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.

Carpet at Great Wolf LodgeWalk 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 Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Water Parkthe 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.