The new Great Wolf Lodge opens in Gurnee

Great Wolf Lodge is open in Gurnee! With a year of renovations complete, many families are wondering what’s different, what’s new, and what’s worth howling about at the first Great Wolf Lodge location in Illinois.

Raft rides are fun for groups

There’s a new addition at the back of the water park that includes two large, round raft rides. River Canyon Run is an easy glide for groups up to five. The Double Whirlwind includes two vortexes (kids often call “toilet bowls” because they swish in circles). The best part: a conveyor belt carries the rafts up the stairs for you!

An outdoor pool lets you to catch some sunshine

The fun isn’t all indoors! There’s now an outdoor plunge pool with cabanas to enjoy sunny days and fresh air.

The wave pool is both gentle and exhilarating

Hang out near shore and you’re sure to enjoy gentle splashes. The opposite side seems to have more intense waves, which were fun for older kids to jump.

There’s fun for big and little members of the family

There’s a new toddler area with kiddie slides and rainbow-colored “jet skis.” Fort Mackenzie is the refurbished treehouse element with a giant dumping bucket and other interactive features. There’s also water basketball and a lazy river. Four-story tube slides, raft rides and “Coyote Canyon” remain from KeyLime Cove, but have been refurbished and renamed in the Great Wolf theme.

Not too crowded or cold

To keep the lines short and safety first, the water park is reserved for overnight guests. It’s also heated to 84 degrees, so don’t expect to shiver. Visitors are welcome at the adventure park and restaurants.

Wolf Den and KidCabin suites are great for parents and children

These themed suites with bunk beds and kids-only TVs provide hideaways for the children and a bit of privacy for the parents. Mom and Dad can snuggle and watch their own show instead of hitting the hay when saying goodnight to the kiddos. There are also several other room types, including options for large families. 

Plenty of dry activities

The fun doesn’t stop after you dry off. You can brave the ropes course (which seemed more appropriate for older children), putt at mini golf, bowl with tiny 5-pound balls, rock climb, gem mine or visit the arcade. MagiQuest, which is like a scavenger hunt with wands, is also incorporated into the hotel. Choose from three different discounted activity passes and pack all the fun in. 

Great Wolf Lodge also hosts nightly dance parties, storytime and morning yoga. Flip Flop Workshop, where you can design your own flip-flops, is a new concept that will be coming soon. 

Restaurants range from grab-n-go to farm-to-table

Dunkin’ Donuts and Freshwoods Market are simple options for something quick. Buckets serves burgers, hot dogs and fries and is connected to the water park. Timbers Tacos features a cool food truck façade and dishes up nachos and street tacos. For a quick pizza, hit up Hungry As A Wolf. Campfire Kitchen is a nice buffet-style restaurant, with a Greek salad I was raving about. Barnwood boasts locally sourced small plates. Rest assured, this Great Wolf Lodge will also feature seasonal fare and host holiday events, like a Thanksgiving buffet.

Sweet tooths will be satisfied with Benny & Jerry’s ice cream or the various jellybean and gummy treat options at the candy shop. Coca-Cola Freestyle machines are located throughout the resort. Adults can enjoy a craft beer or blended cocktail at The Watering Hole in the water park or The Outpost, near the adventure park.

Northwoods-style family fun

From the moment you arrive, you can tell Great Wolf is geared towards families. There are activities, like bracelet making, for the kids to do while parents check in. Children-sized chairs dot the lobby and the hallways are lined with paw prints, which my kids pounced on like hopscotch each time we went to our room.

The Great Wolf Northwoods theme is carried throughout the resort in a more contemporary way that what you would find in Wisconsin Dells, the franchise’s first location. The water park also has four cabanas opening soon, for those looking for a place to rest or relax with a little poolside service. 

Don’t worry about a thing

Forget a swimsuit or swim diaper? No worries! There are retail outlets in the hotel that have you covered. Lifeguards are rigorously trained by the Red Cross and Ellis. Some even say they look like lions pacing back and forth, but rest assured they’ll be in the water quickly should your family need help. Great Wolf Lodge Gurnee feels clean and new and was relatively uncrowded when we went. Hope you can make the quick drive to a family getaway that’s packed with fun!

Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.
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