As a Christmas present to the girls, we spent last weekend at the Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis. I researched this resort two years ago as an option for an overnight winter stay and ultimately decided to go with Great Wolf Lodge. The main attraction at the Cape Codder is a large, indoor water park and in 2016, guests were only allowed access to the water park from check-in to check-out, which was 3:00 pm to 11:00 am. More time was added in 2017 and currently, guests can use the water park beginning at 1:00 pm on their arrival date to 2:00 pm on the day they depart.
A Christmas tree made of lobster traps.
To sweeten the gift, we were able to coordinate with friends of ours and they also booked a room for the same night. The girls are good friends with their daughter. She's actually Emily's BFF. She has a younger brother and all five play well together. The kids were gifted the trip on Christmas Day but we purposely didn't tell them anyone else was going. Last Friday, they were all together and when they figured it out, there were big smiles and loads of excitement. Nothing better than going away with friends.
Our plan was to arrive as close to 1:00 as possible in order to maximize use of the water park. Official check-in time is at 3:00, but we hoped the rooms would be ready early. Funny enough, we caught up with our friends on Route 6 and followed them into the resort parking lot. The dads went to the front desk at the same time to pick up our wristbands for the water park and check on the status of our rooms. The rooms were ready early and the resort was nice enough to place us in rooms right next to each other. The employee at the front desk even looked for connecting rooms, but none were available.
If you look up online reviews of the Cape Codder, you'll read complaints saying the rooms are outdated. I've stayed in many hotel rooms throughout my life and using the term "outdated" here is a little bit of a stretch. This resort is quite large and has many rooms so perhaps some of the rooms have been updated. The decor was definitely not modern and may not appeal to some, but really it reminded me of an old school New England inn.
My attempt at travel blogging resort room photography was met with ridicule. We had been in the room for five minutes and this is what I get.
I've learned that if I want photos of hotel rooms I need to be the first and only person entering the room and no one has time for that when there's a water park waiting.
The room was actually bigger than a standard hotel room. I also appreciated the fact that the five of us were able to stay in one room. (There were two beds and we paid $20 for a rollaway cot.) Many hotels only allow four guests and if that had been the case here, we wouldn't have been able to just sneak someone in as we all needed wristbands for the water park, even those of us not swimming.
We, and our friends, had both booked standard view rooms, which meant we should have been looking out over a parking lot. Our rooms were on the second floor (of three) and overlooked the outdoor pool. Of course, these rooms were the farthest possible from the indoor water park. It took about 4-5 minutes to traverse the maze of hallways. We didn't mind the walk (well, it sort of became a joke) and I'm sure our rooms were quieter than the ones located near all the action.
The Water Park
The indoor water park consists of two large rooms which are connected. The main room has a lazy river, two large water slides, a small play area for toddlers/little kids and a snack bar. The wave pool and two smaller water slides are in the second room. Guests must be 48 inches tall in order to ride the water slides. All of our kids were over that marker. If you book your stay through a third party and not directly with the resort, you will not receive wristbands for the water park.
I took these at night when the water park had different colored lights on.
The water park was open until 10 pm that night and after 8:30 or so, the crowds thinned out considerably.
I should also note that the outdoor pool is heated and open in the winter (unless there's bad weather or it's super cold.) There were guests swimming in it on the afternoon we arrived and I suggested that the kids should try it out (with me watching bundled up in my Michelin Man jacket, of course) but they weren't interested.
So, yes, this is a smaller water park and I feared that the kids would grow bored, but they didn't. I think one night was the perfect amount of time for a stay, considering we were able to access the water park from early afternoon to early afternoon.
Even though we were there during a vacation weekend, it was not super crowded. The kids never had to wait long for the water slides and said that there were, at most, five to six people in front of them in lines. We did have to look around for empty chairs and tables but we were always able to find a place to set up camp.
I thought the theming in the main room of the water park was super cute, almost to the level of Disney theming.
See those doors? Those are rooms with a view of the water park.
The main restaurant in the resort is Hearth 'n Kettle, which is a local chain that has closed locations over the past couple of years. It's not a restaurant I would normally choose to dine at, so for dinner we ate at a local Mexican place. The Cape Codder is located in a built up area in Hyannis with tons of eateries close by. Later that night, we did eat dessert at the Hearth 'n Kettle for the sake of convenience and our waitress was visibly pissed when we said we were only ordering dessert. I can understand if we were taking up tables that would have had bigger bills but there were no guests waiting for tables. We also ate breakfast at the Hearth 'n Kettle the next morning, again, for convenience and so the kids could get to the pool as soon as possible. Service was better but the food was just okay.
There was a smaller place advertised as a wine bar and grill. While the menu for dinner looked pretty good, it was more on the $$ side. I would have considered eating there if we hadn't been a party of nine. The snack bar in the water park had a limited menu, but we probably could have pulled together a lunch if we had needed to.
So what did the girls think?
They had the BEST time. However, when asked Cape Codder or Great Wolf Lodge? they all answered Great Wolf Lodge.
Cape Codder versus Great Wolf Lodge
We visited Great Wolf Lodge two years ago. You can read my write-up which includes a review and tips HERE.
So here's the reality: Great Wolf Lodge is bigger BUT you will most likely pay more to stay there. At the same time we decided to go to the Cape Codder, I also looked up room prices for Great Wolf Lodge and it cost $100 more for the same night. GWL plays games with pricing. The earlier you book, the less it costs. They also have discounts, but most seem to fall on weeknights. So if you play the game, you may be able to book GWL for a price comparable to the Cape Codder.
The water park at GWL offers more but it was considerably more crowded when we visited. I liked how the water park at the Cape Codder was all connected, but at GWL, the two different areas of the water park are separated by a hallway. The Cape Codder definitely wins for dining choices as there are so many places right nearby. The GWL in Massachusetts is kind of in the middle of nowhere, but they do have a Dunkin Donuts inside, which is a huge bonus.
I'll add that the majority of children at the Cape Codder appeared to be elementary school aged - think second to fifth grade. There were some toddlers and a handful of teens, but most kids were in that 6 - 10 year old age group. As a parent, I felt more comfortable allowing my kids to wander out of my sight at the Cape Codder. Granted, they are two years older and stronger swimmers than when we visited GWL, and with their friends, there were five of them sticking together.
There was a small arcade at the Cape Codder but, unlike GWL, you didn't have to walk through it to get to the water park. I don't like how GWL has all these "attractions," like the climbing wall and bowling because it costs more money. From a business perspective, those are there as money-makers and you already have enough of my money, so no.
Personally, I can't say that one place is better than the other. It's sort of like comparing Disney to Universal. They are kind of the same, but different.