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I visited the biggest Great Wolf Lodge in the US, and my family's $335-a-night stay was totally worth it

Andrea McHugh   

I visited the biggest Great Wolf Lodge in the US, and my family's $335-a-night stay was totally worth it
  • My family visited Great Wolf Lodge Maryland, the largest location of the family-friendly resort.
  • The resort is known for its indoor water parks, and we enjoyed many on-site activities and games.

In November, my husband and I surprised our 9-year-old daughter and her 11-year-old cousin with a trip to the largest Great Wolf Lodge in the US.

There are multiple Great Wolf Lodges in North America, but we visited the one in Perryville, Maryland, about an hour from Philadelphia.

Our stay in the basic suite cost about $335 a night for four and included unlimited water-park access for all of us.

Great Wolf Lodge impressed me right off the bat

I made the reservation for our stay within two weeks of our arrival, and the booking agent made the process easy.

The agent also made it clear we could take advantage of the resort on the entire day of our arrival even though check-in was at 4 p.m. They said we could also take advantage of the water park until it closed on the day we left.

We were pleasantly surprised, too, that our room was ready when we arrived at the resort around 11 a.m.

With our complimentary wolf-ears headbands on, we headed to our room to get ready for the water park.

The standard suite exceeded our expectations

This Great Wolf Lodge is the largest in the world at about 48 acres. That in mind, we got in a lot of steps during the walk from the lobby to the block of 700 suites.

We were fortunate to have a first-floor suite, which made accessing the restaurants, water park, and events in the lobby especially convenient. We saved time not waiting for elevators.

Our woodlands-inspired space felt new and was exceptionally spacious with two queen beds, a living area, a full-size sofa sleeper, and a handy mini-fridge.

There are also bigger themed suites and premium suites available — but I'm not sure the upgrades would be worth it for us since most of our stay was spent outside our room.

The water park is massive and fun for all ages

I thought the water park was going to be packed because our visit was the day after Thanksgiving, but it didn't feel as crowded as I'd feared.

We had plenty of room to explore the 22 waterslides, wave pool, lazy river, and multiple water playgrounds because they're sprawled over 126,000 square feet.

Seating was available throughout the space, and I found that it was best to arrive when the park opened at 9 a.m. to get first dibs.

Private cabanas with TVs, loungers, and servers for food and drinks were available to rent, but they could run upwards of $500 during peak times.

All of us loved trying the thrilling 40-foot drop of Coyote Cannon and going full-speed on the Mountain Edge Raceway.

We also loved cruising down the lazy river between our rides on the thrill slides.

Eventually, I worked my way up to the Wolf Tail, an attraction where the floor dropped out from under my feet, and my body was hurled into a nearly vertical 20-foot free fall, then sent careening through a 360-degree, high-speed loop. Then I did it again.

Most of the lines for the slides moved at a good pace, but the wait for the popular five-person raft ride was long, especially because not many rafts were in use.

Activities are à la carte and can be a budget-buster

There was a lively energy throughout Great Wolf's Adventure Park, where most of the family-friendly activities are centered.

Although access to the water park is included in each stay, most activities here are extra and can quickly add up.

At $8 per person, a round of Howl in One mini-golf felt worth the price. The nine-hole course features sand traps, tricky shots, and giant animals. It was fun for all of us.

Even though we were visiting during a holiday weekend, we were able to walk up and golf immediately, but you can reserve a tee time in advance.

We thought the bowling was perfect for first-timers

With shorter lanes and lighter balls, duckpin bowling at Ten Paw Alley is a great activity for the whole family, too.

The colorful alley is festively decorated with mood lighting and ample comfortable seating.

Even better, bowling shoes aren't required. Younger, less experienced players can use bumpers so they don't get frustrated throwing gutter balls.

It cost us $7 per person for each round, and it was fun to watch the kids improve with each game.

The ropes course was the biggest thrill at the adventure park — and worth the cost

Even with the butterflies in our stomachs, our family couldn't wait to try the indoor Howlers Peak Ropes Course.

We paid just more than $60 for the four of us to do a single climb (the alternative is about $25 per person for all-day access). After waiting 20 minutes, we completed our safety tutorial and got secured in our harnesses to start our aerial adventure.

We successfully crossed wobbly rope bridges, rope nets, and other thrilling obstacles. My heart was pounding as I completed the second-story section of the course, but my daughter braved the third story high above.

Though pricey, the ropes course was the most exhilarating activity we participated in.

A lot of activities seemed to work for all ages, from arcade games to interactive quests

MagiQuest is an interactive, scavenger-hunt-style digital game that's wildly popular at Great Wolf Lodges across the country.

The fantasy game involves completing quests around the resort, but our group didn't play it during this trip.

Each player needs a wand to participate, and they start at $20. The game also costs $17 per person — and there are optional accessories, costumes, and gear available to buy.

Costs can quickly add up, but wands can be reused if you return.

There's also an interactive mine where folks can pan for gemstones (purchased by the bag) in an elaborate water feature.

Instead, we chose to play various games at the Northern Lights Arcade, including Skee-Ball, air hockey, virtual-reality video games, and more. It was fun to collect tickets and redeem them for prizes.

The arcade can get pricey, but you can control your spending by adding only a certain amount to gameplay cards. You can always add more.

Though the resort offers a variety of dining options, I think there's room for improvement

Great Wolf Lodge allows guests to bring their own food and drinks into the resort, just not into the water park.

This allows visitors on a budget to save considerably as dining here adds up. As we were only staying one night, we simply packed some light snacks and beverages for the room.

For guests seeking a hearty breakfast, the Campfire Kitchen has a buffet with all the staples one might expect.

As we, and a good many guests, were eager to head to the water park, we ordered bagels, large coffees, and wraps for pick up at the resort's Dunkin' location via the Great Wolf Lodge app during our visit.

I also liked that Freshwoods Market, a small marketplace off the lobby, was stocked with grab-and-go breakfast items such as yogurt and cups of fresh fruit.

At the water park, guests can order from Timbers, which offers a predictable amusement-park-style menu of burgers, chicken-tender baskets, chicken sandwiches, and other kid-friendly meals.

On day one, I had an unremarkable grilled-chicken Caesar salad there. Later on, I tried to order a veggie burger or grilled-chicken sandwich, both of which were unavailable.

Some healthier and more diverse food options, especially for adults, would have been appreciated. All told, we spent more than $100 over the two days for mostly fried lunches.

By the time dinner rolls around, many families are wiped out, as we were. Fortunately, the Campfire Kitchen turns into the Campfire Cantina by night for casual dining.

Another dining option is Barnwood. It's open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is promoted as Great Wolf's "rustic yet elegant" eatery.

Although "elegant" might be a stretch, it did have the vibe of a pretty nice full-service restaurant, and its bar was hopping.

I had Barnwood on my radar for dinner, but a full day of waterslides and adventure had us all on board with grabbing salad and a large pepperoni pie ($22) at Hungry As a Wolf pizzeria to eat back in our room.

The Great Wolf staff also hosts activities and dance parties

If your kids have any energy left — they probably will — Great Wolf hosts "late-night" dance parties in the Grand Lobby, one at 7 p.m. and another at 8:45 p.m.

It was a hit with the kids (many clad in pajamas) and some adults who were also ready to show off their moves.

The music was fun and high energy, and an enthusiastic group of staffers led the crowd in easy-to-learn dances and choreography.

The lobby hosts other complimentary activities, including yoga, crafts, and meet and greets with Great Wolf's mascots.

Overall, Great Wolf Lodge Maryland has a lot to offer across its impressive campus

The staff was terrific, the rooms and public spaces felt new and clean, and our suite was spacious.

There was a ton to do, and though not an inexpensive getaway, there are often deals and promotions available on rooms at Great Wolf.

The resort chain also has a free membership program where you can earn points, get exclusive offers, and have access to members-only experiences.

For our two-day, one-night stay, we didn't feel nickel-and-dimed, and we feel we got a lot of value for what we paid.

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