To kick off the holiday season, we had a special guest visit four Great Wolf Lodge resorts and he arrived in a grandiose way –not his typical sleigh to say the least.  You guessed it; our special guest was indeed Santa Claus who came to town riding in the Coca-Cola Caravan!  (You have to see it to believe it – the 18-wheeler is decked out from bumper to bumper in holiday lights and festive décor.  A truly amazing sight.)  He also brought a very special friend, the Coca-Cola Polar Bear, with him to join in the fun.  Santa, the Polar Bear and the Coca-Cola Caravan made their way up the east coast visiting Great Wolf Lodge resorts in Concord, Williamsburg, Pocono Mountains and New England.  The first stop they made was in Concord, North Carolina.  Not only was it the first stop at a Great Wolf Lodge, but it was also the very first stop for the Coca-Cola Caravan this season. 

The Caravan spent two days at each resort. While there, guests were able to get a photo taken with the big guy and see the Coca-Cola Caravan.  The photos were a great souvenir for our guests, as they were printed right on-site and were ready to take home within seconds.  The caravan even stayed lit outside the resort after Santa turned in for the night. (He needs lots of rest this time of year, you know.)

Guests at the Pocono Mountains must have been on the really, really nice list this year because the weather cooperated and they were able to get their photos taken with Santa outside next to the enormous Coca-Cola Caravan big rig! 

During the four resort stops, over eight days, Great Wolf Lodge had over 4,200 guest photos taken with Santa and the Caravan!  It was an amazing experience for all to see that’s for sure.

There was also a very special treat during the Williamsburg visit; Santa himself was there to help light the holiday tree in The Grand Lobby, signifying the official Snowland® kickoff. He also took tons of photos with all the wolf pups and joined in the first indoor snowfall of the season. 

We had such a great time sharing the Coca-Cola Caravan experience with our guests this holiday season.  Wishing you and your pack a Happy Howlidays from all your friends at Great Wolf Lodge and Coca-Cola. 

Ask any child under the age of ten and they will tell you no party is complete without balloons. They’ll also tell you vacation is more fun with balloon animals. Every day, our Kids Experience teams at each Great Wolf Lodge resorts create cute animals and figures out of colorful balloons. This month, in celebration of  Howl-O-Ween, the Kids Experience team in Traverse City decided they wanted to show off balloon art in a new way.

Halloween has its own cast of character and creatures: jack o’lanterns, ghosts, bats, witches, vampires and skeletons to name a few. And anyone who has ever seen the Skeleton Dance from 1929’s Silly Symphonies knows, skeletons can be fun and silly. The Traverse City team thought of something else that skeletons are great for: really cool balloon structures. To help bring this idea to life, they reached out to Magic Galaxy Entertainment from Euclid, Ohio and challenged them to create a friendly skeleton to fill the entire Grand Lobby.

With Howl-O-Ween beginning on October 9, work on the enormous skeleton began at 9:58 a.m. on Monday, October 6. Think that balloon-twisting experts never break a balloon? Not true. A mere ten minutes later, the first balloon popped!

As the skeleton came to life, excitement filled the lodge. Guest families stopped to watch in wonder as balloon after balloon was connected and twisted into place. It was like watching  the Macy’s Day Parade come together in many, many pieces. 2,104 pieces to be exact; that is how many balloons were needed to bring the skeleton to life.

It took a full 72 hours to build the skeleton, right in the Grand Lobby. Next, the team brought in a large lift to assist in (carefully) raising him high above the floor for a true bird’s eye view of guests as they arrived. “Standing” at 69 feet tall and stretching more than 24 feet across, Traverse City’s skeleton was the true centerpiece for Howl-O-Ween all this month. And tonight we’re sure he’ll be moving and shaking with guests during the Monster Bash Dance Party – just like one of those dancing skeletons that so inspired his creation.

When I accepted my first job (many) years ago, a friend told me my career would take me to “new heights.” This week, that prediction came true during a visit to Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine.

Earlier this year, Great Wolf Resorts added an all-new and unique guest experience to four resorts: the Howlers Peak Ropes Course. With an indoor version debuting in New England, and three outdoor courses added to the Pocono Mountains, Grapevine and Grand Mound respectively, these attractions took fun to an entirely new level. This week, I got to try the multi-level balancing experience myself.

My first thought when I saw the ropes course was focused solely on its height. It is tall. Rising 50 feet into the sky, Howlers Peak is four levels of fun. Zip lines allow you to fly through the air from one side to the other, while strategically placed ropes, steps, and small wooded shapes, create pathways that require some concentration, some balance and a sense of adventure.

The highlight of Howlers Peak is the “quick jump” or as I jokingly called it, “the death drop.” It sounds simple enough, 45 feet above the ground, you step right off the platform and sail on down to the awaiting landing pad – complete with a signature Great Wolf Lodge paw. Friends and colleagues had told me the quick jump experience was a lot of fun and as I watched several people glide down, I decided I was next.

Happily, I zip lined toward that corner of the attraction. Then I balanced on a thin rope and “crab crawled” my way across to the platform. A pack member calmly adjusted my harness, told me what to do, checked in with his partner below, yelled, “Jumper!” and opened the gate. Bravely, I smiled, headed to the edge and….nothing. I couldn’t do it. I stood for about five minutes and could not find my courage. Apologetically, and with my proverbial tail between my legs, I unharnessed and zip lined away.

Internally, I negotiated with myself. I decided I didn’t need the quick jump; I could zipline, and balance, and walk and climb with the best of them. But my inner voice nagged and said, “This is not over.”

Suddenly, a movie reference popped in my head. I grew up crushing on Harrison Ford, and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” started playing in my mind. Remember the scene with Indy standing at the edge of the cave, with no path or bridge ahead of him and a huge abyss below? It was the “leap of faith” scene. If he took one step forward and believed he would be alright, he would. He just needed to move forward. (Spoiler alert – he took the step and a bridge magically appeared beneath his feet.)

I knew a bridge would not appear under my feet at the quick jump site, but I also knew that if four year old kids (YES!) could do it, I could, too.

So, with thoughts of Hollywood magic in my head, I went back up to the platform. Moments later, I took a bold step forward - ok, more like, slight stumble and ungraceful trip – and WHEEEEEEEE! A moment of flying, couple seconds of floating and a HOWL of delight. I did it! I conquered Howlers Peak.

Everyone clapped, a few cheered, and I promptly removed my harness. Check the box for another amazing, unexpected Great Wolf Lodge moment. And a quiet thank you to Indiana Jones.

Early this month, I co-hosted a #GWLchat with Great Wolf Lodge. For anyone who missed it, here’s a recap of the lively and fast discussion that took place during the interesting hour!

We started the conversation discussing Fall Family Fun and activities families take part in each fall. Most participants agreed their favorite fall activities included a pumpkin patch or apple orchard to pick their own pumpkins or apples. My family recently visited a local pumpkin farm and enjoyed a hayride to the patch to pick the perfect pumpkin and several other family-friendly activities including a corn maze, zip lines, a “not-so-scary” haunted house, a petting zoo and a shop to purchase fresh apple cider, pumpkin pies and other goodies!
 
Participants also shared how much they loved the simple pleasures of fall: crisp, fresh morning air, family hikes, car rides to look at fall foliage and playing in the leaves.
 
Next we chatted about all things Halloween, including pumpkin carving, costumes, annual traditions and much more. Dave, my fellow 
Ask A Mom Panelist from @AdventuresByDad said his family looks forward to watching "The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown." Clarissa,@Clarissa_xplain said her family loves to check out different costume stores and trying on costumes, while lLonaB @iLonaB1980 said ordering pizza before trick or treating with extended family and friends is a Halloween must!

During the #GWLChat, I was excited that Great Wolf Lodge shared new Jack-O-Lantern patterns featuring Wiley the Wolf, Violet the Wolf and even a paw print. Anyone can download these templates here.
 
We ended the Twitter chat by talking about 
Howl-O-Ween at the 12 Great Wolf Lodge resorts. There are many spooktacular events happening during this event and it's a great way to celebrate Halloween. Visit http://www.greatwolf.com/HowlOWeen to learn more about the daily trick-or-treat trail, the Monster Bash Dance Party, Spooktacular Story Time and costume parade.

Thanks to everyone who joined our Twitter chat. A big congratulations to @sherrybracy for participating and winning the Howl-O-Ween prize pack. If you missed this chat, keep an eye out for the next #GWLChat in early December.

-Jenna Jackson, Ask a Mom Panelist for Great Wolf Lodge Mason

Make Great Wolf Lodge’s Howl-O-Ween  part of your Halloween celebration. This month, if you carve a Great Wolf Lodge-themed pumpkin, you have the chance to win a $50 Great Wolf Lodge gift card. Just in time for the start of Howl-O-Ween on October 9, we’ve created new pumpkin designs starring the Great Wolf Lodge characters. Visit your local pumpkin patch, find your perfect pumpkin  and take part in this fun-filled contest today!

Here’s how:

  • Pick your Great Wolf Lodge-themed design. Download & print one of the Great Wolf Lodge pumpkin carving templates here, or get creative and make your own!
  • Carve your pumpkin. You can find step-by-step instructions on Pinterest or on our HOW-TO: Howl-O-Ween Pumpkin Carving blog.
  • Share your photo between October 9 and October 30 using the hashtag #GWLHowlOWeen on Twitter or Instagram, or post your photo on our Facebook page.  

We can’t wait to see your amazing Great Wolf Lodge pumpkin. Official contest rules can be found here. Winners will be announced on October 31 on our blog.

Best of luck and happy carving!

Gather the Tools 


- Pumpkin carving kit (knife, scooper, carving tool, poker tool. A pushpin or thumbtack works well.)
- Pumpkin big enough to fit your pattern
- Great Wolf Lodge pumpkin carving pattern
 
 

Prepare your Pumpkin

Cut off the top of the pumpkin by cutting into the pumpkin around the stem. Scoop out the inside of the pumpkin until it is clean.
 

 

 

 

Place your Pattern

 
Cut the pattern out of the full sheet of paper and tape it to your pumpkin. Cut slits or pleat the paper to help it fit around the pumpkin’s curves.

 

 

 

Poke, poke, poke!

Use a pushpin or poker tool to poke holes around the black areas of the pattern, creating an outline of the pattern on your pumpkin.

 

 

 

Cut it Out

Once you’ve finished poking the outline of your entire pattern, remove the paper from the pumpkin. Using a carving tool or small knife and carve along the lines. Be sure to start with the smaller pieces, and work your way out from the middle.

 

 

 

Show it Off!
Add a flameless candle and share a photo of your pumpkin using hashtag #GWLHowlOWeen on Instagram or Twitter, or post it on Great Wolf Lodge’s Facebook page.

With fall in full swing, we can’t help but think about pumpkins, apple cider, cozy sweaters and trick-or-treating. With so many things to do and so little time to do it all, how do you make the most of this fall season? Join us on Tuesday, October 7 as we co-host a Twitter Chat with ideas and inspiration for fall family fun!

Join our co-host, Jenna Jackson (@Jackson5FamBLOG), a mother of two adorable boys, blogger, and Great Wolf Lodge Ask-A-Mom panelist. Jenna describes herself as a “small town girl” who loves to travel, shop, eat, and just spend time together with her family.

Other participating panelists: Dave Parfitt (@AdventuresbyDad), Annie Stow (@anniestow), Kira Riley (@757Lifestyle)

Want to make the most of your fall weekends? Learn from others and share your favorite fall activities. During the chat, one lucky participant will be randomly selected to win a Howl-O-Ween prize pack including a $50 Great Wolf Lodge gift card, candy from Just Born, makers of PEEPS, Mike and Ike candy and Hot Tamales, and even a Wiley the Wolf plush! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #GWLChat while taking part. Official rules about the giveaway can be found here

Not sure how to take part in a Twitter Chat? Check out these instructions from our last chat.

Mark your calendar now!

#GWLChat

Tuesday, October 7

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET (11:00 am – 12:00 pm CT, 9:00 am – 10:00 am PT)

It’s that time of year! The 48 Hour Sale is BACK and this time around, you can save up to 25% on your family’s next getaway. This sale only comes around a couple times each year and offers the best savings on one or multiple night stays at Great Wolf Lodge. If you’ve never taken part in one of our 48 Hour Sales, here are a couple tips to make your experience as simple as possible:

Once the sale is announced, the clock starts ticking. You’ll have 48 (or so) hours to book a trip to Great Wolf Lodge and take advantage of the savings.  To make sure you’re ready for every 48 Hour Sale, sign up for our ePack to receive deals and promotions straight to your inbox.  You’re probably familiar with the saying, “The early bird gets the worm.” Well, in this case, ePack members are the birds and the 48 Hour Sale is the figurative worm. Members of our ePack are the first to be notified about the 48 Hour Sale. If you want to be among the first to receive deals and promotions, sign up here.

Do you like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter? Following Great Wolf Lodge on social media is another easy way to stay in the know about upcoming deals. We post information about promotions on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. If you ever have any questions about the 48 Hour Sale (or any other promotion), social media is a great place to ask.  One of the most common questions we receive is, “Are you having a 48 Hour Sale anytime soon?” Although we can’t always share this information, as it would take the fun out of our “pop up” sale, here’s an insider tip: when we encourage you to sign up for our ePack, there’s usually a good reason for it!

Our 48 Hour Sale is a deal that you definitely don’t want to miss out on. Have you ever wanted to visit Great Wolf Lodge during Howl-o-Ween? This is your chance! The 48 Hour sale can save your family up to 25% on stays now through October 31st. Want to learn more? To view the details for your lodge, visit greatwolf.com/48hour.

In the last two weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS has inspired thousands of people to pour a bucket of ice water over his or her head and challenge others do the same, within twenty-four hours, or make a donation to fight ALS. With 12 buckets dumping thousands of gallons of water across North America every four minutes, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a natural fit for Great Wolf Resorts.

On August 12, Shane Ciccarelli, a guest at Great Wolf Lodge New England, asked the team to help make his Ice Bucket Challenge creative and memorable. The resort’s aquatics team gave Shane an ice bath he’ll never forget - as hundreds of gallons of water, followed by buckets of ice from Great Wolf Lodge lifeguards – splashed down. Shane then offered a challenge of his own: to the Great Wolf Lodge New England pack members.

From there, the challenge was on. All 12 Great Wolf Lodge general managers challenged each other to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. Coast to coast, lodge managers got creative taking part and then passing the challenge on to another Great Wolf Lodge. The final stop, in Mason, Ohio, did not end the story. Terrie Zajo, the resort’s general manager looked to the corporate office of Great Wolf Resorts and the company’s CEO, Kim Schaefer.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge has captured the attention of the entire company,” Schaefer shared, “With our tipping buckets and enthusiastic pack members this was the perfect way to bring everyone together for a few fun moments and to help raise awareness for ALS.”

Excited by the enthusiasm and compassion from the Great Wolf Lodge management team, Kim thanked everyone for taking part and announced Great Wolf Resorts was donating $12,000 to the ALS Association, representing $1,000 from each resort.

Then, with a huge splash, lots of laughs and howls from the entire corporate office, Kim stood under 20 gallons of ice water. The Ice Bucket Challenge officially made its way through the entire Great Wolf Resorts company.

“The water was freezing, but the moment was memorable,” Kim said of experience, “Several pack members have shared they have family members battling the disease and that made our participation mean much more to all of us. We’re honored to have taken part.”

Check out the Great Wolf Lodge resort-wide Tipping Ice Bucket Challenge here: http://youtu.be/fw9YbHcCkaI

August 12: #GWLchat Twitter Party

With just a few weeks left in August, you might be wondering where summer went. Maybe you had every intention of going on a trip or getaway, but time just got away.

Don’t give up! Next Tuesday, August 12, join Great Wolf Lodge as we co-host a Twitter party with tips, ideas and inspiration for some end-of-summer fun!

We are excited to co-host this event with Dave Parfitt (@AdventuresByDad), a father of two, family travel writer and blogger, and Great Wolf Lodge Ask-A-Mom panelist. Dave has a passion for travel and loves to make every day an adventure. He will be asking and answering questions live on location from Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains!

Panelists: @colavito, @anitra@DadLogic

Things to know about a Twitter party:

What is it? A Twitter party is pre-planned question and answer chat that takes place on Twitter, organized with a specific hashtag: #GWLchat.

Why should I participate? Twitter parties are a great way to connect with those who have similar interests. Everyone has their tips and tricks when it comes to family vacations, and this is your chance to share your own family vacation experience and, most importantly, learn from others. In addition, we’ll be randomly selecting one person who participates in the Twitter party and uses the hashtag #GWLchat to receive a $250 Great Wolf Lodge gift card! Official rules can be found here.

How do I participate?

1. Log in to Twitter before the chat starts at 12:00 pm ET and be sure to follow @GreatWolfLodge and @AdventuresByDad.

2. Head over to http://twitter.com. Enter the hashtag #GWLchat into the search bar and select the "All" search option to follow the chat in real time.

3. Remember to always add the hashtag #GWLchat to your tweets.

4. When one of the hosts asks a question, share your answer!  The questions will conveniently be numbered 1-6 (e.g. Q1: What is your favorite indoor water park resort?). When you answer, please note which question you are answering by using the same numbering system (e.g. A1: Great Wolf Lodge). Be sure to include the hashtag #GWLchat.

5. Type #GWLchat into the search bar on Twitter to follow all of the tweets from the party. Please note, all tweets are subject to our social media terms and conditions and may be used in any and all media including editorial.

#GWLchat Date & Time:
Tuesday Aug. 12, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET (11:00 am – 12:00 pm CT, 9:00 am – 10:00 am PT)
 

This fall, 15 pack members will be howling with excitement as they head back to school! Today, we announced the recipients of the 2014 Great Wolf Resorts Scholarship. A total of $56,000 has been awarded to students at several Great Wolf Lodge resorts, the corporate office and central reservations office. New this year, we also awarded four scholarships to dependents of full-time employees to assist with their college education.

The announcement of the scholarship winners is always exciting. In 2012, I wrote about our inaugural class of recipients, and each summer we look forwad to the next announcement. The scholarship program means a great deal to our company and is something that makes me proud to be a pack member. To date, we’ve awarded $175,000!                                                                   

All of us at Great Wolf Resorts extend a howl of congratulations to our class of 2014 Great Wolf Lodge Scholarship recipients:

Scholarship Recipient Resort Location School Attending
Makaylah Deanna Heyward Concord, NC University of Miami
Jared Gerard Wiegand Grapevine, TX Baylor University
Katelyn Joanna Gee Corporate Office, WI University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
Travis Edward Diamond Grapevine, TX Oklahoma State University
Nicholas John Drill Corporate Office, WI Worcester State University
Erin Colleen Fluharty Traverse City, MI Lake Superior State University
Rachael Renae Grubbs Grapevine, TX El Centro College
Alexis Wilcox Sandusky, OH Bowling Green State University
Dana Michelle Barber Concord, NC University of North Carolina - Charlotte
Jaquan DeAndre Dozier Concord, NC University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Karen S. Buschke Central Reservations, WI Madison Area Technical College
Amanda Zehner-Carlson Traverse City, MI Ferris State University
Rachel Chia-Wen Chang Grapevine, TX Texas A&M University
Kirsten Colleen Page Concord, NC University of North Carolina - Wilmington
Lauren Bromley Kansas City, KS Neosho Community College

We’re already looking ahead to the future scholarship recipients. The 4th Annual Great Wolf Resorts Scholarship Golf Outing will take place in September at The Legend at Bergamont Golf Course here in Wisconsin. Resort general managers, company partners and vendors will join us for a day focused on having fun and raising money to help our pack members achieve their college dreams.

Now that’s something we can all howl about.

Many people travel to Great Wolf Lodge by car, some by train, some by plane, but when we heard of a mother and son traveling to our resort by foot, it caught our attention.

Jaime Teevan (@jteevan) and her son, Cale, walked over 100 miles from their home to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA. When we read about their walk on Twitter, we wanted to make sure their adventure would be one they would always remember.  Great Wolf Lodge tweeted words of encouragement to the duo along the way as they shared updates about their trek, and the downside to walking for eight days: rain, blisters, and sore muscles.

 

The team at the resort was also getting ready for their arrival. A full welcome party was planned, complete with Wiley the Wolf and Rachel Raccoon, balloons, treats and foot massages for their tired feet.

Once Jaime and Cale returned home after their 100 mile walk and exciting stay at Great Wolf Lodge, we caught up with them to ask about the experience:

Q: Why did you and Cale decide to walk to Great Wolf Lodge?
It was Cale's idea to walk to Great Wolf Lodge. We were coming home from a visit to Great Wolf Lodge over the holidays (we go every year for a few nights on Christmas Day), and Cale and I were brainstorming what we might do for a trip together in the coming year. He first suggested that we spend a whole week at the lodge, but, as we looked at the window at the landscape speeding by, that evolved into our taking a journey there on foot.

Q: How did you prepare for your adventure together?
Cale and I spent a lot of time preparing -- it was a fun way to dream about the upcoming trip. I mapped out each day of the route, choosing where we would walk, where we would stay, where we would eat, and where we would rest.

I used Bing maps to "walk" our whole route virtually before we even left home so I would know what to expect. However, we still managed to stumble upon some surprises as we walked. For example, I had no idea that all of the world's Almond Roca candy comes from a factory in Tacoma we just happened to walk by. (This was probably Cale's favorite stop of the trip; they had samples to eat and huge boxes of factory seconds for sale for just $0.99.)

I think the effort choosing good restaurants along the way was particularly useful. We ate at some fabulous hole-in-the-wall places that I'm sure we'd never have discovered on our own.

There's only so much planning you can do, though, and it was comforting to know that even five days into the walk, our family was just an hour away and could come help us out if we needed it.

Cale and I also did a lot of training prior to the walk. We spent weekends and afternoons walking around our neighborhood, often with the rest of the family. It was a great way to discover things we didn't know about our local area -- small art installations, creeks we'd been driving by for years but never seen, hidden paths.

Q: What was your favorite part about the walk?
My favorite part was spending time so much time with Cale. Every day we walked for hours. Our routine was monotonous -- we would wake up, pack our bag, eat breakfast, walk, eat lunch, walk, check into our hotel, eat dinner, do laundry, go to sleep, and then repeat the whole thing the next day. We spent a lot of silent time trudging down the road next to each other, but our focus was always on each other, what we were doing, and where we were. And this created a really unique opportunity for us to connect and share.

I was also struck by the sense of community that the walk engendered. Cale and I were alone on the walk, but could feel the whole time that we had a huge (largely invisible) support network all around us. For example, some friends set up a treasure hunt for us, with clues and care packages hidden along the way. Others kept an eye on the weather and local news events remotely, so we could keep abreast of what was going on around us. Online our friends cheered us on, and we picked up supporters as we walked. The hotels we visited started following us, and it was particularly exciting when Great Wolf started replying to our tweets and offering encouragement. Strangers would stop to make sure we didn't need help, and get engaged with the walk as we told them about it.

Q: What was Cale’s favorite thing to do at Great Wolf Lodge?
Great Wolf Lodge is Cale's favorite place in the world, and he's visited several times a year since the Grand Mound location first opened. Cale's current plan is to move to Great Wolf Lodge when he's an adult. At the waterpark, his favorite activities are the wave pool and the Tornado. He also loves playing MagiQuest – although I think all the pre-arrival walking meant he played less than usual during our most recent visit.

Q: What did you learn from the trip?
We learned to slow down and notice what was interesting about what was right in front of us. For example, Day 2 of the walk took us from downtown Bellevue to the Seattle airport. This is a route we theoretically know very well, but I think we could easily have spent days exploring all there was to see on just that one leg of the walk. There were beach parks to swim at, a defunct railroad track to follow, the Seahawks training center to explore, blackberries to eat, and more.

If I were to do the walk again, I would create a little more space for meandering. Because we were walking 15 or more miles a day, we didn't have the energy to do anything besides get from Point A to Point B as directly as possible – and for all of the amazing things we saw, I'm sure there are many equally great things we missed.

Q: Will you do it again?
Nope. It was awesome, but will almost certainly remain a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The lesson about discovery will stick, though, and I'm sure we'll come up with new and different ways to explore our surroundings in detail.

Summer vacation is a time-honored family tradition. Parents often spend weeks (months?) researching where to go, what to do, how to save money and activities everyone in the family will enjoy. Careful planning goes into packing, maximizing minimal space and time as well as determining each day’s itinerary. No matter how many blogs are read about travel tips, safety tips, planning tips and more….there’s one little secret you won’t read: vacation is tiring.

I just spent a week in New England with my son. We visited Boston Harbor, the New England Aquarium, and most importantly, the new Great Wolf Lodge. We had a ball. But – I’m tired. Very tired.

My son’s nap schedule was off, his bedtime routine was off, and no matter how healthy and yummy the food, his meals were off. As a three-year-old, temper tantrums are to be expected – but sobbing in an elevator for six floors…that was new. Sharing a room was tough. I would be wide awake at night, sitting in the (quiet) dark, afraid to turn on the TV, so he could finally fall – and more importantly stay - asleep. And while there were just two of us – our stuff quickly took over the suite. My new flips flops somehow ended up in the suite’s mini fridge (??). Each night I rinsed out sippy cups, planned the next day’s clothing needs, requested more and more towels and tried to keep track of my daily contact lens supply.

So, I’m tired.

In one of those non-TV-don’t-make-a-sound-there’s-a-sleeping-preschooler-dark moments, I did think to myself, maybe he was too young for a real vacation. Maybe I should have waited until he was older. I thought about how, in reality, he won’t really remember this trip years from now. I wondered if I should have saved the money.

Well, in showing the amazing wisdom little kids so innocently have, he answered those questions for me. During a visit to the waterpark, I watched him explore Fort Mackenzie. First, he tried a slide, and at the bottom, would reach for me to help him up and out. Later, after countless rides, he said, “I can do it” and no longer needed my help. Instead, something new happened. He looked up at me excitedly asked, “Mommy – will you come, too?”

Next thing I knew, we were sliding, side-by-side, hand-in-hand together. We laughed, we splashed, and he said, “Do it again!” (over and over).

I will never forget this trip! I will forget how tired I was. I will forget the tantrums. I will remember his smile. I will remember the joy I felt when he invited me to slide with him. I’ll remember I was his chosen slide partner.

My advice? Take that vacation and treasure every moment.

Where do you go when you have a question about an upcoming visit to Great Wolf Lodge? Do you ask friends or colleagues who may have recently stayed at a Great Wolf resort? Do you post questions on Facebook or Twitter? Do you visit review sites, such as TripAdvisor or Yelp? While we all have questions while planning a family vacation, the way we find the answers we need varies greatly from person to person. While we can google almost anything these days, sometimes it is hard to find straight answers from other parents, like yourself, who’ve faced the same questions when prepping their own vacation to a new place. A great resource when planning your family getaway to Great Wolf Lodge is by having access to our exclusive panel. The Great Wolf Lodge Ask a Mom panel is comprised of moms and dads who are passionate about Great Wolf. Most Great Wolf Lodge properties have their own Ask a Mom panelist at the ready to answer just about anything thrown their way. They help with the key planning questions ranging from "What time is check-in?" to "How do you accommodate those with food allergies?"   They are also here to answer your unique and specific questions.

With the grand opening of a brand new Great Wolf Lodge, we are absolutely thrilled to welcome Annie Stow as the Great Wolf Lodge New England Ask a Mom panelist. Annie Stow is a mom of four young children who resides just outside of Boston, MA. She loves a good family adventure and writes a lifestyle blog about parenting, travel, food, education and fun at www.stowedstuff.com. Annie will be answering your questions about Great Wolf Lodge New England on our Ask a Mom site, but for now, she is answering a few of ours! We took a few minutes to catch up with Annie about family, summer vacation, and Great Wolf Lodge New England.

 

How does your family spend time together?

We love to travel, especially during the summer months. We enjoy exploring new beaches and finding the best local seafood restaurants in and around New England. When we're not traveling we love watching movies, bowling, and building with Legos!

What are some of your favorite family vacation spots?

We love visiting Cape Cod and Rhode Island the most because they are close by and we get to spend quality time with the grandparents! Our favorite beach in Newport, RI is Gooseberry Beach and we love any beach in East Dennis, MA. 

What do you think other parents will like most about Great Wolf Lodge New England?

The best thing about GWL is that all the fun is under one roof and if you've got toddlers or teens, everyone will have PLENTY to do - mini golf, bowling, waterpark fun, MagiQuest, arcade, ropes course and more! Plus, there's a Dunkin' Donuts right on the premises!

Do you have a number one “can’t miss” attraction at Great Wolf Lodge New England?

According to the kids, they say the Howlin' Tornado! I can't wait to go back and try it out for myself now that my broken foot has healed! I hear there's a really big drop that makes it the best slide at the park!

Which do you prefer: lazy river or wave pool?

Wave pool! Those waves are big!

When your family isn’t splashing away in the water park at Great Wolf Lodge, where can we find you?

We'll most likely be on the beach somewhere in New England!

What are you most looking forward to as an Ask a Mom panelist?

I'm excited to be able to help parents plan an amazingly fun vacation for the entire family at Great Wolf Lodge New England. 

What tips do you have for anyone who may be traveling to Great Wolf Lodge New England for the first time?

Don't forget to pack sneakers for the kids and adults so everyone can try out the ropes course! 

 

Do you have a question for Annie or for any of the other Ask a Mom panelists? Head on over to askamom.greatwolf.com to ask your questions. You can also follow along with Annie on Twitter (@anniestow), Facebook, and her blog: Stowed Stuff.

 

The NSA 2014 Class B Fastpitch World Series has come to Williamsburg, Virginia and Great Wolf Lodge is getting in on all the fun! Over 100 teams from five different age brackets are competing in the tournament.

The fun kicked off on Wednesday, July 16 with the NSA Pin Ceremony Fun Fest. As sponsors of the event, Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg had the opportunity to attend and pass out over 400 wolf ears! Our red, white, and blue ears were definitely a 'home run' with the crowd. Many teams took a break from the action to pose for the camera (and howl!) with their ears. Our sales team even got in on the fun! If you want to see all of the photos from the evening, visit Sports Williamsburg on Facebook.

As for the tournament, play begins today and concludes on Saturday with the championship games. From all of us here at Great Wolf Lodge, best of luck to all teams and athletes competing. And we can't forget a very special howl to Aly Furnas, daughter of Keith Furnas, General Manager of Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, and her team: the Williamsburg Starz. 

When I started working at Great Wolf, my very first project was to write and submit award entries. As I sit here one year later working on our entries for 2014, I can’t help but look back at all that has happened in the last year.

From opening a brand new Great Wolf Lodge in New England to breaking ground on Great Wolf Lodge Southern California, we’ve had a busy year at Great Wolf.  To put it in perspective, here’s a quick look (in numbers!) at my first 365 days as a member of the pack:

Miles flown: 17,000

Properties visited: 3

Trips inside the Howlin' Tornado: 1

Guests howling at the moon during Howl-o-Ween (in orange ears!): 4,000

Great Wolf Lincoln Log Lodges built: 50

Total number of Lincoln Logs ordered to assemble Lincoln Log versions of GWL: 7,000

Number of copies of the Great Wolf Lodge New England Fact Sheet printed incorrectly: 500

Press Kits stuffed: 500

Hot chocolate mugs broken in transit: 20

Hot chocolate packets that exploded: 12

Green boxes stuffed with unbroken mugs and intact hot chocolate packets: 40

Pizzas consumed while stuffing said press kits, Lincoln Logs, and hot chocolate mailers: 8

PEEPS in the office: 1,000

PEEPS microwaved: 5 (If you haven’t tried this, you need to… but be careful, they burn easy!)

PEEPS eaten: 0 (This past year has also been a test of my willpower)

Ping pong games played in New York: 6

New Facebook fans in New England: Over 38,000

Photos on Instagram using #GWLNewEngland: 709

Excited fans at Great Wolf Lodge New England to see Cody Simpson play an acoustic set: 500

Minutes he serenaded Great Wolf Lodge guests: 60

Ground Breaking Ceremonies: 1

Hard hats with wolf ears: 20

Paws spray painted in the dirt: 12

Gold shovels: 12

Grand Openings: 1

Great Wolf Lodge New England grand opening media impressions: Over 100 MILLION!

Number of times I thought I’d have the opportunity to do all of the above in my first year: 0

It really has been a busy first year for me here at Great Wolf Lodge. And while several numbers may seem more impressive than others, in some cases those smaller numbers have made for the best memories!  I’m looking forward to the next 365 days and the numbers that come my way.

For July 4th weekend we did what so many other families did: visited Great Wolf Lodge! And while there is always so much to see and do there is no denying the waterpark is the only thing that REALLY matters to my three year old. Waterslides, spray features and swimming are the perfect water trifecta for myin his eyes.

My son is fearless and he loves the water. He jumps in, he tackles waterslides and he moves fast. There are so many “tips” for “Keeping your child safe in the water” and while some tips seem so obvious, is not always easy in real life.

At Great Wolf Lodge, safety is the number one priority. As both a proud pack member and “helicopter mom” – here are a few things I share when describing how Great Wolf Lodge keeps the waterpark safe and fun.

Life jackets

Life jackets for various age ranges and sizes are provided FREE of charge at all Great Wolf Lodge waterparks. Located at each park’s entrance, lifeguards help parents choose the proper size and fit for their child.

If you have a stubborn child like I do, a limited number of puddle jumper life jackets are also available. My son refuses to wear a life jacket, but with a puddle jumper, he has more mobility. These jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved, are sized for children weighing 30-50 lbs. and have an adjustable buckle on the back for a snug, secure fit.

And while no device is a substitute for mom or dad – having access to these safe life jackets is just one way Great Wolf Lodge helps make vacation a little less stressful.

Wiley’s Safety Club

Great Wolf Lodge removes the guesswork, as well as potential tears, from determining if your child can safely ride certain attractions.

As soon as they enter the waterpark, children can stand by the Wiley the Wolf® measuring sign and receive a color wristband based on their height. Each color designates what attractions they can go on either alone, or with a parent. Signage throughout the park reflects this color coding system, and together, you and your child can see what color they can ride before reaching the top of the stairs. (And if your child is disappointed their color band limits them - you can say Wiley is keeping everyone safe and as he or she gets taller – you’ll keep coming back.)

Lifeguards

This may seem obvious, but I always look at the lifeguards no matter where we travel. Again, lifeguards are not a substitute for a parent, but knowing a trained aquatics team is constantly watching the water means a great deal. At Great Wolf Lodge, they are constantly moving and scanning the water, ready to assist at a second’s notice and they can be found at just about every attraction – indoors and out. Company-wide, Great Wolf Lodge employs over 1,000 lifeguards. Wow!

Becoming a Great Wolf Lodge lifeguard is not easy. Candidates must be at least 16 years old, eligible for employment by Great Wolf Lodge, pass a background check, complete a minimum of 24 hours of lifeguard training and earn certification from a third party company. Once hired, the Aquatics Team layers in tests, drills and mandatory “in-service” training each month for each lifeguard. Phew! This is no easy summer job.

 

You

As I helped my son down the kiddie slides hundreds of times on July 4th, I was also reminded that safety is a shared responsibility.  As parents, we know our children’s abilities; we know what they are drawn to, and we can often anticipate where they will go. If we have concerns or questions about whether or child should try something, it is our job to read the posted safety signs, talk to the aquatics supervisor and even listen to our inner parent voice. I don’t leave my son when he’s in the bathtub at home – why would I at a waterpark?

Summer is here, and this July 4th, we had the happy smiles and the wrinkly skin to prove it. More water-filled adventures are ahead of us – at Great Wolf Lodge, at the beach, at the pool. And if there is something we can all agree on – a safe summer is truly the most fun of all.

What do you get when you combine a new resort opening with an appearance by one of pop music’s fastest growing artists? A howlingly great time!

Days before heading to Europe to kick off his summer-long tour, Cody Simpson, performed an exclusive acoustic set for guests at Great Wolf Lodge New England. Between taking on the waterpark’s exciting attractions, playing in the Northern Lights Arcade with his brother and meeting hundreds of guests from around the country, Cody also took time to give a glimpse into his life for "Behind the Howl."

Below are a few submitted to Great Wolf Lodge via Twitter and Instagram, as well as a few from our Pack Members, and Cody’s responses:

Q: @Cute_fashionable_hh: What is your favorite slide at #greatwolflodge?

CS: The Wolf Tail slide was crazy. I was not expecting that drop!

 

Q: @Eva.co: What age where you when u first picked up an instrument?

CS: Way back when I was 10-11. My grandparents bought me a guitar and I started messing around with it. I still play guitar every night before bed so that I can improve!

Q: @Simpsonedits_: What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?

CS: Hang out with my mates and hit the beach for a surf. Really just relax and enjoy not being busy every single minute of the day. I've realized how important it is to spend time with the people you love.

Q: @CodysSkateboard: Where’s some place you haven’t visited but would like to?

CS: I haven't been to a lot of the places that I’m hitting on my European tour. I have shows in Turkey, all over Scandinavia and Portugal. I’ve never been to any of those before and I can't wait to indulge in the culture.

Q: @liamprfxct: What do you like the most about touring?

CS: I love changing places from day to day. You go to sleep in one city and wake up in the next; sometimes this means completely different climates, languages, time zones, people etc.  It's surreal. I also love being with my tour crew - some great lads on the road!

Q: @CodyTitanicLove: How does it make you feel having so many people supporting you from all over the world?

CS: It's extremely gratifying. I appreciate the support from each and every one of you. It truly means the world to me.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when you write music?

CS: Anything that's relevant in my life really. If I'm experiencing hardships with girls, it'll come out in my music. If I’m happy over a particular situation, it will influence my mood when writing and that will ultimately reflect in the song.

Q: What did it mean to you to have your whole family with you at Great Wolf Lodge?
CS: I've been extremely busy lately and I don't always get to spend as much time with them as I would like. Great Wolf Lodge was a great place to spend some quality family time and re-connect before I left for Europe.

Q: What do you think your fans would like best at Great Wolf Lodge?
CS: There is a huge assortment of rides that suit all different types of people. My show was extremely intimate experience and I then got to spend quality time with my fans as well as my family!

Q: Will you come back to Great Wolf Lodge again?
CS: Of course!  I was stoked to check it out and it was a blast. I hope that I can return when I have some time off the road.

 

When I got my first job - a number of years ago - I never dreamed I’d have a career I’d one day “howl” about. I just knew I loved four things: planning events, speaking, writing and always being on the move. Working in the hospitality and entertainment industry was perfect for me.

PR and event planning quickly became my niche. Most people don’t understand how many steps go into planning an event. Or that each step, often has many steps. But I admit – I love it.

This year has been filled with Great Wolf Lodge events. So far, the biggest and most exciting event has been planning the official grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge New England, which will take place in just a few short days. The debut of our first new resort in four years is thrilling news for our company.

For me, its been about tapping into my creative side, juggling many, many projects at once, planning a party for hundreds of guests, telling our story to the media and trying to appear organized and calm through it all.

The other day a colleague came into my office and burst out laughing while looking around. Who can say their office is home to: 100 pairs of wolf ears, 100 beach towels, over 500 wooden sticks that are actually pens, homemade packets of Howlin’ Hot Chocolate, thousands of Lincoln Logs, hundreds of printed resort photos, paw-shaped USB drives, glitter sipper cups, folders, stationary, glue dots, envelopes and a seemingly endless supply of Mike and Ike Candies and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? I can.

And each of those items has been an essential part in the planning and execution of the full campaign to tease and entice writers around the country about Great Wolf Lodge New England. (The candy? Well, that’s to thank (bribe?) my colleagues for when I need a little assistance. 

A key component to the planning process has been department “stuffing” parties. Everyone comes together and helps with a make-shift assembly line stuffing envelopes, labeling mailers, counting Lincoln Logs, packing boxes, dubbing flash drives and more. Pizza, pop and iTunes complete the mission.

Many years ago, while working at my first internship, I remember stuffing a large quantity of envelopes and thinking, “One day, when I’m in management, I won’t need to do this.” And with each subsequent job, title and position, I have continued to stuff, sort, dub, print, label and assemble.

It’s a key part of “a day in the life of a PR professional.” And to me, it’s one of the fun parts. Now with just a few days to go, as we count and sort and assemble everything we have spent months planning for, I could not be happier to see it all come together.

My role in the day-to-day operation at Great Wolf Lodge sometimes feels like a small one. But now, as we get closer and closer to our grand opening event, I remain honored and thrilled to be a part of this new chapter for Great Wolf Resorts. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more flash drives to burn.

Oh - and if you’re at Great Wolf Lodge New England this summer, you just may find me finally relaxing at Slap Tail Pond, planning our next big event.

If you have been to any of our lodges over the last few months you may have received a Boogie Wipes Plush at one our weekend dance parties, or an in-room sample of Boogie Wipes Gentle Saline Wipes.

Didn’t have a chance to make it to the lodge? You can still partake in the benefits of this partnership.  Great Wolf Lodge® and Boogie Wipes® have teamed up to bring you a family getaway this summer! You and your family can enter for a chance to win a 2-night stay at any of the Great Wolf Lodge locations, plus a $150 gift card to use during your stay.  Entering is easy at boogiewipes.com.  Saturday, May 31st is the last day to enter, so hurry!

Boogie Wipes, part of Little Busy Bodies, Inc. are the first ever saline nose wipes and were developed to help kids’ sore, red, runny noses.

To learn more about this great sweepstakes and Boogie Wipes visit boogiewipes.com.