File this under, “I hope I’m wrong about this, but…”
The Great Wolf Lodge Southern California opens this week on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, just minutes from Disneyland. The massive indoor water park/hotel represents a major gamble on the part of Garden Grove, which has committed $100 million in taxpayer funds to help bring Great Wolf to Southern California. Garden Grove city leaders say that’s a small price to pay since they’ll likely recoup the investment within a decade, but I have my doubts.
It’s not that I don’t like the whole concept of the Great Wolf Lodge. In Garden Grove, it’ll be a 105,000-square-foot water park and 603-suite resort. The model has been incredibly popular in places such as Wisconsin Dells, Sandusky, Ohio, and Niagara Falls, where families travel great distances and create invaluable family memories at a Great Wolf Lodge. But it’s easy to see why Great Wolf works in the Midwest and East Coast. When you’re eager to escape the cold and get out of the house, you must look at a Great Wolf Lodge as a giant Disneyland.
And there’s the rub. See, Disneyland is just down the street from the newest Great Wolf Lodge. Thanks to constant price hikes, families are already breaking the bank to get to the Happiest Place on Earth. Are they really going to have enough change left to stay at a lodge where rooms average between $250 to $600 a night? I just don’t think so, especially when you can stay at a Hampton Inn down the street for just over $100.
Great Wolf officials claim that families will want to take a break from Disneyland and enjoy their water-basketball pool, lazy river and much more (including seven eateries in the hotel, an arcade, a spa for girls and women, miniature golf, and an interactive scavenger hunt for kids). But if I’m paying a small fortune to go to Disneyland, I’m not looking to take many long breaks. When we do, we just go relax back at the Hampton — where the pool is just fine, thank you — and head back to the park a few hours later.
Also, if I’m planning a family vacation to Southern California and decide to bypass Disneyland, Sea World and the many other amusement parks, I’ll probably want to go to place where we can enjoy something unique to the area — like some of the world’s best beaches, perhaps? Why on earth would I make the decision to block out valuable time/money to visit Southern California and then spend most of my vacation stuck in a giant indoor water park?
For the sake of Garden Grove tax payers, I sincerely hope I’m wrong. And maybe Great Wolf Lodge Southern California will surprise me. I’m certainly not questioning the quality of the experience once you arrive; it all sounds very cool. There’s a reason Great Wolf has become so popular with families, after all. But I just don’t see the fit in Southern California. Let me know what you think in the comments area below.