As you may recall, we spent at night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City over Spring Break. For our ABQ vacation, we stayed at a Radisson hotel with an attached water park. When we were contemplating the Spring Break getaway, we debated whether to stay at the GWL or stay at a Kansas City hotel/water park combo similar to the one in New Mexico. If you have ever faced a similar dilemma (or if you're a reading teacher searching for text structure examples), here's my comparison-contrast of the two experiences.
The GWL is slightly more expensive. Their pricing also fluctuates more with the seasons and school schedules. The hotel in ABQ was priced about the same as any decent hotel would be, plus another $30 or so each day for the water park. We only got water park passes for two days, and that was plenty. (This also meant that our reservation was kind of complicated. It was a good thing we called instead of trying to place the reservation on-line.)
The GWL is bigger, Ryan thinks about twice as big. It needed to be because there were more people there than in ABQ. We didn't really think there was anything missing from the water park in ABQ. It did have one nifty feature GWL didn't have: a surf-simulator called the Flow Rider. It was a padded ramp with water shooting up it that you rode on a boogie board. Ella did it several times and thought it was fun. But there was almost always a long line, which meant there was also a big audience to watch you, so I never tried it. I thought the water park in ABQ was warmer (a good thing), but who knows if that's psychological. It was snowing over Spring Break, and we could see the snow out the windows, so that might have made me cold. I also might be more used to standing around in a wet swimming suit right now as opposed to March.
The GWL is more of an overall experience...talking animals, theme restaurants, theme decorations, all that jazz. The Radisson was just a hotel with a water park. This led to some weirdnesses. For example, there was a Hebraic Roots convention at the hotel, so there we were in our swimming suits surrounded by people blowing these bizarre ram horn instrument thingies. You don't get that at the GWL.
But all the whole experience thing at the GWL tempts you to spend more money, too. If our weekend hadn't been so rushed, we would have wound up spending more money at the arcade, spa, craft center, gift shop and so on.
Overall, I am a big fan of the hotel/water park combo, and either way you go, I think it's cheaper than staying at a hotel and going to a separate water park. And it's easier to go a water park right there without having to mess with lugging your stuff all over the place and dealing with 100 degree temperatures. You can go for just an hour or so without feeling like you have to stay all day to get your money's worth.
If you're looking for a whole experience, go to the GWL. If you don't care about that, just stay at a hotel with a water park.