Planning a family vacation under normal circumstances can be challenging. However, it can feel downright impossible when at least one family member is a wheelchair user. It can be really hard to find accessible hotel rooms with roll-in showers that will comfortably accommodate a family of four. Then you have to worry about finding accessible sights and attractions that will interest everyone. I’m very happy to report that after two summer visits to two different properties, the Great Wolf Lodge resorts are one of the best options in the US for a fully accessible family vacation any time of year! Read below to find out why this has become an annual tradition for me and my two boys.
1. Accessible rooms and suites perfect for families. One of the biggest challenges I have when I travel with my two boys (and often with my mom as well) is finding an accessible hotel room that will comfortably fit the three (or four) of us. Sharing beds is doable, but not ideal, and definitely not an option when the two beds are full-size. Both times that I visited Great Wolf Lodge with my sons and my mom, I reserved an accessible KidCabin Suite. In Concord, the room had two bunk beds, a queen bed, and a full-size sofabed. In LaGrange, we had a queen bed, two bunk beds, and a twin bed. Many locations also have accessible deluxe suites that can sleep up to ten people! Bottom line, the lodges know that wheelchair users have children and parents and siblings, too.
2. Wheelchair users can take a dip. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act requires US hotels to have pool lifts, most of them aren’t in compliance. Great Wolf Lodges have not only one, but multiple pool lifts, for both the indoor and outdoor pools. The LaGrange location even has a lift to lower wheelchair users onto an inner tube so they can cruise the lazy river!
3. You can get your wheelchair wet. Upon request, wheelchair users can transfer to a hard-plastic self-propelling wheelchair (with brakes) that can be fully submerged! This is great for going in the zero-entry wave pool, the toddler play area (also with zero entry), and the lower level of the splash park. Especially exhilarating is waiting in anticipation directly under the splash zone of “the bucket,” which every few minutes unleashes 1,000 gallons of water when it tips.
4. Wheelchair users can participate or share in family activities. In addition to the water park, Great Wolf Lodge has an Adventure Park with activities like bowling, an arcade, mini golf, a ropes course, and a rock climbing wall. While wheelchair users obviously can’t take part in all of these things, they can (based on physical ability) play in the arcade or bowl (both the lanes and balls are half-sized). Parents in wheelchairs have close access to all activities to watch their kids, take photos, and cheer them on. And wheelchair users can easily participate in the engaging MagiQuest game, as all screens are at a lower height.
5. You can get your own food and beverages. One thing that annoys me at hotel buffets is that food is often out of reach for wheelchair users. Not so at Great Wolf! At least at the LaGrange location, I was easily able to reach all the food offerings, utensils, etc. The Coca-Cola custom beverage machines also have an accessible button that lets you cycle through the choices if you can’t reach the touch screen. Also, I never needed to ask for assistance; staff members came up to me multiple times asking if I needed them to help me reach anything, just in case.
6. The bathroom/locker rooms have accessible roll-in showers. At the LaGrange location, the bathrooms that are located in the water park area are split in half, with the toilets and sinks on one side, and showers and changing stalls on the other side. At the end of one row is a roll-in shower with a fold-down bench, and the other row has a huge changing room with a bench. Unfortunately, it does not have a full-sized changing table, although other locations might. The Concord location has a full roll-in shower as well.
7. Spacious public areas. Great Wolf Lodge can get really crowded during peak times, so paths and public areas are designed to manage crowds. You may have to fight to squeeze past people, but the corridors are wide, there is room between tables at eateries, and the cordoned areas for lines are roomy enough for power wheelchairs. Shops also have plenty of room between racks and displays to maneuver. There is also plenty of room to roll through the (mostly) dry parts of the water park if you’re just watching your kids.
8. Employees are incredibly friendly and sensitive to accessibility needs. It is so awesome to be surrounded by resort staff members who are actually interested in your needs and feedback. At the LaGrange location, I had reserved a table at the water park for two days. However, the table they set aside for us was in a spot that was difficult for me to reach in my power chair, so they upgraded us both days from a $55 table to a $499 accessible cabana! The doors to the water park area don’t have automatic openers, but there’s always a staff member at each set of doors ready to open them for wheelchair users or parents with strollers. Bottom line, they’re just downright friendly, kind, and more than happy to engage in friendly conversation.
Great Wolf Lodge has 16 locations across the United States and one in Canada. For my review of the Concord, NC location, CLICK HERE. For links to the other locations, CLICK HERE. Because accommodations and resort activities or features may vary slightly between resort locations, I highly recommend contacting the resort directly to make sure it fits your family’s needs.