Trip Report – Great Wolf Lodge Concord North Carolina

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I love water parks, but being bald makes going out in the sun too much a bad thing.  Great Wolf Lodge solves that concern because their water parks are indoors!!!  Woohoo.

 

What is Great Wolf Lodge?

Great Wolf Lodge is a chain of hotels that offer a fantastic family environment.  They have locations throughout the US, such as Boston, Charlotte, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, and Washington.  Most are located in the Midwest and East Coast.

The gigantic waterpark is at a comfortable 84 degrees all year round. Waterpark passes are included for each registered guest and are valid from the day you arrive through departure and are reserved exclusively for Great Wolf Lodge overnight guests. From slides to spas to sweets and Story Time, there is more fun per square foot than we have room to list. And if that weren’t enough, they have an enormous arcade too.

The water parks inside the hotel are only for hotel guests, which is awesome!  Because the attendance is limited, whenever there was a line for a ride, it was maybe 10-15 people.  Beyond the water park, there is miniature golf, an arcade, bowling, Cub Club activities, MagiQuest magic wand adventure, and Scooops Kid Spa.  There are several food options on location, including Dunkin’ Donuts, a buffet, a bar for the adults, and Starbucks.

Throughout the day, they also have activities for the family, such as Wolf Walk, The Great Clock Tower Story, and Story Time.

There were two things that made me pull the trigger on booking our vacation.  One of my favorite shows is Undercover Boss, and the CEO of Great Wolf Lodge was on an episode as the first female CEO to be on the show.

Here’s the YouTube of the entire episode.

(Link in case the video doesn’t show above http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjPm-hwNcrQ)

And the second thing is that I saw that our timeshare company, Diamond Resorts, has an affiliate relationship with Great Wolf Lodge!  So, I get to use my points for my reservation rather than paying cash.

 

Why Great Wolf Lodge in Concord North Carolina?

They have been talking about building a Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove, near Disneyland, for several years, but those plans were put on hold due to the economy.  So, I knew we would have to travel to experience all the fun!

Luckily one of the 12 locations throughout the US was within a couple hours of where our family lives in North Carolina.  So, we booked two rooms at the Concord Great Wolf Lodge, which is about 20 minutes from Charlotte.  One room for our me, my wife, my son, my brother, and my Mom and a second room for my wife’s brother, his wife, and their kids.  My brother lives a couple hours away and my brother-in-law lives about 4 hours away.

This would be a perfect opportunity to spend Labor Day Weekend with both sides of the family at a fun destination.

 

How Did We Get There From California?

My wife doesn’t have much vacation, and we normally fly Southwest because of the Companion Pass.  But, we needed to fly a red-eye from California on Friday night so that my wife wouldn’t need to take a vacation day from work, so Southwest wouldn’t work.  If we flew Saturday morning, we wouldn’t get to Charlotte until the evening given the distance and 3 hour time change.

My wife was approved for the Barclay’s US Airways® Premier World Mastercard® a few months earlier.  This card gives you a coupon for 2 companions to fly for $99 each (plus taxes) when you buy a ticket for at least $250.  Perfect!  The best thing is that the lounge pass was good for 24 hours, so they told us that we could visit the Charlotte lounge as well using the same coupon if we wanted to freshen up after our red-eye flight.  (You learn something new every day!!!)

 

We flew from LAX, but not before we used another benefit of the Barclay’s US Airways® Premier World Mastercard®, one coupon for free lounge access.  The entrance is a little hidden.  When you get past security, you need to make a hard left u-turn and go past Starbucks and California Pizza Kitchen.

US Air Lounge at LAX hidden

Then, you’ll walk up a long hallway and it will be on your left.

On Way to US Air Lounge at LAX

Once inside, there were light snacks available…

US Air Lounge at LAX snacks

and a bar serving domestic beers and house wine for free.  Other drinks were available for an additional cost.

US Air Lounge at LAX bar

After a couple of drinks and some snacks, we boarded our flight.  I wish it was uneventful, but Timmy had other ideas.  He got sick about 90 minutes into the flight all over me and a little on my wife.  Not the best time to have checked our bags.  =(  Luckily, a kind gentleman had mercy on me and gave me a fresh undershirt from his carry-on.

 

What Was Great Wolf Like?

The resort is simply awesome.  As kind of a big kid at heart, I was in heaven with the water park and all the family fun.

Great Wolf Lodge entrance

And the lobby surely impressed with the fun adventure that awaited us…  At the Clock Tower is where the nightly bedtime stories are held.  Also, there is an animatronic show about a little boy lost in the woods that was really cute and the kids loved.  As an adult, however, the songs quickly got stuck in your head… and not in a good way!  But, it was all worth it to watch the kiddos in a trance as they took in the show.

Great Wolf Lodge lobby

 

How Were The Rooms?

There are several room choices available, including some that are themed.  Every room is a suite, complete with beds, a pullout couch, and a small fridge.  Room occupancy ranges from 4 to 8 people.

With Diamond Resorts, we had the choice of Family Suite, Grand Bear Suite, or KidCabin Suite.  We chose to book 2 Family Suites.

Great Wolf Lodge Family Suite bedroom

And the view from the other side including the pullout couch…

Great Wolf Lodge Family Suite sitting area

And there was a nice balcony to sit on, with a view of a couple water slide tubes…

Great Wolf Lodge Family Suite balcony

 

What About The Water Park?

Each person gets a pass for the water park, and you can enter the water park when it opens, even if you can’t check in until later that day.  The same thing goes when it is time to check out… you can check out, then continue to use the water park until it closes.

The kiddie pool is where Timmy spent most of his time.

Great Wolf Lodge kiddie pool

And he liked all of the water features, even if he wasn’t yet ready to get fully wet.

Great Wolf Lodge Timmy in the pool

For the more adventurous, there was a wave pool, several water slides… both for individuals and for 2-4 people on a huge inner tube… and a

Great Wolf Lodge Chinook Cove Activity Pool

and there was Fort Mackenzie, which was very popular with kids in the 5-15 year range.  Timmy’s only 2 1/2, so he wasn’t too thrilled with all the action… especially not the big bucket on top that would pour out every so often.

Great Wolf Lodge Fort Mackenzie
Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

 

How Much Were The Rooms?

We used our timeshare points, so the room didn’t cost us anything additional out of pocket.  We did use about 12,000 points of our annual allotment of 15,000 points for the 2 rooms.  That’s somewhat expensive, but this was a worthy use of points… a great location, near family, and we had both sides of the family there to enjoy the Labor Day Weekend with.

Since Great Wolf Lodge is an affiliate of Diamond Resorts, there was not an exchange fee through RCI or Interval International, like there would be at some resorts.  Our only cost was “opportunity cost” meaning that the points we used could have been used for another vacation if we paid cash for our rooms.

If you wanted to pay cash for a similar room, the cost would have been $279 a night, plus taxes over the holiday weekend, for a total of about $700.  Depending upon the night of the week and time of year, I’ve seen rooms go as low as $189 a night.

Given the cash price versus what we paid for our annual timeshare dues, the cash price would have been cheaper.  However, since we’re already required to pay our annual timeshare dues, if we paid cash for the room, we would have needed to find another place to stay to use our Diamond Resorts timeshare points that would have returned more value.  Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and not worry about squeezing every last cent out of the equation.

So, it was time to head back to California, but not before we got a picture with the wood-carved bear…

Great Wolf Lodge big bear

 

How Was The US Airways Lounge Club At Charlotte?

We had a leftover lounge pass from my since-canceled Barclay’s US Airways® Premier World Mastercard®, so we figured we’d check out the Charlotte US Airways lounge.  Again, only light snacks, domestic beers and house wines were included.  The people were definitely much nicer at the LAX lounge, but the Charlotte lounge was much bigger and better decorated and had great views of the planes as they lined up at the gates.

Timmy kept an eye out for our plane…

US Air Lounge at Charlotte looking for planes

While Mommy and Daddy visited the bar (one at a time, that is)…

US Air Lounge at Charlotte bar

and raided the snack area for the upcoming flight.

US Air Lounge at Charlotte snacks

 

Conclusion

We had a blast this Labor Day Weekend… It was great to spend time with both of our families and enjoy a great experience at the water park.  My nieces loved getting pampered at Scoooops Day Spa, and my brother-in-law and I went to Bass Pro Shop for some “man time.”  The workers were completely respectful and went out of their way to ensure we were enjoying ourselves.  I’d totally recommend visiting a Great Wolf Lodge in your area or if you make it your destination.

Bald Thoughts Rated (5/5)
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