18 June 2019

Is Great Wolf Lodge Autism Friendly?

Is Great Wolf Lodge Autism Friendly?  Read the opinion of a mom with two kids on the spectrum and one NT child.

I'm pretty sure I have the best job in the world.  I can work on my couch in my PJs with a chihuahua sitting beside me.  I also get invited to awesome place like Great Wolf Lodge.

We visited Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky for the first time last year, and my kids were so excited that we got invited to go back this year.

We went a week after school was over, and you have no idea how badly we needed the getaway.  We all needed a day of play to just chill and have fun. 

This summer, all locations are doing a Summer Camp-In theme.  We've been camping.  It's fun, but I don't like the bugs and sleeping on the ground.  Not to mention the lack of indoor plumbing and electricity. 

Great Wolf Lodge has you covered!  Camp  in with a comfy bed, air conditioning, and no bugs.  They even have s'mores in the evening.

We almost didn't make it.  Nacho, my chihuahua, had two seizures the day before.  Luckily, I got him right into the vet right away and he got some meds.  I wasn't comfortable leaving him, but my husband stayed at home with him so we could go.  

All day, I was texting my husband checking on the dog and asking for photos.  He drew the line at Facetime though.  We stopped on the way home and got Nacho some treats and a new bed because we felt so guilty about leaving him.  

Anyway, is Great Wolf Lodge autism friendly?  We think so!  That was our second time there, and we had a lot of fun both times.

I also want to note that the GWL that we were at does not have day passes, but we were given day passes for our trip this year.

I took videos of our visit, so you can see more of the lodge, the water park, and some of the fun things that were included with the Paw Passes in my Instagram stories.  Look for the highlights in my Ohio section.


A little background for those who are new here.  I have three kids, two of which have autism.  My oldest is 17-years-old and has ASD and sensory issues.  He's an avoider.  He looks fairly typical and functions very well now that he's older.  

My younger son is 13 and has ASD and sensory issues.  He's both a sensory seeker and an avoider.  He does not do well in loud settings and gets overwhelmed in crowds.  At the same time, he loves being in the water and loves water slides and anything to get an adrenaline rush.

My youngest, my daughter, is 11-years-old.  She's neurotypical, but she does have some sensory issues going on.  Not enough for a diagnosis, but they are there nonetheless.


We went to Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio.  From what I understand, it's one of the smaller GWL locations in the country, if not the smallest one.

Its size did have some definite benefits, however.  We parked close, so we didn't have a long walk to get in.  When my boys were younger, parking lots were a mother's nightmare.  I can trust them in a parking lot now, but it is worth noting for those with younger kids.

When you walk in the resort, the check in area is fairly small.  We got there at 10 am, and there were maybe two families in line.  They have auto check out, so that really helps speed up the line. 



I'm not sure if all Great Wolf Lodges only allow overnight guests to swim, but the one in Sandusky does.  There were a lot of people there, but it wasn't overly packed. 

The kids were able to do the slides and fun activities they wanted to without standing in line too long.  If there was a line, they just went to something else until the line was smaller.  There was always something that didn't have a line.


Since the Sandusky resort is so small, it was very compact inside.  This was great, especially with one parent and three kids.  I mean realistically, my oldest is almost an adult, so that helped.

Since it was small, the kids could have a little independence and I could sit in a central location and keep an eye on them.  

Great Wolf has plenty of activities from toddlers to teenagers.  I'm an adult, and I had a lot of fun, too!

There's a play area with water just a few inches deep for the little ones.  It's more of a splash area.  There's also a pool for older kids, lily pads to climb across, and a big tree house in the middle.

The tree house has slides, ropes to climb on, and all kinds of water fun.  It was fun just to walk around under it and get soaked.  

There are slides for all sizes.  If your child with autism isn't ready for the age appropriate slides, there are smaller ones that are big enough to accommodate older kids and even adults.  

Shhhh don't tell anyone, but my oldest wanted to do the smaller slide because he doesn't like the big ones.  I went down with him.  We fit fine except we landed in water that was only about 6 inches deep.  We laughed about our misjudgment though.  


Kids with autism can get overwhelmed in crowds.  Sometimes you just need to get away for a little bit.  
Great Wolf and fun dry land activities.  There's a Build A Bear Workshop, restaurant, Dunkin Donuts, ice cream stand, arcade, and a fun Magiquest game to play.

They gave each of the kids Paw Passes with fun activities, so we got to do those.  We swam and when I could see that it was too much sensory information, we dried off and got dressed and went into the resort to do dry activities.

They loved the arcade!  It's so loud and so bright, I was prepared for the worst.  Even my middle one handled it well.  But be prepared that it is very loud, and it's probably a headphone area for kids with auditory sensory issues.  

Since you're staying at the resort, you can also go back to the room for some quiet time.  We got to see one room.  It had a cute tent in it since their summer theme is camping.  That would be the perfect hiding place for a kid on the spectrum.

So is Great Wolf Lodge autism friendly?  I think so!  Just know that it is loud and it is busy.  But you can leave the resort to go back to your room or do dry activities to calm down before heading back to the water park.


  • Take a pair of noise cancelling headphones.  You'll need these in the entrance and in the arcade.
  • The smell of chlorine is strong, and it's humid.  If your child is sensitive to smells, be prepared.
  • Plan to spend time in the water park and then take a break to do dry activities and then swim again.  
  • Keep an eye on the lines.  Both times we went, the line weren't long for very long.  If there's no line, it's a good time to do that activity.
  • The water park doesn't really get busy until late afternoon.  Plan to spend more time there early in the morning.

What do you think?  Is Great Wolf Lodge autism friendly?  See more information in the Ohio section of my Instagram story highlights.

Is Great Wolf Lodge autism friendly? We think so! Read more about the Sandusky location and get tips to enjoy your stay.