Our family headed back to Great Wolf Lodge for their Halloween celebration, Howloween this past week and I thought I’d share some of the highlights. While we were there we took over the Great Wolf Lodge Instagram for the weekend so here’s our trip, mostly in squares.
Southern California isn’t exactly known for rustic, lodge style charm so when you pull up to Great Wolf Lodge you know you’re somewhere different. The Lobby is filled with antler chandeliers, a giant fireplace and lots of wood. Kayla and Blake gravitated towards this bench to enjoy some ice cream after the car ride which included a detour at Grandma’s to drop off the dog.
While we were there, the head of security came over, started talking to our kids like he knew them and offered to take a family photo for us. Which is when I remembered that the difference between Great Wolf Lodge and many other places we have been is the dedication to customer service. Everyone says hi. Everyone offers to help.
Especially with those MagiQuest wands. MagiQuest is a game that you’ll see droves of kids playing and find a few clueless looking parents following them around the resort. Hand raised for being a clueless parent!
The folks in the MagiQuest shop will (while never breaking character) explain how to use the wand to your child and then give you a briefing on how to decipher MagiQuest language to know where you have to go. Pay attention and be sure to grab the booklet. It tells you which floor of the resort holds what. Trust me, you’ll need it. Thanks Lady Lizzy!
If you forgot a costume for Howloween and your child will feel left out without one, head to the MagiQuest marketplace. While most things there don’t come cheap, Kayla picked out this cape for $10 (a bargain in any theme park) and a matching holster for her wand that was about $15.
She was very happy to be costumed as a Magi. There are also princess costumes, fun hats and plenty of other gear to choose from. Maybe next time I’ll be a cool mom and let her choose a special wand topper. I didn’t realize they came with extra features and thought they were just decorative until I read this.
Before most of the Halloween fun we spent some time in the water park because if you’re heading to Great Wolf Lodge it’s probably to log some hours in the water. We started in the Club Paw Pool where Blake came into his own splashing in the geysers like a nut.
The zero depth entry and very shallow water with lots of entertaining features make it fairly easy to keep toddlers entertained. The multiple life guards on staff provide that extra level of reassurance that any parent can appreciate. I’ve mentioned it before, but these life guards are ON IT.
Meanwhile Kayla warmed up on a small water slide within the Club Paw Pool. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for these little slides. For our family they have been the difference between victory and defeat. Kayla can hold her own in a conversation with an adult. Kayla can read and do math at a level that is well beyond her age. But she is a child who doesn’t just leap. She’s cautious and often a bit scared to try things that seem like she’ll be out of control.
As a self confessed control freak (though I was a daredevil of a child) I completely get it. These slides are perfect for adjusting and building confidence before heading off to try ones that are enclosed or faster.
After a few hours in the water park we got ready for some Howloween fun. I shared my toddler costume tip over on the Great Wolf Lodge Instagram. Blake doesn’t like putting on costumes. In fact, its hard enough to get pants on the guy. Yep. So I shop for cute pajamas that look like a costume and use those instead. He looks cute and has no idea he’s wearing a costume until I point it out.
Great Wolf Lodge started embracing the Teal Pumpkin in 2015 and I was happy to see its presence this year. The Teal Pumpkin Project is a national campaign to ensure that all kids trick-or-treating can feel included. While our kids haven’t shown signs of food allergies so far, Kayla and Blake have a cousin with a severe tree nut allergy and many friends with kids who have food allergies.
A teal pumpkin is meant to show that non-food treats are being offered, something I’m a fan of in general. Signed woman who has been handing out packs of stickers to toddlers since before marriage and kids.
The Trick-or-treat trail at Great Wolf lodge consists of a bunch of stops where kids can find a costumed adult handing out treats. Since we tend to trick or treat with just a couple of friends in our not-very-popular-for-trick-or-treating-because-of-the-hills neighborhood, the energy here was very different and so much fun.
After dinner where Kayla happily played with her new friend, Alina (daughter to the awesome Vanessa of De Su Mama) we headed to story time. If you don’t know about Story Time at Great Wolf Lodge it’s kind of a big deal because somehow they manage to get at least 100 if not many more rambunctious kids to sit, be quiet and listen. They also encourage howling like a wolf, which doesn’t hurt. But really, I’m amazed each time.
The kids were outfitted in their orange ears. If you’ve never been before, Great Wolf Lodge gives each guest a pair of wolf ears upon arrival so your child has an instant souvenir. They change the ears up throughout the year and for Howloween they become orange. You’ll see tons of parents and kids donning their ears throughout the resort, so don’t feel shy about wearing yours.
There is a dance party that happens either before or after story time, depending on the night. One night we went, another we skipped it because our kids were just DONE.
We headed up to our Wolf Den and got then ready for bed. Since the Wolf Den’s and kid cabins are awesome but pretty dark at night I always bring a night light. This time I put ours inside of one of those orange plastic pumpkins and it provided the perfect Halloween feeling night light while giving a reassuring glow as they fell asleep.
If you have early risers (I don’t know what it’s like to have kids that sleep in) then you’ll appreciate the presence of Dunkin’ Donuts at 6am where you can grab a cup of coffee to make you human again and some donuts to make your little skeletons smile.
I did not tell Blake what was in the box. Like a dog who can remember someone they met years ago by scent, Blake ran over to these boxes and WENT FOR IT before I could even explain what was inside. Yes, you are my child little Blake.
On the day of your departure, check out is at 11am but you can stash your stuff and play in the water park all day if you like. We headed back to the water park for a little more fun and to give Kayla the chance to try a few things she had been building confidence to ride.
After hearing that Alina had done the mat race otherwise known as the Mountain Edge Racewayshe felt at ease trying it with Craig. There was also a lesson in physics as she observed that while she went faster through the slide, Craig went way farther at the end. Being the physics nerd that I was in high school (yes, I petitioned for AP physics) I was all too excited to explain the concept of momentum to her.
Blake explored the wave pool and the sheer magnitude of the space compared to his little body made me smile.
He shrieked with joy when it turned on and Craig taught him how to jump waves like his sister.
And Kayla tackled a feat that made me proud as a mom. I shared the full experience and why it was special over on Instagram.
Then, with orange ears, a box of donuts and some new plush friends from the Creation Station (Great Wolf Lodge’s version of Build A Bear) we got in the car and headed home. Craig and I were exhausted. When he wasn’t in the water, Blake wanted to be held most of the time which doesn’t exactly make things easy. Kayla was high on life and Halloween spirit with less than perfect listening skills. But that’s life with kids, right? Regardless, my mom heart felt full.
We had watched our kids have a blast, try new things and make new friends. There weren’t really any breaks for us, but we did spend some quality time with other parents who could completely relate. (Shoutout to my friend Jill of Popsicle Blog) There were lots of knowing nods, smiles and laughs exchanged throughout the halls of the resort. We were mostly perfect strangers but we all got it. And perhaps that’s one of my favorite parts. The unity of the parents. Everyone there had a common goal. Make memories. Produce smiles. Try new things. Stay sane. Live a little. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Thanks to Great Wolf Lodge for hosting our family for Howloween! #SoCalHowloween #GWLSoCal