Just in time for Labor Day Weekend… Here’s a trip report from our visit to The Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca!
In 2020 we visited the one in Anaheim, which was the one closest to us (at the time). We stayed a full week (Monday-Friday). We’d have breakfast in our room (Dunkin’ Donuts For The Win), then hit up the waterpark. Kids would do unlimited water slides + swim in the wave pool + float in the lazy river, then lunch in the waterpark (not great, but whatchagonnado).
In the afternoon we’d come back to the room, everyone would shower, then A would blissfully take a nice, long nap; while L gallivanted about on his Magi-Quest (similar to a scavenger hunt). In the evening we’d find a nice park to play, before driving somewhere to get amazing Chinese food.
It. Was. Bliss. Which is why we’ve been keeping our eyes on the one in Manteca wayyy before it opened. It was due to open in early 2021, but got delayed because, well, you know.
And then, TGWL in Manteca ran a sale. For the weekend before L starts school! We jumped at the chance for one last hurrah before school started.
First, the good news: the water park is every bit as magical and fun as I remembered. You gotta go early to grab chairs, but once you’ve got towels & chairs, you’re basically SET for the day. You have a place for all your stuff: wet clothes, dry clothes, snacks, food, tablets, books, water bottles….. We left our tablets at the chairs when no one is around, it all seemed pretty safe.
Covid notwithstanding, the water park itself is extremely safe. There are literally lifeguards standing every 3-6 feet apart and they’re super vigilant. L got in trouble at the wave pool and a lifeguard was right on it. When we floated around the lazy river I think I counted 5-6 different lifeguards that we floated by. There's a staff member guardian EVERY waterslide, both where you enter, and where you exit. The chance of your child being left to wonder, or fall into a pool by accident is very very low.
Re: Covid. With the delta variant, I realized that we were taking a risk since we couldn’t wear masks while swimming/floating. That said, TGWL had fans running the whole time, plus there’s a [loud] ventilation system in place since they keep it so warm (steady 82+ degrees). Also, the waterpark itself is ginormous so easy to space out. There were people, but I wouldn’t say it was crowded. That said, your risk tolerance may vary, and please use your own discretion as to when you might be comfortable visiting (or not).
More good news: lots of stuff for kids to do! Besides the built-in entertainment: waterpark, Magi-Quest, mini-golf, arcade, build-a-bear, mining, bowling; there are also kids-centric activities throughout the day. There are craft times, pre-recorded woodland story times (3 times a day), nightly dance parties, and nightly story times read by a person. In short, lots to do, easy to keep the kids entertained.
Less good news: 1. Due to staffing shortages, dining options in the resort are fairly limited. There may be 2 spots for lunch, and maybe 3 for dinner. If you’d like to have dinner at the “nice” restaurant, Barnwood, definitely make a reservation as they don’t take walk-ins.
2. Again, staffing shortages, there’s no daily housekeeping right now. We didn’t mind since we had a short visit, plus, well, Covid. But if that’s something you care about, maybe wait a bit.
Now for the really bad news: Check-in at the hotel is an absolute nightmare. We got there shortly after 2:00 pm, and literally waited in line for ~90 minutes. After the initial hour someone did come through the line and issued wristbands to family members who are NOT in-line so they could hit up the waterpark first, but yeah, be ready for a wait. This didn’t happen to us, but I heard from several folks that even though they checked-in at 4:00pm, they weren’t able to get into their rooms until 6:00pm, or 8:00 pm (again, those staffing shortages). Just be aware that it could be a bit of a wait.
With all that said, here are my top Tips and Tricks for a great time at The Great Wolf Lodge!
Wear your swimsuit to the lodge so everyone in your family can go to the waterpark while 1 person waits in line to check-in (they have towels and life vests at the waterpark, so no need to bring those)
Bring a waterproof phone case (the ones for sale at the shop is $30)
Bring a million 3M hooks - there’s a general lack of hooks to hang up wet swimsuits + towels
Bring water bottles to refill - ice water available at the bar
You’re not supposed to bring food food into the waterpark, but snacks seemed to be okay (?). I brought some seaweed snacks and chips
Bring a tablet/book for “down time.” Kids will initially go crazy over water slides, but might need a little down time in-between water play
It is really loud inside the waterpark. If you/your kids are noise sensitive, bring earplugs or headphones
There’s a Costco right next door to the Great Wolf Lodge - good place to stock up on snacks & drinks.
You do get a fridge in the room, and there’s a shared microwave in the common area. Good for keeping/heating up leftovers
Breakfast is basically Dunkin’ Donuts (there’s also a Starbucks across the street), but get there early or it could be a long line
For dinner at Barnwood, make a reservation
Mask wearing is not really enforced inside the lodge, so, take that how you will. We wore masks (so did kids) inside the hotel/play area, except for the actual waterpark. The waterpark itself is huge and [I think] well-ventilated, and we felt okay going maskless.
If your little ones get cold (or annoyed with wet clothes) like mine do, bring a DRY change of clothes into the waterpark. There are places to shower, and they can do a quick rinse-off and throw on dry clothes. Or, just towel off and put on dry clothes.
Bring your cellphone (inside those waterproof cases that I mentioned above) and take a million pictures! When you get home, dump those photos into Google Photos album and it’ll print a photo book, automagically! We keep several photo books on our shelf and they are a great reminder that we did fun things (even in the middle of a pandemic)!
My boys love love loved floating in the lazy river (inner tubes are provided)
There is a small arcade area
Fort McKenzie, one corner of the waterpark
Towels are provided. Get there early to grab the lounge chairs!
Life vests are provided. For younger children, they're required to have them on when inside the wave pool
Nightly story times read by staff + meet the characters
What are your Labor Day plans? Share with us in the comments.