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SPLASH DOWN IN 6 MONTHS: Great Wolf offers peek inside Manteca waterpark
GW final

The coolest place on a 105-degree summer day in Manteca will soon be the same place where it will be the warmest on the drabbiest January day of lingering tule fog that keeps the temperature in the 40s around the clock.

The place is the Great Wolf Lodge resort targeted to open Aug. 1.

Describing Great Wolf as “just a water park” is about as accurate as describing the imposing El Capitan overlooking Yosemite Valley as “just a rock”.

Everything about the Great Wolf rising in Manteca from how the 95,000-square-foot indoor waterpark — the second largest in the 19-location operation behind the Anaheim Great Wolf — is designed and operated so both parents and kids can enjoy their stay in a true resort setting.

Unlike with an outdoor water park where you have to deal with wind, scorching sun, chilly weather, oppressive heat or even rain it’s always a pleasant 82 degrees with the water two degrees warmer. Extensive skylights keep the waterpark bright without having to worry about sun burn.

But if you want to work on your tan there is a massive outdoor guest pool complete with shelves where you can partially submerse yourself in water on a lounger.

If you opt to eschew the outdoor pool to squeeze in as much slide and water play time as possible, Great Wolf will more than accommodate you. They use a green/red light system that allows personnel operating slides to move guests quickly — and safely — onto the slides. Conveyors take tubes to the starting points of slides.

Someone who can tell you a thing or two about the blast families will have at the Manteca resort is Alana Ostrowski who visited her first Great Wolf as a middle schooler in Transverse City, Michigan.

You can’t go wrong on any waterpark feature but if you press her to name a favorite it’s the “Rapid Racer” that will be among the 11 waterpark attractions at the Manteca resort.

“I’m a bit competitive,” noted Ostrowski.

Riders using single or double tubes begin the race side-by-side and then speed down a course featuring drops, chutes and serpentine curves. As riders wind their way down, they encounter two sections of the course where they find themselves side-by-side their competitor with only a low wall separating racers.


Manteca will serve as

debut location for

the Sequoia Splash

Ostrowski happens to be the “talent” — the Great Wolf moniker for resort staff — that will serve as general manager for the Manteca resort.

She’s been the general manager of the Great Wolf in Williamsburg, Virginia since October 2018.

Ostrowski was in Manteca Wednesday to check on construction progress at the resort along the 120 Bypass next to Costco that will include a 6-story hotel with 500 rooms, a 12,000-square-foot conference center and a 45,000-square-foot family entertainment center open to resort guests and the public as well.

At the heart of the indoor waterpark is Great Wolf’s signature attraction — Fort McKenzie. The multi-level water play structure features suspension bridges, slides and spray stations. Atop of Fort Mackenzie sits a massive, 1,000-gallon tipping bucket that pours out every three-to-four minutes, to the glee of children waiting below. Attached to the play structure are six water slides, including four twisting body slides that originate from the top of the structure and two at a lower level designed for toddlers.

Fort McKenzie and the other 10 water park attractions are carefully planned so sight lines maximize safety and security.

The Manteca opening this summer will mark the Great Wolf debut of the Sequoia Splash. It’s a multi-person raft slide that starts by sending riders down a steep drop into a giant funnel, where the raft’s momentum sends it careening up one side of the funnel to the next. Upon exiting the funnel, the raft encounters a 360-degree loop before gaining speed as it approaches a giant saucer. In the saucer, the raft twists and turns its way round and round, before finally plunging into a catch pool at the bottom of the slide.

 For those seeking to spend more time in the waterpark or at the outdoor pool and want a bit of privacy Great Wolf also rents cabanas. They come with tables and chairs, two lounge chairs, a 20-inch flat screen satellite TV, mini-fridge with non-alcoholic beverages, plenty of towels plus Great Wolf Lodge playing cards for a mini retreat of sorts for families.

Part of the safety and convenience of the resort stay are wristbands that have chips. Guests can have specific wristbands activated so that they can be scanned to allow the purchase of food, drink, and items in the gift shop that are charged to your room without having to worry about lugging around a wallet and purse and worrying about keeping them secure when accessing the waterpark or other attractions.

As for the most heart-stopping waterpark attraction, it has to be the Wolf’s Tail hands down. Guests step onto a launch pad. Once the door shuts the loud rhythmic sound of a heartbeat will start playing as you wait for the floor to drop from underneath to hurl you into a nearly vertical 28-foot free fall followed in a flash by two 360-degree high-speed loops.

Second most popular Great Wolf

attraction is the MagiQuest

Great Wolf taught Harry Potter a thing or two about magical fun.

The waterpark resort was the first to roll out “magical wands” that allows young and old to go on a magic quest throughout the lodge. You determine the play time that can range from 30 minutes to three hours.

You can take a break and come back hours later or the next day. You can even return with your wand months later to finish games or purchase new ones.

MagiQuest is part of the family entertainment center that includes miniature golf, family bowling, an arcade, a ropes course and more.

There are also various dining options including a more traditional sit down dining dubbed “The Barnwood” restaurant to pizza and fast food offerings as well as an ice cream parlor and a candy store. There is also a breakfast buffet for guests.

Great Wolf goes to great lengths to accommodate the needs of guest. As example, if a child has food allergies guests are able to communicate directly with chefs via email to determine the best dining accommodations.

There are dozens of complimentary activities for youngsters taking place the large fireplace in the lobby. The offerings range from a creative kids’ yoga class set to engaging stories, crafts, interactive science experiments and more. In the evening there is a story time as well as a high energy dance party for kids.

The 500 rooms include eight suites ranging from family suites that sleep five to premium suites that sleep up to 13 with separate bedrooms and bathrooms.

The most unique, however, are the theme suites that include Kid Cabins and Wolf Dens that have bunk beds as well as their own nightstands and TV. That way mom and dad can watch Netflex and even opt for in-room alcoholic beverages while the kids watch cartoons and such in their own suite in a suite.

Booking a room at Great Wolf gives you two days of water park access.

If the water park’s hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. you can check in any time the day your room is booked even if it isn’t ready and make use of a locker room that also has showers to access the water park. And after checkout the next day, you can have your luggage placed in storage and use the water park until it closes using the locker room to get cleaned and ready for the ride home.

The policy — besides maximizing water park time — avoids having long lines in the lobby waiting to check in. And while the water park hours start and end outside of the heavy commute hours, impacts on traffic are reduced significantly with arrivals and departures being spread out.

Day passes are possible

Great Wolf has instituted day passes at their resorts when it is clear that they will not be at 100 percent capacity.

Passes must be bought in advance and are non-refundable. That is so there is always a cap on the number of people in the water park to ensure s resort-style experience.

In a quick check of the Anaheim Great Wolf website, over the next six week you can get day passes for as low $49 for a half day (4 p.m. to closing) and $50 for a full day for this Thursday to $80 for a half day and $95 for a full day on Feb. 16 that is part of a three-day weekend.

Ostrowski noted that the senior management team is currently being filled.

As completion of the $180 million resort nears, she said a series of job fairs will be held in Manteca to hire the bulk of the 250 fulltime and 250 part-time staff ranging from life guards and cooks to housekeeping and guest services needed to run the resort.

She noted Manteca was chosen in part due to its central location to Sacramento, San Jose, and San Francisco, all that fall within a 45- to -90-minute drive of Manteca.

Ostrowski pointed out Great Wolf has sophisticated water recycling and cleansing system that assures more than 98 percent of the water is reused. That high recycling number is also attainable in part due to the waterpark being indoors.


Preopening discount

Great Wolf is offering a special discount up to 30 percent off standard rates for suites in their 500-room hotel for stays prior to Dec. 17, 2020. Suites must be reserved prior to Feb. 29 to qualify for the offer. You can book a suite by visiting or by calling 1-888-960-WOLF (9653) and using the promo code, GRAND.*

Standard rates for the Manteca Lodge start at $199.99 per night. The one-night rate includes two days of access to the water park.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email