New Year’s at Great Wolf Lodge

I have never been a big New Year’s Eve person, as drinking and dancing are not particularly my idea of a good time.  But magic, miniature golfing, and waterparks… yes, please.  Coming off a great Christmas with the grandparents, the girls and I headed up to Scottsdale to spend our New Year’s holiday at Great Wolf Lodge.

“Howl if you are ready for New Year’s!”

While I have only been once with them, the girls are big fans of Great Wolf Lodge, having gone a couple times with their mother.  So they were the ones showing me around.  We decided to stay for three days and two nights, to not only have a full day where we were not rushed to check out, but also so that we could get their multi-day discount.  While we got one of the cheapest rooms, the bunk beds were all the girls cared about once they got to the room.


Elaina immediately nabbed the top bunk, while Gabriella was content with the bottom.  After we checked in, they immediately wanted to go play MagiQuest.

“Harry Potter who?”

MagiQuest (not Magic Quest, as I learned halfway through our visit) is a game using special wands to interact with various items all over the bottom floor of the resort.  And I do mean all over, as we walked more than five miles each day playing the game.

These things are everywhere…

To start, they simply walked up to one of the many computer screens at the resort, pointed their wand at it, and then chose a quest.

Gandalf has got nothing on the Gabbs

Each quest consists of pointing your wand at pictures, items, and other screens to find specific items (the quest screen gives you a general location to search).  Once you have all the required items, you turn in your quest and move to the next one.  Since this was the activity that the girls were most interested in playing, this was the only one that I purchased in advance, with a package that included their fancy wands and belts.

All Pajama’d up for story time

After playing for a few hours, including an hour or so at the waterpark, the girls got in their pajamas and headed to the 8pm story time.  While they had a great time playing with other kids, the story only made the even more tired, so we headed back up for the night.  Less than half a day in and they were already having a blast.

“Avada Kedavra… oops… wrong spell.”

After waking up, but before restarting our MagiQuest adventure, we headed to a local supermarket for supplies.  While I would not classify Great Wolf Lodge food as expensive, it is definitely not worth buying meals there if you have two picky eaters.  For us, healthy snacks were the way to go for most of the trip.

“Wow.  This really puts my jewelry box at home to shame.”

After that slight detour though, it was right back to the activities, mainly MagiQuest.  It was an absolute blast, but I ended up carrying Gabriella on my shoulders for a significant part of it.  Definitely got a workout in doing it.

Now that is how to effectively use the bumpers

After the girls started getting tired from spellcasting (really from walking), we headed over to the mini-bowling alley to play a game.  Given that they play some weekends on a regulation lane with a full-size ball, using a smaller ball on a tiny lane was right up their alley (Dad Joke!).

It’s a technique…

As always, Gabriella got a little crazy by kicking the ball a few times or letting it go a few feet before the line.  We had a great time though and it certainly kept their interest a little more than a standard game.

No caption necessary

After our frames were done, we moved next door to the arcade, with mini-bowling being one of the best values of our trip.

The safest way to prepare them for the zombie apocalypse

To say that the girls had a good time in the arcade would be a huge understatement, and their happiness had nothing to do with acquiring tickets for prizes.

I probably spent $10 on this over the course of our trip, but it was so worth it

They played carnival games, rode motorcycles, threw skee-balls, and rode on a mini merry-go-round.  While Elaina was partial to the water spray gun game, Gabriella kept wanting to go on this simple ride that just lifted her in the air.  Just loved it.

And her professional Whack-a-Mole dreams were suddenly dashed

They had a great time in the arcade, but eventually we had to move on, saving our tickets for turn-in on our final day.

A hole-in-one right out the gate

The next event was miniature golf.  While the girls later told me they had a lot of fun, Elaina looked “interested,” but Gabriella was downright bored.

“Currently the best putter on tour, Elaina needs to sink this to retain her two-stroke lead.”

It probably helped that Elaina sank her first putt of the day for a hole-in-one; even at Dad’s game, Elaina still finds a way to beat me.

“Seven.  Eight.  Nine.  Let’s just call it a six and move on.”

After they ended up fighting about six holes in (“Elaina’s taking too long” or “Gabby hit my ball.”), I was happy for this activity to end.

Pictured: Redemption

And after botching the first few holes, I finally found my rhythm and starting putting well again.  Looking up during our match, there was the high ropes course.  The girls still seem a little too young for it, but it is something that we might have to try next time.

It is sad to say, but they were not a fan of Ben & Jerry’s

Between activities, the girls had snacks and ice cream, while I had copious amounts of coffee.  I mean, they had a Ben & Jerry’s right next to a Dunkin’, so we all got to indulge a little more than usual.

Whether it is Glinda or Galinda, the Gabbs has got you beat at good witchcraft

And after another stint in the pool, it was back to casting spells.

Magi get quite temperamental if you sneak up on them…

Which meant a lot more walking.  Gotta get in those steps, right?

And if you can believe it, Dad was even more tired

After eating pizza and pasta for our last meal in 2019, we went back to the room to stay up until midnight.  Sure we did.  The girls watched about an hour of television then passed out, with me following them an hour or so later.  We were just so tired from so many activities and had absolutely no chance.

Finally some waterpark pictures!

We woke up a little early on our final day at the resort, as we wanted to get a good spot at the waterpark.  We played in the pool for a bit, while the girls jumped back and forth between there and the kiddie waterslides.

Race #57 goes to Elaina

This one was certainly their favorite.  And it was great because there was a giant faucet next to it that poured out warm water… so I just stood there under the faucet, watching them and staying warm.

Love the peace sign as she flies out of the chute

We then headed over to the kid area, where the girls could repeatedly go down the waterslides.  Again, and again, and again.

“Brace yourself!”

That is until Elaina fell while running outside of the pool, scrapping her knee and nose.  After that, they kind of both wanted to go back inside to do other activities.

I think this was Elaina’s payback for beating her at golf and bowling…

That included one last stop at the arcade to turn in their tickets, and for Elaina to royally trounce me at air hockey.

She can now use magic to turn herself into a wolf

And, of course, we closed out our trip with another two hours of MagiQuest.

Step aside, Harry Dresden… there is a new master in town.

If you could not tell, the girls enjoyed this activity more than anything. In fact, on New Year’s, after defeating a goblin king and slaying a dragon, they completed their questline.

Elaina says that casting with both hands is “more fashionable”

And then kept playing.  Definitely a great purchase that I would highly recommend.

All those spells are bound to make you tired

So did we have a great time at Great Wolf Lodge?  Yes, we absolutely did.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, but it really depends on your family structure and what you want to get out of your visit.  While the rooms were great and the girls got amazing use out of their MagiQuest package, we severely underutilized the waterpark, which is one of the big draws of Great Wolf Lodge and the main reasons the rooms cost so much (the waterpark is included with the room).  If you have a larger family that can stay in the same size room and are planning to use the waterpark more, you are definitely getting more bang for your buck.  As a finance and stats guy, I just had to do a cost benefit analysis on this vacation versus our one at Walt Disney World.  Including all expenses, Walt Disney World cost a little less than three times as much as Great Wolf Lodge, but we certainly had more than three times as much fun and have much better memories from Orlando.  Not knocking Great Wolf Lodge at all, but I would have felt better about the price if we had used the waterpark more.  Either way, definitely do your research to get the best deal, including planning and purchasing your activities accordingly.  My girls were happy, so that is all that matters right now, but we will have to try again when they get a little older.

As always, the smiles at the end of the trip are what counts

Thanks again for checking in on us.


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