It’s about this time of year that the folks in my neck of the woods start making plans for family vacations come spring. (It’s somewhat of a natural consequence of the start of the rainy season.)
But our family isn’t joining them this year for two reasons:
- We did the vacation thing BIG last year and it seems prudent to keep it much more low key this year
- Our youngest is at the perfect age (20 months) for making the idea of a plane trip or long lines at an amusement park sound absolutely awful.
So this year we’re taking a different strategy.
Instead of one, big, week-long family vacation sometime in February, we’ve decided to pepper the next several months with several small adventures.
One thing we’d really like to accomplish with this idea is lots of bonding. So, to that effect, we’re doing some Mommy/Son outings, some Daddy/Daughter trips, some adventures with the whole family, etc.
We just started so we’ve only logged two excursions so far… my son and husband took in a college football game about a month ago and just a few weeks ago we left our young toddler with grandma and took the big kids on an overnight Great Wolf Lodge Snowland adventure.
It was actually a very spontaneous thing. The week before, I received an invitation for me and my family to come get a sneak peek of Great Wolf Lodge’s transformation into a Christmas wonderland. Having been to the indoor waterpark/hotel/virtual amusement park before, I knew the big kids would be thrilled to see the place holiday style.
So, despite my son being in his very first play and having to be at school for 7 hours on Saturday to perform two shows, we bundled them into the car that night and headed off to check another adventure off of our list.
It really turned out to be a magical 24 hours and today I’m giving you an insider’s look at the Great Wolf Lodge Snowland experience (find the resort closest to you here) and my tips on how to get the best out of it!
The very first thing that happens when you check in, is your children are each given a set of wolf ears– which they will immediately put on and then run around the lobby acting like wolves.
Once you catch up to them, this is what you’ll see- The Great Clock Tower located right in the middle of the Grand Lobby.
Multiple times a day the Great Clock Tower friends (the owl and snow-covered moose are two pictured above) come to life in the Grand Lobby. These Northwoods-themed animated shows entertain little ones with songs and stories and we made it just in time for their nightly bedtime story show. (This was followed by a PJ dance party in the lobby that we elected to skip due to the aforementioned long day.)
Before we headed up to our room, though, the kids couldn’t resist taking a quick tour of the rest of the lobby. My favorite part is the huge fireplace and cozy chairs and couches, perfect for taking in the glittering indoor winter wonderland.
The kids favorite part?
The life-sized gingerbread house that you can actually make reservations to have a meal in and help support the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Yes, the entire thing is constructed of actual gingerbread and candy (using 550 lbs. of flour, 450 lbs. of powdered sugar, 37 gallons of Light Corn Syrup and hundreds of Gummy Bears).
Once we finally coaxed the kids out of the Grand Lobby and into our room, more Christmas treats awaited us. Our room was decked out with lighted garlands on the bed, snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and, most impressively, our very own Christmas tree.
Under the tree there were even presents: a snuggly sherpa style blanket and a winter book featuring some of the friends that routinely roam the grounds at Great Wolf Lodge.
In fact, just as we were finishing our story, who should knock at the door but…
Violet the Wolf who had come to bring us milk and a whole plate of seriously yummy cookies. (So sorry, they were all eaten before I had a chance to snap a photo.)
That night we slept with the garland lights twinkling in the dark (the kids loved that) and the next morning we woke up ready to play.
One quick note on the rooms. This trip we stayed in the standard suite with two queen beds but the last time we came as a family, baby M stayed with us in a similar room while the bigger kids stayed with their grandparents in one of Great Wolf’s super-fun themed suites. They totally loved that they had their own cabin inside the room. As a parent I love the idea of being able to put the kids to bed at a decent hour without having to go to bed yourself!
Check-out is at 11:00 am but the resort has really handy lockers and showers adjacent to the waterpark and welcomes guests to stay until it closes at 9:00 pm. So our plan was to hit the games and adventures inside the hotel, eat lunch, and then finish up with a few hours in the waterpark before heading home.
First up, the search for treasure…
or crystals, or whatever else we needed to find on the specific “quest” we were on.
One of the most unique features about the Great Wolf Lodge resorts is their amazing live action, high-tech scavenger hunt “MagiQuest” games that you partake in throughout the hotel.
The first step is to get your wands and guide book, then you find yourself a “magic” tree in the lobby and pick which quest you want to go on.
From there, you pretty much run around various floors in center of the hotel (it’s surprisingly not as chaotic as it sounds) and hunt for various items. When you find the right ones they light up and do cool things and the kids run off in search of the next one feeling oh-so-satisfied.
You can see here that we were on a crystal quest. Once all the items are found (usually around 5 or so) there is an impressive show where fairies, wizards, etc. reward you for your success.
And then you do it all over again… I’m not even sure how many different quests there are but we completed five during our stay and there were still many, many more quests to be completed. The nice thing is the wand stores all the information permanently so if you ever come back to Great Wolf Lodge you can just pick up where you left off.
Along with MagiQuest and the indoor water park, the resort also has A LOT of other activities for the kids: an arcade, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, a spa for mom/daughter mani pedis, the creation station (think build-a-bear with their wolf mascots instead), an outdoor rope course in the warm months, and more.
It’s so much that it can be hard to get the kids to focus and it can be overwhelming as a parent. We experienced this first hand the first time that we went.
What I didn’t know then, was that they offer different passes (Pup Pass, Paw Pass, and Wolf Pass) that bundle activities together. Definitely go this route! Not only does it save you a good deal of money, you can tell the kids exactly what you’ll be doing that day before leaving the room.
We were given something very close to the Wolf Pass for each child. We barely had time to complete everything before we hit the waterpark and it really helped keep everyone on track.
After all the running around with MagiQuest, the arcade, getting glitter tattoos (that still haven’t come off!), and The Creation Station, we went and had lunch.
While we were eating I helped the kids finalize their Christmas lists and then we went and dropped them off for Santa at the North Pole mailing station in the lobby that I’d been telling them about. (I took a page out of Glennon’s book this year and told them we’d concentrate on our lists until mailing them off and then focus on others for the rest of December).
When Snowland officially opens Santa will be making regular appearances there too. After that item was checked off our to-do list, it was time for the grand finale.
The water park! Yay!
I didn’t take a ton of pics because I wanted to protect my camera (it’s not at all that I don’t want photos of my late-November, pasty self in a swim suit living on the internet).
But suffice to say, my kids think it’s awesome.
They love everything about it from the wave pool and floating basketball hoops, the the lily-pad rope course and huge family size innertube water slides and super-soaker playground complete with the hugest bucket known to man routinely dumping hundreds of gallons of water on everyone.
We spent about three hours swimming, sliding, and soaking and then finally headed back to home where our smiley little M was waiting with his grandma.
Overall it was a great quick trip and something we’ll remember for a long, long time. Thanks so much to Great Wolf Lodge for letting us be a part of their magic.
*This post is sponsored by Great Wolf Lodge, all opinions are 100% my own.