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. 

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. 

Last month we announced our summer long Wolf Your World Tourtraveling lodge-to-lodge bringing the fun of Great Wolf Lodge to local communities.  As part of our local community visits, we've been spreading wolfie cheer at area children's hospitals.  Here to tell you about once of these visits is Kristen, our Brand Marketing Manager and Wolf Your World Tour Team member.

The 2nd stop on the Wolf Your World Tour was Charlotte/Concord.  We were very excited to be able to visit some important people as we began our week.  We kicked things off by sharing random acts of wolfiness with patients and staff at Levine Children’s Hospital and Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital.  Our friend, Wiley the Wolf, was able to bring smiles to these amazing children and their supportive staff.  

The staff at Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital were excited to put on their wolf ears and pose pictures with Wiley.

Wiley was happy to bring howls and high paws to this smiling patient at Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital.

We were ready to hand out more ears as we began our visit at Levine Children’s Hospital.

Wiley made so many new friends with the Levine Children’s Hospital staff including Rodney, the Nurse Manager.  

He also loved meeting these special patients and bringing wolfie cheer.  

It was a great way to kick off another Wolf Your World Tour week!

Scott Newland, Aquatics Supervisor

 

Today, all Great Wolf Lodge resorts took part in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson. The event took place simultaneously at waterparks, community pools and aquatics facilities worldwide to help demonstrate the importance of teaching children to swim.

We had a great time with the children who took part in the swim lesson at our Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City. Teaching swimming lessons has been a fun part of my career for the past eight years. Swimming instruction provides the fundamental aquatic skills necessary to help keep yousafe in, on and around the water. It is beneficial to participants six months and older.

Sometimes though, as a parent, the waters can be a bit murky when trying to determine the best instruction for your children. In honor of the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, here are a few things I encourage parents to keep in mind when seeking the best swim lessons for their children:

 

Consider the facility:

  • Is there a variety of depths ranging from very shallow (on stairs or sloped entries), to water deep enough for full swimming practice?
  • Is the water temperature appropriate? Young children get cold quickly, and their attention span could be significantly affected.
  • What type of programming does the facility offer? Will swim lessons have a designated area, or are there other activities such as lap swimming or water aerobics taking place in the same area?

How long and how often are the lessons?

  • Swim lessons vary in length, from 15-30 minutes for younger childrento hour-long lessons for more advanced swimmers.
  • Swimming is a psychomotor skill, like throwing a ball; practice makes perfect! Lessons that meet once a week are sufficient to retain the skills being taught, but lessons that meet two or even three times a week have been shown to significantly improve retention.

What certifications and training do the instructors have?

  • The American Red Cross, YMCA, and Ellis and Associates are all common entities that certify swimming instructors. While some facilities modify swim programs to better fit the needs of their customers, the most important thing is to know that your instructor is adequately trained.

Know the swim lesson curriculum

  • Instructors should be well prepared for each lesson, and ensure that all of the class material is taught.
  • Programs that enroll by age and test the students on the first day will typically have classes that are more closely grouped by skill, and the “Level” of the swimmer is more of a tool for the instructor or a benchmark for the swimmer.
  • Everyone learns at different rates. Don’t be upset if multiple attempts are needed on some levels. Conversely, the instructor should be addressing the concerns that are keeping participants from progressing.

Is anxiety a concern?

  • By far the greatest barrier to learning how to swim is anxiety! Be sure you are not pushing your little swimmer too far, too soon. Talk with your instructor after every class, and make sure that you know what you can do to help your swimmer progress. 

Scott Newland
Aquatics Supervisor
Great Wolf Lodge - Traverse City

 

Kevin Eldridge Great Wolf Lodge GrapevineI’ve been a “pool rat’’ since I was a kid. We went to the local swimming pool every day each summer. During my teens, I spent summers sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. It is no surprise that my first job was at a water park and twenty years later, I’m still at it. I love the water!

Today, my love for the water has not changed. It is still my favorite form of recreation. However, my respect for the water has grown. I can’t take my eyes off it. I love to watch it and my job requires I do so. Along with my love for the water, I also understand there is risk, and I have spent my career watching out for others who may not have this understanding as they take part in water recreation.

Our lifeguard teams at Great Wolf Lodge understand this risk. They are trained to be focused on watching the water in our slides, our pools, and our attractions, ready to assist at any moment. While you are having fun, they are focused. That is the reason when you approach them they only take their eyes off the water briefly, just to acknowledge you. Their attention must always be on the water. “Eyes on the water” is the way of life at our resorts. Their focus on the water demonstrates how much we value your safety.

Sadly, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 14 and younger. It can happen in just seconds, with just a few inches of water. As lifeguards scan the water for swimmers in distress, they are looking at the surface, in the middle, and even on the bottom of the pools. You can understand how challenging this can be in a crowded, bustling pool and why it is so important to always keep “eyes on the water.”

I love the water and I think swimming and other aquatic recreation is essential to life. Water slides are great fun! Boating, trips to the beach, and visits to the local pool are opportunities for your family to create lifelong memories. Swimming is an important life skill, is great exercise and is just plain fun. But, enjoying the water also means we need to remember there is risk.  

Remember the next time your family hits the water, safety begins with each of us. Teach your children to respect the water. Register them for swim lessons. Swim alongside them. Supervise them at all times. Encourage the use of a lifejacket. As an aquatics professional for Great Wolf Lodge, my eyes are always on the water. And as a parent, yours should be too.

 

Kevin Eldridge 
Director of Aquatics 
Great Wolf Lodge - Grapevine, Texas

Kevin began his career in aquatics over 16 years ago, and has worked in Cincinnati, Ohio and at the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. An avid waterpark fan, Kevin loves to ride the Howlin’ Tornado at his resort.

 

Tony Lucca at Great Wolf Lodge ConcordAfter competing on this year’s season of The Voice on NBC, Tony Lucca looked forward to many things – including a visit to Great Wolf Lodge. We caught up with him during his stay at the resort in Concord, North Carolina to learn more about life during the show, and what’s next for him.

Great Wolf Lodge (GWL): You got your start on the famous Mickey Mouse Club. What’s your favorite memory of your time with the show?

Tony Lucca (TL): We often had a lot of wonderful, young, emerging artists on the show as guests. At the time, I introduced the cast to Brian McKnight's music and campaigned hard to get him on the show. When the producers informed us that they got him to perform, I was beyond excited. I remember asking producers if we (the cast) could sit in on his sound check. It was amazing. I had never heard so many notes in a single vocal run before! It was cool to take the credit when he asked how everyone had become such fans of his music. 

GWL: In one word, describe your experience on The Voice? 

TL: Educational 

GWL: What’s the first thing your family said to you after the finale?

TL: "We love you!" 

GWL: Now that the show is over, what are you most looking forward to doing?

TL: I am really looking forward to getting back to work. I wasn't able to do much songwriting during the show, so to get back to the creative process is something I've been looking forward to for awhile now.  

GWL: Is this your first visit to a Great Wolf Lodge?

TL: Yes, this is my first visit to Great Wolf Lodge. I’ve been so looking forward to spending quality time with my wife and kids and this trip will go a long way towards achieving that.  

GWL : Is there anything you would like to share with your fans and fellow Great Wolf Lodge guests?

TL: Thanks for tuning in. For those of you who may have watched The Voice and went so far as to cast your votes for me, THANK YOU! I look forward to sharing my music with you all. 

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

 

With summer travel on everyone’s mind, we’re excited to have a special guest author today’s blog! Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of WeJustGotBack.com, a multi-award-winning family travel planning site. 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.

 

 

5 Ways to Save on Your Summer Vacation

As a family travel expert and longtime travel journalist, I’ve been watching travel trends since before I had kids. I’m always looking at industry statistics, travel surveys and consumer polls and then connecting the dots to determine how families can get the best value when they plan a vacation.

One dismal trend is that airfares have been rising, and nobody in the travel industry seems to think they’re going down anytime soon. The high cost of air travel means that the family road trip is still the cheapest way to take a vacation. One of the most economical strategies is to jump into the “nearcation” trend, targeting vacation spots within a day’s drive of your home.

Here are my five tips to help you plan an affordable family getaway:

  1. Be a backyard explorer. Think all the great destinations are further afield? Check out your state’s official tourism website as well as those for neighboring states. Not only will you find discounts and getaway packages, but you’ll be surprised at how many beautiful getaways spots are right in your backyard. Remember, kids don’t care how far you travel, as long as they have fun when you get there.
  2. Make value your top priority. The trick is to find a place to stay where you get as much as possible included in your hotel room rate. If your family loves waterparks as much as mine does, then an indoor waterpark resort such as Great Wolf Lodge translates to great value. The room rate includes unlimited access to an enormous waterpark with waterslides, raft rides, lazy rivers, wave pools and more, from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. Best of all: waterpark admission is exclusive to hotel guests.
  3. Plan your meals. When budgeting for a vacation, it’s easy to underestimate how much you’ll spend on food – especially during the journey itself. Purchases from your local grocery store are cheaper than convenience stores and fast food restaurants, so buy your kids’ favorite snacks and drinks before you leave home. This also means you’ll need to make fewer stops along the way.
  4. Go midweek. We all love the idea of extending a long weekend, but you will usually get more bang from your buck when you take off Tuesday to Thursday. Not only are midweek rates lower at Great Wolf Lodge and many other hotels and resorts, but crowds are thinner, too!
  5. Fuel up for less. Nobody wants to spend more than they have to for gas. I’m a huge fan of GasBuddy, a site and app that helps travelers find the cheapest gas wherever they are. I use GasBuddy to budget my gas spend for each road trip, and also to find the gas stations along my route offering the cheapest gas prices. It makes saving money a no-brainer.

Suzanne's kids at Great Wolf Lodge

Kristi Fox Director of Aquatics Great Wolf Lodge Traverse CityMay is National Water Safety Month, but as the Aquatics Director for the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan, water safety is something I think about every day. I joined the Great Wolf Pack in 2004 as a lifeguard and together with the entire aquatics team, I have been focused on helping our guests have safe and fun experiences in our water park. One of my favorite activities is to watch our youngest guests take part in our Jr. Lifeguard and community swim lesson programs.

I often get questions about water safety. With summer fast approaching, here are a few tips I tell my friends and family as they plan visits to the local community pool, beach and even Great Wolf Lodge.

  • Never assume someone else is watching your child. Even with lifeguards nearby, you have the responsibility for your child. Besides, the best way to keep your child safe is to play right alongside them.
  • Never swim alone.  Always use the buddy system and be sure the area is well supervised by lifeguards before you or others in your group enter the water. 
  • Plan ahead. As a family, decide on a meeting place to go to if anyone gets separated.  Kids can take off in instant and crowded parks and beaches can make it difficult for little ones to find you.  An easy-to-spot location will help ease fears.
  • Stay hydrated.  Swimming and playing takes a lot of energy, especially during the hot summer months. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks and rest in a cool location.
  • Too much sun is no fun.  Be sure to limit your exposure during peak hours of 12pm-3pm and reapply waterproof/sweat proof sunscreen every 80 minutes.
  • Encourage your child to wear a life jacket. Many public pools and water parks, like Great Wolf Lodge, provide life jackets for your use, free of charge.
  • Before heading to the beach, pool or water park, avoid swimsuits that have ties, grommets or decorations that could get caught on something during water activities.
  • Skip the flip-flops. Look for sandals with a heel strap or a full-coverage, slip-on water shoe that will stay in place both in and out of the water.
  • Read all of the signs before going on a waterslide, pool or attraction. Make sure your child is tall enough. Always go down the water slide face up and feet first. If you have questions about an attraction, ask a lifeguard.
  • Take a CPR course. Knowing these skills can be important in any environment. This is a skill we all can benefit from – on land and around water.
  • If you see someone struggling in the water, call for help. Remember “Reach or Throw, Don’t Go!” Even professionally trained lifeguards don’t enter the water without having the proper flotation devices to keep themselves safe.

Summer is a the perfect time of year for water activities and all of us at Great Wolf Lodge look forward to welcoming you and your family for a safe and memorable visit!

Kristi Fox
Director of Aquatics
Great Wolf Lodge - Traverse City

Spring has sprung. The weather is getting nicer and all across the country swimming pools are opening, lakes are warming and plans are being made to head out and enjoy them. What better time to remind everyone that May is National Water Safety Month!

At Great Wolf Lodge, it is Water Safety Month all year long. Your safety is our top priority and everything we do is focused on providing you and your family a safe and memorable vacation. This begins with our lifeguard staff.

From day one, our lifeguards are put to the test. After a careful selection process and initial orientation, new lifeguards take part in at least 24 hours of lifeguarding instruction and testing. This covers everything from basic first aid and in-water rescue techniques to advanced first responder duties including CPR,use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) and supplemental oxygen use. Once the course is successfully completed, our lifeguards are licensed thru the International Lifeguard Training Program and ready to begin the next phase of their training. 

Next, new lifeguards are matched with a seasoned member of our waterpark team to begin “shadowing.” Here they begin to hone their on-deck skills and learn to scan the water, looking for guests that may need assistance. Once the lifeguard is ready to guard on their own, they areaudited by members of the management staff.  This includes professionalism, awareness, vigilance, appearance and most importantly, ability to scan their entire zone within the allotted time. 

In addition to our internal auditing program, Great Wolf Resorts partners with Jeff Ellis & Associates, an outside consulting firm specializing in aquatic risk management.  To keep our standards and practices at the highest levels possible, we do a number of drills and skills tests during hours of operation. Ellis & Associates also performs four unannounced operational audits per year at each resort, testing and spot-checking our guards in areas of professionalism, diligence in scanning techniques and rescue skills, as well as ability to manage an aquatic emergency. 

Lifeguard training never ends; each Great Wolf Lodge lifeguard attends a minimum of four hours of in-service training every month to help reinforce and refresh their skills. Lifeguarding is a physically and mentally challenging job, and our instructors provide informative, realistic, and fun sessions to keep our guards motivated and excited about their jobs at Great Wolf Lodge.

Parents are also an important part of water safety at Great Wolf Lodge. You can help our lifeguards when you bring your family to the resort. Make sure young children wear life vests, follow height restrictions on water slides and never leave your children alone in the water park. These are just a few of the ways you can help our lifeguards during your visit.

Guest safety is our top priority at Great Wolf Lodge. Our lifeguard team looks forward to providing your family with a safe, fun, memorable adventure in the water all this month – and throughout the rest of the year.

Great Wolf Lodge Regional Director of Aquatics

 

 

Cody Butcher
Regional Director of Aquatics
Great Wolf Lodge - Grand Mound