure chests reveal their jeweled treasures or make birds talk. It was such a convincing environment that I even pretended that the wand could turn me into a lion or dragon just for fun—I mean, how often do you get permission to be a kid again with nary a side-glance from other adults—well, that I noticed anyway!
With so many quests to undertake, it may be hard to complete MagiQuest in one visit. We just didn’t have enough time, but that’s okay because next time you visit, you can recharge your wand for a nominal cost and start again. While we did find the extra add-ons a bit pricey, since it was my daughter’s birthday we did splurge on the fitted wand belt, which she wore with pride for the rest of the week. Based on the numerous specials you may find online, you can opt to purchase the quests and the wands separately or purchase the entire MagiQuest Package which includes 20 tokens for the arcade and breakfast buffet for everyone. We found that really the best value is to buy the package. Although we didn’t make it to the arcade, we have the tokens for next time—yes, there will be a next time I’m sure.
Planning An Affordable Getaway at Great Wolf Lodge
The thing with Great Wolf Lodge is that once you’ve been there, you’re a fan and it doesn’t take much to get you back. If you can find ways to save some money during your stay, it really is an affordable getaway—especially when it can double for a birthday party too. For about the cost of a party place, or even less, you can enjoy a two-day overnight getaway and meals with the entire family. A much-needed break for all involved, especially if you can fit it in mid-week or have it fall within a PD day.
One way we have found to save some money and accommodate so many people, with so many young kids, is to order in catering. One of our favourite places is Pasta Fresca. They deliver and offer fresh and healthy meals like eggplant parmesan, chicken parmesan and penne a la vodka, by the platter or piece, along with other Italian specialties. Their portions are huge, delivered hot, and it’s a steal when you consider you can feed a large number of people for less than $10 per person. We always order ahead of time and give ourselves an hour after we leave the waterpark to shower all the kids, get dressed and set up in our room. While the buffet at Great Wolf Lodge is always a convenient choice with tons of variety, we find this alternative to be a great one with such a large number of people, and goes over well with the kids (order the pizza too!), leaving the adults to eat in peace. Just remember to bring a disposable table cloth to set up a picnic on the floor, extra plates, cutlery and serving utensils, and your own salad and dessert. Come breakfast time though, we’re a sucker for the breakfast buffets’ amazing options, so we get the best of both worlds.
Based on our experience, I would suggest that the best way to approach your first, or next, Great Wolf Lodge adventure is to not attempt to do it all but rather do it over the course of the two days. We got the kids set up with their wands while one of us was registering and getting settled in our room. We did part of a quest on the way to the waterpark, hit it up again before and during storytime. In order to really maximize our time at the waterpark, we completed some more quests the next day prior to leaving, giving ourselves a good hour after we got out of the water and packed up to leave.
Our sincerest thanks to the always friendly staff at Great Wolf Lodge and Gayle Walters for her help accommodating our “large” family and our travelling entourage!! For specials and promos, register at: http://www.greatwolf.com/niagara/epack
For more Tips and Ideas from WEplusTHREE…or more, go to: http://www.rwspeakboutique.com/blog/
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Have you been to Great Wolf Lodge? If so, what was your experience like and do you have tips for other families? What are other great affordable family trip ideas? Share your thoughts and tips in the Comments section below.