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

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

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

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

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

August 12: #GWLchat Twitter Party

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

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

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

Panelists: @colavito, @anitra@DadLogic

Things to know about a Twitter party:

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

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

How do I participate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s no denying that there is always something fun going on at Great Wolf Lodge, and springtime is no different. As part of our partnership with Just Born, Inc. we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the start of spring with a springtime favorite: PEEPS®! If you’re visiting Great Wolf Lodge between April 1 and 21, you can take part in our very first V.I.PEEPS event. Upon check-in, guests will receive their very own V.I.PEEPS card to complete throughout their stay.  The V.I.PEEPS event includes a PEEPS Plush Scavenger Hunt and PEEPS take-home craft. After completing the scavenger hunt and craft, you can be entered to win a giant PEEPS plush bunny.

Springtime fun with PEEPS doesn’t have to end after your visit to Great Wolf Lodge. Your family can spend quality time together cooking with PEEPS!

Here’s a simple and easy treat from PEEPS that the whole family can enjoy:

PEEPS Pretzels

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of pretzels (medium size recommended)
  • 1 bag of Melting chocolate
  • Rainbow sprinkles of your choice
  • Marshmallow PEEPS® Chicks (assorted colors are recommended)

Directions:

1. Melt chocolate according to package directions.

2. Dip your pretzels into the chocolate and tap it on the side of the bowl to remove excess

chocolate.

3. Holding the pretzel over a bowl, pour sprinkles over to cover it.

4. Place pretzel on a sheet of wax paper to dry.

5. Once dried, use a bit of melting chocolate to adhere a PEEP to the top of your pretzel.

 

What do you get when you simultaneously bring together hundreds of families across three time zones under the glow of a full moon? An event that is truly something to HOWL about!

On Saturday, October 19, 2013, our ten Great Wolf Lodge resorts across the United States offered a unique challenge to our guests: come together for the chance to set a new world record for the most people howling at the same time.

Earlier this year, we read about a record attempt in St. Cloud, Minn where students from St. Cloud State University gathered together to set a record for most people howling. Their event attracted 296 people.

Howling is a fun tradition at Great Wolf Lodge resorts. Guests stomp, clap and howl alongside Wiley the Wolf and his cast of lovable characters every day. It is a part of the Great Wolf Lodge experience.

Each October the resorts also all celebrate Howl-O-Ween, complete with trick or treating through the lodges, Monster Bash dance parties and more. After reading about that record attempt in Minnesota, we knew we could not only beat that record – but also set a new one that would REALLY have everyone howling!

When planning a world record attempt, in order to “beat” the existing record, you must re-create the same circumstances as the original. For us, that meant bringing everyone together in one spot, outside and having them howl for 60 seconds. The full moon provided the perfect setting across the country for everyone.

Of course, we still had to put our own unique Great Wolf Lodge flair on our record attempt: as a special surprise, we gave everyone who took part a limited edition set of bright orange wolf ears to wear while howling at the moon!

At exactly 8:45 p.m. EST our resorts counted everyone down and the howling began. 4,341 people of all ages howled for one minute! I’m sure wolves in the wild all paused and perked their ears at that time, wondering just what was inspiring so much howling that night!

Were you at one of our resorts? Curious how many people howled alongside you? Check out our totals below. And next time you see a full moon, take a moment to howl, Great Wolf Lodge-style!

Great Wolf Lodge Concord, NC – 605

Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains, PA – 615

Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, VA – 412

Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound, WA – 412

Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City, MI – 381

Great Wolf Lodge   Kansas City, KA – 346

Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells, WI – 261

Great Wolf Lodge Mason, OH – 492

Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, OH – 478

Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine, TX  - 339

Only WE Can Save the Sky Lights, Magi!

Calling all Magi—the moment that you all have been waiting for has finally come! ShadowQuest is officially open at Great Wolf Lodge – Wisconsin Dells and is set to open at six more Great Wolf Lodge resorts this fall.

We kicked off ShadowQuest’s World Premiere with an extra special Grand Opening Event at Great Wolf Lodge – Wisconsin Dells last week. The night was filled with pixies, yetis and (most importantly) Magi.

After walking the green carpet (our unique take on a traditional red carpet), the Magi and their families had a chance to take pictures with the ShadowQuest characters—Lumina, Ivan and Malaki.

With wands and guide books in hand, families were welcomed by Master Magi herself, Kim Schaefer, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts, Inc., and given a very special message from Lumina, leader of the light pixies. Once the Magis' mission was made known to them, they set off on their quest to save the light from the evil yeti Malaki.

To keep the Magi nourished on their quest, a special ShadowQuest-themed menu was prepared for the event. My favorite? The dark chocolate noodle spiders and red velvet cake eyeball pops… they were far more delicious than they were scary!

I had been counting down the days to the ShadowQuest Grand Opening, and it was definitely everything that I had thought it would be (and more)! It was so exciting to see families feverishly working together to conquer this new quest. It was even more exciting to know that these families were among the first to experience this brand new adventure, and their excitement and passion were seen and shared by all.

In addition to playing ShadowQuest at Great Wolf Lodge – Wisconsin Dells, it will also open this fall at six other Great Wolf Lodge locations: Grand MoundPoconosWilliamsburgGrapevineMason and Concord. The official dates of the Grand Opening weekends are still to be determined, so be sure to stay tuned to find out exact dates.

Another great thing about ShadowQuest: current Magi can use their same wands to play this new, live-action adventure game. ShadowQuest uses the same technology as its predecessor, MagiQuest, so even though you can only play one game at a time, you can still use your favorite wand for both!

To learn more about ShadowQuest and how you can play, visit greatwolf.com/shadowquest

Once again, Great Wolf Lodge is taking part in the international event, the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson. We are excited and honored to help share the importance of water safety with our guests in such a fun and large way. Today, Scott Newland, aquatics director at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, shares his thoughts about swim instruction for your family.

Focus on swim instruction and water safety has been around for a long time. In the early 1900’s “Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow”, dedicated his life to the prevention of drowning. Longfellow presented a plan to “Waterproof America” to the American National Red Cross, and pioneered the concept for swimming and water safety training that is still taught today at thousands of facilities. Longfellow’s slogan was “Every American a swimmer, and every swimmer a lifesaver!”

It is so important to teach children to swim. If you’re like most people, you don’t have thirty minutes, twice a week to practice swimming and water safety skills with your children in a supervised aquatic facility. That is where formal swimming lessons come in.

Most facilities teach from similar curricula, and incorporate safety skills as an integral part of each lesson and class level. From teaching the back float to keep yourself afloat until you feel rested enough to swim to safety, to practicing breath control with ‘bobs’, to preventing the aspirating of water while swimming, to the six fundamental swimming strokes to help you swim in any water conditions, the goal of swimming lessons is to stay safe while in the water.

While safety is the primary benefit, it’s certainly not the only benefit of swimming lessons. Water activities are fun ways to stay active and healthy, and are a fantastic catalyst for creating family memories. Water aerobics work muscles and provide excellent support for joints so exercise is more comfortable and effective. Competitive swimming is an intense sport that can help develop discipline while promoting a solid work ethic, and lifeguarding and aquatics is a rewarding career.  

I’ve been asked many times when a child should begin formal swimming instruction. Generally it is recommended that children are at least six months old and have good head control. Exposing your children to supervised and well-maintained aquatic environments early on helps reduce anxiety about swimming. The training provided by a professional and experienced instructor will make an invaluable difference in your child’s ability and comfort level in the water. Everyone learns at a different rate, so rushing children can cause them to feel overwhelmed. Just the opposite, keeping them at the same level too long can cause them to become bored and lose interest.

I’m passionate about water. I have fun in it, and I work with it every day. With summer in full swing, I encourage you to dive in, splash about, have fun and make water safety part of your family’s culture!

Safely,

Scott

It started like any other event in our life.. .I make a million efforts at researching a place for our family to go spend quality time together for a winter get away. Unlike other families, our trip is 100% based on where can I get a full kitchen to cook for my children in our room because of their food allergies to milk and soy.

Amazingly I stumbled across Great Wolf Lodge where they provide a microwave and sink in the suite.  I also found out that they actually have concerned and educated chefs who will accomodate my children's needs for their meals. This left us with the ability to go have an amazing time at their fabulous indoor water park and then go to the restaurant to enjoy hot prepared meals.

This is one in a million for us. We are not accustomed to this service and we had an incredible experience. My children were elated that they could not only swim at the best waterpark ever, but go eat like "normal" families without feeling like we are hiding in our rooms to eat.

Thank you a million times Great Wolf Lodge for the best mini vacation ever!!

Melinda Joseph
Zanesville, OH


 

Summer is the absolute best time for road trips.  The sun, the open road, the breeze in your fur—it’s perfect.  So perfect that we decided to head out for our own summer road trip with the Wolf Your World Tour

How exactly does one wolf their world, you ask?  With Great Wolf Kids Characters and wolf ears, of course! 

Last year we introduced a new Great Wolf Kids Character to our lodges.  This year we decided to bring the whole pack—Wiley, Violet, Oliver and their friends Rachel Raccoon, Brinley Bear and Sammy the Squirrel.  All six characters will be hitting the road with our Tour Team spreading wolfie cheer wherever they go.  They will start in the Pocono Mountains and travel to every lodge until they end up in Grand Mound, WA.  Along the way, they will stop for TV and radio interviews, sightseeing and even some events outside of the lodge.  And for this summer only, guests of the lodge can catch Story Time with ALL SIX CHARACTERS!  (Sorry for the shouting, I’m just that excited). 

And here’s where it gets even better, they will be handing out more than 50,000 FREE pairs of wolf ears to everyone they meet.  Want to get your own pair of wolf ears?  Visit www.wolfyourworld.com to follow the tour and see where you can find the Tour Team in a town near you. 

While you’re there, you can also sign up for our Wolf Your World Summer Sweepstakes.  This is your chance to win the Ultimate Great Wolf Lodge getaway—a two-night stay for up to 25 (yes 25!) people and a banquet dinner at the lodge of your choice.  Told you it was the ultimate. 

If that isn’t enough, you can also join the conversation on social media. 

Post your favorite Great Wolf Lodge pics on Instagram and tag them with #WolfYourWorld.  Tweet with the tour team @GreatWolfLodge, don’t forget the #WolfYourWorld hashtag.  And then there are our weekly Wolf Your World photo contests on our Facebook page.  Each week we will announce a different theme, like “Wear Your Wolf Ears Playing Outside”.  Just take a pic that matches the theme and upload to our Wolf Your World Facebook app.  You could win a $50 Great Wolf Lodge prize pack.

We some serious summer fun ahead with lots of chances to interact with us and win some awesome prizes.   I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited.

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.

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 Chris Lewis for our Traverse City lodge—father of two girls blogging about the trials and tribulations of living (and surviving) in a Divadom on a daily basis. 

As a father I am always looking for experiences that will leave lasting memories in the minds of my daughters. Whether this is small day-to-day events, or big scale vacations—all are things that I work hard on so that they can look back on their childhood with fondness. What I love about Great Wolf Lodge is that it provides families of all income brackets the opportunity to get away on either a mini or extended vacation that will leave lasting memories. Whether you enjoy water and spending time in the waterpark, racing down waterslides and having tons of water dump on top of your head or you want to go on a magical journey battling dragons and hanging out with fairies, there is so much to do at Great Wolf. On top of all of this, Great Wolf employees are so down-to-earth and friendly and are there to make the experience magical, at least the ones that I have met have.

These are some of the larger scale things that stand out in why we love Great Wolf Lodge. I have to go further though and say that it is more than this—it is the smaller moments with the characters that make my children smile. It is the family oriented menu at the restaurant. It is seeing all of the kids coming together for a bedtime story or a morning trek which both educates and entertains. It is all of these things that make this resort special and one that I have constantly shared with all of my friends.

The final thing that I love about this resort is that for me, they are close enough that I can drive, but far enough away that it makes my whole family feel that we are getting away from home to a fun location.

So for me—a dad that makes it my aim in life to be present and engaged with my daughters—this resort, and its staff go out of their way to make it easy for me to bring something special and magical into their lives (outside of what I already provide at home). Also, the absolute joy shown on their faces when we arrive at Great wolf is simply priceless.

Miss Kansas Teen USA All of our resort teams are committed to their communities, and they do many “unsung” things, not because they have to, but because it’s what’s right. From donations of waterpark passes, to providing raffle prizes and more, these gestures are a part of doing business. But sometimes, the chance to do something remarkable happens. And that is when I think our resorts shine like no other. Such an example comes from the team in Kansas City.  

Toward the end of 2012, the resort was contacted by the Kansas-based organization Elves of Christmas Present, which works to do good things for children with cancer. Great Wolf Lodge was asked to help create a princess birthday party for a six year old girl. Her real birthday was not until May, but little Elvia was so sick, her party was scheduled for December, because she was not going to recover from her illness. This would be a last birthday party.

This news did not stop our Pack Members, but rather inspired them. In less than one week, they planned a birthday party worthy of a royal family. While you may not normally associate Great Wolf Lodge with all things “princess”—with the help of Violet the Wolf, a truly dedicated team and some luck—for just one day, the resort became a castle. 

Violet opened Scooops Kid Spa just for Elvia and her mom so they could enjoy manicures and pedicures together. Once their spa time was complete, Violet had another surprise for Elvia, presenting her with a princess dress and shoes to wear to her special event.

While Elvia enjoyed the spa, a private party room was decorated just for her, complete with a meal for her family, and an extra special surprise. 10 “real” princesses came to surprise Elvia during her party. It just so happened that the night before, Miss Kansas Teen USA took part in an event there at the resort. When asked if she would sign a photo that could be given to Elvia, she said that was not enough—and she made a special visit to the party with several of her pageant friends as a surprise. 

So, this special little girl, complete with sparkling finger nails and toes, and a beautiful white dress arrived at her own party and was greeted in ways that brought tears to everyone’s eyes. She was bestowed with “Princess Powers”—her own tiara, sash and scepter and throne—by real-life princesses who shared the true beauty of their hearts. 

Of course, the fun didn’t end there. After the luncheon party Princess Elvia and her family played in the waterpark. But those are just little extras. The story of how a Wolf Pack helped a Princess is all that really matters.

12
Feb
2013

As you’ve read in past blog posts and seen in our lodges, we’ve been really busy lately. We’ve launched two new websites, added new attractions, hosted fun family events and even helped break a world record.  All while working to deliver the best experience to all of our guests.  Like I said, we’ve been busy. 

And it’s great to be recognized for all the hard work—from our guests and from the industry.  Back in December we found out that we are the winner of five HSMAI Adrian Awards

I was lucky enough to travel to New York City to accept the awards on the behalf of Great Wolf Resorts. 

The event took place at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square.  Among the attendees were other hotel greats like Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental. There were also a lot of travel folks there like our friends at Pocono Tourism and Visit Cabarrus

The evening started with networking over dinner—where our Gold entries were displayed for attendees to see—and ended with the big awards show to honor the Platinum winners and the Best of Shows.   

It was an honor to be in the room with so many great leaders in the hospitality industry.  And of course, winning five awards wasn’t bad either.

We took home Bronze in the TV Commercial category with our “Everybody In” campaign.  Two Silver awards included our GreatWolf.com redesign and our new GreatWolfKids.com.  And last, but not least, two Gold awards for our Gingerbread House campaign and our blog—Behind the Howl. (Yes, you are reading an award winning blog.) 

 

Thank you to HSMAI for recognizing us in these categories and thanks to our fans and guests.  All of this hard work is for you.

Andrew Pena Director of SalesWe are very excited to celebrate the most recent addition to our Sales & Catering Pack—Andrew Pena. As a new wolf, Pena is excited to bring his training and experience in Hospitality with him to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas

“As the new Director of Sales and Catering in Grapevine, I am thrilled to lead this sales organization. By implementing a structure focused on motivating a sales team, high results are achieved,” shared Pena, “I am excited to work alongside our team. Successful leaders take care of their employees. They don’t ask anyone to do something they wouldn’t also do. I will work alongside my team and together we’ll bring Great Wolf Lodge to a new level in corporate groups and events.”

With 23 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Pena is a leader in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in hotel sales and tourism, earning his CTA in 2012. Most recently, Pena served as an Area Sales Leader with Marriott International where he provided strategic sales direction for 14 hotels and over 300 local accounts. His passion for travel inspires him in his personal and professional life and will bring a new perspective to the Great Wolf Lodge.

Pena is an active member of MPI and plans to earn his CMP designation in 2013.  An avid cyclist, he participates in many charity rides in his spare time, earning donations for certain causes, such as MS.  He, his wife and two children are longtime residents of the Grapevine/Southlake area.

Next time you're visiting the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, be sure to ask Andrew about how possible savings for your next family reunion or corporate meeting. His team works with groups booking over 10 rooms at the resort and reserving space for private catered events at the lodge.Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine, TX

As guests of our lodges know, there are a ton of fun events that happen every day—like Story Time and DJ Dance Parties.

But I bet they don’t know just how fun our corporate office is—yes, you can have fun at a corporate office.   In a recent article on careerbliss.com, we were actually featured for our annual office Halloween party.

We even have a team of people who come up with new ways to have fun at our corporate office.  Their latest event—the Super Bowl Dip Contest.  Last Thursday, members of our corporate pack brought in all kinds of dips. We had salsas, guacamoles, spinach and pizza-flavored dips. And no Super Bowl party would be complete without a buffalo chicken dip. 

After all the dips were tasted (tough job), we voted for the favorite.  And of course, our Corporate Director of Food & Beverage won. (Yes, I’m still a little bitter, but it’s hard to beat a trained chef).   It took a little begging, but I managed to get the recipe.  Now you can bring an award-winning dip from a Great Wolf Lodge Chef to your Super Bowl party.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:

  • 2 (10 ounce) cans chunk chicken, drained
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup Ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup Franks Red Hot
  • Tortilla Chips

Directions:

  1. Soften Cream Cheese.
  2. Combine Chicken, Cream Cheese, Ranch and Hot Sauce in a large bowl and mix well, use an electric mixer if possible.
  3. Gently Heat in a Crock Pot or stove top on Low until it is warm, about 140 degrees.
  4. Serve with Chips.

MagiQuest

While our resort guests tend to visit us most during the summer months and when school is out, here at Great Wolf Lodge, meeting and exceeding expectations is a year-round project! Our teams work hard to continually add attractions and experiences so each time you visit, you may have the opportunity to do something new! And in marketing it is our job to debut the many new offerings in fun, memorable ways.  

One way we promote new attractions is with “Sneak Peeks.” We invite select members of the media and influential parents in the resort’s surrounding community to be among the first to experience the resort’s newest activity. Most recently, we did just that with the Grand Reveal of MagiQuest at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio.

Here’s a little behind the scenes peak at how we magically pulled everything together:

Step One: Brainstorming

While many of our resort guests may have already reached Master Magi status at one of our Great Wolf Lodge resorts, families in Northern Ohio had not yet had the chance to activate their wands and set out on their first quest.  How could we make this experience different? We thought of different ways we could engage, excite and build energy behind the debut of MagiQuest at the resort.

Step Two: Mapping out the Plan

Once we compiled all the ideas, we went to work on how to make our dream event a reality. With the resort coming off the busy holiday season, we also needed to take much of the prep-work off the resort team and have it ready for them at the beginning of January.

Step Three: Outreach

To ensure media coverage and attendance from influential local families, we also needed to build out our list, draft email invitations and work the phones. With a series of invites and reminders, we were able to contact key family travel media in the region and talk with mommy bloggers, as well.

Step Four: The Big Day

On the day of the event, the resort team was able to follow the step-by-step plan for the day. With two waves of attendees, they did a great job manning the welcome table in the lobby, activating wands for the guests and providing a special cake with refreshments. On a busy Saturday afternoon, the team did a great job making sure every guest knew today was the day for the MagiQuest Grand Reveal.

In the end, it all comes back to the experience. Providing families with something they can bond over will naturally create an opportunity to spread the word about a new attraction. All of the work we put into bringing the event to life was worth it. Seeing families racing down the halls on their way to become Master Magi was the best part of the day.

Now, all 11 of our Great Wolf Lodge resorts have MagiQuest. Are you a Master Magi? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with the newbies in Sandusky?

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.

 

Every day our lodges work hard to help families make memories. From simple moments in the Cub Club between daddy and daughter, to annual family traditions—they see it all.  

Working in the Corporate Office, I don't get to experience all of these stories first-hand, but I do get to hear about a lot of them. Some of our guest share their stories on Facebook, or they tweet us during their stay.  They even take the time to submit their favorite memories to our blog.  But my favorite way to hear about the stories is from our pack members at the lodge.  The following story was emailed to our Great Wolf Lodge - Cincinnati/Mason pack members and I just had to share it.  

My son, Stephen, returned to us from Army Ranger school in Georgia very late the evening of December 16th. The next day, I helped to launch a scheme that would "buy" him the time to drive to Kenwood Mall to purchase Brittney's (now his fiance) dream engagement ring. The next "project" became creating a special moment for the proposal. "Stevie" (as I lovingly refer to him) was a little undone because his younger sister, Meghan, just became engaged on December 21st—her fiance took her to New York City and surprised her with quite a lavish production. Stevie was determined to do something equally grand for Brittney (without stealing his sister's thunder).  What became problematic was the amount of time he had left before he would have to return to Georgia. So, those circumstances, combined with a very anxious and curious Brittney, inspired him to secretly turn to me, again, for the next "scheme." Given that it was the early evening of Christmas Day, I wasn't completely optimistic that we could create the moment he desired—that is, until I placed the call to Great Wolf Lodge.

When Jennifer heard my explanation, she didn't hesitate to spring into action. (She, quite honestly, sounded as giddy as I did...it was fantastic!) Through just a couple of phone calls and her consultation with her leader, Jen, the plan came together that offered Stevie the chance to propose in your beautiful lobby, complete with snow—on cue!  When they arrived at their suite, they were delighted by a special arrangement of chocolate-covered strawberries and a select celebratory beverage—details crafted by Jennifer and Jen—details that made the experience complete! In Stevie's and Brittney's words, "Everything was amazing...and awesome!"

The next day, I texted Stevie to see how things were going. He replied that they had checked out of their suite, but were "hanging out" in Great Wolf's lobby because it was such a "cool place...a great place to relax, talk and have some coffee." (I also think they were continuing to relish in the experience and didn't want it to end!)

As you might imagine, by now many family members have heard this story and plan to visit your resort—even the family that's local, including me! (It's funny...I had previously considered staying at Great Wolf, myself, thinking it would be a great spot to bring my husband, given that he's terminally ill and can no longer travel any sort of distance. It's that thought that inspired me to think of Great Wolf for Stevie and Brittney's special occasion.) As well, there will, most assuredly be events related to their upcoming wedding (not sure if it will be in 2013 or 2014, as of yet). We will be certain to locate guests and/or host additional gatherings at Great Wolf! And, let there be no doubt: our immediate and ever-lasting loyalty to Great Wolf Lodge was earned by Jennifer and Jen.

Thank you and have a wonderful Holiday!

Thank you to Susan Hampton for allowing me to share her story, and for letting us be a part of her family's big day.