As the official Christmas Capital of Texas, the city of Grapevine, about a half-hour drive northwest of Dallas, spans their holiday celebrations over the course of more than 40 days, offering hundreds of festive events. Twinkling lights, larger-than-life decorations and a vintage railroad welcome travelers from near and far to enjoy the wonders of the holiday season. Amongst the holiday cheer is Great Wolf Lodge, a year-round hot spot for family fun. As you might expect from a family-focused resort, Great Wolf takes holidays to the extreme.
Kicking off their celebration called Snowland the Saturday after Thanksgiving and continuing the festivities through the first of the year, the lodge becomes a winter wonderland of family fun. Towering trees and a life-size gingerbread house that culinary teams have spent weeks cooking up welcome guests. Adorned with candy and heaps of white icing, the gingerbread house is more than just decoration. Families can dine inside and, in keeping with the spirit of the season, proceeds from your dining experience are donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities. Magical indoor snow showers add extra holiday sparkle to the charm of the rustic resort.
Santa will stop by the lodge for the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Nov. 25 and make appearances throughout the season to visit with kids and pose for photos. Guests can even reserve special Snowland suites that are decorated with lights, garland and a fully-adorned tree.
Amidst the holiday cheer, the indoor water park certainly remains the highlight of any Great Wolf getaway. Access to the water park is included with your stay and exclusive to overnight resort guests. Winter weather is never a problem because the resort’s most popular amenity is always a balmy 84 degrees. Designed with all ages in mind, the water park has six different areas for splashing and swimming. Whether lounging in Crooked Creek, the park’s lazy river, or catching some waves in Slap Tail Pond, there are plenty of ways make memories together.
Cub Paw Pool is likely where you’ll find the youngest members of the family. The zero-depth entry leads to an 18-inch “deep” end making this kiddie pool a step above the norm. For those often too short to make the cut at other water parks, Cub Paw Pool has smaller kiddie slides that offer an accessible place for toddlers and preschoolers to explore.A selection of life jackets, including the popular Puddle Jumper style, are available free of charge for guests to use.
Fort Mackenzie takes water play to the next level. Great for both younger and older kids, the treehouse-themed splash area offers a plethora of dump buckets, interactive water toys, kid-activated splash features and body slides the whole family can enjoy together.
For the older and more adventurous members of the family, five full-size tube and raft slides will not disappoint. With single and multi-rider options available, high-speed drops and winding twists and turns aim to get your adrenaline going. The heart-pumping Howlin’ Tornado is instantaneously noticeable as you arrive. The towering yellow and red structure sends riders sailing through a six-story vortex on a super-fast thrill ride in a raft built for four. There are less intense slide options to accommodate a variety of adventure levels.
The two other pools are home to some classic water park features. Slap Tail Pond sends the waves crashing every five minutes and Big Foot Pass features fun floats and an in-pool basketball hoop. If you are ready for a wind-down, the park’s two hot tubs are an enticing place to recuperate. South Hot Springs welcomes anyone over 8 years old while North Hot Springs is reserved for guests 18 and older. The water park can be accessed as early as 1 p.m. on the day you check in and families can stay and play until the end of the day they check out.
When your crew is waterlogged, families can enjoy dozens of free activities offered throughout the day. Get loose each day with Yoga Tails and a Wolf Walk in the mornings. Hang out with Wiley and other Great Wolf characters near The Great Clock Tower and enjoy an animatronic show and story times twice a day that, during the holiday events, finishes with a festive indoor snow shower. Cub Club hosts games, crafts and other activities during the day. Families can wrap up their fun at the Jammie Jamboree, an all-ages pajama dance party in front of the clock tower at night. Special Snowland activities are planned for the holiday season including a North Pole University where kids are given a series of fun tasks to complete on their way to earn a “Snowpolma” and a special prize.
In addition to the free activities, Main Street is another hub of entertainment with an arcade, XD Theater, gift shops and more. The theater offers a selection of four short films that incorporate a multi-sensory experience with 3-D effects. Screenings are $7 each or $20 for all four movies.
The resort’s MagiQuests are a popular stop. Armed with an interactive wand, guests search all of the hotel’s eight stories on an elaborate scavenger hunt adventure. The quests are a very active way to have fun together as you work through riddles and clues to earn rank and train to become a Master Magi.Once young Magis conquer the quest, which takes several hours (maybe even a couple days) to complete, additional mini-adventures like defeating a dragon keep the fun going. Kids can even get knighted during a special ceremony and receive a free gift. ShadowQuest and Compass Quest are additional adventures guest can tackle. Pricing for the quests start at $14.99 and all require a wand. Wands can be re-activated for future stays and your progress is saved for future visits to any Great Wolf location.
Younger guests might enjoy a scaled-down quest called the Clubhouse Crew. Kids start off by creating a plush character in the Creation Station and then set out on a mission with the Great Wolf Kids. The adventure utilizes just two floors and takes about thirty minutes to complete.
Scooops Kid Spa lets kids experience a sweet-themed retreat with fizzy soaks, ice cream scented scrubs, pretty polishes and organic facials. The mommy and me pedicures are a popular option.
Howlers Peak ropes course is another activity for the daring. Weather permitting, climbers scale ropes, bridges and obstacles high above the ground on a multi-story structure as they work their way to the top for a final leap back to the ground. There are two course options: one for guests more than 48 inches tall and a smaller version closer to the ground for guests under 48 inches. Pricing ranges from $4.99 a climb to $19.99 for unlimited climbing during your stay.
The lodge offers several dining options including a buffet, pizza shop, sweet shop, wood grill, a full-service Starbucks and even a restaurant in the water park. Each guest’s suite includes a fridge and microwave so families have the option to store and prepare snacks and small meals in their room. Guests also have access to a gym and laundry room as part of their stay.
After all of the fun with the kids, parents might need something just for them. Elements Spa Salon offers massages, manicures, pedicures and skin therapies. New this year, a Wine Down Service can be delivered to your room. Choose from a selection of wines paired with savory and sweet treats to enjoy as you settle in for the night.
[Editor’s Note: Lindsay’s trip was provided by Great Wolf Lodge but the opinions expressed are her own.]