Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Great Wolf Lodge

On Friday night we drove about 2 hours up to the Poconos to spend the night at Great Wolf Lodge, and then on Saturday spent the day playing in their indoor water park. Lots of our friends have gone and we thought that a day of swimming would be an excellent way to celebrate Mike's birthday (which is actually today, but we have been celebrating in various guises for days...and will continue through at least this weekend!)

The room we stayed in was called a "Wolf Den" suite. The kids had bunk beds in a little "log cabin" and were set up with their own TV and game system (which unfortunately didn't work...but that was OK...)

We arrived right around 6PM and after unloading our stuff, we checked out the arcade for a bit. The kids love arcades. I am more of a return-on-investment person - I want to have a lot of fun for my money and feeding tokens into games that last 10 seconds doesn't do it for me. Sort of like slot machines - which to me are like broken vending machines - money goes in, nothing comes out.

But we enjoyed several rounds of Skee Ball, and the kids had a lot of fun. They each accrued about 200 prize tickets, which wasn't enough for any substantial prize, but respectable.

After the playing, we went in search of dinner. After the sticker shock of the buffet, which was the only on-site dinner choice, we loaded back into the car and drove about 2 miles down the road to Friendly's.

We returned to the hotel in time for Sprout and Mike to attend "The Great Clocktower Show" in the lobby. Tater opted out, since he isn't a big fan of animatronic creatures, so we went back to the room and read books. Sprout's first response when we asked how the show was was "Awesome" - but later, she said it was really creepy and weird, so apparently we made the right call in boycotting.

Then it was bedtime. Tater, as the most mobile sleeper in all the land, was put on the lower bunk for his own safety. Sprout quite triumphantly claimed the top. They had a hard time getting to sleep due to the combination of a) excitement b) away from home-ness and c) children running screaming through the halls until 11PM. Rude.

In the morning we passed on the in-house cuisine again in favor of a Dunkin' Donuts run. And around 10 we packed up our stuff and put it out in the car and went to the water park.

We had watched the action through the window the night before, and it was impressive from afar. But is quite the set-up!

There are 6 huge water slides (some of which snake their way outside the building), a wave pool, a hot tub, and a bunch of other stuff!

The kids liked the wave pool the best, but eventually warmed up to the slides and really enjoyed them. Over the course of the day, things got more crowded and there were some fairly significant lines for the slides. But they moved pretty quickly so there wasn't too much wait time.

All of the big slides ended in shallow pools - the deepest was 3 1/2 feet. And since riders go in big rafts and inner-tubes, strong swimming skills were not required to ride. Lots of inner tubes were available in the wave pool as well, so the kids always felt safe. There are also lots of lifeguards on duty and safety does seem to be a big priority (as it should be!)

The picture up there is of the area called Fort Mackenzie, which is a huge complex of sprinklers and buckets and hoses spraying water all over. The highlight is a HUGE bucket that holds 1000 gallons of water (!) and dumps over everything every few minutes. We were standing right under it when it dumped and oh my...that's a lot of water!

We played from 10 until about 3, going back and forth between the different pools and activities. Mike took a break to have an adult beverage and watch some basketball at the bar, and the kids and I had a snack break with little corn dogs and fries (such the healthy weekend!) We passed (again) on the "real" food. (I swear I am not completely cheap, but $9 for a sandwich that a kid will probably not eat seems wrong...)

When we were good and shriveled, we changed in the locker rooms (well, actually in the bathroom, since the locker rooms were monopolized by people doing a full-on makeover or something) and got ready to hit the road for home.

The kids went back to the arcade to cash in their prize tickets - mostly on candy. Then we made a stop in the gift shop, which was not as horrific as those stops usually are. I think all of the waterplay exhausted the kids to the point where they were incapable of begging for every single item in the shop. They each chose a huge lollipop with an itty bitty stuffed wolf. I got a fridge magnet. Big splurge.

The kids had hoped we would be able to partake of the MagiQuest game while we were there. This is a scavenger-hunt-like game where participants have electronic wands and a list of clues. The clues lead to items in the hotel and waving the wand in front of those items registers that they have been found. Apparently this is very fun. But we were out of time, so we'll have to save it for next time!

We made a stop at a Perkins on the way back and had our lunch (of breakfast food) around we were quite starving. Yum...pancakes!

I am sure we'll go back again. Sprout kept saying "This is the best day of my entire life" and Tater declared it to be "Awesome". I think next time we would go earlier on the first day, so that there would be time for the MagiQuest game. Guests are allowed to participate in activities on-site for the entire day of check-in and check-out - so a one-night stay could get you two solid days of playing.

Great Wolf Lodge, to me, had the aura of a kid-appropriate casino. Everything is big and dramatic, you have no idea what time it is, and you rarely run out of things to do. Not cheap, but definitely worth the drive and the investment!

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