The Coast News Group
Kids of all ages enjoy the 476-foot-long raft ride down the River Canyon Run at Great Wolf Lodge waterpark. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
CommunityHit the Road

Hit the Road: The perfect place to spend a hot summer day

Clang! Clang! Clang!

This bell is a shrill warning to all those at Great Wolf Lodge Southern California to either get out of the way or gather for a dousing by a thousand of gallons of water that gush from the giant bucket above.

Kids and grownups alike go back again and again for the big dump, just one of the many water elements at the recently opened hotel and theme park in Garden Grove. Besides the 105,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, there are games, arcades, movies, a kid’s spa and interactive electronic “quests” that send players up, down and around the hotel.

To sum up Great Wolf Lodge in numbers:

565,000 – The number of gallons of recirculated water in the entire water park (less than the amount in one Olympic-sized swimming pool).

21,619 – The number of gallons of water that recirculate in the Fort Mackenzie play structure every 30 minutes.

4,000 – The number of feet of waterslides.

603 – The number of suites in the lodge.

476 – The number of feet in the River Canyon raft run.

84 – The temperature of the indoor water park year-round.

40 – The number of feet you drop while sliding down Coyote Cannon, a pipe-style spiral flume ride.

13 – The number of Great Wolf resorts in North America.

6 – The number of restaurants at the resort. Two are allergy- and gluten-free-friendly.

1 – The number of Dunkin’ Donuts stores. (Get there early; the line often is long.)

I was invited to spend a weekend at Great Wolf recently and took with me my husband, Jerry, and two 9-year-old grandsons, David Ondash and Jordan Barnhart, both of Carlsbad.

Upon check in, we all received wolf ears, which the boys wore every minute except when in the water. Our room had a separate, faux rock “wolf den” for the boys, furnished with bunkbeds and a television. They loved their own space, especially when they later discovered that their magic wands (used for the MagiQuest game), also animated a crazy fish and woodland creatures that dotted the walls of the den.

Every room is equipped with a microwave and small frig – invaluable when you have small children and want to save a bit of money. We saw many visitors with large coolers.

All guests receive waterproof wristbands that replace room keys, but they should come with a warning. My grandsons were thrilled to discover that the enclosed chip also activates the hotel vending machines. (No, those drinks and chips are not free.) Fortunately, they didn’t do too much damage, but the possibilities are great, especially if you are hosting a group of kids.

During our weekend stay, we were busy every minute.

The boys loved the waterpark, which features elements for all ages and levels of courage. One day was cool and rainy, but it didn’t matter. All activities, except for a small portion of the waterpark, are indoors.

The only challenge was what to do next, but it forced the boys to negotiate. Limits also are determined by the activity package that guests purchase.

At first, we were a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out the MagiQuest game, which involves searching the hotel on several floors for kiosks where players wave their electronic wands to learn whether they’ve found the treasure, magic crystal or mythical characters. But it kept all of us engaged and moving. We insisted the boys take the stairs when we could, but also saw a lot of action on the eight elevators. MagiQuest also forced the boys to strategize.

Prices start at $250 per night for a room that sleeps four and includes admission to the waterpark. Visit

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at [email protected]