Your kids will flip for the 126-square-foot indoor water park
Family vacations are often designed with the hope that our kids will not only have fun… but actually, remember the time spent together for years to come. Shared memories help bond families, which might be why Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) aptly markets itself as a place to “Strengthen the Pack.” The newest Great Wolf Lodge resort in Perryville, MD is not only the franchise’s largest, it’s now the closest resort to the DC metro area (just 90 minutes north of the city) and with over 50 adventure-packed activities all under one roof, it’s also the perfect place to forge adrenaline-fueled, long-term memories with your own pack.
From challenging the kids to a lifesize, ride-on version of Hungry Hungry Hippo in the resort’s arcade to racing your family on the water-flume racetrack at Mountain Edge Raceway to simply gathering around a communal meal at Barnwood, the opportunities to spend quality time together are endless at this expansive new resort 75 miles from Washington, DC.
The first Great Wolf Lodge opened in 1997 in Wisconsin Dells, WI with a 20,000-square-foot water park, Today, Perryville, MD tops all 20 resorts nationwide with the largest indoor space—a whopping 126,000 square feet—filled with splash and spray pads, a wave pool, dump buckets, a lazy river, water cannons, and 22 epic slides. Did we mention the slides?
From toddler slides to gentle twisting tubes to an exhilarating 4 story drop, there is a “just right” thrill for everyone. Enjoy the woosh of River Canyon Run (a family raft experience), pack in the most twists and turns on the longest twister slide in Maryland (a brand new attraction to all resorts!), or head to Coyote Canyon for a cortisol-spiking 40-foot-drop thrill ride! Step outside the 84-degree heated indoor space and there is more water-themed fun outside including a wade-in pool and a “Hot Springs” hot tub.
Insider tip: Admission is included in your room rate, but you can also purchase day passes. Rates fluctuate between $40 for an off-season, mid-week half-day pass to $150 for a peak season, full-day pass.
While Great Wolf Lodge is best known for its water parks, it’s MagiQuest—the Harry Potter-like wand experience that weaves through Adventure Park and the Grand Lobby—that is one of the resort’s most stand-out experiences. Wand in hand, Magis are sent on an interactive scavenger hunt to find magic runes to help restore a mythical forest. Set the wand to Mini Magis mode and kids under 6 can activate the sparkling treasure chests and light up the tree-embedded icons without jumping through the game’s hoops. Complete the quest and your quest master will be knighted a Master Magi during the resort’s daily ceremony. If you don’t make Master Magi on your first visit, simply pack your wand for your next visit and start where you left off (with the purchase of new game time).
Insider tip: You can purchase this as a stand-alone attraction ($16.99/quest, $34.99/wand and quest bundle) or – if you are a resort guest—you can purchase a value-added Wolf Pass ($84.99) that includes all the Adventure Park attractions (except gem mining).
Elevate your family’s vacation at Howlers Peak Rope Course, a multi-level obstacle course suspended high above the resort’s miniature golf course. Get strapped into a safety harness and climb through rope bridges, hop from platform to platform and, if you dare to walk a narrow “plank” like a pirate, you will be rewarded by ringing a bell that lets everyone know you made it!
Once you have your feet on solid ground, there is plenty more to explore and do, including a 9-hole putt-putt course, an interactive mirror maze, miniature bowling (think shorter lanes and smaller balls), an action-packed arcade, and a gem mining station. If your child loves MagiQuest, the Magic Mirror Maze is a must. It takes a carnival mirror maze experience and turns it into a live-action game where your mini miner has to interact with the mirror to reveal the way out.
Insider tip: The bowling alley is first come, first served so be sure to grab your tokens when you arrive so you can pounce on an open lane.
You’ll find nothing but free fun in the Grand Lobby where daily activities include craft time, dance parties, yoga, character meet & greets with the pack from The Great Wolf Park Adventures, and a theatrical bedtime story featuring the Legend of Luna.
There is a constant buzz of activities in the Grand Lobby; mornings kick off with kid-friendly yoga sessions followed by interactive storytimes, hands-on craft parties, and more. Even when there isn’t an official event, there is plenty to do—like challenge your crew to an oversized game of Connect Four—while you gather around the magic fireplace.
One of the most popular events is the character meet & greets, a thrice-daily photo opp for the whole family. Grab a pair of free wolf ears at the Buckhorn Exchange Gift Shop and get ready to get in character (pun intended) with the stars of The Great Wolf Park Adventures (streamed daily in all resort rooms). Get a family picture with Violet Wolf, Wiley Wolf, Oliver Racoon, Brinley Bear, or Sammy Squirrel. Don’t forget to visit the Build-a-Bear Workshop (in the back corner of Buckhorn Exchange) to build and bring home your very own plush version of these beloved woodland animals.
A brand new experience has debuted at this Perryville resort and it’s a must for all Wolf Pack fans. The Legend of Luna, which tells the story of Violet as a young pup, is a multi-sensory, theatrical storytime that caps off each evening (there are two daily shows). With a dramatic poof of smoke, the lobby’s magical fireplace comes to life with twinkling lights and special effects for the ultimate bedtime story.
Insider tip: If you’re going to spring for a Build-a-Bear, bundle and save with a Pup Pass ($59.99) that includes the Build-a-Bear experience, recommended for toddlers and young children, but we spied a few teens taking advantage of this perk!
You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy Great Wolf Lodge (the resort offers day passes), but with so many attractions under one roof, it’s nice to have a quiet place to take a break from the excitement. GWL makes it easy to travel with your entire pack (including the Grands) with suites that have accommodations for 6 to 13 people. All rooms include a refrigerator and a small dining area so you can enjoy your leftovers as a hearty post-pool snack (there are public microwaves and ice machines on every floor).
Standard rooms are a great value, but if you have more than 6 people or just want to experience the rustic lodge-vibe in your own hotel room, book a themed suite that features either a cabin-themed or cave-themed interior design complete with bunk beds (always a hit with the kids!).
Insider tip: Every year Great Wolf Lodge offers an $84 roommate on Aug. 4 in honor of the resort’s anniversary. The crazy low price is a nod to the constant temp in the indoor waterpark; a steamy 84 degrees.
Satisfy Your Hunger Like a Wolf
GWL makes feeding a family easy (and budget-friendly). With so many quick service options, you don’t have to tear yourself away from the attractions for long; grab a burger, sandwich, or a healthy salad at the American-style eatery Timbers or serve your ravenous pack a generously sized pizza pie at Hungry Like a Wolf.
If you want to take a break from the fast-paced adventures of GWL, book a reservation at the rustic, but elegant, Barnwood where your dining experience will make you forget you’re at a water park! Entrees include grilled salmon, steak, and free-range chicken. Other onsite options include Dunkin’, a buffet-style breakfast at Campfire Kitchen, Wood’s End Creamery (get a free scoop with a Wolf, Paw or Pup pass!), and grab-and-go style meals from Freshwoods Market.
Insider tip: Head to Freshwoods Market before the nighttime showing of the Legend of Luna for popcorn served in a souvenir cup.
Ready to book your GWL vacation? They are ready to welcome you!
Great Wolf Lodge Perryville, MD Online: greatwolf.com/maryland
—Photos courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge except where noted.
Editor’s Note: This trip was paid for by Great Wolf Lodge but all of the opinions belong to the writer.