There’s no better family vacation than letting kids run around unattended, safe and self-sufficient with several activities.
That is a brief synopsis of the Great Wolf Lodge, the newest all-inclusive 500-room luxury hotel that opened this summer in Manteca, a little under 2 hours northwest of Fresno.
“We’re a stand-alone resort. If I had to compare us to anything, we’re sort of like a cruise ship on land. So it’s self-contained. We’ve got the water park, we have the hotel rooms. We have our family adventure park,” said Alana Ostrowski, the general manager of the Great Wolf Lodge.
It is the little details that put GWL over the top. The carpets in the hallways are adorned with paw prints. It turns out they are actually facing the elevators and/or lobby to help guide anyone if they get turned around.
The rooms continue the forest theme, with artwork featuring deer and wolves. Even the lampshades have the woodsy motif, and a hidden story included.
Water Slides and More
The water slides may be the main attraction. The 95,000 square-foot indoor water park features several twisty and turny slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river.
The “Wolf Tail” slide features a trap door that opens from the bottom, creating a momentary free-fall drop on the way down the slide.
Another slide known as Sequoia Splash allows for families to take the plunge together on an innertube for up to four people.
Being indoors, the chance of sunburn is close to zero. There is an adjacent outdoor pool as well. Both the indoor and outdoor sections have ample chairs and lounges. Towels are available for guests on site.
Access to the water park is included with the room.
Adventure Park Features MagiQuest, Rope Course
The Great Wolf Lodge also has several activities to keep the younger set entertained for hours.
Beyond the lobby is the Adventure Park, which features several activities that can be purchased separately or through combination passes (between $49.99-$79.99 per pass).
On the floor is a 9-hole mini-golf course. Above it is a ropes course, where kids — tethered by a rope attached to a rail system — try to balance on various obstacles moving. There are two levels to master.
A single climb is priced at $14.99, or an all-day pass at $24.99.
The Adventure Park also features a mirror maze, an arcade and a mini bowling alley ($7 per game).
MagiQuest ($29.99 per wand and game) is by the most challenging activity, and according to my kids, the most fun. It is an interactive game where kids use magic wands to go on a quest at various stations set up throughout the first floor of the hotel.
“Players use interactive magic wands to battle goblins and dragons,” the lodge says in its description of the game.
The quest can take days, but as long as you keep the wand handy, you can return to your game days, or even years later.
In the lobby, there is programming almost hourly for kids and their parents. From yoga and arts and crafts, to a nightly dance party, there is always some activity taking place.
Plenty of Dining Options
Great Wolf Lodge offers plenty of dining choices. There are several quick-serve type restaurants that serve burgers, Mexican fare and pizza. The Timbers eatery features poolside service.
The sit-down restaurant, Barnwood, offers local an American type menu, sourcing its ingredients locally. It can get a bit crowded.
The resort also features an ice cream shop and a Dunkin’ (formerly Dunkin’ Donuts) shop that is open in the mornings and usually has a long line.
For adults, several of the restaurants serve alcohol, both beer/wine and a full liquor cabinet.
“Once you park that car and step inside the front door, we really like you to be able to check in and not feel like you have to leave again until you check out,” Ostrowski, the GM said.
There is a Costco located adjacent to the Great Wolf Lodge for those who need a pizza alternative.
Pandemic Delayed Opening
After an 11 month delay because of the pandemic, Great Wolf Lodge opened in June and is already seeing 100% capacity. The resort located just west of Highway 99 on Highway 120 in Manteca.
“That was an unforeseen delay, but it allowed us to really learn a lot and really develop our Paw Pledge (cleaning program). And we feel really good about that. We really developed our health and safety protocols,” Ostrowski said.
Currently, the only requirement is wearing masks unless in the water or eating/drinking. Neither vaccines nor testing are required to stay.
The Manteca location is the 19th Great Wolf Lodge to open in North America. There is one other GWL in California, located in Orange County.
The rooms range from standard queen beds to full suites to accommodate multiple family members. Rooms can range from $200 a night, but there are plenty of discounts, especially booking in advance.
The newest Great Wolf Lodge is targeting customers from Sacramento to the Bay Area to Bakersfield.
“Most of our guests are driving from within a three hour drive radius,” Ostrowski said.
Great Wolf Lodge insists it is not competing with Disneyland, and on the surface that may be true. Families who want to go to Disney are going to go to Disney. Great Wolf Lodge does not offer amusement rides.
“We try to cater to all price points. So depending on what it is you’re looking to do, we’ve got different ranges of room types,” Ostrowski said. “We try to have a vacation that can cater to you.”
But for a family that wants to spend a couple of days away, GWL could be an alternate to Disneyland, and with easier parking.