We took our kids to Great Wolf Lodge NC to celebrate their birthdays, one of the United States well-known indoor water parks! This was our second visit, and it was even more magical than the first. Want to know why? We knew what to expect!
With that in mind, we’ve created 21 tips for staying at Great Wolf Lodge that we know (from experience!) work across multiple locations, not just this one in beautiful North Carolina. We hope that our list will make your stay (first or tenth!) a phenomenal one!
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MAXIMIZE YOUR DOLLAR AT GREAT WOLF LODGE NC
FIRST VISIT? GET THE WOLF PASS!
I know this sounds strange…in the first item under “how to save money” I am telling you to spend extra cash. In the end, it will save you money – trust us. Great Wolf Lodge Concord is much more than a water park. There are games, crafts, activities, dining options, fun eateries and much more. Your kids are going to beg you for it- and rightly so. It’s a ton of fun!
On our first visit we opted for the Wolf Pass. It included a wand or topper and game of MagiQuest, arcade credits, time in the bowling alley and on the mini golf course, the ropes course and much much more. Whew! See what I mean? Buying in bulk will save you money in the end.
Stay Here: Great Wolf Lodge Concord/Charlotte
DECIDE ON EXTRAS
If you just can’t swing the Wolf Pass, then have a discussion with your kids before you go about what you will –and will not — allow them to do, or give them a set amount of money to choose their activity. A quick look at the website will give you an idea of the breadth and depth of what is available.
Sue’s son was very excited about MagiQuest, and this is probably the best value, as it will take the kids several hours to complete and it can be done over multiple days. Check with the front desk for more deals!
DON’T GO OVERBOARD ON MAGIQUEST
Sue’s son loved the MagiQuest game just as much as the water park. However, the MagiQuest shop is another area for restraint.
To play this technology-based scavenger hunt game, you’ll need to purchase a wand and game access. From what we can tell, there isn’t a difference technology-wise in the wands, but different looking wands are different prices.
The games have suggested ages, so make sure the game you choose is age-appropriate. Wand toppers give you extra powers, but honestly, if it’s your first time playing, you won’t understand the game well enough to take advantage of the extra powers.
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
You don’t want to miss dining at Great Wolf Lodge; the food is great!
We loved the omelet station at The Loose Moose Family Kitchen, and the seared tuna at Lodge Wood Fired Grill is delicious! However, if you need to pinch a penny in order to get here, food is where you can do that.
Bring a cooler of treats, and utilize the in-room microwave and mini fridge.
SIGN UP FOR WEBSITE PROMOTIONS
If you are even thinking about going to GWL, sign up for deals on their website. You’ll get an email notification of special discounts.
Don’t like getting all that mail in your inbox? Visit Great Wolf Lodge website and click on the Special Offers page for the latest discounts.
VISIT DURING SHOULDER SEASON
You’re likely to find the best deals at Great Wolf Lodge during shoulder season, which is whenever most kids are in school.
Take a look at your kid’s school calendar. If you have some unique days off, that would be an ideal time to save money on your Great Wolf Lodge vacation. If you homeschool your kids, visit on a weekday that isn’t close to any major holidays.
SAVE WITH A STANDARD ROOM
The first time we visited, we opted to pay extra for the themed KidKamp suite, which is a room that includes a queen bed, full-sized sleeper sofa, and super fun bunk beds. My kids thought it was pretty spectacular because the bunk beds were sectioned off in a special “kid area” that included a separate TV just for them.
But you know what? We were hardly in the room! And when we were, the kids were tuckered out from all the activity of the day. If you can afford it, then go all out! But if you can’t, a family suite has two double beds, a pull-out sofa and room for a blow-up single bed.
A friend of mine said it was a bit tight for her family of six, but they did easily fit two cribs in addition to the two queen beds. So if you are pinching pennies to get your kids to Great Wolf Lodge, then opt for standard room, including a balcony. They are large and clean, and with SO MUCH to do throughout the resort, the kids will never miss the bunk beds!
ASK FOR A ROOM UPGRADE
Now that you’ve paid for the standard room, ask for an upgrade! Let me be honest: I have not done this. As visiting media, this is a no-no. But I have heard from countless friends that it never hurts to ask, especially if you are visiting in the off-season.
They each received an upgrade at no additional cost when inquiring about it upon check-in.
LOOK AT YOUR CONFIRMATION EMAIL
Normally, when I see that hotel confirmation come into my email inbox, I just note its presence. For Great Wolf Lodge, you’ll want to open it up.
My confirmation email had coupons for purchases at Great Wolf Lodge Concord. I thought about printing those out and bringing them, but figured I’d just show my phone. In the end, I forgot about those coupons until it was too late. I should have printed them out.
MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME AT GREAT WOLF LODGE NC
GO EARLY; STAY LATE
While check-in at Great Wolf Lodge Concord is not until 4:00 pm, you can get into the water park as early as 1:00 pm. Pack a “pool bag” separate from your suitcase, and get to the hotel right after lunch. (PS. You can eat lunch at the hotel before 1 p.m. or visit one of the myriad nearby restaurants.)
Checkout is at 11:00 am, but you are free to stay at the water park for the remainder of the day. We packed our bags in the van, but held on to a backpack filled with dry clothes. When we were ready to head home, we changed in the locker room and made our way to the truck.
If you forget a wet bag from home, grab the plastic dry-clean bag from your room in order to store those wet suits. Just be sure to get it in the morning, as your key will no longer work after your 11:00 am checkout.
Stay Here: Great Wolf Lodge Concord/Charlotte
ORDER A LATE CHECKOUT
If you have a large family or young kiddos, trying to juggle an 11 a.m. checkout and enjoy the water park a little longer can be difficult. Approximately $50 buys you extra time in your Great Wolf Lodge room. This means you can nap the baby while the big kids play, take a lunch break in the room, or just take your time drying off and packing up for the trip home.
It isn’t necessary to purchase a late checkout in order to stay at the park longer, but for some families, it eases the pressure.
AVOID THE POOL CROWDS
When we visited, the Great Wolf Lodge water park was open from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm. (Please take a look at the hours during your scheduled visit. Hours can vary by season or by weekdays vs weekends.)
Due to my boys’ undying passion for the water, we were at the water park at promptly 9:01 a.m. each day, and heavily rewarded with a teeny-tiny crowd. The combination of a 9 a.m. lobby show, late risers and families checking out all lead to more time on the slides for us. In fact, until about 10 a.m., we never stood in line for a water slide!
You’ll find the same combination of factors around dinner time. There are lobby shows, hungry families and lingering late-stayers heading home. This means more water time for the kids. Eat a late lunch, then opt for a heavy snack-break during peak times of about 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm. This allows the kiddos to play during dinnertime when it is slow. You can always hit the restaurants late at night.
I may have ordered room service at 10:45 p.m. for some famished kids who were happy as pie to get 10-15 extra rounds on the water tubes during our normal dinner hours.
AVOID THE MAGIQUEST CROWDS
If your kids are like Sue’s and love MagiQuest, then take that afternoon pool break and roam the halls with your wand when everyone else is waiting in line for the water slides. During the evenings (when the pool is quieter), the hallways at Great Wolf Lodge are jammed with kids running around zapping things with their MagiQuest wands.
MagiQuest is also a great activity if you arrive early on your check-in day. Remember check-in isn’t until 4 pm, but you can swim starting at 1 pm, and can play MagiQuest as early as you like.
PROPER ATTIRE: SWIMSUIT AND PJS
Normally this wouldn’t have stood out to me as a time saver, but it truly is. The week before our GWL visit, we were at a hotel with a pool. When it was time to swim, we had to run upstairs and change into suits. Dinnertime? Change again. After dinner? Change again. And if you have ever done the hotel dance with a kid, you know that you could easily spend an additional 30-45 minutes in the room changing clothes each time! It’s mentally exhausting, and it is one of those sneaky processes that eats away your day.
Enter Great Wolf Lodge: where dining in your swimsuit and cover-up is perfectly acceptable, and roaming the halls in PJs and “bear” feet is the norm. I know the concept is foreign. “Wait, you want me to pull up to the breakfast buffet in my swimsuit?” Yes! Embrace it (and a cute cover up)!
Take advantage of those extra HOURS of time you save by not having to visit the room multiple times a day. Are these cool dining options or what?
BE FLEXIBLE, BUT DO INCORPORATE A LITTLE PLANNING
It’s vacation. I know you don’t want to be on a stopwatch, but there is a TON of fun at this resort. When you arrive, talk to your kids about what they want to do. Is it the water park and only the water park? MagiQuest? Lobby shows? Ropes Course? Arcade time? What do you want to do?
After you have narrowed down your list, take a look at the times. The arcade opens at 9 a.m.! You can play a little Skee ball on dry land before the water park, without sacrificing pool time.
Many of the lobby shows are offered during “down times” at the water park; decide which is most important to your family. We opted to skip the lobby shows for more water time, but we didn’t miss the Dance Party, which easily lasted until quiet time, well after the pool was closed.
With a little planning upfront, you can maximize your time at the areas of the lodge that are important to your family.
MAXIMIZE YOUR EXPERIENCE AT GREAT WOLF LODGE NC
RENT A LOCKER AT THE WATER PARK
Because of the RFID wristbands, there wasn’t a need to bring my wallet. Most of the time I didn’t use a locker…no one was interested in stealing my $5 flip flops. But there were a few occasions in which I brought my camera.
If you are a photo-holic like myself, you don’t want to miss capturing a few of those ear-to-ear smiles as the kids play in the water park. Bring the camera, and rent a locker. After you snap some shots, toss it in the locker.
Another photo hint? Our best photos were the ones we took outside! Don’t miss snapping shots at the outdoor pool and mini golf.
Stay Here: Great Wolf Lodge Concord/Charlotte
BRING A WHITE NOISE MACHINE FOR THE EVENING
If you have little ones or light sleepers, bring a white noise machine from home. This is a hotel for kids, and there will be loud noises, jumping kiddos and lots of (fun) raucous going on late at night and early in the morning.
Many travelers will tell you to secure a room on the top floor if possible. We didn’t find that necessary, but we did appreciate the extra white noise drowning out a few screams of excitement coming from the hallway.
CONSIDER THE GREAT WOLF LODGE PACKAGES (AGAIN!)
We discussed the Wolf Pack package under Maximize Your Dollar, but I want to also encourage you to look at the other packages available at Great Wolf Lodge Concord. This resort is much more than a water park…there are a TON of fun things to do and experience.
Sign up for a dining package, bundle packages for the water park, or explore their seasonal deals before you arrive.
EXPLORE THE AREA AROUND GREAT WOLF LODGE
While you could possibly stay all weekend at Great Wolf Lodge Charlotte Concord, there is plenty to do in the immediate area, too. Try visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway or Hendrick Motorsports Complex, only a few minutes down the road.
Just across the street is a great aquarium for kids, SeaLIFE, and a go-kart track. There are spectacular restaurants nearby, including Starbucks (yeah!) and Jim-and-Nick’s BBQ, which won awards for best barbecue chain and best pork sandwich. Venture beyond the Lodge for even more fun!
BRING THE BIRTHDAY KIDDO
Our Great Wolf Lodge visits have all corresponded with birthday celebrations. We talked the boys’ Aunt and Uncle into meeting us there the first time, and this second time we just had a small family celebration. If you want to include more family, this is a great place to do it with a larger family room. You can leverage the Birthday Bash or Birthday Fun packages.
We brought our own banners and fun from home, though. (Even if you don’t purchase a birthday package, be sure to tell them it’s your kiddos birthday so that they get the birthday ears upon checkin.) We purchased cupcakes and ice cream from Bear Paw Sweets & Treats and brought them back to the room to blow out candles.
With the water park, MagiQuest, lobby shows, GWL attractions and the nearby SeaLIFE aquarium, it is the ultimate kid vacation. It’s become an every-other-year tradition for us that the boys look forward to. Maximize their birthday by bringing them to Great Wolf Lodge Concord.
FEEL BETTER ABOUT FOOD ALLERGIES
Although parents who have children with severe allergies still need to be vigilant, Great Wolf Lodge makes a great effort to be an allergen-friendly zone by taking all peanuts and tree nuts out of their dining facilities, and chefs are always available to talk to guests about their family’s specific dietary needs. They even have separate, allergy-free prep areas that are utilized when preparing meals for guests with dietary restrictions.
And Great Wolf Lodge doesn’t up-charge for any omissions or substitutions due to allergies. The meal prices hover above a typical restaurant, but less than Disney.
In addition, GWL is using more organic ingredients. Each Lodge has organic juices, yogurt, and even organic ketchup. They’re working with vendors to create healthier options to enhance the old favorites, including the traditional kids meals. The kids mac ‘n cheese is now a white cheddar to avoid anything with Yellow #5 and chicken fingers are made with all-natural chicken that is antibiotic/steroid free, and breaded with non-GMO rice flour, making them gluten free. The fryers at Great Wolf Lodge have been changed from vegetable/soy bean oil to a domestic made rice bran oil which is GMO-free. French fries are made with potatoes, and nothing else. Burgers are fresh, all natural beef containing only one ingredient – beef. Hebrew National hot dogs are served because they contain three ingredients, beef, water and salt rather than other brands that contain up to 18 ingredients.
Please note that we have validated the allergy information crossed out above is no longer valid as of 2022. Over 100,000 people have read the allergy info in this post over the last three years, and we feel responsible to draw your attention to the change, rather than just remove the paragraphs.
Stay Here: Great Wolf Lodge Concord/Charlotte
GREAT WOLF LODGE NC FAQ
What is the best age to go to Great Wolf Lodge?
Great Wolf Lodge has something for every age u002du002d from little ones to teenagers, but the sweet spot for a GWL visit seems to be between 7-13 years old. You can absolutely bring younger and older kiddos though, as there is plenty to do here.
What time of year is Great Wolf Lodge least busy?
Great Wolf Lodge is busiest during school holidays u002du002d like Christmas, summer, and spring break. The least busy times for GWL are usually May and September.
Where is the biggest Great Wolf Lodge located?
Great Wolf Lodge is Maryland is the biggest one so far. The Maryland location has 700 rooms and a 126,000-square-foot water park!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NORTH CAROLINA
- YOUR NORTH CAROLINA VACATION
- CHARLOTTE: 51+ Awesome Things To Do I Charlotte NC For An Amazing Time
- RALEIGH: 17+ Unforgettable Things To Do In Raleigh, NC That You’ll Love
- NC BEACHES: 16 North Carolina Beaches You Need To Visit This Summer
- OBX: 33 Things To Do In Outer Banks By Town (+ An Itinerary)
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