Our daughter happens to be a water baby. She loves splashing in anything – kicking her feet in the bath, slapping her hands under a running faucet, jumping in small puddles and lately, slushing through melted snow. Pool season can’t come fast enough – it’s hard to resist those pleading eyes asking: “Mommy, is it splash, splash time yet?”
Many people rave about the indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge, and I had seen it on Undercover Boss. Friends cautioned that it is a little pricey. The attractions are only open to overnight guests, so a day trip to save money wouldn’t work.
Honestly, the idea of an indoor water park didn’t appeal to me. I envisioned the thick smell of chlorine and mold growing on the walls due to all the humidity. But the Great Wolf Lodge marketing – commercials of little kids splashing joyously on water slides — did me in. There are special offers for booking early, staying multiple nights or being flexible on weekdays.
Great Wolf Lodge has 15 locations across the US and Canada with two more on the way. There is one in Williamsburg, but the closest one to the New River Valley is in Concord, N.C., about three hours away.
The Concord Great Wolf Lodge is the second largest and the eighth largest indoor theme park in North America. It is conveniently near the popular Carowinds amusement park and close to restaurants, malls and shops. Before checking in, you might pop in to a grocery store for snacks, drinks or cereal as every room has a sink, microwave and fridge. You can stretch your budget if you eat something in your room in the morning, hit the water slides and then take a break for lunch at one of the cafes. I recommend getting dinner out and maybe ordering one of the special desserts on the room service menu later. The water park also has an outdoor section and ropes course, so don’t forget sunscreen.
There is no valet service, so grab a cart and unload at the entrance before self-parking. At check-in, pick up wolf ears for the kids and get the lay of the land. In Concord, the Great Clock Tower comes alive throughout the day with woodland characters that are the central theme to the parks, lending awareness to the outdoors and wildlife preservation. Evening story time, as well as character shows, adult and child dancing and yoga instruction all take place at the clock tower. Surrounding it are the two main restaurants – a buffet and a more formal (but still family casual) choice – along with a gift shop and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Youngsters are running around the resort waving wands and pointing them at the walls. Besides the wilderness theme, the lodge has a “magical forest” undertone with fairy holograms, talking trees and shiny amulets. Children’s imaginations soar when battling the “Shadowlord” on their quest to collect evidence, uncover secrets and cast spells to save the light before it vanishes forever. Questing is an extra cost – at least $35 per child – but if you are staying for a few nights, it definitely adds another dimension to the experience.
The real fun, however, is the water park. It only takes moments to understand that this concept holds water. Although the place does smell of chlorine, it is not overpowering and it IS clean – no mold despite the warm water mist and wet, rubber padded floors. There is a large wave pool, cabanas for rent and a warm pool with an obstacle course. The eight, fast water slides are tucked in the back corner and although you enter them on the inside, they are built on the outside of the water park and require either a mat or a two or four-person inner tube that you pick up before you climb to the top. Most memorable of the slides is the Howlin’ Tornado. Using a four-person tube, you twist and turn until you are dropped six stories into a funnel where you swing your way down the walls before a splashdown going through the last tunnel.
The cute cub paw pool is for little ones, complete with gently sloping water slides and toddler-sized jet skis that squirt water. There are towel stations and floaties all over the park. Arrive early and find a seat with a table or stake your claim to the few lounge chairs by the wave pool. Remember to first see how far the giant water bucket at the top of the interactive tree fort dumps every 10 minutes after the bell tolls. You don’t want to be sitting in the thunderous water’s wake.
Take a break from the water and indulge in a massage at the Elements Spa – they have a pampering experience for little girls at Scoops kid’s spa where young ladies are treated to ice cream-themed fizzy scrubs and delicious nail color manicures.
Still, the most exciting sound is your kid’s laughter that lasts throughout the trip. Our daughter slept soundly every night, exhausted by the day’s excitement. Every morning she awoke refreshed asking: “Mommy, is it splash, splash time?” And this time I could look into those eyes and say: “Yes, it is splash, splash time – always at the Great Wolf Lodge!”

Text and Photos by Krisha Chachra

Krisha Chachra served eight years on the Blacksburg Town Council and has written for NRV Magazine for 11 years. She writes often about travel and NRV life and has explored over 40 countries on 6 continents. Krisha has reported and hosted shows for public radio and television and has freelanced for USA Weekend Magazine, the Honolulu Advertiser and the Alexandria Gazette among others. Her book about returning to Blacksburg, Homecoming Journals, may be found online or in local bookstores.

Email her at kchachra@aol.com