Great Wolf Lodge invited my family to preview a new interactive game two weekends ago. I somehow managed to keep it a secret from the kids (I’m terrible at keeping surprises!). I packed their clothes, PJs, and swimsuits when they were at school. We told them we were going on an errand and would be awhile in the car so they should pack some stuff to keep them busy. They packed CDs, books, and other trinkets and we were off for a nearly 2 hour ride.
Here is a brief video showing their reaction as we pulled up (sorry for it being sideways!):
To say they were surprised is an understatement.
The Room (Family Suite):
Our room was a spacious standard Family Suite (sleeps up to 6), which is the most affordable room at Great Wolf. The rate available online at the location we were at was $239.99/night. That includes parking, and water park passes for all members of your family, so while it’s more than a typical hotel room it includes more than you’d expect. Each room has a mini fridge, ample counter space, and a microwave so packing your own food is an option.
The room was airy and spacious and decorated to keep with the theme of the Lodge (rustic with lots of ‘cabin’ and wood details). I’m usually disappointed by hotel rooms, but felt they did a great job with the rooms, and it even had a deck of its’ own (perfect for morning coffee).
The room would have been fine for a family of 4, but having 2 kids sleep on the pullout was a stretch for us, and ended up causing musical beds at several points in the night. Musical beds=exhausted mama=not good.
I also thought the bathroom was small (the sink was outside the bathroom), and given the need to close the door to change that made it tough when it came time for everyone to get ready to go for our family of 6. Again, with a family of 4 I don’t think it would have been as much of an issue.
Next time we visit Great Wolf we will be staying in a larger room, one with a master bedroom off the main area so we can close the door to change, or sleep without being disrupted.
Our VIP Experience
After the initial surprise and checking in and checking out our room, we headed to lunch where we were fed a lovely catered lunch in a storybook themed room, and learned all about the characters from Story Explorers (the feature we were testing out). The kids noshed on dino nuggets, pasta from the pasta station and lots of bread. I had a heaping portion of curry chicken salad which was divine, as well as some salad. We heard from the general manager, and one of the developers of Story Explorers speak about the experience and the hotel itself.
After lunch was through we got to be our own Story Explorers. It started with a visit to find our new pets, give them a wish, and stuff them with stuffing. Next the animals got outfits while our kids got pictures taken on a green screen (more on that later).
After a brief introduction video we were set loose in the hallways to explore our story. Each animal had a badge with a small chip in it. When it was held against the right spot you would activate a part of the story. We were armed with riddles and a map in case we couldn’t figure it out where to go. Realizing how long the story was we ended up splitting up the kids with one parent and made our way around the hotel searching for our next clue. We all ended up back at the start again around the same time and received the kids customized books where they were literally put in the story with their favorite character.
More from Creative Kingdoms on this cool new technology:
Cuddly characters, CGI animation, and original scripting join RFID technology to create the world’s first and only live, interactive story-telling experience. The application of web and wireless technology to an interactive story experience is one of many Creative Kingdoms exclusive patents and will debut to the public in partnership with Great Wolf Resorts.
How does it work?
- The journey begins with a personalized RFID chip, which is embedded in a plush toy, and registered to a guest, or “Explorer.”Next the Explorer poses for a series of photos in front of a “green screen.”Physical props guide the Explorer through the poses, and the resulting photos are later integrated as illustrations in a keepsake storybook that retells their adventure.
- During the adventure, the plush toy uses RFID to interact with animated video consoles, audio effects and other story elements throughout the resort. All the while, Creative Kingdoms’ web and wireless technology has the ability to track the chip’s journey, coordinating the delivery of story components to the appropriate locations in real-time, and creating a record of the interactive story experience. At the end of the journey, the Explorer’s name and photos are incorporated into their tale and used to print a bound, one-of-a-kind storybook.
Alongside Violet, Oliver, Rachel, Sammy, Wiley, and Brinley (all adorable little stuffed animals) the kids experienced their story. Each character has their own personality traits, birthday, and favorite things to make it fun to pick your favorite character to be in your story.
As the first-timers for this new product we shared some feedback that we thought would help improve the interactive game. My husband and I both felt that it would be more fun to have the chip in your pet’s paw since the panels are paw shaped. During our experience the chip was on a band placed around the animal, which made it tough to read when it came time to place it chip to paw. Seeing MagiQuest, the other interactive game in the hotel, where kids waved wands and had things light up, talk or move made us realize ours took a little too much finesse.
It was our first visit to Great Wolf, so we also didn’t realize that each of the areas is labelled with names like “Whispering Woods,” so when you read the riddle you are led to those areas. Once we got the hang of that (thanks to a helpful staffer at Great Wolf) we were good to go.
Most importantly though the story was fun, and the kids LOVED running around the hotel finding clues while toting their animals along. Just be prepared with comfy shoes for all of you, and know that you will be just as worn out as the kids when all is said and done.
Aidan loved that he learned how to howl-here he is demonstrating his howl:
Ideally Story Explorers is for kids aged 4-10. My 13 year old thought the technology was neat but the story wasn’t exactly his speed. Aidan and Audrey (5 and 7 respectively) were the ideal age for it, and Emma (9) loved it too. Their favorite part though was bringing home their new stuffed friends, and the book that featured them!
Here are Emma and Aidan getting the green screen treatment:
Later in the day we had a cocktail hour where the kids received a goody box crammed with fun stuff, ate some yummy food, fruit, and desserts and had fun playing games and chatting with the other kids.
Great Wolf Lodge Review:
The Great Wolf Lodge is a fun, and well-maintained family resort. Despite the number of families that must come through the doors everything was clean, tidy, and up to date. There are thematic features all over the hotel of course, which makes it that much more fun to visit. It has a huge inviting lobby with a giant fireplace going and several cozy seating areas. Off the lobby is the main restaurant, the gift shop, and the Starbucks. That may have been my favorite feature. 😉
We also had an opportunity to check out some of the other amenities while we visited including the indoor bowling alley, arcade, and of course the amazing water park. You can imagine what big hits those were with the kids. There was also a grown-up salon, and a salon catering to little girls for a bit of fun and pampering. We also took note of a game room for older kids where they could check in and play video games-a great way to pass the time while the girls visit the salon, or the littler kids try out Story Explorers.
Downstairs also featured a fast food area with ice cream, pizza and more as well as several shops with water friendly gear (googles, Crocs, swimsuits, coverups) and was also home to many of the amenities (salon, arcade, entrance to water park, etc.).
The arcade was one where you earn tickets for prizes, so the kids loved getting to pick out some trinkets to take home. The bowling alley was mini-sized but perfect for all the kids. We played one quick game and they had a blast.
The biggest and best feature is of course the water park. The area is heated, so it’s not too cold to walk around and features more pools, slides, and fun stuff than I could share in a single post. Needless to say we had a blast squirting water, riding slides, hangin’ in the wave pool with Cecily and her daughter, and hopping on lily pads.
I didn’t get an photos because I was worried about getting my phone wet, but you can see an image Great Wolf provided here:
I also loved that we were provided with wrist bands instead of keys. No need to schlep stuff to the water park and a chip in the wrist band made it simple to open our door.
The food was mainly provided for us, but I did take note of a few things. The Starbucks is a lifesaver for tired parents and kids who want a quick snack. It’s the closest I’ve ever sleep to a Starbucks which I was grateful for. Breakfast and dinner are served buffet style which can add up quick if you have a big family. You can opt to order pizza for dinner which was rather affordable for a family, but given my gluten issues I would likely plan to pack stuff for two meals each day to save. I think one big meal is smart since you are so active and busy when you’re there. Personally I would choose breakfast (it’s cheaper and I love breakfast) but you might choose the opposite. They also had snack bars (and a bar) in the water park that could be useful at lunchtime.
Since the water park is included in the room rate, this could easily be a fairly inexpensive overnight for a family with all you need right down the hall. The kids were gifted tokens for the arcade and bowling, etc. but I would plan on spending at least a bit on a souvenirs, the arcade or bowling.
The kids had a blast (they said it was ‘Awesome!,’ ‘2 thumbs up,’ and ‘super cool!’), and we did too (though I admit I was tired when all was said and done). We are planning a trip back sometime this winter possibly for the boys’ birthdays since they have winter birthdays and we often have a family trip instead of a birthday party.
Have you visited a Great Wolf Lodge?
Disclosure: Great Wolf Lodge provided us with an overnight stay, lots of great food, Story Explorers entrance, and lots of swag for the kids.