Howls and hello! I’m Lynnsey Jones, Corporate Manager of Kids Experience & Special Events for Great Wolf Resorts. Mother of 2 meets office full of crayons, Wiley stickers and tons of family fun. I’m nuts for kids brands and possibly obsessed with fun characters…and their factoids (birthdays, favorites, number of fingers, pantones…what’s not to know?) If this blog allowed use of magic markers, that’s the way I’d deliver all of the behind-the-howl goodies I’m about to share with you!
It happens to the best of us. You wake up at Great Wolf Lodge, walk outside of your super suite door…and can’t remember which way to the Grand Lobby (which is near the coffee, which you need…and near the waterpark, which your kids need). What to do?!
Turns out, all you need to do is follow the light! The lamp light that is. Notice the cute little woodland animal themed lights lining the hallways of the lodge? (Check the photo.) Well, they can point you in the right direction. The nose of each of those critters is installed to point directly towards the Grand Lobby. That’s right—the animals face the lobby!
You can test me on this. Follow their noses to the Grand Lobby (or waterpark, or other center of the lodge) and then continue to the stretch of hallway on the other side. See that? Their noses switched direction, pointing back towards the lobby as well. Brilliant!
Just a little something new for you today…you're welcome.
I recently took a walk on the wolfie side, checking out all the fun souvenirs in the Buckhorn Exchange gift shop at Great Wolf Lodge – Williamsburg, VA. Guess what I found? Wolves, wolves and more wolves—check 'em out!
Wolves that love to snuggle…
Wolves that hold hands with buddies…
Wolves to frame your face…
Wolves to sip your sippy drinks with…
Wolves to howl at the moon with you…
Wolves to adorn your mantle…
Wolves to ward off intruders…
Wolves to hold all your other wolves…
What’s your favorite wolfie souvenir?
Today is National Waffle Day, so we are dedicating our blog post to the most important meal of the day.
For many of us with small kids, the usual morning routine involves a bit of a…rush. You are lucky to even sit down as a family and enjoy a bowl of cereal. Isn’t it great to wake up at Great Wolf Lodge and realize that you don’t really need to be anywhere—until about 9 a.m. when the waterpark opens. That’s practically mid-afternoon for parents of preschoolers! The perfect time to hangout together as a family, right inside the lodge where we celebrate National Waffle Day everyday.
While waffles are available for breakfast at most of our lodges, our Traverse City, Pocono Mountains and Grapevine lodges offer a special treat—Wolfie Waffles! Wolfie Waffles are a favorite of Oliver Raccoon, and your kids are sure to get a kick out of them too. Each breakfast buffet hosts assorted toppings and sides for these delicious breakfast treats—from maple syrup to dollops of whip cream. This breakfast is just plain yummy! A side of fruit, bowl of yogurt and your favorite breakfast drink create the paw-fect pre-waterpark fuel for the family.
What breakfast treats do your kids enjoy on vacation? Leave a comment and let us know.
I just love, love, love Valentine's time! That is, I love Valentine's Day, Valentine's Week...Valentine's MONTH! And I've got lots of reasons to focus on the the pretty pinks and lovey-dovey reds...uhh, like freezing weather, cabin fever and a cloudy forecast to name a few. Those little hearts and candies just seem to send warmth and cheerfulness right my way. Ahhhhh....Valentine's Day...
Every year I do the best I can to create my own valentines. With two boys at home, that makes for about 46 valentines that we need for school (don't forget the teachers!). And why not make them for my Wolf Pack? Plus another 50 or so...that's almost 100 smile-inducing valentines. Add a couple bags of candy—BOOM!—mid-winter happiness.
Now, before you start congratulating my ambition, let me define "creating my own". Ideally this always looks like me crafting amazingly cute valentines out of recycled cereal boxes, displayed with my best handwriting and covered in glitter glue. But other years, I'm just glad to have the time to tear the perforations provided in the over-the-counter valentines from the store. It's the thought that counts, right?
Another super-duper simple tool I love is the Great Wolf Kids valentines. You can download them online and print as many as you want. Cut them out, add some names, send nice thoughts and gift them away. Featuring some of our favorite Great Wolf characters, like Brinley Bear, Rachel Raccoon and Wiley and Violet the Wolf—they are beyond adorable!
From our Pack to yours—Happy Valentine's Day!
I’m so excited to announce that the all new Great Wolf Kids Coloring & Activity Book is now at Great Wolf Lodge—full of mazes, matching, coloring, tracing, counting, finding, designing, drawing and unscrambling! There are HOURS of activities stuffed into these 40 pages of fun. Coloring & Activity Books are available now in Cub Club® at every Great Wolf Lodge—grab some for the kids during your next trip!
But while the adventure with this fun new book is about to begin for your kids, it is just winding down for us. And I thought you might want to know…how does a good idea—like a fun activity book—get to Great Wolf Lodge? Here’s the “behind the howl” story for you.
Step One: Research it. The Kids Experience Pack goes to work finding the most fun, engaging activities that will be enjoyable for kids of most ages. We dig though section after section of in-store kids’ books, scrolled the top-selling sections of online distributors and combed our own files of the best activities for crayons and pencils. When reviewing the list, we got rid of anything too hard or too boring and kept working on anything that really made our crayons happy.
Step Two: Brand it. My favorite. It’s one thing to provide you with a white sheet of paper covered with black-lined mazes. Start here. End there. No problem. It’s another to put a story behind WHO is starting, WHERE are they going and WHY are they wanting to get there? So what used to be a block-shaped maze, is now the shape of an ice-cream cone that Violet navigates to get to her favorite sweet treat: a strawberry ice cream cone! We wanted to give you a birthday cupcake to design—but who baked it? Sprinkles the Bear, of course. And a crossword is no fun if you can’t figure out the answers—so factoids are strategically placed all throughout the book to keep your kids learning and help them along the way.
Step 3: Design it. Our Creative Services Pack is just nuts about new Kids projects. After receiving the fun content, they went to work putting together all the wonderful artwork. Some of the characters are sporting their pajamas for the first time on coloring pages, while other pages give you tips and hints to learn to draw the characters on your own! Every page is full of color, with just the right amount of room for you to add your own artistry. The vivid backgrounds and fun activities really give kids a lot to howl about!
Step 4: Test it. After all of our pack members went through the book, we were ready to put it to the test—bring in the kids. Were the 3 and 4-year olds thrilled to see their favorite characters on the pages? YES. Did the 8 and 9-year-olds have a blast competing against mom in a game of Dots? YES! Did the tweens and teens agree that the book held an “adorable factor” that couldn’t be better? YES!
After a few days at the printer, the new Coloring & Activity Books have arrived at Great Wolf Lodge. All I can think is, man, if I was a crayon I’d be all OVER this book!
So next time you’re packing that suitcase full of swimsuits and goggles—don’t forget to grab a box of crayons!
Like any parent on vacation, I enjoy the purchase of a good souvenir or spending money on an exciting experience that I can enjoy in the company of my family. But often, it's the playtime that we enjoy in between the scheduled events that makes our family time so memorable. Here's a list of seven ways we enjoy our time at Great Wolf Lodge, adding a few extra doses of smiles inbetween the laughter for no extra cost.
Walk on the Moose: For anyone shorter than Mom’s elbows, this game is a classic. The carpet at Great Wolf Lodge is covered with a custom pattern that can include bears, moose, deer and a variety of other patterns. Make the walk to and from your guest room fun by seeing who can “only walk on the moose”. Of course, each family member can claim their own pattern. Littler legs may get more “points” by only stepping on shapes that include triangle patterns, or maybe just the squares with leaves on them.
Wave the Wand: When kids are too young (or too tired) for a full-on game of MagiQuest, a walk through the lodge with your favorite wand is still an adventure. Find chattering wall art, swinging chipmunks or trees that light up in the restaurant. If your house is like mine, then you have a couple of MagiQuest wands on hand, just bring one on your next trip and point it at anything you can activate.
Color Your Character: Coloring pages and crayons are somewhere to be found at every lodge. Many locations have oversized art walls in the Grand Lobby, but you can always find some crayons and pages in Cub Club. Color your favorite characters at the lodge and hang them in your room at home.
Meet the Bucket: While climbing the watery bridges of Fort Mackenzie, everyone can hear the DING-DING-DING of the Tipping Bucket, signaling another terrific splash below. For those willing to brave the mighty water pouring down from above, it seems like forever until the you “meet the bucket” for the next splash. Insert. Fun. Here. What can YOU do while you wait for the bucket? Challenge yourself! Ride the built in slide at the top of the fort? Twice? Climb the rope ladder? Fill and splash three funnel buckets on a friend below? Remember: walking feet only and—please! don’t lose your shorts!
Water Spray Target Range: Place the kids on a nearby water toy that sprays water—check Fort Mackenzie or the kiddie pool area! Parents move along the target range that the water will reach, allowing kids to test their aim. (Most dads score big points for this, especially with all of the other kids that join in!)
Collect the Cards: Every lodge has a sign near the Grand Lobby that announces when the Great Wolf Kids characters will be around for a meet & greet. Find this and set your smartphone alarms! With the exception of Story Time (each night at 8:00 pm), characters will be handing out character trading cards when they are out and about. Meet them to collect cards during your stay—and grab some great pics while you’re there to share on Facebook!
I’m Thinking of a Friend: I admit, we play this game ALL THE TIME. In the car. At the dinner table. In line at the library. Anywhere our family waits, we play I’m Thinking of a Friend. So while your din-din is on the way at the lodge, or you wait to get to the top of the slide tower, why not give it a try? The youngest person goes first, stating “I’m thinking of a friend…” and adding 2-3 clues about the character they are thinking of, including one of what they look like and one of where the character lives—“that is brown and wears a backpack and visits Great Wolf Lodge”. Other family pack members try and guess for the win: “Brinley Bear!” RIGHT! This is fun with all sorts of your kids' favorite characters, but of course, my fav are from Great Wolf Lodge.
While it’s beginning to get a bit blustery outside, it’s cozier than ever inside Great Wolf Lodge. Millions of twinkling lights are on their way into the Grand Lobby, holiday trees are going up and up and up, the fire is roaring, and Wiley and Violet are matching up their mittens for a great season. AND GUESS WHAT ELSE? New character trading cards are on the way! Ahh! I LOVE these things! (I mean, just LOOK at how many I’ve collected!)
Wiley the Wolf and Brinley Bear both have new collectibles in our “Winter Edition” character trading cards. With fun facts on the back and cool new images on the front, they provide oh-so-many fun ways to play.
But WHAT do you DO with character trading cards, you ask? Well, let me TELL you.
- Collect them. Character trading cards on not sold in gift shops. You can ONLY get them from a character at Great Wolf Lodge. And meeting characters is super fun all by itself. Give a high paw, take a pic, and collect a card.
- Stare at them. Maybe I’m just obsessed, but these are the cutest little fellers I have ever seen. Love to review the cards with the kids on the couch after Story Time (a nightly occurrence in my house) and point out their eyes and ears and mouth and nose…head, shoulders, knees and toes.
- Learn with them. Fun to play learning games with your preschool kids, nephews, granddaughters when you add color identification, pattern making or card matching to the mix.
- Engage with your kids. My favorite. Each character trading card offers a short stack of fun facts on the back side, like the characters' favorite colors, activities, foods and seasons. Enjoy reviewing these with the kids, asking what their fun facts are. When is their birthday? My husband also enjoys making up stories about the characters at bedtime. The kids each get to choose a character and a few other fun facts and Mr. J goes to work making up all sorts of fun stories about these friends—from “Wiley’s first haircut” to "how Violet and Rachel used their manners at the dinner table”. Super fun.
Do get your hands on these fun new—and might I mention FREE—collectible cards next time you’re in the Northwoods. And when you see him, give Wiley a high-paw for me!
Dallas Zoo visits the Grapevine Lodge
It's activities like this that make me wish I could skype with an animal when I can't be in two places at once! But if you are heading to the Grapevine lodge this summer, you have got to, got to, got to check out the live animal fun inside. The Dallas Zoo will be bringing an up close and personal adventure through their outreach program, presenting 7-8 wild zoo animals right inside the Grand Lobby of Great Wolf Lodge! What a paw-fect way to spend 45 minutes as you play through the day this summer. Every Friday in July at 1:00 p.m. in the Grand Lobby. Complimentary to all guests of Great Wolf Lodge - Grapevine. Great big lodge. Great big zoo.
Rockin' A Ranch Petting Zoo visits the Charlotte/Concord Lodge
Petting zoo, petting zoo...yeah, I know what you parents are thinking "I can see a petting zoo anywhere". I'm here to tell you - no you can't, and neither can your kids. I've lived in Wisconsin for let's just say "a whole lot of years" and wouldn't you know it, I pet a real live dairy cow for the first time at Great Wolf Lodge (Wisconsin Dells) when I was 24 years old. That's not even allowed in Bucky Badger's rule book! But - wow! - there is just something super about being chilled out on vacation and getting to hang out with animals. Take some time with your wolf pups this summer at a petting zoo. Visit the Charlotte/Concord Lodge on July 4, August 12 and September 2 for pony rides, "kids" that say mmmaaaaaahhhh! and other farm animals, and enjoy the exotic animals too. You'll never know what will be there to greet you, but in the past they've hosted African crested porcupines (Google these! so cute!), giant bunnies, tortoises, chickens, bison, water buffalo, alpacas and more. Be sure to stop back and let us know which critters your kids liked most!
"Creating family traditions, one family at a time." That is the mission of Great Wolf Lodge. And this is a story of a recent opportunity I had to work alongside our Ambassadors of Fun at the Pocono Mountains Lodge to make that mission come true via a pallette of face paint in our Grand Lobby.
I’d like to preface this story with the facts: I prepared myself for this. I studied face painting. I practiced face painting. I allowed another person to paint my face into a wolf and I wore a brightly colored shirt to help make myself look fun. I bought the really nice supplies. And most importantly, I prepared my little marketing script, “Hi, welcome to Great Wolf Lodge! What can I paint for you today? Would you like a paw or a wolf?” Readers, you should know that I was destined for success.
Until the first kid – the VERY FIRST KID – in line stared back at me and said “I want my face to look like an exploding volcano.”
It was approximately right THERE that the line was drawn between education and experience. I practically had a whole college degree in my pocket for face painting and there I was, unprepared for an exploding volcano.
Next kid: I want a piranha. Me: Suuuure, like you want me to paint a piranha on your cheek? [big cheesy smile] Kid: NO, I want my whole face to look like I’m a piranha. [Very seriously] I want to BE a piranha. Me: [blank stare].
Clearly at this point, I was in trouble. I could have spent the rest of the day explaining to these kids why their choices were not quite “on brand” or how volcanoes and piranhas were not really icons of safety (especially near a waterpark). But instead, I sat there, lamely, staring back at them wondering “Is this what happens to every corporate employee that tries – with every good intention – to re-insert themselves into the front lines, on the floor of their brand?!”
Someone randomly snaps a photo of my impending failure and I become alert. I realize at that moment that my job is not to deliver a “perfect” scenario found on paper; my duty is to deliver happiness. Memories. An experience. My duty is to turn this kid into a piranha!
My paint brush flies into some yellow, followed by green an orange. I smear some white around. I make something that looks like fins on his cheeks. Giant lips. Sharp teeth. I ask him to growl a little (piranhas seem mean enough to make that sound). Bam. This kid is a full-fledged fish face!
I muster all of the confidence I can and flash another one of my award-winning smiles before handing him the mirror to check my work. Although I wouldn’t have minded him seeming really excited about my artwork, I’m pretty thrilled that he doesn’t pout, cry or run to mom after seeing what I just did to his face. Relief.
My bonus of joy came later that night as I was daring myself down the ultimate collection of indoor waterpark slides: The Double-Barrel Drop™, River Canyon Run™ and Hydro Plunge™. As I was circling back around to the stairs for another ride, wouldn’t you guess it – four hours later – here comes my piranha around the corner! With every opportunity to wash his face off, he has somehow succeeded in protecting his face paint for hours – he liked it!
And suddenly I’m able to enjoy the rest of the evening in a new way, knowing that I’ve actually done the only thing I’ve ever been asked to do: make time for our guests, just one family at a time.
If there is one thing that comes with parenthood, it's planning ahead - sheesh! And boy, am I good at procrastinating. Mom, what are we having for dinner tonight? I'm not sure, I'll tell you at about 5:55 p.m. Mom, where is my blanket for school? Doh! Still drying in the dryer, but we're late, let's go! Mom, I need help with my shoes! Great, another shoelace has been devoured by the knot-monster...but I learned that last week, I think. Mom, when are we going to Great Wolf Lodge? Wait a minute - I know this one!
Our next trip to Great Wolf Lodge is scheduled in precisely 6 weeks and 2 days from now. But don't think for a minute that I'll be quick to share that...with the kids. Hee hee hee...Although I'm late on dinner and slow on new shoes, family vacation planning slacker I am not! And my one reward for all of this awesomely secretive planning is this: The Surprise.
Here's my plan:
5 Days to Howl: Break out the wolf gear. I don't draw attention to my choices, but - hey! - how ironic that my kids are dressed in random shirts with paw prints, bears and tents on them, we're reading wolfie storybooks and howling at bedtime, and - what's that?! - Mom's doing the laundry with her wolf ears on. Fascinating.
4 Days to Howl: 84 degrees of WHA? Chit-chat at the dinner table is now very strategic and the hubs and the cat are both in on it. Gee, sure wish it was warmer out, don't you? What does your swim suit look like again? Oh that's right, it has a blue shark. Hey, I wonder if those water shoes from last summer still fit - please, try them on! Nobody suspects, but yes, we're headed right towards 84 degrees of fun.
3 Days to Howl: The MagiQuest wand makes a mysterious appearance at the table. What is THAT?! I ask, as if I've never seen it before. The "I don't know" response tries to steal my glory, but I persist. Isn't it that wand from...oh, where did you get that thing from? "Great Wolf Lodge!" Bingo. I go on and on, drawing the memories out of them of all the things they like most about their trips to the lodge. By the end of the night, we're all giggling and swirling with happiness that seem to be only fit for dreams.
2 Days to Howl: Origami Mommy. It turns out that a Grand Lobby isn't the only place you can go on a Wolf Walk. After dinner, I pass around a square sheet of paper and teach everyone how to master the origami wolf (okay, I'm crafty and I've practiced over 1200 times, but I'll share the instructions - it's easy!). We raise them up and howl for fun and then go on a hunt. It "seems" these little origami pups have seemingly left their paw prints all over our home - and we're out to find them. [I've left] one in the swimsuit drawer. Another on the piggy bank we painted in Cub Club on the last trip. Oh - there's a whole pile of them on the suitcase!
What could this mean? The kids guess something about a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, but I'm not so sure. I put in a "call" to Wiley the Wolf to find out. He's not there, so I leave a message and we wait overnight for his call back. The kids take an extra hour to fall asleep.
1 Day to Howl: Breakfast is nuts in the morning. The boys argue with me about everything - from how many marshmallows they didn't get in their cereal bowl to how close they should or shouldn't be sitting near each other. I'm magnificently patient with them, pacing and faking my own stress and muttering things like "I can't believe that wolf didn't call me back yet..."
When the phone rings (I mean when Dad's cell phone secretly calls to make Mom's cell phone ring)... Hello? I continue the conversation with Wiley, who has graciously called me back to inform us that those little origamis need a lift back to Great Wolf Lodge, and wouldn't we be so kind to give them a ride? He'd love to have us stay overnight, if we wouldn't mind the trouble. I'm repeating his "conversation" out loud so the kids can hear me. Their eyes and ears are literally growing right off their heads in my direction. Why, of course Wiley, WE wouldn't mind coming to Great Wolf Lodge - we will leave right away!
I hang up the phone and their are woo hoo's and howls all around. Perfection achieved. We grab the already-packed-suitcase and STOMP-STOMP, CLAP-CLAP, HOWLLL our way right out the door.
Happy Moms Pack the Pack: If there is one thing we don’t have much of around here, it’s “co-workers”, but who needs them when you have a Pack? Co-workers are those things that have a cube near yours and give a stiff “hello” upon meeting you in a break room. A pack is a group of people that work together and drive each other forward, with speed, support and passion.
Apparently we are recognized as a happy bunch too! I recently had someone from another floor in our office building enter the elevator with me. He looked at me and pressed “7” for himself and “6” for me. Wondering how he knew where I worked, I checked myself for any sign of Great Wolf wear, paws or logos – I wore none. He just smiled and said “I know you Great Wolf people, you’re the ones that always look so happy to be coming to work.” This is true.
Time for Your Family, Time for My Family: It’s no secret that Great Wolf Lodge changes with the seasons. We enjoy the waves of families during summer and welcome them in for our Snowland celebration in the winter. Our promise is to make time for your family, and we are so excited to share your vacation with you no matter the season.
My non-Great Wolf family experiences seasons too. We have sick days and vacation times (it’s not always at Great Wolf Lodge, but yes, my family enjoys its fair share of the waterpark). We have school programs to attend and family to help. And, Great Wolf wants me to be spending time with my family too.
It’s Fun to Share: Like most parents, sometimes I need to bring my work home with me. But to me it isn’t work, its fun. And I get to share the fun with my kids. We talk about the Great Wolf characters a lot – we color their pictures (you can print them online at greatwolfkids.com), review their factoids from our trading cards (coming to the Lodges soon!), and play with the plush versions. And just like at the lodges, story time includes a lot of howling.
And that nagging feeling – every working mother knows it – of “where should I be right now?” is balanced a little more every time we share. I love my kids and I love my work. But there is an added bonus at Great Wolf Lodge – my kids love my work and even my work loves my kids. How’s that for a love triangle?
For me, there isn’t a work life and a home life. I just have a life – and I love howling through every minute of it.
I'm hanging out with my new BFF - Oliver Raccoon - as he prepares for his upcoming stay at Great Wolf Lodge. Oliver's arrival has been a plan in the works since early last summer, and he is more ready than ever for his debut event: Oliver's Big Day, scheduled for April 14, 2012. Join him for a DJ Dance Party, Story Time appearances and lots of fun surprises! Visit greatwolf.com/oliver for complete event details at a lodge near you.
And just what is Oliver Raccoon most excited about for his visit to Great Wolf Lodge? MagiQuest, of course! He has an amazing collection of wand toppers, featuring the most powerful secrets to defeat the mighty dragon. From the looks of his suitcase, he's going to pack them all!
My personal favorites about Oliver are found in his quiet, heroic personality. Oliver is the younger brother of Rachel Raccoon, and where she is the more talkative of the two, Oliver keeps things pretty quiet. But when asked, this little genius is just FULL of information. His zillions of zippers on his cargo shorts and nifty camper vest are always full of techie devices. When planning building projects like forts or waterparks, his little detailed calculations always help things turn out just right.
Speaking of planning... my kids - crazed with excitement - have already brought out the suitcase in preparation for our own visit to meet Oliver on April 14 at the Wisconsin Dells Lodge. Swimsuits - check. MagiQuest wands - check. And for this special visit, I'm packing the orange shirts and cargo gear to dress my kiddos up just like their new buddy Oliver. Great Wolf is hosting an Oliver Look-A-Like Contest and you can join the fun too. Snap pics of your family dressed up like Oliver and find the details to enter online. Enter for a chance to win an Oliver Prize Pack and an overnight stay at any Great Wolf Lodge.
You can learn more about Oliver Raccoon and all of his friends at greatwolfkids.com. Play fun games, find out what's new and grab some activities for your drive to the lodge!