01
Mar
2012

Hello! I’m Susie Storey, Director of Communications for Great Wolf Lodge. I love to read and I love to write. With a degree in Communications and many years working in the amusement and travel industry, I have made a career out of finding unique stories and sharing with anyone who will listen, read or skywrite them (hey – a girl can dream.)  Most recently, I have added “mom” to my work experience and now blend my busy work life with a busy home life. Being part of the Great Wolf Lodge pack means each day brings a new story to tell about providing fun for families. It will probably also guarantee that my little guy’s first word will actually be a HOWL. I look forward to sharing my Wolf Tales with you. 

Summer vacation is a time-honored family tradition. Parents often spend weeks (months?) researching where to go, what to do, how to save money and activities everyone in the family will enjoy. Careful planning goes into packing, maximizing minimal space and time as well as determining each day’s itinerary. No matter how many blogs are read about travel tips, safety tips, planning tips and more….there’s one little secret you won’t read: vacation is tiring.

I just spent a week in New England with my son. We visited Boston Harbor, the New England Aquarium, and most importantly, the new Great Wolf Lodge. We had a ball. But – I’m tired. Very tired.

My son’s nap schedule was off, his bedtime routine was off, and no matter how healthy and yummy the food, his meals were off. As a three-year-old, temper tantrums are to be expected – but sobbing in an elevator for six floors…that was new. Sharing a room was tough. I would be wide awake at night, sitting in the (quiet) dark, afraid to turn on the TV, so he could finally fall – and more importantly stay - asleep. And while there were just two of us – our stuff quickly took over the suite. My new flips flops somehow ended up in the suite’s mini fridge (??). Each night I rinsed out sippy cups, planned the next day’s clothing needs, requested more and more towels and tried to keep track of my daily contact lens supply.

So, I’m tired.

In one of those non-TV-don’t-make-a-sound-there’s-a-sleeping-preschooler-dark moments, I did think to myself, maybe he was too young for a real vacation. Maybe I should have waited until he was older. I thought about how, in reality, he won’t really remember this trip years from now. I wondered if I should have saved the money.

Well, in showing the amazing wisdom little kids so innocently have, he answered those questions for me. During a visit to the waterpark, I watched him explore Fort Mackenzie. First, he tried a slide, and at the bottom, would reach for me to help him up and out. Later, after countless rides, he said, “I can do it” and no longer needed my help. Instead, something new happened. He looked up at me excitedly asked, “Mommy – will you come, too?”

Next thing I knew, we were sliding, side-by-side, hand-in-hand together. We laughed, we splashed, and he said, “Do it again!” (over and over).

I will never forget this trip! I will forget how tired I was. I will forget the tantrums. I will remember his smile. I will remember the joy I felt when he invited me to slide with him. I’ll remember I was his chosen slide partner.

My advice? Take that vacation and treasure every moment.

For July 4th weekend we did what so many other families did: visited Great Wolf Lodge! And while there is always so much to see and do there is no denying the waterpark is the only thing that REALLY matters to my three year old. Waterslides, spray features and swimming are the perfect water trifecta for myin his eyes.

My son is fearless and he loves the water. He jumps in, he tackles waterslides and he moves fast. There are so many “tips” for “Keeping your child safe in the water” and while some tips seem so obvious, is not always easy in real life.

At Great Wolf Lodge, safety is the number one priority. As both a proud pack member and “helicopter mom” – here are a few things I share when describing how Great Wolf Lodge keeps the waterpark safe and fun.

Life jackets

Life jackets for various age ranges and sizes are provided FREE of charge at all Great Wolf Lodge waterparks. Located at each park’s entrance, lifeguards help parents choose the proper size and fit for their child.

If you have a stubborn child like I do, a limited number of puddle jumper life jackets are also available. My son refuses to wear a life jacket, but with a puddle jumper, he has more mobility. These jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved, are sized for children weighing 30-50 lbs. and have an adjustable buckle on the back for a snug, secure fit.

And while no device is a substitute for mom or dad – having access to these safe life jackets is just one way Great Wolf Lodge helps make vacation a little less stressful.

Wiley’s Safety Club

Great Wolf Lodge removes the guesswork, as well as potential tears, from determining if your child can safely ride certain attractions.

As soon as they enter the waterpark, children can stand by the Wiley the Wolf® measuring sign and receive a color wristband based on their height. Each color designates what attractions they can go on either alone, or with a parent. Signage throughout the park reflects this color coding system, and together, you and your child can see what color they can ride before reaching the top of the stairs. (And if your child is disappointed their color band limits them - you can say Wiley is keeping everyone safe and as he or she gets taller – you’ll keep coming back.)

Lifeguards

This may seem obvious, but I always look at the lifeguards no matter where we travel. Again, lifeguards are not a substitute for a parent, but knowing a trained aquatics team is constantly watching the water means a great deal. At Great Wolf Lodge, they are constantly moving and scanning the water, ready to assist at a second’s notice and they can be found at just about every attraction – indoors and out. Company-wide, Great Wolf Lodge employs over 1,000 lifeguards. Wow!

Becoming a Great Wolf Lodge lifeguard is not easy. Candidates must be at least 16 years old, eligible for employment by Great Wolf Lodge, pass a background check, complete a minimum of 24 hours of lifeguard training and earn certification from a third party company. Once hired, the Aquatics Team layers in tests, drills and mandatory “in-service” training each month for each lifeguard. Phew! This is no easy summer job.

 

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As I helped my son down the kiddie slides hundreds of times on July 4th, I was also reminded that safety is a shared responsibility.  As parents, we know our children’s abilities; we know what they are drawn to, and we can often anticipate where they will go. If we have concerns or questions about whether or child should try something, it is our job to read the posted safety signs, talk to the aquatics supervisor and even listen to our inner parent voice. I don’t leave my son when he’s in the bathtub at home – why would I at a waterpark?

Summer is here, and this July 4th, we had the happy smiles and the wrinkly skin to prove it. More water-filled adventures are ahead of us – at Great Wolf Lodge, at the beach, at the pool. And if there is something we can all agree on – a safe summer is truly the most fun of all.

What do you get when you combine a new resort opening with an appearance by one of pop music’s fastest growing artists? A howlingly great time!

Days before heading to Europe to kick off his summer-long tour, Cody Simpson, performed an exclusive acoustic set for guests at Great Wolf Lodge New England. Between taking on the waterpark’s exciting attractions, playing in the Northern Lights Arcade with his brother and meeting hundreds of guests from around the country, Cody also took time to give a glimpse into his life for "Behind the Howl."

Below are a few submitted to Great Wolf Lodge via Twitter and Instagram, as well as a few from our Pack Members, and Cody’s responses:

Q: @Cute_fashionable_hh: What is your favorite slide at #greatwolflodge?

CS: The Wolf Tail slide was crazy. I was not expecting that drop!

 

Q: @Eva.co: What age where you when u first picked up an instrument?

CS: Way back when I was 10-11. My grandparents bought me a guitar and I started messing around with it. I still play guitar every night before bed so that I can improve!

Q: @Simpsonedits_: What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?

CS: Hang out with my mates and hit the beach for a surf. Really just relax and enjoy not being busy every single minute of the day. I've realized how important it is to spend time with the people you love.

Q: @CodysSkateboard: Where’s some place you haven’t visited but would like to?

CS: I haven't been to a lot of the places that I’m hitting on my European tour. I have shows in Turkey, all over Scandinavia and Portugal. I’ve never been to any of those before and I can't wait to indulge in the culture.

Q: @liamprfxct: What do you like the most about touring?

CS: I love changing places from day to day. You go to sleep in one city and wake up in the next; sometimes this means completely different climates, languages, time zones, people etc.  It's surreal. I also love being with my tour crew - some great lads on the road!

Q: @CodyTitanicLove: How does it make you feel having so many people supporting you from all over the world?

CS: It's extremely gratifying. I appreciate the support from each and every one of you. It truly means the world to me.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when you write music?

CS: Anything that's relevant in my life really. If I'm experiencing hardships with girls, it'll come out in my music. If I’m happy over a particular situation, it will influence my mood when writing and that will ultimately reflect in the song.

Q: What did it mean to you to have your whole family with you at Great Wolf Lodge?
CS: I've been extremely busy lately and I don't always get to spend as much time with them as I would like. Great Wolf Lodge was a great place to spend some quality family time and re-connect before I left for Europe.

Q: What do you think your fans would like best at Great Wolf Lodge?
CS: There is a huge assortment of rides that suit all different types of people. My show was extremely intimate experience and I then got to spend quality time with my fans as well as my family!

Q: Will you come back to Great Wolf Lodge again?
CS: Of course!  I was stoked to check it out and it was a blast. I hope that I can return when I have some time off the road.

 

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.

The Great Wolf Lodge wristband is an important part of a lodge stay. In fact, for many of our guests, it is even a unique souvenir. Kids love to wear their wristband and take advantage of the “all access pass” it grants them. With the flick of the wrist, they can enter their suite, waltz into the waterpark and, if mom and dad give the OK at check-in, even buy treats at Bear Paw, Paw Points in the Northern Lights arcade and Great Wolf Kids merchandise from the store. We often hear stories from guests whose kids refuse to take their wristbands off even when they return home. The daughter of a colleague actually wore hers for four months!

But, there is a flip side to the little wristband. They don’t fit perfectly. Once you position it to fit around your wrist – there’s almost always an extra piece. If you’re like me, you LOVE the convenience of the RFID technology, and not needing to carry a wallet around the resort, but that extra “flap” can be a little annoying. However, as I received discovered, snipping away that little annoyance is one of the simplest and coolest acts of guest service at the Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains. It’s also a bit competitive.

Pack Members at the resort carry scissors on a small zip cord. If they see guests with wristbands that have the extra “tail” - they approach and offer to snip it away for the perfect fit. Problem solved.

However, the snip is only half of the activity. The story of the little wristband tail does not end in an abrupt cut.

 

Instead, wristband snips are saved by each department and are then entered in the “Great ‘Wolf Tail’ Competition”. Each little tail is collected, saved, and put in a large container as part of a monthly, spirited contest across all resort areas. The challenge is on to see which department is a cut above the rest, and how many guests had their wristbands sized to perfection.

While I was at the resort in the Pocono Mountains, the Retail Team was in the lead. Their jar was so full; the team had to tie bags of tails to it!

No prize is given out for “most tails” collected, but everyone enjoys the fun and simple competition. Departments take great pride in turning in their colorful band snips. And judging from the collection I saw, guests are happy to have their wristbands sized, and extra tails bobbed off.

This tale of the tail, I just had to tell.

 

While there is always something exciting taking place at Great Wolf Lodge, I can’t think of anything more exciting than a new resort! And with 2014 already in full swing – so is our 12th property, Great Wolf Lodge New England.

Scheduled to open in late spring, Great Wolf Lodge New England will offer the very best of our family-focused attractions and amenities as well as a number of brand new experiences. Wands in hand, kids will have an entire new property to explore, earn runes, battle dragons and collect gold as they play MagiQuest. For a sweet treat that pampers and delights, Scooops Kid Spa will offer ice cream-themed manicures and pedicures. Little toes and taste buds will be tempted and spoiled.

Of course, the heart of the resort will be the indoor water park. The massive water play land will feature something for everyone. Currently under construction is the park’s signature attraction, the Howlin’ Tornado. With its bright red and yellow funnel, this six story raft ride will definitely provide many howls of excitement!

Late last fall, Great Wolf Lodge Mason and Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine debuted a new restaurant, The Lodge Wood Fired Grill. We look so forward to opening the third location at Great Wolf Lodge New England! The full service, a la carte restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner. It has quickly become a favorite at our two resorts in Texas and Ohio and we can’t wait to debut it to our New England guests, too.

Even better will be the new attractions and amenities that will be exclusive to this property. Guests who have been to a Great Wolf Lodge before will discover several new adventures and activities while staying at this the resort.

Are you as excited as we are? Over the next few months, we’ll continue to write and share more about what is happening at Great Wolf Lodge New England right here! Stay in touch and join the conversation about Great Wolf Lodge New England. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GWLNewEngland and sign up to receive exclusive news and offers by joining our ePack.

Great Wolf Lodge New England – it will be a wicked fun time!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Wolf Howlin’ Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

PEEPS Holiday Pops

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

 

 

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

This summer has been an exciting one for all of us at Great Wolf Lodge, and being part of the Wolf Your World team has truly been a high point. I love visiting our resorts and the Tour has been the perfect way to not only visit our amazing properties, but also get into the communities and areas surrounding them. I have personally had the opportunity to visit zoos, museums, children’s hospitals and so much more.

When we were preparing to visit Grapevine, Texas we looked at area tourist attractions for possible Tour stops. We spent time at the Fort Worth Stockyards and got up close and personal with some Texas longhorns, visited the historic Grapevine Railroad and then took Wiley the Wolf to an iconic place in TV pop culture, Southfork Ranch.

Yes, you read that right—Southfork Ranch. The home of fictional TV family the Ewing’s. The family may have been fictional, but the place is real. And whether you grew watching Dallas each Friday night on CBS, or have just discovered the recent reboot on TNT, you know that Southfork Ranch was, and still is, the center of just about every episode.   

For over 30 years, visitors to Dallas have also made trips to Southfork, to see the ranch and the home that seemed larger than life on their TV sets. The original show filmed there on location, and today the new cast also films on the property.

Tours of the mansion are offered daily. You can take a peek into Lucy Ewing’s bedroom, see Jock Ewing’s living room, imagine having breakfast in Miss Ellie’s kitchen and gaze out at the cattle as they graze on the sprawling lawn.

To be honest—I was giddy with excitement. And while Wiley is a young wolf, and didn’t really know much about the show, he was excited, too. Together with Wiley, we had the chance to go out onto the balcony that overlooks the ranch, and wander the entire house. We surprised a group that was on tour—handed out ears and hugs - and learned all about the mansion itself. Wiley did not get to get too close to the cattle, but we were able to visit with a couple of the ranch’s horses, and stand under the white “Southfork Ranch” archway. We closed our quick visit in true Great Wolf Lodge style—with a few stomps, claps and a HOWL.

Great Wolf Lodge is still a relatively new destination in Texas. What a fun opportunity we had to bring a part of our experience to such a unique tourist attraction. I bet even J.R. Ewing would have smiled.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A popular vacation destination’s blog recently asked, “How old were you the first time you visited us?” I found myself smiling and thinking of two answers. First I answered for myself; I was 11. Then I found myself answering about the first time I took my son; he was six weeks old.

The blog’s question got me thinking about the vacations we take first as children, as adults and as parents. Vacation comes in different forms. It can be a road trip touring national parks. It can be time relaxing on a warm sandy beach. It can be an annual reunion with family. Vacation can be a multi-week excursion or a weekend getaway. There is no right or wrong answer. All that matters is that you are spending precious moments together with those who mean the most. 

When people learn I work for Great Wolf Lodge, they often ask, “How old should kids be before they visit?”  Friends will tell me they are waiting for their child to be the “perfect age” before they take a family vacation.

Before I became a mom, I thought that way, too. I was practical; why spend money on a vacation a baby will not remember? Why lug all the baby's gear the entire time? How would I enjoy such a vacation?

But as they say, a child changes everything. And I no longer look at family vacation as a milestone to aspire to. Instead, I look forward to visiting new places with our son, on new experiences we can do together and I focus on the joy we find in these special outings. Even if he doesn't remember them all yet - my husband and I do.

Aiden was eight months old when he visited his first Great Wolf Lodge. Our stay was brief – just one night. But, during that time, I heard a first new laugh, we learned he loves the wave pool just as much as the older kids, and we saw that he has no fear of smiling wolves! (He literally dove out of my husband’s arms into Wiley’s waiting paws.)

While at the resort, we met other families with little ones. One family was visiting with their four children – and their youngest was six months old. No one talked about lugging diaper bags or rearranging nap schedules or struggling to pop open the stroller. Instead, they talked about how their toddlers giggled in the kiddie pools, delighted at the singing animals during Story Time and best of all, how the entire family cuddled together during their special getaway to Great Wolf Lodge.  

If there is one thing I have learned as a mom, it’s that I don’t have to worry about planning the perfect vacation, waiting for the perfect age or going at the perfect time. All I need to focus on is the time we’ll spend together. And isn’t that truly what vacation is all about?   

 

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.

If you have children, you can probably relate to how attached they become to a particular toy. It is the one item they need to take to bed, that accompanies them to school, the special friend that goes on family vacation. In our house, that toy is “Blue Bear.” Often we find ourselves rechecking the diaper bag, the car and our steps to ensure we have not lost Blue Bear, so we won’t have a heartbroken toddler. 

A few months ago, an email crossed my desk about a special little friend named “Duck Duck” who started at Great Wolf Lodge and became a child’s best friend. That story stuck with me, and after a recent incident at home involving Blue Bear, I was reminded of Duck Duck and the team at the resort in Kansas City. It’s timeless and will definitely bring a smile to your face.

Below is the email sent to us by the child’s grandmother:

“A couple of years ago, my husband and I took our kids and grandkids to the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City and had a wonderful time. We bought each of them an animal they could stuff themselves. My grandson, Gabe picked a penguin which he named, “Duck Duck.”  Gabe took Duck Duck EVERYWHERE – church, out to eat, outside to play, each night to bed; they truly became best friends.

Recently, Duck Duck went missing and Gabe was so upset. He told his Mommy that Duck Duck would also cry if he was not found. My son and daughter-in-law looked everywhere for Duck Duck and did not have any luck.

I called Great Wolf Lodge to see if I could possibly get a new penguin. I was disappointed to learn that stuffed animal was no longer sold at the resort. I told the retail manager, Allison Kaighen, the story of Duck Duck and she said she would contact the vendor to try to get another penguin.

Imagine our surprise one night when Gabe ran to his Mommy with Duck Duck in his arms.

“Duck Duck found me,” he said, “Duck Duck found me!”

I got a text from his Mommy with the picture of him holding his Duck Duck. Then I received a call from Allison herself. She had found the vendor and the ONE penguin they had left. Allison sent a special letter to Gabe and photos she had taken of Iceberg, the new penguin, having fun around Great Wolf Lodge.

I still can't believe that you can get such wonderful customer service these days. Allison went way above and beyond. Thank you so much for making Gabe and all of our lives so much brighter.
                                                                                                                                      Sherry Murry

(In case you are wondering – I reached out to Sherry while working on this blog entry. She confirmed Duck Duck, much to Gabe’s delight, has been found, but Iceberg, his new penguin, is a treasured Great Wolf Lodge friend.)

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. The sky is bluer, the birds start chirping and tulips bloom in the front yard. 

To really get into spring, I reached out to our talented team of chefs and asked them to share their favorite treats for spring parties and family get-togethers. Their answers truly are delicious and something that someone with very little baking ability, like me, can do!

So—if you have not yet figured out what to bring to your next springtime celebration, here are two great ideas:  

Fruit Pizza

Executive Chef Lymont Stoutingberg from the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City told me about this treat. Who doesn’t love eating fresh fruit in the spring? And of course, pizza is a year-round staple!

During a recent segment on WDAF-KC TV, Chef Lymont shared his recipe for the treat:

  1. Start with one package sugar cookie dough.
  2. Prepare the following toppings:
  • 8 ounces soft cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 ounces condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 4 kiwi peeled, sliced
  • 2 large orange, sectioned
  • 1/2 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 6 ounces fresh blueberries
  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Flatten cookie dough onto a 6-inch pizza pan.
  3. Bake until firm to touch, about 11 to 15 minutes. Cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and sugar.
  5. Spread the baked cookie with the cream cheese mixture and decorate with sliced fruit.
  6. Top the pizza with remaining berries and chocolate mixture.
  7. Slice and serve immediately.

Blooming Cupcake Bouquet

Cupcakes are definitely the “in” dessert right now. From TV's Cupcake Wars to cupcake bakeries popping up around town, what was once a dessert staple is now the treat to be reckoned with. Chefs Russ Meeks and Amie Hanrahan shared with me how they take a simple cupcake and create a signature centerpiece that is as beautiful as it is delicious.

While I leave the actual cupcake recipe up to you, here are the steps to create your beautiful bunch of floral-inspired treats!

  1. Prepare the following items:                    
  • 7 large cupcakes              
  • 4 cups butter cream icing                                            
  • 4 pastry bags                                                                     
  • 4 decorating tip (1M)                                                    
  • Food coloring – your choice for as many colors as you want to use                          
  • 14 toothpicks (2 per cupcake)                                                                   
  • 1 vase or flower pot
  • ½ of a floral or regular Styrofoam ball that fits in vase or flower pot
  • Green tissue paper or decorative leaves              
  1. Steps to create your bouquet:
  • Using two sheets of green tissue paper, fill vase/flower pot, and leave the corners sticking out. If using a glass or clear vase, take 1/3 piece of tissue paper, roll into a loose ball and place gently into bottom of the vase.                                                    
  • Place the 1/2 foam ball on the top of tissue paper.                                                          
  • Using toothpicks push 2 together around the half foam call and leave about 3/4 in. of the toothpick sticking up. The toothpicks will secure the cupcakes to the ball.                                                     
  1. Decorate the Cupcakes:
  • Using food coloring, create your desired icing colors.
  • Using the pastry bags and tips fill each bag with icing. Use one color per bag.
  • Begin piping icing on your cupcakes in a circular motion starting in the center, and work your way out using even pressure. Decorate until you have the desired color scheme and look.
  1. Create your display:
  • Arrange your cupcakes around the Styrofoam ball as you would a real flower bouquet.  (Be sure to push cupcakes far enough onto toothpicks so they are secure on the ball)
  • Using the tissue that is sticking out around the ball, and your decorative leaves, fill in any gaps to give your arrangement a finished look.                     
  1. Take photos, share your yummy treats on Pinterest, and don’t forget to tell everyone Great Wolf Lodge inspired you!                    

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suzanne Rowan KelleherWith spring break coming soon, we’re excited to have a special guest author, Suzanne Rowan Kelleher. Suzanne is a family travel expert at MiniTime.com, the family travel-planning site that makes traveling with kids easier. As a go-to travel expert, Suzanne has appeared on national TV and radio programs including CNN, ABC News Now and NBC News. She is married with three kids.

The family road trip is still the most practical and affordable way for families to get time away together, and the MiniTime community knows a thing or two about making car trips easier. Whether you’re heading to Washington State, Williamsburg or the Wisconsin Dells, here are a few tried-and-tested tips from families who’ve hit the road together:

1.       An inexpensive metal cookie sheet makes the best lap table for a child during car trips. It can be a food tray or a writing desk (the raised edges keep crayons from rolling off). It’s an instant play table for magnetic toys. My daughter likes to play with a magnet puzzle shaped like the United States. When we see a license plate from one state, she adds it to her magnetic map. – Brooke from Carlisle, PA

2.      Before our last road trip, I collected a small jar full of quarters with US states on the back. During our journey, when one of my kids spotted a state's license plate, I'd give her a quarter with that state on it. When we got to our destination, the kids got to keep the coins to buy souvenirs. This incentivized version of the license plate game kept them much more eager to play! – Holly from Janesville, WI

3.      Buy a package of pipe cleaners in assorted colors from any craft store. My kids love to create with pipe cleaners—making necklaces, swords, bracelets, towers—anything their little minds can think up. – Rich from LaHabra, CA

4.      When kids are young, it's a good idea to do a little prep work and choose fun places to stop every two hours along your route, such as interesting picnic spots, historical monuments and, whenever possible, a playground. I always have a Frisbee, a ball and a jump rope in the car, too. It's amazing how much better they behave after just 15 or 20 minutes of playtime. – Lenora from Burlington, VT

5.      For long trips in the car we play "Family Trivia.” My husband and I ask the kids trivia questions about family members. This is a great way to share family history. When our kids were little, we started out with simple questions and as they got older we made the questions harder. It is now a game they love to play and share their knowledge of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents. – Chris from Oregon, WI

The MiniTime community invites you to share your favorite travel stories. Write a review of your favorite Great Wolf Lodge:

Charlotte/Concord, NC

Cincinnati/Mason, OH

Grand Mound, WA

Grapevine, TX

Kansas City, KS

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Pocono Mountains, PA

Sandusky, OH

Traverse City, MI

Williamsburg, VA

Wisconsin Dells, WI

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Wolf Resorts Bed Testing