More about Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort
Great Water Park for the kids, one hour from Chi
We stayed at the Grand Bear Resort for a full weekend and really enjoyed it. Not only is it close to Starved Rock, but the small town of Utica is really quite pleasant as well. You really don't need to go anywhere if you stay in the resort, which has cabins, motel style rooms and more extensive full fledged villas because the facilities are so extensive. The resort delivers on the water park, which is in a huge hall with six sections, each of which has a different wet activity. Across the parking lot is an indoor amusement park with a dozen rides and more games, plus a sports bar and (mediocre by Chicago standards but not bad for downstate) pizzeria. Food in general is quite limited but they do have a breakfast buffet. We chose to bring our own food and were happy with our decision. Far and away what the lodge delivers on is the water attractions. After a full weekend in the pools we still weren't tired of it. The hot tub was great, the lazy river delighted my daughter and she came to love the water slide and wave pool. Eye candy is in limited supply, it being a family oriented place, but there is some.
We stayed one night at the Grand Bear Resort in a standard family room. Below is a list of our pros and cons
The water in the pool was very warm and comfortable. We have been to other water parks where it was so cold that our small kids were shivering within 15 min.
The pool was not terribly crowded for a weekend night and during the holiday break. I was told that the resort was at full capacity
The beds were comfortable.
The amusement park near the hotel was a nice little break for our kids, although they were too small to ride most of the rides, they did enjoy a few.
They did not clean the room well. Found someones old tighty whitey underduddies in the bathroom and clipped toenails on the carpet and the room reeked of cigarrette smoke (I realize not the fault of the cleaning service, but a little spritz of lysol or something may have helped.
The food there is horrible. I honestly did not expect much. I expected it to be average at best. But it is almost as if the universe heard my inner most thoughts and said...oh hell no, we can make this dinner much more miserable than this lady could have ever thought. How do you burn the outside of a peice of fish and the inside still be frozen? How does one make macaroni and cheese so nasty that a 3-year-old gags at the site of it? I read earlier reviews and toyed with the idea of going out to eat and really regret that we didn't.
Its is a toss up for me. I have been to a very similar waterpark in Lake Geneva, and the room was much less expensive ($89 vs $200) but the water was very cold.
There is supposed to be a newer water park in Rockford and another in Rosemont in 2008. Hopefully they will provide a much better hotel and resort experience than the Utica location
Grand time at Grand Bear
We stayed at the Grand Bear Lodge 02/02-02/04. My husband and our three children, ages 5, 8, 9 and I rented a villa for two nights. This was our second stay at Grand Bear Lodge. We did get a pleasant surprise upon check-in, there was a villa special this weekend. We received a discount price on the villa and two food vouchers to be used for breakfast buffet or pizza buffet. Last year when we stayed here, I had no idea that there were no places to eat outside of the resort. This resort is literally in the middle of nowhere. I have seen other reviews written here about places to eat and wish we would have looked her before going. Last year we were at the mercy of Jack’s restaurant and the pizza place at the Enchanted Forest. I found Jack’s to be overpriced and the food quality poor. They have a good breakfast buffet, but at $40 for the five of us to eat, I felt that was a little much. This trip I planned ahead and took food to make ourselves at the villa. We appreciated the breakfast vouchers, free food is always a good thing.
Another surprise was that the Enchanted Forest is now included in the price of the room. I was glad to see this, because last year we had to pay $10 per person for one day. With room prices at $400 a night, you really don’t expect to have to pay additional for amusement park rides. I was happy that the Enchanted Forest is now included unlimited for the duration of your stay.
Our kids are at the perfect age for this resort. The water park has lots for them to do. The one slide is very fast and rough on the back, and the visual effects were not working on the other slide. When we were there it was -3 outside, so it was a bit cool in the waterpark, I would have appreciated kicking the heat up a bit. The waterpark is very loud as someone else mentioned in their post. I could do without the loud music bouncing off the walls. We spent the majority of our time in the Enchanted Forest. The rides are great!! No lines, go on as many times as you like and they are clean! We had soda and snacks there, $1.00 for a kids drink with unlimited refills, $5.00 for a pitcher. I thought that was reasonable.
The kids love the old fashion candy in the general store and we love the ice cream at the sweet shop! The fireplaces in the lobby are great with plenty of seating to kick back and relax here. Internet is available from your laptop here.
The villa was wonderful. I would love to have a home like that! Two wonderful fireplaces, laundry, hot tub in the master bedroom!! You do need to bring your own paper goods (paper towels, paper plates, etc), silverware and dishes are provided. We had no cleaning service on either stay. I assume they come and clean after you leave. We were in the villas farthest from the resort, not a walk you want to take when it is -3 out. They have a shuttle that provides transportation all over the resort.
I would like to come in the fall when the leaves are changing and when we can have an opportunity to enjoy the trails and outdoors. There is not much to do in the winter here off of the resort. No shopping, etc. nearby.
Not worth the money
My family had heard good things about Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Lodge, and had high expectations. But when we got there, we were definitely underwhelmed. The indoor water park is great, but that alone is not the $215 dollars per night we paid for our family of 2 adults and 2 young children. When we got there, our room's toilet didn't work. Once moved to a new room, we found several pieces of leftover food on the floor (luckily we found it all before our 2-year-old did). The bathroom and sink counter were entirely too small for 4 people. It would have been a tight squeeze for even one person's toiletries. I expected much more from a luxury resort.
We do not have a review of the restaurant, as it took so long for a server to arrive, then be rude, that we left and drove to Oglesby to eat. A family-friendly resort should have quick, friendly service. The food prices were out of line, in my opinion, as well. After seeing them, we opted to drive to a grocery store, and get the rest of our meals there.
The "amusement park" across the street is not free to guests, so we didn't even go there. We were not interested in paying $10 per person to ride on a couple of rides.
great vacation get away, that is close to home
Overall it was a great vacation with a few minor glitches upon checking in we were billed more than what we should have been but that was quickly taken care of without any hassle. when we got into the room the sheets on the pullout bed were dirty . the housekeeper came up and changed the sheets in a timely manner and was very nice and very courteous. The toilet seat had a crack and if you sat on it just so, you would get a pinched fanny. The excercise room was okay but the only excersice bike was broken. We ate lunch at the Enchanted Forest the food was okay once we got it but the server seemed to have been having an "off day"( we had calamari , & hawaiin pizza, both were good). Whenever we had a problem the managment was able to take care of it ( we did not bother to complain about the toilet seat or the excersize bike). The rides at the enchanted forest are geared more toward kids in thier tweens( ages 6-12), but it is indoors ( something I truely appreciate since it was 104 degrees on the day we went), small, and clean so you could sit in a chair and let your kids ride the rides without getting hot, sunburned, and dirty, and still see them. The lines were non existent and the kids could go from one ride to another without a wait and sometimes ride the same ride 5 times without waiting in line, it was not at all crowded.. When we went to the indoor water park it was very loud , the lifegaurds( with an exception of a few) didn't seem to be paying much attention , and children as well as adults were not following the posted rules. Although there were alot of people it didn't seem crowded. Once again the fact that it was indoors was great since it was a 104 degree day, no sunscreen was needed since it was all indoors. We decided to eat dinner in town and drove to Utica to a little restaraunt called Canal Port , the food was very good and very reasonably priced.
We decided to go to the grizzly jack story time It was not much of a story but the kids seemed to enjoy . When we to our room we were all ready for bed , you can hear people in the hallway but the comfort of the beds made up for it, We had a total of three queen sized beds after we pulled out the couch bed. In the morning we went to the lazy river for the Ducky Derby which was a cute idea, all the kids got a goodie bag and the winner got a small basketball and a goodie bag. From there we went to the breakfast buffet, the food was very tasty and fresh, the server was very nice and enjoyable. We then let the kids swim until checkout . This was for us a perfect vacation that we will most likely repeat in the future.
An unexpected pleasure
No, its not the Dells which has been there for 40 plus years, but that doesn't mean that Grand Bear isn't a great destination. One of the major selling points for me is that its not as big as the Dells. We went on a Saturday, and had no problem with parking or crowds. The place was not empty by any means, but we never felt crowded. We ate lunch at the main restaurant and found the food to be above my expectations - I expected corn dogs and pizza, but had a full menu to choose from including salads and wraps. The indoor water park was great - again, no its not huge, but that can be a plus. We especially loved the miniture golf. Although the course isn't elaborate, it was a lot of fun with a great water trap! The location is abosolutely beautiful with plenty of natural beauty left in tact.
Food note: the snack bar in the amusement park have DON'T MISS chicken wings! The biggest I've ever seen, with 4 different sauces.
If you want Disney World go to Disney World - this is a beautiful, unexpected little gem.
By the way, the Villas and Cabins are 5 star. We have rented villas in the Caribbean and the Carolinas and these rate at the top. An FYI for others who've written that maid service wasn't included in the villas: where ever you rent vacation HOMES, maid service is rarely if ever included.
Nice hotel, but some things need to be worked on
The hotel is very attractive and I guess the room price isn't too expensive given that you have a waterpark in the hotel. However, they should have finished things before opening up the resort. We wanted to go to the mini-golf, but you have to go through an out-of-the-way door and walk across a large gravel area that service trucks/const. equipment are driving on. Really strange! The waterpark is great, however a slide for kids in the 6-10 range would have been nice. The little slide is too little, the fast slides are too fast. The restaurant was really expensive for dinner ($24 for a NY Strip in Utica, IL?), but breakfast wasn't priced too bad. The people working there were very friendly and helpful -- a big plus! Our daughter wants to go back -- maybe next year!
Kids Had a Ball!
Just returned from two night stay at Grand Bear in Utica. Rented a villa for 2 adults, 2 kids (ages 9 and 4) - well worth it. This is our second time there and we love the fact it is not a 3-4 hour drive as to the Dells. Very spacious and clean. Kids each had own queen size bed and we had king. Very comfy beds, lots of extra pillow, blankets, and towels. The food at the water park is probably among the worst I've ever tasted.... and the restaurant at the hotel is not much better. We even tried the bar and grill at the indoor amusement park for appetizers (although we did not have pizza). I just don't know who cooks this stuff! The only saving grace is the outdoor bbq at the bar area. We were disappointed with the Sunday brunch - expensive and again food not that good. Villa was convenenient to cook in... at least b-fast and a quick lunch, but bring your own cookware. They did supply a few pots and pans but scratched so badly even soup stuck! Did go to Cajun Corner (in town) for dinner and it was WONDERFUL.... Outdoor pool not yet open but HUGE water slide out there, we received two free tickets upon check in and you can purchase unlimited rides for $9.95. It was so hot out that kids really enjoyed it. Water park was good - entertained our two sons for quite a while each day. Grounds are nicely kept up. We will return next year!
We went down to Grand Bear for a long weekend. We rented one of the vacation Villas. What a beautiful and fitting idea for families. Everything is provided and we had more than enough room. Our family of 6 slept comfortably.
The grounds were wonderful and it was a short walk to the Starved Rock State Park where we went hiking. The kids and adults really enjoyed the waterpark. Lots to do for all ages.
Utica, which is a few minute drive from the property, was wonderful. Lots of selections for dinner or lunch. We recommend Canalport for dinner.
Overall, this is a great property and a value for a weekend getaway. Took us less than 45 minutes to get their from Plainfield and have already make reservations to come back. Beats the long drive to the dells.