Great ready for a howlin' good time for the whole family.
Great Wolf Lodge is now open in Bloomington, right next to the Mall of America. What was previously the Water Park of America is now an all-encompassing water park/adventure park resort -- a seemingly much better fit for Minnesota.
This is the first Great Wolf Lodge to come to the state, though Midwest families have long-enjoyed the Great Wolf location in the Wisconsin Dells -- the company's first ever resort built in 1997.
The redesigned space in Bloomington is complete with the 75,000-square-foot indoor water park (which is similar to the site's previous water park) and a number of family-friendly activities throughout the resort.
Before you check-in for your next staycation or Minnesota vacation, here's a few things to know:
-- Check-in: The lobby is a super busy, packed place when it comes to check-in time. The official check-in time is 4 p.m. but long lines start forming well before then. Pro-tip: Pack a small bag of stuff for the water park. Guests are allowed to use the water park as early as 1 p.m., even before checking into their hotel room.
-- Check-out: This same water park policy goes for check-out. While the official check-out time is 11 a.m., guests are welcome to enjoy the water park facilities until they close.
-- Wristbands: The wristbands you receive at check-in do everything -- it's your hotel key, your access to the water park and you can even connect your credit card for maximum ease around the resort.
-- Rooms: There are a number of options starting with standard rooms (a queen bed, sleeper sofa and another queen bed or a bunk bed, plus a table, microwave, mini fridge and bathroom) and going all the way up to major family suites (which can sleep up to 12 people). Bunk beds typically feature a guardrail on the top bunk, but none on the bottom bunk. View all the options here.
-- Water park: Water park access is only available to guests of the resort. This means even at full capacity, the water park will never get too crazy and lines for the water slides or other features remain manageable. Activities inside the water park are truly for all ages -- little kiddos can enjoy the zero-depth entry pool full of kiddie slides, water spouts and fountains while the big kids can try the surf simulator, major water slides and water basketball hoops. Adults and kids alike can grab a tube and take a spin on the Crooked Creek, Great Wolf's version of a "lazy river." Check out more about the water park areas here.
- Safety in the water park: There's a good amount of lifeguards constantly roaming around the water park at all times. They monitor everything from the kiddie areas to the larger waterslides. Life jackets are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis but seemed to be plenty in supply, even at peak times. Also, inflatable toys are not allowed in the water park.
-- Activities: There are plenty of free, family-friendly activities throughout the resort and at various times. Kids can start the morning with a Yoga Tails session, check out the Northwoods Show, do a family-friendly aerobics class, do some crafts then change into pajamas for a bedtime story. (Note: the bedtime story starts at 8:15 p.m., then concludes with a chance to meet one of the Great Wolf characters, so it can get late.)
-- Attractions: There's a ton to check out and squeeze into one weekend, depending how much you want to spend. Not included in your stay, and at various price points, there's a candy shop, a kiddie boutique (called Scoops) full of glitter, a crazy hair salon, tiaras and princess sashes (best saved for the end of your stay), the Great Wolf Adventure Park where you can mine for gemstones, try your hand at kid-sized bowling (with bumpers, if you so choose and much smaller bowling balls), and an arcade. Plus, a ropes course, climbing wall, creation station (think Build-a-Bear Workshop) and the lodge immersive MagiQuest adventure -- a live-action game where kids can use a special magic wand on different stations throughout the resort. (Games start at $14.99 and wands are $23.99)
-- Food: The food options range from the Campfire Kitchen buffet, Hungry as a Wolf pizza and pasta, Buckets Incredible Craveables (inside the water park for hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and snacks), Barnwood's sharable small plates, plus Ben & Jerry's, Dunkin' Donuts, The Watering Hole bar (near the lobby) and The Outpost bar (on level 2, near Hungry as a Wolf pizza). Also the entire facility is nut-free (even the candy shop). Side note: Coolers are allowed in the resort, just not in the water park.
-- Wine Down service: Attention parents, this is perhaps the best thing about this resort. There is a "wine down" service available for you after your kids are tucked in. You can sign up when you check-in for wine and a sweet (chocolate-covered strawberries, anyone?) or savory (a cured meats platter or cheese board) treat after the kiddos go to bed. Then you simply pick your choices, place it on the outside of your door handle and get a text when it's ready. (No knocking to disturb sleeping kiddos.) Amazing.
For more information, check out the Lodge's website.