The Great Wolf Lodge is the world’s largest chain of indoor water parks, with 11 locationsin North America and at least three more in development.
Current locations include: Wisconsin Dells, WI (opened in 1997), Sandusky, OH (2001), Traverse City, MI (2003), Kansas City, KS (2003), Williamsburg, VA (2005), Pocono Mountains, PA (2005), Niagara Falls, ON (–which is home to Great Wolf’s largest indoor water park and the fifth largest indoor water park in North America– it opened in 2006), Mason, OH (2006), Grapevine, TX (2007), Grand Mound, WA (2008), and Charlotte/Concord, NC (2009). As you will notice, many of these locations are somewhat off the beaten path, which is why it is exciting to see that they have a location near Disneyland currently under construction and set to open in 2015.
So Why Would I Not Return To Such An Amazing Place?
After hearing about the Great Wolf for quite sometime, I finally decided to make the extra effort to try them out on my most recent trip to Asheville, NC, where I went two hours past Asheville just to visit the Charlotte/Concord, NC area, which is home to their newest location, which also holds the title of being the eighth largest indoor theme park in North America. The deal here is that Charlotte isn’t really considered an all out vacation destination, even though they do have a few family friendly attractions such as their Carowinds theme park. Taking that into consideration, we expected this place to be an all inclusive vacation destination in and of itself but it fails quite miserably. Look at Yelp reviews for various Great Wolf resorts and you’ll see that many others agree that this place has room for improvement.
1. But it turned out that the entire family was board, miserable, AND FREEZING, after a few hours in their indoor water park. This indoor water park really did not seem that large; all the pools were packed with screaming kids (which is to be expected anyway!), and they did not have a lazy river. The outdoor pool was very small; and they also have an outdoor miniature golf course, which is nothing really extraordinary. But all that did not really matter but what bothered us the most about this entire vacation was that we paid nearly $500 a night to stay somewhere without a hot tub! (Some locations do have a hot tub but ours did not.) We asked a lifeguard where the hot tub was and she replied saying they did not have one. I just didn’t believe her and asked a manager and sure enough – no hot tub in site! Here it was in August and every pool seemed very cool. The three of us were there a few hours and never managed to warm up to the water temperatures and we did not have the opportunity to warm up in a hot tub – making it where we couldn’t enjoy the water park at all.
You can’t judge a website by it’s pictures!
2. After spending nearly $500 a night for a hotel room (which does include admission to the indoor water park, which is only open to hotel guests), we expected to stay somewhere quite luxurious. We got there to find out that our “suite” (which is the smallest type of room in the building) was small and ordinary. It’s the type of room that I would pay $100 (at the most) a night for, especially being that the resort is in a somewhat remote location outside the center of Charlotte. See the image below and tell me if that looks like a room you’d spend $500 a night on!
$500 a night for a cheap-looking wood trailer that belongs in the 18th century!
Why would I stay here here for about $500 a night when I can stay at the incredible Wilderness at the Smokies Resort in Sevierville, TN (near Dollywood theme park) for just $70 a night (depending on the season). When you count in four water park tickets that come for free with the room, that along recoups the price of the room, basically giving you a free nights stay (why go to the nearby Splash Country water park!). The Wilderness water park is actually more fun in our opinion because it includes a huge indoor/outdoor hot tub, a fun outdoor lazy river, and the water always feels great, temperature wise!
3. It is geared more towards younger children. Basically anyone in their teens or older may get a little board with this place (that includes you, parents!). They have everything from a little bowling alley, arcade games, the Magiquest game, to the indoor water park to satisfy the thrill of little ones but parents are stuck eating subpar/overpriced food, left to use a tiny gym, and left to an ugly, overpriced hotel room (seriously though!). They should seriously consider adding more spaces that are designed for specific age groups, much like how cruises do.
Looks fun, huh?! These kids were actually about to die of hyperthermia!
4. Unhealthy dining options were another downside. The onsite dining was less than impressive with horrible service and general kid foods. Adults spending $500 a night expect a great meal, which this place did not seem to have. Adults spending this much may also expect a continental breakfast or at least something. How about putting out juices or teas at the checkin counter. Something along those lines seems quite fundamental at this price point. Thankfully though, there were many other great restaurants in the area.
5. Poor customer service was another disappointment. Any time you asked a question they just seemed to act like they were doing you the biggest favor. I asked what area restaurants they would recommend and even said we were looking for Italian and all they could do was hand us a sheet with restaurants listed on it, which wasn’t all that helpful. And four people were standing behind that desk, just standing there twiddling their thumbs! They sure aren’t looking to go the extra mile to make you want to return.
This is where they have story time!
Check out this video I made about the Great Wolf Lodge In Charlotte/Concord, NC:
Featured On Undercover Boss
Great Wolf’s CEO Kim Schaefer was featured in the U.S. version of TV’s Undercover Boss (which is one of my favorite shows, you should check it out!), which included visits to several lodges where she worked alongside a lifeguard supervisor, front desk clerk, and restaurant waitstaff as well as participated in the children’s program. I found the entire full length episode on YouTube and I am happy to share it with you below:
While The Great Wolf wasn’t quite right for our wolf pack, leaving us feeling underwhelmed and overcharged, you may have a completely different experience here. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Taylor out front. This was when we had just got there! If I would have taken this photo at the end of the trip, I would have been frowning!
Update: The Great Wolf manager saw this post and reached out to me to apologize, which I was really grateful for. They told me I could call to discuss the matter further – which was really a nice gesture on their part.