Last week we visited the new Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca.
It opened in June 2021 and we were looking forward to having a GWL within hours of our home.
We had visited So. Cal GWL a few years ago when our kids were little and we were looking forward to experiencing the water park now that they are big enough to ride all the slides.
We did a 3 day/2 night midweek stay and I would say this time was perfect. It was enough time to fit in all the activities, spend a lot of time and the water park, and still get home before someone had a meltdown.
We had a great time and it was a wonderful family mini-vacation.
The fact that you can get there in just 3 hours from our Northern California location was amazing as we are used to driving 5+ hours to reach most destinations. This was a big plus as the kids were still in good spirits when we arrived and ready to play.
On their website they say check in is 4pm but you can access the water park at 1pm. We arrived early and as we visited during a slow day we were able to check into our room straight away which was amazing.
We really enjoyed ourselves while there and would wholeheartedly recommend GWL Manteca to friends and family looking for a convenient short family getaway.
With that being said, we had a few issues during our stay, which made me so happy that we got a 50% discount on our room, as we booked months ago before the resort opened.
As we achieved so much, I was only slightly annoyed when the fire alarm went off twice in the night (electrical problem) and when we couldn't use our cell phones (more on that below).
I've included a bulleted list of things to know below to help you plan ahead so your family can have a fun and enjoyable stay.
As I said, my family had a great time and we would likely go back again. I just want to share some tips and tricks I've learned along the way.
Things to know:
The complex is new and it shows.
On every inch of the resort, you'll see new employees being trained. That was fine, but it meant that sometimes people didn't know the answers to their questions or were more focused on talking to each other than making themselves available to guests.
For restaurant staff, it means they don't know how to do what you ask, like when my daughter and I had a mother-daughter date and ordered a S'mores Sundae with "burnt marshmallow topping" which came out to us like 3 cold marshmallows on top of vanilla ice cream sitting on 2 graham cracker squares LOL!
The staff are generally young, which is awesome, but they aren't very fluent in the art of hospitality and customer service either. I'm sure this will improve over time.
Honestly I feel like they are overbooked for the number of trained staff they have. Of course, they want to occupy as many rooms as possible, but you're putting pressure on your new team.
For that reason alone, I recommend avoiding weekends or any week that school is out, when the complex is likely to be very crowded.
- Sign up for their email list and receive offers from 40 to 60% off average room rates.
- Use your booking calendar to find the cheapest days for the type of room you want.
- We booked a den room and were a little disappointed. Just a bunk bed with paint on the walls. When we booked in Los Angeles, we booked a cabin room and it had animatronics and it was interactive. That said, it was built during a pandemic and I'm sure they had to cut back as construction costs are insane right now.
- When we arrived on a Wednesday, we were able to check into our room immediately at 1pm. I felt bad for people who booked on busier days and reported arriving at 4pm. and waited in line for an hour to register.
- enroll inBe frugal and you can get a 2% cashbackon your stay. (we did that)
the water park
- The temperature is maintained at 84 degrees. I am ALWAYS cold and the temperature was great. However, the water was too cold for me, but then again, I'm a wimp. However, it wasn't cold enough to stop me from playing with my kids, which makes me think most people would be fine.
- Children will be measured upon entering the water park area. There are three different heights that will dictate which rides you can join and whether or not you should wear a life jacket. Be sure to check this out before you go. It would be disappointing to get there and realize your kids can't ride all the slides. That said, the smaller children's area is a lot of fun.
- You can check towels with your wristband but make sure you return them when you get back to your room or they will charge you $15 per towel. It's very easy to return them.
- Two of the slides in the main play area were closed. I think my kids would have loved these slides and they were the perfect size for them. It was part of the initial structure of Fort Mackenzie. I asked the staff why it was closed and got different answers:
- it's been closed for months
- We are short staffed
- Manager: Sometimes we don't know something is going to close until it happens. It can be personal or mechanical (however, this does not match what the employee said about being closed for months)
- Try to book mid-week. It will be worth it for the kids to miss school. We arrived on a Wednesday. Wednesday and Thursday were great! Thursday and Friday night was full of long lines and waiting for the biggest slides.
- There is a weight limit for the large family style slides. I think it was £250 for a single person. For these rides, each person steps onto a scale individually and then all together. It can take a long time when the line is long.
- Big family outings are super fun! We climbed them a million times and my legs hurt from climbing 4 floors to reach the top. That said, I'm VERY afraid of heights and I didn't like the height we had to climb. 99% of people won't think twice, but if you're afraid of heights, be prepared.
- Lazy River isn't too lazy. There are plenty of places in Fort Mackenzie for kids to spray, splash and splash people floating down the lazy river. My kids loved that part, but since I hate getting wet, I never went in the lazy river, which is usually right up my alley. It was also very sad when children splashed very young children in the lazy river.
- My kids loved the wave pool.
- The outdoor pool was closed when we were there, which was fine as there are no slides or toys outside. Just a big pool.
- Fort Mackenzie would be super fun for 4-8 year olds as the 2 biggest slides in that area were closed.
- There were signs outside the water park saying "no food outside" and they checked my bag for glass every time we went in and out. That said, I saw a lot of people with coolers with their own food and drinks, so I'm not sure what's up with that.
- I would recommend water shoes to ensure kids don't slip and fall as some surfaces are very slippery and the concrete gets a little watery on your feet after hours of walking.
- Bring a bag of clothes or blankets to wear and head back to your room. After wetting the air conditioning in the rest of the hotel, he takes a very cold trip back to his room.
the adventure park
Tons of fun to have here! We bought the Wolf Pass for our kids and they saved a lot of money and they were able to do everything on the list. It kept them busy and happy when they had their fill of the water park each day.
discount attraction passes
- I would honestly skip the Pup Pass or the Paw Pass.
Both include a candy cup, which my kids were very excited about and it turns out to be just jelly beans they can fill their cups with. The other item in both that is a steal is the game room. The games are VERY expensive to load onto the card and the prizes are rubbish... really, really bad. Skip those passes and pay cash only for the other activities if you have young children who don't want to or can't do everything on the Wolf Pass.
- The ropes course was amazing! I was really scared to do this but I was really impressed that my kids did both levels. The top level is very high. I would recommend going with your kids (my husband did). I saw some smaller children go upstairs without their parents and get scared. They have employees who can reach out and help them, but most of the time they don't pay attention. My kids loved it and would go back again, just for them to do this, they really enjoyed it and conquered a huge fear. This is a unique experience and I would say that it is not to be missed.
- Fun for a quick game. They have bumpers, which my kids used because they found it difficult to control the little ball. It took my kids about 10 minutes to complete the game, so it was a quick activity. We could have bought more games but they didn't want to replay and only 1 game was included in the Wolf Pass which was perfect.
- This attraction was so much fun for my kids (9 and 12). They raced for 2 days finding clues and fighting dragons.
I think younger children would be very frustrated unless their parents did everything for them. Some of the items were hard to find, but you can always head to the MagiQuest store and they'll help you out if you get stuck.
This is another reason to go when there aren't many people. On our second night it was quite crowded and kids queued at each stop, with kids cutting and being a little aggressive. The day before it was empty and very good.
My husband and I were able to have dinner at Barnwood while the kids ran around and played MagiQuest. We sat at the front of the restaurant and were able to see and talk to them as they walked around looking for clues. They loved being independent and we loved being able to keep an eye on them while they enjoyed a relaxing dinner.(Video) Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca, CA during Halloween season! #GreatWolfLodge #Hmongoose #waterpark
Oliver's mining company.
- This attraction has two parts 1) A mirror maze. 2) A mining attraction.
The mirror maze was included in the Wolf Pass so my kids did it and they said it was fun. We didn't pay to enter with them because they were old enough to enter on their own and it only took them a few minutes to walk. I don't think I would have paid to do the maze part if it hadn't been included in the pass, or if I had younger kids who needed me to come along, so if you're trying to save money this is a good one to skip.
Mining activity is legal. You buy a bag of stones and sift them under running water to find special stones and gems. My kids have done this elsewhere many times, so since it wasn't included in the Wolf Pass we skipped it, but if your kids haven't done it before then I think it would be worth it.
- A small course but my kids enjoyed it and it was included in the Wolf Pass.
- There is very spotty WIFI around the property. I was never able to connect my laptop, also the wifi is not secure... eee! Reception said the wifi has been a huge problem and sometimes the check-in computers won't even connect.
- In our second room (we asked to be moved due to screaming children on our floor the first night) we had ZERO CELL SERVICE. We couldn't use our phones or call each other from downstairs. This was a huge inconvenience and we were worried that if there was a family emergency, no one would be able to reach us.
- I was mildly disappointed in the cleanliness. It was okay, but definitely not flawless. Our first room had a lot of hand and food prints on the wall. You can tell they are in a rush trying to get people checked in and get rooms ready for the next day.
- Expect to pay more for your meal than it's worth, but that's also to be expected. Similar to food at any other amusement park style resort.
- The food was "ok". I expected the churros and carnitas tacos to be really good, but they didn't have much flavor. My kids really enjoyed their pizza by the slice, which was a good deal at around $3.00 for a large slice of pizza. The Barnwood restaurant was very good, but also the most expensive. We ate all of our meals at GWL. We didn't leave the property while we were there and for two and a half days it was fine. Honestly, I wouldn't even have mentioned the price of the food if it was a little tastier than it was.
- What's available: tacos, burgers, pizza, nachos, quesadillas, salads, etc. Again, all the food was good. You might want to consider placing an order at a nearby restaurant and having it delivered via DoorDash.
- My kids loved getting Dunkin Donuts every morning. Around 7:30 am. m., the line starts to get long, so make sure you leave in your pajamas as soon as you wake up to avoid the long wait. Also, many of the specialty donuts sell out every day. We were there during Halloween and all the fun was going really fast.
- Be sure to take fruit with you. We brought apples, bananas and Cuties with us and they were a big change from the high calorie junk we ate the rest of the time. I also recommend packing granola or protein bars and your own juice boxes. My kids convinced me to buy them Powerade (which were $4.50 a piece, dammit). We also packed a box of Uncrustables and my kids were perfectly happy eating them instead of restaurant food.
- My kids loved the ice creams included with the Wolf Pass, otherwise the ice cream was incredibly expensive. A milkshake was $8.50 and I think a kid's scoop of ice cream was about $5.
- There is no microwave in your room, but there is one in the ticket lounges on each floor. Bring your own microwave popcorn for a fun late night snack. It's also useful for warming up leftovers or baby bottles if you have young children.
- The "adult beverage" selection looked amazing. They definitely have some delicious alcoholic beverages.
- Do yourself a favor and get the Huckleberry Palmer (non-alcoholic). It's an Arnold Palmer, with cranberry sauce, and it's delicious.
- They also have some fun "mocktails" for the kids.
For younger children this really makes the stay an amazing experience. My kids were too old to be interested in many of the activities on offer, but I could see how all the kids were enjoying themselves. Definitely something that makes the stay special and magical for the kids. They have story time, yoga, dance parties, craft giveaways, and more. The staff were friendly and all activities were free. If you have kids ages 2-7, they'll love it.
Check-out is at 11am, but you can request a late check-out. Even if you have to check out at 11am, you still have access to the water park and the rest of the resort until they close that day. The water park closes at 20:00.
We had a great time and I could see us returning in the future, however I would probably only stay 1 night instead of 2 and stay longer the day we leave.
They also have day passes available which would be fun if you lived closer, but we wouldn't want to drive there and back in one day so an overnight stay would be necessary.
While we were there I also thought it would be really fun to go with a few families so the kids have friends to play with when the parents get bored of the water park.
My kids said they rated it 8 out of 10 and that's what really matters as we got to have fun and make some family memories before they grow up and don't want to stay with us anymore.
Great Wolf Lodge is a great place for a family vacation with young children and I'm excited to have one in our neck of the woods. I'm confident the complex will improve as they gain a little time and experience.
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