In late 2013 we were excited to debut a brand new dining option at the Great Wolf Lodge resorts in Mason, Ohio and Grapevine, Texas. As we get ready to open new locations at our other resorts we took a few moments to speak with Chef Chris Hammond, Corporate Director of Food and Beverage for Great Wolf Resorts to learn more about the Lodge Wood Fired Grill.

Where did the idea for the Lodge Wood Fired Grill come from?

Every day we strive to exceed our guests’ expectations and dining is one of those areas that we focus a great deal of attention on. About a year ago we partnered with a consulting agency to help rebrand our current food variety and look at new outlets and options. This included also taking a “discovery tour” which entailed visiting and trying many restaurants to look at trends, ideas, menus and atmosphere.

We decided to begin with our Great Wolf Lodge properties in Mason and Grapevine.  We worked with the consulting team to develop on a brand new menu, which took over three months to develop. We had the culinary teams at each resort create their own drink menus to incorporate many local favorites, such as draft beer, to provide authentic regional taste.

From there, we reviewed and sampled every dish, as well as conducted a professional photo shoot and food stylist of each item. Hard to believe but it took three days, 34 hours and 1500 pictures to get the photos you see on the menu today!

Then the real fun began! We spent two weeks full training our teams – both the culinary team and the serving so they could accurately – and deliciously – describe each menu item to our guests. We were so excited to officially open the first two Lodge Wood Fired Grill restaurants last November!

How is the Lodge Wood Fired Grill different from the other dining options at Great Wolf Lodge?

The Lodge Wood Fired Grill is the only a la carte restaurant at the resort. But even more important, this restaurant has an identity, it has a soul, and everything has a purpose. From the fresh ingredients to the local beers and crafted cocktails, everything was inspired to give our guests a dining experience that they have not previously had at Great Wolf Lodge.

Are there plans to open a Lodge Wood Fired Grill in any of the other Great Wolf Lodge resorts?

We are excited to continue to add this restaurant to the Great Wolf Lodge family. It will open this year at our resorts in Grand Mound, Washington; Concord, North Carolina and our newest resort, Great Wolf Lodge New England in Massachusetts.

What is your favorite item on the menu? Are there any guest favorites?

That is such a tough question to answer as I spent so much time on this project, especially with the food. The spaghetti with lobster and shrimp is an amazing “wow” and so is the shrimp and farro salad. Come to think of it, I love the artichoke too, oh and the hummus, and the BBQ Platter….

 

Want to learn more about one of Chef Chris’ Lodge Wood Fired Grill favorites? He has shared the recipe below!

The holidays are the perfect time of year for families to spend time together in the kitchen. Christmas cookies, peppermint bark, maybe even fruitcake – all are treats that we love to make during this special time of year.

At Great Wolf Lodge, we have our own holiday season tradition - Snowland. Families can spend time with Santa, enjoy snow indoors each night and create new family traditions together. And just like being at home, yummy treats are a key part of the Snowland experience.

The center point of Snowland is not only beautiful – but also edible! For months, our culinary teams baked, created and decorated life-size gingerbread houses in the lobby of each Great Wolf Lodge.

Our guests can dine in these unique cottages. New this year, we partnered with the makers of PEEPS & COMPANY® and Just Born Quality Confections, the makers of PEEPS®, MIKE AND IKE® and HOT TAMALES®, to provide many of the edible treats that adorn the walls of each gingerbread house. The house at the Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono Mountains has over 1000 PEEPS® on it! (I know because I was able to help put all them on!)

To help bring some Snowland cheer into your home, here are two of our favorite holiday-inspired treats. From the Great Wolf Lodge family and the Just Born family, happy holidays!  

Great Wolf Howlin’ Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 2 QT Whole Milk
  • 1 QT Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 4 Whole Cinnamon Sticks
  • 4 Whole Star Anise
  • 2 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 LB Sweetened Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate (chips, coins or small chunks; use the best quality Sweetened Chocolate)

Directions:

  1. Let the cinnamon and star anise soak in the milk cream mixture overnight. Add the sugar and place on the stove over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Strain the mixture and place back on the stove, add in the chocolate and whisk until fully blended. Makes 16 6 oz. servings.
  2. For an added treat – add a Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane Flavored PEEPS Chick

PEEPS Holiday Pops

Ingredients:

  • PEEPS® Peppermint Stars, and PEEPS® Trees
  • Equal number of paper straws or sticks
  • 12 oz. bag of chocolate candy melts
  • Sprinkles
  • Crushed candy canes

Directions:

  1. Remove PEEPS® Trees and PEEPS® Peppermint Stars from their packaging.
  2. Slowly slide PEEPS® on to each of your sticks or straws, stopping just before the straw pushes through the other end of the PEEP.
  3. Lay out baking sheet and line with wax paper.
  4. Melt chocolate coating according to the package directions and apply to PEEPS® shapes

5.    Coat shapes with sprinkles or crushed candy canes and let cool.

 

 

As the Wolf Your World Tour continues to travel across the country, we have written about all the great things that Wiley the Wolf and friends have been able to do outside of our resorts. During our Tour stop at the Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City we got to have a great deal of fun inside the resort, too.

This summer has been a BIG one for the resort. Guests visiting our Michigan property this year will see and experience something new all throughout the property. Each suite in the resort has been updated and enhanced. New televisions were added, brand new sleeper sofas installed and all beds were replaced with our brand new mattress exclusive, the Cabin Comfort Collection. Sure—we know our guests don’t spent that much time in their suites, but there truly is nothing like a big, comfortable bed after a full day of water play!

Resort favorite, Scooops Kid Spa, has expanded, too. The ice cream-themed spa has been so popular, it is now almost double in size! Down the hall just a bit, a brand-new attraction has opened as well. Newly added to several resorts last year, Ten Paw Alley bowling is now open in Traverse City. Complete with balls that are perfect for little hands, the six lane alley and its “no rental shoes allowed” policy has been bringing smiles with every strike!

The most exciting addition is the River Canyon Run and the Wolf Your World Tour was on hand to celebrate its dedication. The new water attraction gives families a quick taste of what it’s like to try whitewater rafting! The River Canyon Run takes parties of three people at a time sliding and winding down a long indoor tunnel that stretches outside the resort and then back in, culminating in a final splash. The 330 foot long attraction even features a 32 foot vertical drop!

Wiley the Wolf and his friends could not actually enjoy the thrilling new addition, they did cut the ribbon and give a round of "paws applause" - and a few howls - as our first family, the Schmitt’s from Plymouth, Michigan splashed down!  

We also celebrated the resort’s newest dining option – the opening of Traverse City’s ONLY Dunkin’ Donuts® location! Resorts guests and local families alike are all now enjoying their morning with “America’s Favorite Coffee”, breakfast and bakery sandwiches, donuts, and my personal favorite, Munchkins®!

Haven’t made your summer plans yet? If a trip to Michigan is in your future—plan to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City—and take in all that’s new!

As Communications Director for Great Wolf Resorts, I’m proud to serve as point of contact between our company and Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Since 2009, we have partnered with this national charity, coordinating events through our resorts to help BBBS in its mission to provide mentors for children in the community. My favorite part of working with BBBS is when I have the chance to actually take part in one of these events.

All month long, BBBS agencies across the country are holding the annual Bowl for Kids’ sake national bowling fundraiser. And, nationwide, our resort teams are taking part. On May 2, the Corporate Team and the Customer Contact Center Team from Great Wolf Resorts all joined together for a howlingly good time!

With a super hero theme this year, our offices got creative with everything from their team name, to the friendly (yet competitive) weekly fundraisers around the office to the costumes worn at the event. (Yes! Costumes!) We spent the month of April getting ready for the Bowl for Kids’ Sake evening. Bake sales, an in-office pancake breakfast and a weekly ice cream social helped everyone get in the spirit to raise money. (Too bad we also didn’t think to practice a few frames.)

Once again, we had a great time! Combined our twelve teams raised $8,782 for BBBS; a new fundraising record!

The event in Madison is just the beginning. The Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells will be taking part in their local Bowl For Kids’ Sake event later this month. The Great Wolf Lodge Mason had a great time and earned more for their local BBBS agency than last year. Throughout the country, our resorts are bowling alongside local businesses in a united goal to help Big Brothers Big Sisters.

While Bowl for Kids’ Sake is the signature event for our pack members, there are many ways our guests help, too. The Big Splash is the annual program each resort hosts, selling a limited number of waterpark passes to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our waterparks are exclusive to resort guests, but on select days each year, the public can enjoy the water thrills by purchasing a Big Splash pass. If you live near the Great Wolf Lodge Kansas City, Big Splash passes are on sale through May 23, and tickets are still available. The Great Wolf Lodge Concord is on its way to another successful year; its Big Splash tickets have already sold you!

Looking ahead, we have a new event that will take place at all of our lodges during Howl-O-Ween and once again, families will have the opportunity to dine in our life size gingerbread houses during the month of December as part of our Snowland festivities. Both activities will benefit BBBS.

In 2012, we raised over $275,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Only from the generous gifts of time, talent and resources from our pack members and guests were we able to reach this amazing total. We look forward to reaching a new goal in 2013. And I’m looking forward to bowling again next spring.

19
Apr
2013

We recently announced our 2013 Ask-A-Mom (and dads)—our resident parent experts who provide their tips and tricks for a great trip to the lodge.  Over the coming weeks, we are going to introduce you to each of them and give you a look at why they love Great Wolf Lodge.  Meet Diana, our Sandusky, OH Ask-A-Mom.  She and her family have a passion for amusement parks and waterparks in Sandusky and go at least twice a month, especially in the summer months.

Whoever coined the phrase “relaxing vacation” definitely wasn’t a mom. No matter where the destination and no matter the duration of the trip, Mom always has to be on her toes to plan for the unexpected and be at the ready with kisses, wet wipes, crayons or whatever else might be needed at a moment’s notice. That’s why I love taking my family to Great Wolf Lodge. They too have tried to plan for everything, making my job as a mom that much easier, making it possible for me to kick back and relax.  They’ve thought of everything so I don’t have to. There’s the amazing water park, with water slides and pools for every age, even special areas for small toddlers. If the family needs a break from the water fun, there’s still so much to do—craft activities, arcade games, evening Story Time, and even a kid’s spa!  I also don’t have to worry about meals because they have lots of dining options and menus that are kid friendly. That means I don’t have to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our entire stay!

Great Wolf hasn’t forgotten about mom and dad either. Time in the whirlpool is just what we need after a day of fun with our busy toddler. And if we didn’t get enough of a workout throughout the day, there’s always the on-site fitness center. Call me crazy, but the room suites are one of my favorite things about Great Wolf Lodge. They have so many options to fit any size family. A must for our family is a separate living area so that the hubby and I don’t have to sit in the dark once it’s time for our son to go to bed. Of course the thrill of sleeping in a bunk bed in one of the themed suites is almost as exciting as the water park!

So while some moms thrive on stress during their vacations, I prefer to have a hassle-free, fun adventure at Great Wolf Lodge. Because I shouldn’t have to worry about my family having fun— that’s guaranteed at Great Wolf Lodge!

04
Apr
2013

We recently announced our 2013 Ask-A-Mom (and dads)—our resident parent experts who provide their tips and tricks for a great trip to the lodge.  Over the coming weeks, we are going to introduce you to each of them and give you a look at why they love Great Wolf Lodge.  Today, meet Anne Loucks for Great Wolf Lodge – Niagara Falls—lover of skiing, swimming, boxing, spinning and traveling with her family.

When the snow is blowing and the winds are howling, this Canadian family starts to think of traveling. Great Wolf Lodge is an escape that has been coined “Mini Canadian Disneyland” by  my family. No planes to catch and my family has everything they need under one roof. 

My son sings the Raffi song “I think I must be growing” in desperate attempts to see if he can go on the big slides yet.  At a mere 45 inches, he still has a little ways to go.  As my daughter follows everything her older brother does (the only female Spiderman for Halloween) she is excited to be tall enough to break out of the splash zone tree house area.

Promises of an adventure that includes: make your own sundaes, crafts that don’t mean colouring on the dining room table, arcade games, Story Time and of course waterslides have my children packing in record time.   

As a parent, I want planning a vacation to be simple and take less time than one load of laundry. Great Wolf Lodge reservation system is foolproof.  I can pick bedrooms that suit whatever my vacation demands.  Having two children born in the winter makes it challenging for birthdays. With a trip to Great Wolf Lodge I can book a Wolf Den and everyone comes away happy and feeling special. 

Niagara Falls is only 6 hour from Ottawa, with outlet malls, casinos, fall wine tours and a place my children can have fun on slides year-round, who could ask for more?

Having 2 waterparks in our town, means I am constantly checking lifeguard safety.  I am impressed with Great Wolf Lodge’s ability to hire competent, friendly and efficient lifeguards—something you don’t get to see enough of these days.  This puts parents’ minds at ease, knowing and trusting that safety is a top concern.   

To sum it up, Great Wolf Lodge is a journey to adventure that should happen as often as possible.  It is easy to promote a vacation hot spot when it is as fantastic as Great Wolf Lodge. With a fun theme, various activities for all ages (MagicQuest, hot tubs, parent free time) it leaves you with a burning desire to book again as soon as possible. 

Although we don’t live in an igloo, we do have a woodstove and shovel lots of snow. My children are asking (aka begging) for Great Wolf Lodge “pleeeaaasee”.

02
Apr
2013

We recently announced our 2013 Ask-A-Mom (and dads)—our resident parent experts who provide their tips and tricks for a great trip to the lodge.  Over the coming weeks, we are going to introduce you to each of them and give you a look at why they love Great Wolf Lodge.  Today, meet Jenna Jackson for our Mason lodge.  Jenna is a wife, blogger and stay-at-home mother of two boys and one spoiled dog named Harleigh. 

Three Reasons Why My Family Loves Great Wolf Lodge

1. AWESOME STAFF - This past summer my husband and I, our two boys, ages 4 and 7, and my 78 year old grandmother all took a road trip and traveled to Wisconsin Dells, WI for our summer vacation.   This was our very first experience at a Great Wolf Lodge. Our first impression of the lodge started at the front desk with the very accommodating staff.  We informed them that my grandmother was with us and has a hard time walking long distances and they asked us which floor we preferred.  Although the room wasn't ready yet, they went ahead and gave us our room keys and waterpark wristbands, took my cell phone number and told us that they would call as soon as it was ready and to go ahead and start enjoying the park. Within the hour they called with our room number and we were all set.  Our room was conveniently located right around the corner from the entrance to the indoor waterpark, which was great for grandma. We appreciated the staff's kindness and it made our stay so much better knowing she was comfortable and could enjoy the amenities that the park had offered without walking a mile.

2. AWESOME ACTIVITIES - Who knew you could go to a Great Wolf Lodge and never have to leave.  Honestly there was so much to do for our whole family.  The indoor waterpark was huge and offered both indoor and outdoor activities for the whole family. The fun didn't stop in the water, though.  Our boys loved hanging out in the arcade and couldn't wait for Story Time when the Clock Tower came alive.  We also loved that the facility offered a spa, numerous planned activities throughout the day and a fitness center.

3. AWESOME RESORT AMENITIES - We loved the dining options at Great Wolf Lodge, again you never have to leave the facility.  The Great Wolf Lodge in the Dells offered The Loose Moose Bar and Grill, Camp Critter Buffet, Wolf's Den Snack Bar, Bear Paw Sweets & Eats and our favorite—pizza!  

Great Wolf Lodge is officially a favorite of the Jackson Family.

 

When my hubby approached me weeks before my upcoming 50th birthday, he gave me an open book on how I would like to celebrate it. My heart kept going back to Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. There is something truly magical about that resort that I just cannot shake. I love the coziness.

I had told hubby the perfect birthday would be to go to the Great Wolf Lodge, grab some Starbucks, some Bubble Gum fudge (my favorite) and relax in the lobby. The kids thought it would be fun to go bowling at the Ten Paw Alley and I could not have agreed more. I was not sure until days before that I was actually going to Great Wolf Lodge. Hubby is quite a secret keeper.

My birthday arrived and we were off to Great Wolf Lodge!

As soon as I entered the lobby, I knew I made the right choice. We headed right to the Starbucks! Yes!  I was amazed to see the gingerbread house still up in the lobby. I was under the impression it would be taken down after Christmas, only to find out it would be up until the end of January. Each and every Great Wolf Lodge has built their own unique gingerbread house.

I had no idea of what the rest of the day would bring!  We headed off for some bowling at Ten Paw Alley, Northern Lights Arcade and MagiQuest!

I was having such a wonderful that I could not imagine the day could get any better. Then I got a huge surprise: My family announced that we were going to have my birthday dinner inside the gingerbread house! I was thrilled, I had wanted to dine inside the gingerbread house during our last stay, but there was no availability. What a surprise! It brought me to tears.

Dinner time arrived. It felt incredible to be inside the gingerbread house. I was delighted to be surrounded by gingerbread walls decked out with fruit slices, peppermints, kisses, licorice, rock candy and gumdrops of many colors. The doorway was lined with gingerbread men! There was a fireplace inside, including graham crackers. I loved the huge lollipops in planters and the monster-sized red gummy bear! This was something very special and I wanted to make it last forever. I just sat there and took it all in.

At dessert time servers entered the gingerbread house singing and clapping, carrying a festive plate overfilled with goodies and adorned with lit candles of all colors. I was really taken back.

It was a birthday I will never forget, at my favorite place in the whole world—Great Wolf Lodge.

It was pure magic—birthday magic! It's a birthday memory with my family that will last forever.

Diane Sullivan
Pocono Mountains, PA

 

We excited to share another great blog by special guest author Suzanne Rowan Kelleher from MiniTime.com, the family trip-planning site that makes traveling with kids easier. As a go-to travel expert, Suzanne has appeared on national TV and radio programs including CNN, ABC News Now and NBC News. She is married with three kids.

Early in the New Year is the perfect time to start thinking about your next family vacation. Admittedly, the least fun part of trip-planning is figuring out how you’re going to pay for it. But coming up with some strategies and sticking to them is the best way to make sure 2013 includes some fun time away with the kids, whether you’re heading to Kansas City or Niagara Falls.

Saving is a valuable life lesson, so don’t hesitate to involve your children. “The most important thing kids need to learn about managing money is how to make choices, which comes up all the time in planning a family vacation,” says Janet Bodnar, who writes the Money Smart Kids column at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Here are a few 5 strategies for financing your next family getaway:

Make it a team effort.  Start brainstorming with your kids about simple ways to save here and there to meet your goal. Hold a garage sale. Collect your loose change in a vacation jar. Cut back on how often your family orders in and dines out. As you track your progress, point out those valuable lessons. “Small amounts really do add up over time. Having patience really can pay off,” says Bodnar.

Turn on auto pilot. “The very best way to save money is to take it off the top before you even see it,” says Bodnar, who suggests setting up an automatic transfer into a savings account earmarked for your vacation. A $150-a-month contribution adds up to $1,800 in a year!

Figure in your paycheck.  Do your employee benefits include paid vacation days? If so, you don’t need to save up 100 percent of your vacation’s price tag, says Bodnar, since you can finance part of your spend with your paycheck. “Whatever you would have spent at home for food and recreation during the same period can be put toward your vacation budget,” she explains. So if your family of four typically spends $250 on groceries and $80 on recreation and entertainment in a week, that’s $330 you won’t have to save for your weeklong getaway.

Devise a pay-off plan. If you’re only able to sock away half of what your vacation will cost, Bodnar says it’s vital to pay off the remainder within six months of returning home. “It’s so important not to get in over your head,” she says. “For most people, six months is a manageable amount of time.”

How is your family saving for your next vacation? Share your favorite travel tips and stories with the MiniTime community. Tell us how you saved up for your vacation to your favorite Great Wolf Lodge:

Charlotte/Concord, NC
Cincinnati/Mason, OH
Grand Mound, WA
Grapevine, TX
Kansas City, KS
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Pocono Mountains, PA
Sandusky, OH
Traverse City, MI
Williamsburg, VA
Wisconsin Dells, WI

For more tips on how to save for your next Great Wolf Lodge vacation, visit www.greatwolf.com/value.

Great Wolf Resorts Bed TestingWorking in the corporate office, and not physically in a Great Wolf Lodge resort, I’m often asked, “What do you do all day if you’re not in the hotel?” Well—a recent answer would have been, “I relax in bed all day.”

The office next to mine currently has two comfy, queen size beds, fully made up with tons of pillows and crisp, white sheets. Go a little further down the hall, and you’ll find three more beds, just waiting for someone to take a nap. It’s like having a Majestic Bear Suite right here in the office! I promise, though, these beds are not the norm. They are just the latest chapter in our ongoing effort to continually improve the guest experience at our resorts. This week’s focus has been on hibernation hours—when everyone is sleeping.

2013 is going to be a big year for each of our resorts. From new attractions, to new entertainment and new dining experiences, I’m excited about everything we are adding to our lodges this year. We have a lot of great news to share!

Great Wolf Resorts CEO Kim SchaeferHere’s a sneak peek—we’re working to give you an even better night’s sleep! The beds set up in our offices are all samples—new mattresses, new linens, and new color schemes. Together with our CEO, Kim Schaefer (and her wolf pup to cuddle), the corporate team tried out the mattresses to help determine which would help give Great Wolf Lodge guests the perfect night’s sleep.

Everyone shared their thoughts, “Too hard.” “Too soft.” And, “This is so comfortable!” Some people bounced on them, a few tried to snuggle and others stretched out, fully relaxed. It was a fun, albeit slightly unusual day. And our procurement department also had a mini challenge for all of us. The bed experiment also featured a blind “taste test” of sorts—our current Great Wolf Lodge bed was one of the five!

Physically lying around on the office beds was just one part of the overall decision making that will take place in the coming weeks. But I’m really excited to share that just in time for summer, several resorts will have brand new bedding—linens, mattresses, box springs and pillows—throughout the entire property. And while I may not know which actual mattress will become “the” new bed, I’m glad my fellow Pack Members and I got a chance to try them out.

I wonder if I can squeeze in just one more nap…

Great Wolf Resorts Bed Testing

Ryan Potter at Great Wolf Lodge

For the past four years, Great Wolf Resorts has proudly partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. As a former “Big” myself, the rewards of volunteering and providing financial assistance to a worthwhile cause are endless.

While spending time with my Little Sister, we would do many activities in the community. Many times the activities we took part in were donated by local businesses and were a good opportunity for us to meet other Matches.  It was a good time for both of us to just have some fun and allow us both to be kids. The donations, in-kind and financial, to our local chapter gave us ideas of things to do and also the resources to maintain and grow our relationship.

Working for Great Wolf Resorts gives me the perspective of the rewards the local business reaps, as well. It is more than just a financial contribution, but an investment in the community. Each Match created is another life in the community impacted by Big Brothers Big Sisters. And raising the funds is actually pretty fun around here!

Carter Oosterhouse at Great Wolf Lodge Traverse CityIn 2012, we raised over $276,600 between all 10 U.S. based Great Wolf Lodge resorts. We could not have done it without help from our guests and Pack Members across the country. They came together to help us raise awareness and funds for the Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in their surrounding communities.

While all of our resorts came together to support their local Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are so proud of our top three resorts—Concord/Charlotte, NC; Grapevine, TX; and Traverse City, MI. Combined, these resorts raised over $190,000.

These donations were raised one dollar at a time through community day pass sales, dining in the life-size Gingerbread Houses during Snowland, online guest donations and Bowl For Kids’ Sake.   Through their work to provide positive relationships, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ family-centric approach aligns perfectly with our mission to create family traditions at the lodge.

Through our partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, our resorts also provide complimentary passes to the waterparks for Bigs and Littles to use to spend a day together.  On specific nights throughout the year, each lodge provides a night for the pairs to experience the thrills of the indoor waterpark and continue to foster their mentoring relationship.

Thank you to everyone who helped us to achieve our fundraising goal this year. Your generosity helps us assist Big Brothers and Big Sisters positively impact the lives of children in communities across America. Next time you’re at Great Wolf Lodge, be sure to check out how you can partner with us in our continued support of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

One of the best parts of my job is finding the little vignettes and anecdotes that collectively make our full Great Wolf Lodge story. Recently, one of our resorts did something that goes beyond the howl and straight to the heart. In the spirit of this holiday season, here is the story of the Norman family and their recent visit to Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg.

At Great Wolf Lodge, we focus on creating family traditions and making memories. For five year old Nathan Norman from Rustburg, Virginia, his recent visit made memories that will last a lifetime.

Like most boys his age, Nathan is happy, energetic and full of joy and hope. Unlike most boys, Nathan is fighting brain cancer. And in the middle of doctor appointments and treatments, Nathan’s parents are always looking to ways to help him feel and be like every other little boy. For example, in September, Nathan told his mom that Christmas lights would make him feel better. Soon his home was decorated, and his neighbors' homes were decorated, to help encourage his early holiday spirit. In October, a group even came to his home to sing Christmas carols to Nathan and his family.

Two weeks ago, the family took a much needed trip to Great Wolf Lodge and there, Nathan’s holiday dreams got even better.

Nathan’s heroes are those who keep us safe—firefighters, policemen, EMT’s—the men and women who help others when they need it most. When the York County Fire Department heard Nathan was coming to Great Wolf Lodge, they wanted to do something really special for him. They partnered with Fire Rescue TV who put out their own “All Points Bulletin” to create a lasting memory for Nathan. Together with the resort, the area's first responders threw Nathan his own parade.  

The fun began with a personal escort to the resort by police motorcade. Upon arrival, Nathan was greeted by Great Wolf Lodge’s Wiley the Wolf and characters from the local stations. The family then boarded an antique fire track to lead the parade around the resort.

The extra special treat was the arrival of Santa Claus on the Life Flight helicopter. He surprised Nathan and his family with gifts and then a ride in the helicopter. And to think – all of this took place before Nathan ever set foot in the resort!

During their stay, Nathan and his family got to experience everything! They enjoyed a dining experience in the magical life size gingerbread house, road the resort’s trolley and splashed in the waterpark—complete with their own personal cabana.

At this special time of year it warms my heart not only as a Great Wolf Lodge Pack Member, but also as a mom, to know there are people in our community who help others. Thank you, York County Fire, Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, and Nathan, for making us all smile.

 

When I was younger I used to love the “Hidden Pictures” puzzles in magazines. You know the ones—find the hidden apple, the hidden house, the hidden mouse. Probably the only good thing about going to the doctor as a child was having the chance to read Highlights magazine and its monthly puzzle.

That’s why I took great delight in learning that the gingerbread house at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City was not just a beautiful and delicious masterpiece—it is also a life size puzzle, complete with its own hidden pictures!

For two months, the team at the resort combined their baking skills with their production skills to build their gingerbread house. The ingredient list alone was huge—it took 1656 lbs. of confection sugar, 600 lbs. of sugar, 200 lbs. of popcorn and 300 lbs. of egg whites to create the unique structure. This year, the team also got special assistance from HGTV design expert Carter Oosterhouse. But even Carter got excited when the team told him that about the little game they added to their fairy tale-inspired home.

The “I Spy Gingerbread Rocks” were created and cleverly baked into the walls of the gingerbread house. Just seeing the house is not enough—guests are encouraged to seek and find each of the animals cleverly hidden in plain sight. And of course, the exterior of the house is not the only place to find unique, treat-based art. While dining inside, guests can also see artwork made from sugar crystals of Wiley the Wolf and friends, and  woodland creatures decorating a forest tree that lights up.

During my visit, I got in touch with my inner puzzle-loving child. List in hand, I looked for: a large turtle; two baby turtles, two wolves—one howling at the moon, a buffalo, the state of Michigan (complete with a candy heart denoting Traverse City); three gingerbread men, a foot, a bear, an elk, a fish, a snake, and a wolf pawprint. It was a fun challenge.

As I write this, I can visualize where each of these hidden creatures was located on the house. However, I must admit, I never did find the bear or the elk. So, to anyone making the trip to experience Snowland at the lodge in Michigan this month—I challenge you to find everything on the list. And then send me an email letting me know where that elk was hiding.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Carter Oosterhouse at Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City

This year, we were thrilled to partner with HGTV design expert, Carter Oosterhouse. Carter recently visited our resort in Traverse City, Michigan and assisted us with the life size gingerbread house. He also took a few moments to share his favorite seasonal decorating tips. 

The holidays are my favorite time of year, especially since I’m on the road so much. To make things even sweeter, this year I did something I’ve never done before—provided design insight and inspiration to a life-size gingerbread house at Great Wolf Lodge. Throughout the month of December, families can dine inside this edible creation—and similar gingerbread houses at each Great Wolf Lodge resort—for a $20 fee, which will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Life size gingerbread houses at Great Wolf Lodge are part of the resorts’ annual Snowland celebration. This year, when Great Wolf Lodge invited me to help bring something new to the gingerbread house project, I knew I could not say no. While in my hometown of Traverse City, I worked alongside the resort’s culinary team as we brought some of my fairy tale ideas to life. These included: icing icicles dripping from the roof, candy button wallpaper inside the house, “growing” poinsettias made of gingerbread for the window boxes and re-theming a traditional snow sled into a gingerbread sleigh to add candy curb appeal.

Families can visit the 11 Great Wolf Lodge resorts all this month to really get in the holiday spirit—and find inspiration to use at home for their own winter wonderlands.

While at the resort, I also worked with the team to take some of the big ideas from the gingerbread house and find inspiration to apply at home. We used some of the tasty materials from the gingerbread house to create a fun project at home—candy holiday photo frames.

We started with a simple wood frame found at your local craft store. Using favorite seasonal candies like red and green Pop Rocks, peppermints, cinnamon hearts and Nerds, the kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters Northwestern Michigan and I got creative. We applied the candy to the frames using glue sticks. This great indoor project is something the entire family can get into and the finished project is a perfect treat to hold your holiday family photos all season long.

While at the lodge, I was also asked about my favorite tips to help make your home ready for the holidays. Here are a few ideas to help create your personal winter wonderland:

  • When decorating your Christmas tree, use clear lights and ornaments adorned in white and silver alongside glass icicles, to create a snowy, outdoor feel.  Don’t forget to use spray snow or flocking before you light and decorate the tree!
  • In the dining room, lay a white tablecloth across the table and add a centerpiece of red and silver ornaments or pine cones sprinkled with silver glitter. Include subtle light with candles atop a festive table runner. Adding a dimmer switch in the room—and throughout the entire house—will really set the mood at dinnertime with your loved ones, and help enhance your home’s seasonal lighting.
  • Spread cheer throughout the house by introducing new seasonal colors with throw pillows or blankets. Red, green and silver accents will give your home an updated holiday feel without breaking the bank.
  • Decorate the windows with spray frost and place a flameless candle in each window to shimmer on the snow at night.
  • To put the finishing touches on your holiday home both inside and out, take the decorating outside by lining the driveway with white lights and hanging icicle lights from the rooftop.

Happy Holidays, 

Carter

 

During the summer months, I’ll have the opportunity to introduce you to our talented culinary team. Our executive chefs work each day to provide delicious, healthy, fun meals to our guests. I look forward to introducing them to you so you can learn a little more about what makes them howl in the Great Wolf Lodge kitchen.

Chef Ron Market has been a longtime member of the Great Wolf Lodge Food and Beverage pack. Two years ago, he took on the role of Executive Chef at the Lodge in the Poconos Mountains.

Starting as a Sous Chef at the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio, he soon worked his way up to Executive Sous Chef. At the same time, he also helped train the new food and beverage teams as resorts opened in Grand Mound, WA and Concord, NC.

Chef Market’s passion for culinary arts combined with his talent for taking the staples of family dining and making them extraordinary means that guests at Great Wolf Lodge receive memorable meals each time they dine. His leadership style motivates the Food and Beverage teams at all six outlets at the Pocono Mountains Lodge.

Great Wolf Lodge  What inspires you most as a chef?

Chef Ron Market  Having one of our younger guests stop me to say “Thank You! I ate a lot and had fun” is such a great feeling - especially after a demanding day. It also reminds me why we do this every day – to create a memorable vacation for families.

Great Wolf Lodge – Have you created something in the kitchen just for Great Wolf Lodge guests?

Chef Market  With the help of our very talented Sous Chefs, it would have to be our “Wolf it Down” pizza. It is a hand tossed brick oven-style pizza sold in the resort. Just recently, we opened a storefront near Bear Paw Eats & Sweets. Our guests love this easy dining option for lunch and dinner.

Great Wolf Lodge  What makes a meal at Great Wolf Lodge different from other places?

Chef Market – We strive to provide great comfort and specialty foods in a relaxed, kid-friendly environment. Our menu allows each member of the family to find something they enjoy to eat without sacrificing flavor.

Great Wolf Lodge  What new service(s) have you brought to Great Wolf Lodge?

Chef Market – During my time with the company, I have helped implement a strong allergy program. Our chefs go tableside to discuss the allergy directly with the guest and will then prepare a unique menu that is safe and enjoyable. This really takes the stress off the family and allows them to experience a fun meal together. Most families who deal with allergy issues on a daily basis are limited as to where they can go out to eat; we don’t want that to be the case at the Lodge.

Great Wolf Lodge  What advice do you offer to someone who wants to become a chef?

Chef Market – To be a great chef, you had better LOVE it. If you do love it, then every day in the kitchen is like coming home to your family!

 

In a food allergic world, where you are so limited with choices of places to dine at or vacation with, our family has found Great Wolf Lodge to be out of this world! Executive Chef Ron Market has made it his mission to safeguard his guests with food allergies by getting his entire Food and Beverage team on board. Each visit just gets better and better with the knowledge that your chefs have the options and the fact that they "get it". This has been a no-brainer when it comes to choosing where we'd like to spend time away from home and the comfort level is just amazing. My boys do their "Great Wolf" chant the whole way in to the Lodge and when we leave they cry and ask "when are we coming back?" We just love the whole team there and I hope more people choose to experience what we have because they will be amazed!

Name: Sue Harrison
City: Marlton
State: NJ
Email: martinichic1@verizon.net
Lodge: Pocono Mountains, PA

 

During the summer months, I’ll have the opportunity to introduce you to our talented culinary team. Our executive chefs work each day to provide delicious, healthy, fun meals to our guests. I look forward to introducing them to you so you can learn a little more about what makes them howl in the Great Wolf Lodge kitchen.

Chef Kuan Yu is the very talented Sous Chef at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA. Since March 2005, Chef Yu has introduced his Asian-inspired talents to many families staying at the resort.

With degrees from the Japan Culinary Academy in Tokyo and a former instructor at Johnson & Wales University, Chef Yu not only create culinary works of art, but also mentors and encourages rising chefs to do the same.

Some of Chef Yu’s signature dishes at the resort include sushi and General Tso’s Chicken. His Asian flare even earned her the People’s Choice Award at the Taste of Williamsburg for three years in a row. As Sous Chef at Great Wolf Lodge, Chef Yu admires the family-centric approach the resort has towards meal time.

Great Wolf Lodge  What is your all-time favorite food?

Chef Kuan Yu – I love rice. It is especially good in my General Tso’s Chicken prepared just for Great Wolf Lodge. With my training in Asian-style cuisine, it is my favorite dish to prepare for families.

Great Wolf Lodge  What makes a meal at Great Wolf different from other places?

Chef Yu – Food at Great Wolf Lodge is prepared with love and passion. This is not something I’ve seen in previous kitchens. Not only is it a fun work environment, but I like to think our guests taste the difference our staff puts into food preparation each time they visit the Lodge.  

Great Wolf Lodge  What have you brought to Great Wolf Lodge during your time as a chef?

Chef Yu – Since starting at the Lodge, I have introduced the art of making sushi to the food and beverage team. This is such a popular dish with our guests and the quality of fresh seafood available here makes this a must-have for our menu – and for families to try.

Great Wolf Lodge  What inspires you most as a chef?

Chef Yu – It is important to cook with love. Your feelings and emotion are exemplified in the final dish. It is important to share your love for cuisine with each guest who is dining in the restaurant. 

Great Wolf Lodge  What makes being a chef at Great Wolf Lodge so special?

Chef Yu – The emphasis on making a special memory for each family at that time is so important. To create the environment for them to spend quality time together is remarkable to observe.

During the summer months, I’ll have the opportunity to introduce you to our talented culinary team. Our executive chefs work each day to provide delicious, healthy, fun meals to our guests. I look forward to introducing them to you so you can learn a little more about what makes them howl in the Great Wolf Lodge kitchen.

Chef Tom Hanrahan Grand Mound, WAChef Tom Hanrahan’s passion for cooking began at the age of 14 and has continued to grow and increase with each step he has made in the profession. At the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA., Executive Chef Hanrahan leads the culinary team and delivers exceptional guest experience throughout the resort.

Chef Hanrahan has a passion for the Northwest and enjoys the opportunity travel to other Great Wolf Lodge locations to collaborate with his fellow chefs.

Great Wolf Lodge – Do you have a favorite recipe or culinary treat that you have created just for Great Wolf Lodge guests?

Chef Tom Hanrahan – One of my signature recipes for guests in Grand Mound is for Roasted Corn and Crab Chowder. We use local ingredients to make fresh chowder each day.

Great Wolf Lodge  What makes a meal at Great Wolf different from other places?

Chef Hanrahan  The ambiance, the fun and the exceptional food we provide is something families will be hard pressed to find other places. We engage the whole family in the dining experience to make it something enjoyable from beginning to end.

Great Wolf Lodge  What new programs have you brought to Great Wolf during your time as a chef?

Chef Hanrahan – One of my passions as a chef is healthy dining for all ages. From our restaurant menus and outlets like Bear Paw Eats & Sweets to our banquet and meetings menus, we continue to add healthy options for families to choose. Secondly, an increased awareness in our allergen training has been instrumental for the Food and Beverage Pack Members. We see it as an extension of our promise to deliver quality food to our all guests. 

Great Wolf Lodge  What inspires you most as a chef?

Chef Hanrahan – One of the most inspiring things is training people from the ground up. It’s great to see people start as an aqua chef and make it to culinary management. Each step along the way you can see their growth and drive to succeed. It’s a great feeling to help others fulfill their dreams.

Great Wolf Lodge  What makes being a chef at Great Wolf Lodge so special?

Chef Hanrahan   The people that I work with on a daily basis make the difference.  There are so many inspiring people at my resort and throughout the company. To be able to share ideas and build that camaraderie is something unique to Great Wolf Lodge and the people who choose to work here.

 

Dungeness & Roasted Corn Chowder

 

Ingredients:

6 oz. Pancetta, ground
1 ¼ C Onions, small dice
1 ¼ C Celery, small dice
1 ¼ C Green peppers, small dice
1 ¼ C Red peppers, small dice
1 ¼ C Flour
48 oz Chicken stock
3 lb Whole cob corn char grilled and cut off cob
3 lb Potatoes, small dice

2 Bay leaves
25 oz Heavy cream, scalded
20 oz Milk, scalded
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
Worcestershire, to taste
8 oz Rock crab
8 oz Dungeness crab

Directions:

  1. Render the pancetta.  Sweat the onions, celery and peppers in the rendered pancetta.  Add the flour and cook to make a blond roux. 
  2. Add the chicken stock gradually, whipping to work out lumps. 
  3. Bring the soup to a simmer.  Cook for 30 to 40 minutes. 
  4. Puree half of the corn and add it to the soup with the potatoes.  Add the whole corn kernels and bay leaf and simmer until the corn and potatoes are tender. 
  5. Combine the heavy cream and milk; add to the soup.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.
  6. Add both kinds of crab.  Adjust the seasoning with salt, white pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, to taste.

As a new mom, I love the insight, parenting tips and ideas I get from blogsand I especially love to work with bloggers. After attending the Reviewer’s Retreat at Great Wolf Lodge Concord, PA-based mom-blogger, Gina Badalaty, wrote about her children’s dining experience on her blog, Mom-Blog.com. I asked her to share her story with you. 

Gina Badalaty blogs about parenting, raising children with disabilities and advocating for special needs families at Mom-Blog.com.  She lives in PA with her husband and 2 beautiful daughters, and a cat that thinks he's a dog. 

Enjoy, 

Susie

 

Tips for Traveling with Kids with Allergies

Gina's daughter enjoying a meal at Great Wolf LodgeMy children have allergies.  Specifically, their diets need to be gluten- and casein-free, which means they can’t have dairy or any kind of wheat products.  When we travel, we have to be careful not just to avoid glutens, but also to make sure the food they eat is not cross-contaminated. They can’t even eat something that has been on the same grill as food filled with glutens.

Going on vacation can be challenging! As you can imagine, this means that vacationing takes extra work on our part, so our favorite trips are to resorts that help make this easier. Great Wolf Lodge is a place we really enjoy. The resort’s chef will personally talk with you and discuss your needs for a gluten-free menu. My kids love that at Great Wolf Lodge they can eat food they love, and we are happy that everything can be made to their health requirements. Our meals are even cooked separately!

We’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are a few of my top tips for traveling families whose children have special diet restrictions and food allergies:

Do your homework beforehand.
There are dozens of apps that tell you where the gluten-free restaurants are, but it’s up to you to do your own due diligence.  We once went to a park that advertised itself as being dairy- and gluten-free, and when we got there, we discovered that was not the case. Spend time on your destination’s website. Call the resort or attraction. We were pleasantly surprised by how accommodating and helpful the staff at Great Wolf Lodge was—it made our vacation less stressful!

Buy fresh produce along the way.
My children eat tons of fruit and vegetables because they are naturally allergen-free and will do in a pinch!  We try to buy organic, and during family road trips, when we drive by a local farm stand, we make a stop.Gluten Free Meatballs and Mac

Take advantage of resort amenities.
At Great Wolf Lodge, each suite has a refrigerator and a microwave. We often travel with our own snacks and this is a great way for us to keep fruit fresh during our stay. Gluten-free bagels are easy to carry and eat in the car, as well as serve as late-night snacks!  

Talk to the staff.
It is always a good idea to talk to the chef. Many restaurants and resorts, like Great Wolf Lodge, invite you to talk to the chef specifically about your family’s dietary needs and allergies.  You can share your family’s needs and he or she can detail what steps they can take to prepare food that best suits your child.

During the summer months, I’ll have the opportunity to introduce you to our talented culinary team. Our executive chefs work each day to provide delicious, healthy, fun meals to our guests. I look forward to introducing them to you so you can learn a little more about what makes them howl in the Great Wolf Lodge kitchen.  

Christian Massey is the Executive Chef at the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, OH.  Massey has been creating culinary creations for families in Mason since 2006.
 
Starting out as a culinary lead, Massey has held several different titles in the Mason food and beverage team. He worked his way up to Executive Chef at the resort and enjoys teaching others and helping to inspire their personal growth.
 
Great Wolf Lodge - What is your all-time favorite food?

Chef Christian – My favorite food would have to be ahi tartar with quail egg.

GWL - Now that's not something we serve at the Lodge. What have you created just for Great Wolf Lodge guests?

Chef Christian – There are so many to choose from.  To name two of my favorites:  cheesecake with lemon essence/zest and candied micro basil and fried portabella mushrooms with bruschetta.

GWL - Since you've been at Great Wolf Lodge, what have you brought to the dining experience?

Chef Christian - We have created upscale banquet menus for our meetings and events at the resort, as well as implemented our Food Allergy Training Program. Our guests have such different needs and we don't want them to have to worry about their dietary restrictions while on vacation.

GWL - What inspires you most as a chef?

Chef Christian – I love to make people happy with food. When you see the expression on someone's face as they enjoy something you've made, it makes it all worth it.

GWL - What advice do you offer to someone who wants to become a chef?

Chef Christian – I tell young chefs to make sure they know what they’re getting into. Time, commitment to constantly learning new ideas and incorporating new concepts, and pushing people to be better at their jobs is a big part of being a chef.  I also think it is important that chefs know how to teach others and help inspire their personal growth.  

GWL - What makes being a chef at Great Wolf Lodge so special?

Chef Christian – Being Executive Chef at Great Wolf Lodge is a different type of work. I don’t just at a stove, but I interact with guests and group sales clients on a daily basis. I know that I have a chance to help each of our guests have an even better stay. Creating food is just the beginning.