Great Wolf Lodge - Pennsylvania Feb 17 -19, 2015 & What Is Going On In The Poconos?

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Saturday, February 21, 2015 1:48 AM

The plan was to leave on Tuesday morning, drive to the Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrin, PA by 1 PM. All was on plan, except that it was snowing at a good clip overnight and I had to get the car cleared up and loaded with the suitcases etc. By the way, I haven’t been to any parks since August.

The highways were well-cleared and there was virtually no traffic – even through the Staten Island Expressway…which is saying a lot because I have never been on that road when there wasn’t heavy traffic.

We made a “safety Break” on the northern most stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike. This one was named for Vince Lombardy. I know he still is a big deal in the world of football, but in the world of New Jersey rest stops he is a disaster. The road to the facility had an insane number of “turn this way and then turn that way and then scoot over here and merge over there” maneuvers. It was like we were punished for making good time across Staten Island and we were to feel the wrath of the spirit of Vince Lombardi for wanting to pee at his alter. By the way, New Jersey doesn’t allow self-serve gas and the guys who were pumping the petrol were FREEZING out there.

We pulled into the drive that surrounds the back part of the property and takes you to the log jam near the front of the complex. There was a 30 minute wait to check in. Of course the room wasn’t ready. We would be texted when it would be and with that text would be the room number. So not only wasn’t my room ready, I didn’t even know which room it was. The lobby was noisy, busy and yet attractive with touches of stuffed woodland critters everywhere, a tree with non-moving animatronic critters - who would perform a story about nature later in the day. A nice fireplace, some restaurants, and a main rear window overlooking the indoor waterpark were also in view. What wasn’t in view…a baggage cart.

It took some doing to score one. This staircase…nope, that staircase…nope. However all along my quest were unusual shaped paintings, electronic (mounted) storybook kiosks, treasure chests, glowing stones, etc. All of these things were placed on each floor were part of either Magic Quest, or Story Quest, or Compass Quest…etc. I couldn’t pay attention to that because I was on a Luggage Cart Quest. I finally bagged my prey in a corridor. I grabbed it and headed back out to into the tundra to get my suitcases. We made it back to the lobby only we didn’t know where to bring the cart. Preflux was hungry so we met our friends another group of three and we would go to the restaurant area downstairs to eat something.

Yet another quest. No tables. It took a long time to get our carts to an area where they wouldn’t be in anybody’s way and yet where we can still see them. The Pizza Hut Express wasn’t accurately named. It was Pizza hut (I am not a fan – but we were all hungry for anything) and it would take about 15 minutes for the mini pizzas to be ready. By then we had to figure out who would try to find a table and who would wait on line for the grub. 20 minutes later we had food (call it that) tables and seats. When you are that hungry, it almost tasted ok. (A mini pizza was 5 dollars in change, the sodas were almost 3 bucks.) We ate, but we still didn’t have our room yet. We could have used a locker to use the waterpark complex, but we wouldn’t have been able to bring our suitcases into the area and we didn’t want to relinquish the carts.

We tried to walk around on the first floor. There was an arcade, a mini-golf course, the Magic Quest Store, more on that later…a spa for girls another for adults, mini – bowling and a build a critter store. We finally found out we would be on the fourth floor. Along the way we saw more moving pictures, kiosks, battle areas, etc for the magic quests things…at least we found our room.

Room Quality

We didn’t pay for any room upgrades. Preflux doesn’t need it and we were hoping for something on the level as a Hampton Inn. We were not disappointed. The room was clean. There was enough space for the three of us and the view, though cold, was nice. The décor was perfect for the facility and it was nice to see that care went into cleanliness. (The bed was a little too soft, but that is just my personal preference.)

Water Park

I am a waterpark fan. I tend to like fun over thrills. This wasn’t huge as in Splish Splash, but the layout was nice, the air and water temperatures were good and it was crowded…but not insane. I am not going to give a slide by slide review of each attraction…but most of the slides were made by pro-slide and the assortment of what they had was good. There were three main stair platforms that led to about seven slides…some that went outside of the building and then came back in. There was a funnel slide, a flashing light slide, a spinning “toilet bowl” slide, a small water-coaster with 3 set of mat-lifts and few others. Most exited into the lazy river attraction which had a few spilling buckets, a small fountain and some air bubble areas as effects. It would take about 8 – 10 minutes to lap it and there were 2 or 3 places to exit and enter. There is also a pool with 4 basketball hoops and enough balls to keep it interesting as well as a wave pool (5 min on 5 min off – waves were weak) a hot tub, a second hot tub for adults only, a large interactive play area for families with two smaller slides – though many of the interactive things weren’t working correctly. The tipping bucket at the front of it made for a nice splash zone. There were two small areas for little kids and a hold on to the rope and walk across the obstacles attraction.

The lines were not terrible, but they can thin out during peak dining periods. There is a snack bar on one end and a bar on the other. The bathrooms on the side of the complex were FREEZING. The ones by the showers and changing stations were warmer. By the way, lockers are 10 bucks plus a 10 dollar deposit. When you check out – you can use the waterpark for the rest of the day, but you will most likely need a locker – and make sure your car is already loaded before you go to waterpark on your last day.

I give the waterpark a 7.3. What they have is good, but I still wanted more variety and shorter wait times. So did everyone else.

The Quests

There are so many different quests that I couldn’t keep up with it. The idea is that you buy a game, (About $15) get a wand (Another $15), decorate your wand (That’s extra and the extras have more power) and become a magi. That means you run around the hotel pointing at things, listening to what the things tell you and then running somewhere else. You can also purchase capes, outfits, wings, sparkly thingies, etc. And randomly point at anything you meet…including people. When you complete a quest…and I’m sure it’s possible to do so…you have to buy another quest. The wand in our room kept making “Whooosh” noises. (It still is) This is a huge money maker and a good reason why the waterpark closes at 9 PM. Almost every kid goes on at least one quest and it’s like a mini Harry Potter fan fest.

ARCADE

I was hoping for pinball. Most of it was redemption games for prizes. Everything gets scanned on a card and it keeps track of the tickets that you won and the credits that you have. I am not a big fan of these things, but it makes a TON of money. One game just started spewing out hundreds of tickets. As Charlie Brown once said, “I got a rock.”

GLOW IN THE DARK MIN-GOLF

This is golf in the dark except that you use neon-colored balls. There are only 9 holes and they are right on top of one another. The borders are cement blocks and most of the holes are missing some blocks. We tried it. It was ok. It was really “mini” mini golf and it is a separate admission. A lot of people were doing this.

LOOSE MOOSE

I thought a “Loose Moose” was what you get when a lactose intolerant Bullwinkle downs a quart of milk. (Rim-shot) We ate at the Scotrin Diner down the road (Good grub) for breakfast and one dinner – but we did try the buffet at the Lodge for breakfast on the last day. Adults $15 kids $10. (Drinks were extra) I have to admit the quality, variety and presentation of the food were quite good and we all were satisfied. The waitress who brought the coffee and drinks was very polite and attentive and she even let us know when they were closing in case we wanted anything else. There was a screen for Fox News and another for the Disney Channel. In another room, was a bar that was quite nice looking that overlooked the waterpark. We also had one dinner down the road at the Texas Roadhouse. I thought it was just ok, but the other adults liked it.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

No apathy here. Every staff member was eager to help anyone and was extremely polite. From the people at the front desk, to the younger employees in the arcade to the housekeeping staff...Disney-like attention to customer service.

OTHER CUSTOMERS

I have to admit that despite the fact that this was one of the peak weeks of the year and the place was sold-out, the clientele, including the children were very well behaved and patient. I didn’t notice any overly annoying children or adults. Even in long lines for food or snacks.

SPECIAL CUSTOMERS

There was a group of people who had children with severely special needs. It was nice to see that they were treated with respect and compassion. As it should be.

COST

We got an insanely great deal for our two-day stay. The room was about $150 per night for the three of us. Others paid as much as $700 for a suite or special room. I don’t know how Mother Fluxer found this rate, but I’m glad she did. She is not really a parker at all, but I was a willing participant.

COULD THE POCONOS BE THE WISCONSIN DELLS OF THE EAST?

A lot of things are happening in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania and it hasn’t been spoken about on this board too often. Cammelback is building Aquatopia only a few minutes from Great Wolf and the tag line on the sign near the diner is something like, “Splash Bigger.” Kalahari is also coming soon. I think this will have an effect on the one-game-in-town Great Wolf and will make everyone “up the ante.” I would love some comments about this…especially from anyone who lives in the area.

YET ANOTHER HOBBY

At the lodge we scored a magazine for restaurants and local shopping. I stopped by a very cool and unusual record and CD store in Stroudsburg. Great find! I bought a country oldie CD for 5 bucks that I proudly added to my collection. I try to support local record stores whenever possible.

OVERALL

Yes I made a few complaints on this trip report, but let’s get real. We were lucky to get a great deal and my family had a good time. Would I go again? YES, but only if we could score another great deal. I wouldn’t pay $700 a night for any park – but again I want to see what the competition will do for the quality of the attractions in the area as well as the pricing.

Thank you as always for reading this.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015 3:10 PM

$150 is a really good rate! We're big fans of GWL (disclaimer: My wife was on their ask-a-mom panel at one time), and we've been to Sandusky, Mason and Grand Mound. I feel like they're a necessary destination when you live in a place that has winter. We've generally had really good service. The pricing on food is a little hit or miss, and in places like Grand Mound there are no alternatives. The Mason location is expensive during Kings Island's season, but for that sprawling park it's worth every penny to have that proximity.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015 10:21 PM

Dang. Wish I could get $150 a Nite for the one down the street. I'd totally do that.

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Monday, March 16, 2015 6:53 PM

I have yet to hit up Great Wolf because I can't justify spending the kind of money they're asking when I live so close. I just don't need to stay there, so I can't go to the park. This is perturbing to me, because I guarantee I'd attend the park in the winter if I could purchase a one-day admission only. That being said, I've heard Great Wolf does a fantastic job with theming and cleanliness, and the hotel rooms are apparently pretty cool if you have little ones.

I DO wonder as well what will happen once Kalahari comes along. I have a friend who is working on some of the construction, and they said it is gonna blow everything out of the water. All details I've wheedled out of this person point to epic winter entertainment, and I would be surprised if Great Wolf didn't end up feeling a big push to add on to better compete. I also wonder if they'd rethink admission-only sales to bring in more revenue.

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Monday, March 16, 2015 7:42 PM

The new indoor waterpark at Camelback apparently offers day passes to the waterpark IF you've bought tickets for their other activities (skiing, snow tubing, etc.) Otherwise, it's for hotel guests only. $39.95 plus whatever you paid for the other activity. Yeah, that's a lot, but better than $150 or more if you stayed overnight.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 1:48 PM

True, but the overnight prices generally include 4 or more waterpark admissions on both they day of your stay and the next day, so really, you're saving money by staying if you have multiple people.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 2:42 PM

Even though, in our case, Kalahari Sandusky is only 45 minutes away, it does feel like a mini vacation. When you check in to a resort, lug bags to the room, and spend the night away from home, it's easy to forget how close you still are. Treat it like a vacation and it becomes one, especially to the kids. This can be a cheap, easy getaway to recharge the entire family over a weekend. All without breaking the bank.

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Friday, March 20, 2015 1:47 PM

All this IS true, but again, since I don't have kids and live within 30 minutes of the park, it's not particularly worth it to me. It always comes down to a value versus cost debate, really.

Of course, since the time I would likely visit would be in the winter, not having to worry about the weather for an evening or two might make staying overnight worth the extra cost as well. Often the weather is so much worse in the Poconos, so relaxing instead of driving home in snow and ice, AND getting to be in a water park...sounding better and better right about NOW actually. *laugh*

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