Great Wolf Lodge has come to Southern California! Located near Anaheim in Garden Grove, CA, Great Wolf Lodge has a booming business here in the OC. We realize that Great Wolf Lodge has been extensively covered by every mommy blogger out there with excellent reviews, tips, and recommendations. (Try Sandy Toes and Popsicles or Trekaroo for great info and tips.) But our focus is fun for kids and adults. Our latest trip was our third trip with our kiddos, and we discovered that it is a fantastic place to meet up with other families and friends, especially if you are locals like us!
Sip & Slide Means Fun for Everyone
Did you know that Great Wolf Lodge has awesome bartenders? The bar staff has been consistent and stable since the opening of the Garden Grove location in February of 2016. We chatted with our favorite bartender, Ricardo. Ricardo has been with Great Wolf since its opening. He is a seasoned bartender in the business for over 10 years. What we love most about Ricardo is the pride he takes in his work and his attention to customers. He shares his tips and recipes with his fellow bartenders, so you will get consistently good drinks. And this was our pleasant surprise: the drinks are delicious! Look, we were pleased with the premixed, frozen margaritas from machines that you can buy at Buckets Incredible Craveables, conveniently located right inside the park. Sometimes a sweet and tangy slushy that packs a nice punch is just what you need for the 84 degree temperature and for the humidity.
These were our drinks of choice until we met Ricardo. He is often at the outdoor bar and grill, Grizzly Jack’s, which is kind of tucked away through the doors next to Flow Rider. This is a nice little outdoor splash pad area that is often much quieter than the indoor play area, so it’s a great escape if you need a moment to lounge and relax under the sun. It’s a cool little bar and grill that serves some SoCal fresh options, as well as some of the standard grill foods. Ricardo makes a mean Bloody Mary, with your choice of vodka (we chose Tito’s). He spikes his tomato mix with just the right amount of Worchestershire, pepper, and Tobasco, finishing it off with a celery stalk, 2 olives and a wedge of lime.
The earthy and savory concoction is satisfying. Let’s just say that it is not a bad pairing with Dunkin Donuts that is located on the lobby level of the hotel, and which you are allowed to bring into the park. We also tried the two most popular drinks: the Howling Margarita and the Hands Off My Hurricane. Saranya is a spicy margarita gal, so the Howling Margarita was up her alley. The fresh lime juice and jalapeno adds a refreshing zing to this yummy drink. MaryAnne is definitely a rum gal (although she is also an equal opportunity drinker!) so she had the Hands Off My Hurricane. The coconut and dark rum combo along with the pureed passion fruit is so delicious and is reminiscent of an island vacay. They also have a solid selection of beers on tap, and Ricardo is your cocktail and beer guy.
If you are looking for a more traditional bar that is completely away from the water park, head over to Lodge Wood Fired Grill, indoor lobby level. Ask for Stacy if you want to chat or a recommendation on Bourbon: Stacy is you Bourbon specialist. Personally, we prefer to be in the park or at the outdoor bar during the day, but hey, sometimes you may need more than a moment away from the controlled chaos.
*Tip: Take turns playing with the kids. While some of the adults slide with the kiddos, the others can sip poolside. Also, the life guards here are excellent and plentiful. We feel more comfortable with older kids off on their own sliding than when at a pool. The younger ones wear coast guard approved life vest that are provided.
After a long day of junk food and pizza, the Lodge Wood Fired Grill is often our go to for a sit down meal. The restaurant stays open until 11:00 pm, and trust me, the late night hour is great when the kids close down the water park at 8:00 pm. They have a kids menu with the usual options, but the portions are so big here that it is more economical to just split some entrees. The steaks, ribs and burgers are good. The bbq combo meal is huge, with ribs, brisket, sausages, mac n cheese, and cornbread so several kids can easily split this. The pasta and risotto dishes are also very good and also a large and shareable portion.
The Loose Moose Family Kitchen next door is an all you can buffet with lots of choices, but closes around 9:00 pm. It can be a little more pricey if you have a big group, but the kids usually enjoy walking around and choosing their own food.
Let’s just put this out there: although there are ways to definitely save money by bringing in your own food, especially since there are microwaves and mini fridges in every room, we prefer to not cook on vacation. We bring a ton of snacks and fruit for the room, but there are so many reasonable options here, as well as the surrounding area.
GW does not sell day passes to the general public. Admission to the water park comes with your hotel stay. Although this helps a bit with overcrowding, we still prefer to go in the off season, like Fall, or on a weekday. We paid $149.00 a night, excluding taxes and resort fees. This is a great deal, and pretty much the same deal for the 60 day advance booking for weekdays. Sign up for their emails, and you won’t miss out on specials. We are a family of four so we usually just reserve the family suite, which is pretty spacious and comes with 2 queen beds, a pull out couch, microwave, and mini fridge. The base occupancy of four means that your room comes with four wristband waterpark passes.
*The wristband passes also act as your room key, garage exit, and resort charger to pay for food and drinks; this means that you do not have to carry anything with you! However, the maximum occupancy is six, so you can add up to two more guest to your room and pay $50 per guest, allowing additional people to join you. This is especially convenient for local OC residents, since friends can just come and join the fun for the day, and even return the following day. Although check in time is 4:00 pm, access to the park begins at 1:00 pm on day of check-in. Leave you luggage in the car or at the front desk, but pack a swim bag so you can start playing in the park. During the slower season or weekday, our rooms have been ready when we came at 1:00 pm. There are full showers in the bathrooms, bathing suit drying machines, and rental lockers, which is very useful the next day since checkout is at 11:00 am, but you still have access to the waterpark until closing.
So go to Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove, CA! Gather your family and friends and spend some time sipping and sliding! Say hello to Ricardo from us!
Share your favorite meals and drinks from Great Wolf Lodge! What are some of your favorite spots in to get together with friends?