We were invited to stay overnight at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort in Utica, IL to check out their newly renovated indoor waterpark and the other amenities at the hotel. All opinions are my own.
We were drawn to Grand Bear Resort for two reasons: my kids had never been to an indoor waterpark and it’s across the street from Starved Rock! Before we left, we consulted Rachel’s article with Tips for Hiking Starved Rock with Kids, which was so helpful. We opted to go on a hike first before heading to the hotel and we absolutely loved it. We walked to St. Louis Canyon because the man at the info desk said it was the least muddy and is 3 miles round trip- he was so right and it was a perfect distance for our family. How peaceful and beautiful!
After hiking, we ate lunch at Uptown Grill in LaSalle, which is a 15 minute drive from Starved Rock and Grand Bear Resort. The food was great and we sat in the front screened-in porch, which we loved.
Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort
Check-in time for Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort is 4pm, but we ended up getting there around 2pm and our room was ready so we settled in there. There are 280 rooms, including cabins and villas, and it was 50% full the weekend we were there. Nothing seemed crowded at all, including the indoor waterpark.
The Family Suite With Balcony that we stayed in had two queen beds and a pull out couch, a small table with two chairs, apartment refrigerator and microwave, tv, bathroom with a toilet and shower, and a small sink next to a narrow closet right behind the door. The room comfortably sleeps four and I would not count on the pull-out bed because the mattress was caved-in.
Miniature Golf at Grizzly Jack’s
Our first stop was Canyon Creek. The resort has an 18-hole mini golf course with waterfalls and streams. The course was pretty straightforward, with a few logs, chutes, and one hole where it was fun to hit your ball into the stream and watch it travel towards the hole.
The greens were fairly worn, but we had fun playing the course. There was a drop off along one side and a section of the fencing was broken, so I was a little worried about safety in that area.
The mini golf course is open from dawn to dusk, weather permitting. Registered guests are $6, non-registered guests are $7, and children under 3 years old are free. You can stop by the front desk to pick up a putter, ball, and score card. Grand Bear Resort also offers a mini golf add-on package that you can book with your reservation to save a dollar off per person.
There’s a nice playground next to the miniature golf course to climb and slide on if you want to go outside for a while.
Grand Bear Falls: Starved Rock Water Park
The main event at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort is Great Bear Falls, the 24,000 square foot indoor waterpark. It opened in April, 2019 after renovations as a result of fire damage. Our kids had a great time! My daughter loved relaxing on the lazy river and my son went down the body slide and tube slide repeatedly. The climb to the top of the slides was three stories and the descent takes you outside in tube slides and then back in through one of two large slide openings in the wall. It was fun to see his face as he came out.
There is also a large splash pad structure will an enormous dumping bucket, a large yellow family slide that the four of us could slide down arm in arm, a tot area with a small slide and bear fountain, a wave pool, and hot tub. You can check it all out in the video below.
Indoor Waterpark Hours and Prices
In general, the waterpark is open on Sundays from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm and Mondays through Saturdays from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm, but you can check their website for season dependent information for when you will be there.
Grand Bear Falls is included in your stay, but day passes are also available, excluding holidays and black-out days so we recommend you call Guest Services at (866) 399-3866 before you go. Day pass admission is $39.95 for those 48″ and taller and $34.95 for 47″ and under.
With an aerial view of the waterpark, Honey Pot Sweets & Ice Cream is where our kids enjoyed ice cream cones after swimming. It was a nice treat! They are open every day from 1:00 – 9:00 pm.
Activities and Entertainment at Grand Bear Resort
The Cave Arcade has classic favorites and new games for everyone to enjoy, 60 choices in all. They have reloadable cards and the games were reasonably priced, with skee ball being $0.50 and air hockey $1. You can cash in your points at the end for prizes at the counter. The arcade is open Fridays from 5:00 – 10:00 pm, Saturdays 5:00 – 10:00 pm, and Sundays 9:00 am – 1:00 pm.
The night we were there, they were showing Leap at 7pm and Grand Bear Resort shows family movies every Friday and Saturday nights on the first floor. The front desk has a sign with what movie is showing at the start time.
If you want to spend some time outside, have a drink or bite to eat at Bear Island, which is a large hut in that same area with a tv, music, and some shade. You can also hang out there at night around the fire pit. There are plenty of table and chairs to enjoy the night sky. They are open Friday through Sunday in the afternoon through evening.
Looking for a craft to do while you are there? Head to Moose Crossing, the hotel convenience store in the lobby, and purchase a Grizzly Jack t-shirt that you can color! T-shirts are $12 and fabric markers are included.
Every night at 7:40 pm, the lobby comes alive as Grizzly Jack and Grand Bear tell the story of how their friendship came to be. Think animatronic characters at ShowBiz Pizza, remember that?!
Where to Eat
Jack’s Place serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and it inside the hotel. You can relax outside and have a drink at the bar or snack at Bear Island. Snacks and treats are also available at The Wave Café inside the waterpark as well as at Honey Pot Sweets & Ice Cream Shop.
There are also restaurant options in the neighboring towns. As I mentioned above, we stopped at Uptown Grill for lunch before going to the hotel and it was great. I used Google Maps to search “restaurants near me” and found a few highly rated options if you want to leave the resort.
We were impressed with the cleanliness of the waterpark and it was definitely the highlight of our stay at the resort!