The Great Wolf lodge is a brand that is new to California, but one that is well-known and loved throughout the United States and Canada. It’s a sprawling family resort, complete with a huge array of in-house amenities, from shopping and dining, to games and activities – as well as a massive indoor water park, exclusively for guest use! These inclusive resorts are big for their communities – they create jobs, they accommodate tourism, and they help stimulate the local economy. The newest member of the Great Wolf family is about to open its doors just 5 minutes south of Disneyland Resort, on Harbor Boulevard in the city of Garden Grove; it’s a big deal that we think is fantastic for everyone!
True, Anaheim and its surrounding communities already have a ton of hotels and motels. However, the Great Wolf Lodge is the only other large-scale family “resort” option other than those owned by Disney – which will allow it to go head-to-head price-wise with Mickey and company, and take its own share of the tourism dollars being spent in Orange County by visiting guests. Granted, this may not have much of an impact on Disney’s bottom line, but it’s definitely got to be on their radar, the same way similar family-oriented mega-resorts are in Central Florida. In the end, it does affect the market, pricing, and amps up the competitive side of things between companies such as Great Wolf and Disney; the good news is, visitors are the ones that win, as prices remain in flux and each entity ratchets up their value/offerings to lure families to stay and play under their roofs.
One of the biggest draws to any Great Wolf Lodge location is the signature indoor water park that is exclusive to guests; this location in Southern California will be the company’s largest and most ambitious yet, featuring more than 105,000 square feet of wet and wild fun for the whole family, including water slides, wave pools and playground! During warm-weather months (contrary to popular belief, Southern California does have cold and inclement weather on occasion), there is an additional outdoor section of the resort’s water park that will be open as well. Year-round, the indoor temperature of approximately 84 degrees, regardless of how cold or hot it may be outside.
At this point, I have to say something in defense of the folks at Great Wolf Lodge. During a recent construction tour, which we’re featuring in this story, there was a lot of attention focused on where the resort was getting the water to fill its indoor water park. A lot of attention. I get it – we’re in a drought here in Southern California. However, just like any business, the Great Wolf Lodge features water parks in all of their resorts; this isn’t something some dim-witted executive dreamed up in a faraway office, completely out of touch with the water situation at the moment in California. This is their business model. This is what they do. And just like any other business, they will pay for their water. By the way, they are buying it from the city of Garden Grove, and they are going to great lengths to be as conservative and careful with that water usage – after all, it’s not free or cheap for them. Evaporation? Water loss due to bathing suits and towels? Sure; that’s unavoidable. It’s also factored into their projected water usage here and at any of their other resorts across the United States. I don’t ever see the same kind of laser focus pointed at Disney for its water rides, Rivers of America, lagoons, resort pools or landscaping water consumption. Or how about Knott’s Berry Farm’s water park, Soak City? Just like any of these businesses, Great Wolf Lodge is going to be responsible and conservative with its water usage – and that, is the end of the story, as far as I’m concerned.
As mentioned, Theme Park Adventure was invited recently to take a construction tour of Great Wolf Lodge Southern California. This was the second time I have been in one of these massive resorts – a couple years ago, we poked our heads into the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky when we visited Cedar Point in Ohio, and were impressed by its sheer size. This property is larger, and while most of the interior is still under construction, it’s clear to see how significant of a project this is – and what an important addition to our economy here in SoCal this is going to be.
When it opens in early 2016, the Great Wolf Lodge Southern California will be the company’s 13th operational resort, featuring multiple room size/style options, lots of food and beverage locations (including a Dunkin’ Donuts), mini golf, character appearances, and an interactive game that is available to guests as an up-charge attraction – MagiQuest, an RFID technology-backed interactive adventure that allows kids to go on a journey throughout the resort, battling dragons and making friends with enchanted creatures along the way.
The decorum throughout the resort is what guests might expect to find in a hotel with a towering wolf as its icon/visual attractor out front – a rustic, cabin-like structure with a massive fireplace and grand staircase in its lobby. The finest details – from guest room lamps to wayfinding signage – are well-themed and flow cohesively, supporting the overall feel and look of Great Wolf Lodge. In comparison, one might suggest that this is a “fun” version of Disney’s Grand Californian, which is high-end, featuring a very similar thematic design. The concept and style is the same as the chain’s other properties across the United States, so it should be pointed out that Great Wolf didn’t fashion its Garden Grove location after the Grand Californian; they simply feature and celebrate a very similar story and design overlay. I think it’s going to be a tremendous hit with families visiting not only Orange County, but Los Angeles’ attractions as well, since Great Wolf Lodge is relatively close to other points of interest, including Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Universal Studios. For those visiting Orange County by plane, the Great Wolf Lodge is within close proximity to Orange County, Long Beach, Ontario, and Los Angeles International airports. We’re excited to see how well this new resort does when it opens its doors in just a few short months to its first overnight guests!
During our visit to the Great Wolf Lodge, we took some photos and broadcast live via Periscope, so that folks everywhere could get a live view of what’s taking place within the huge structure on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. Those streaming broadcasts can be found archived on our Katch channel, if you’d like to view them for yourself!
Theme Park Adventure thanks the Great Wolf Lodge team for its hospitality, and for bringing a truly cool and large-scale project like this to Orange County here in Southern California. We cannot wait to see the resort once it’s been completed – and we will bring you updates as they become available right here on TPA!
– Rick West
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