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. 

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

Lucky 13 WinnersA New Year always means new opportunities, new resolutions and new adventures. To put our best paw forward, we kicked off the year with our Lucky 13 sweepstakes. We were thrilled by the response! Over 2,000 families entered, telling us about their children who are turning 13 in this decidedly lucky year, 2013.

Howls of congratulations to the following parents whose kids will soon be teens. We look so forward to helping them ease into these exciting years with a stay at their favorite Great Wolf Lodge for $20.13:

  • April Duritza
  • Kelly Fender
  • Sidney Kirk
  • Danielle McKenzie
  • Wendy Player
  • Jerry White
  • Zaida Rodriguez
  • Mike Rollberg
  • Melissa Jenkins
  • Lisa Lanz
  • Debbie Jones
  • Bernadette Scharf
  • Anthony Brandt

Two of our winning families will be celebrating turning 13 in a big way this year: one has twins, and the other has triplets! They definitely have enough people to tackle the River Canyon Run or the Howlin’ Tornado together.

Turning 13 is a great milestone for any child and I can’t think of a better place to celebrate than at Great Wolf Lodge. If your family didn’t win—all is not lost! Check out our deals page, sign up for our epack and look at our birthday party packages. Oh—and hopefully we helped everyone cure their Triskaidekaphobia.

 

I love theming. While I am not very artistic, I do have great admiration for places that understand theming and create immersive environments. My husband and I love to visit theme parks, water parks and resorts, not just for the attractions and rides themselves but also for the overall look, feel and even smell that is created to help “transport” you to another place.   

At Great Wolf Lodge, we create an immersive environment for your family. The inspiration for the look and feel of the Great Wolf Lodge resorts comes from the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Our resorts have a quiet, comfortable, rustic feel. From the color on the wall, to the wood fixtures and "log cabin-like" furniture, to the warm and inviting fireplace, the focal point of each lobby, we surround you in our forest home. As you look up at the antler chandeliers, and around at the soft earthy colors and cozy furniture—have you ever looked down? You should. We theme for your feet, too.

I love that our carpets reflect our lodge theme. Depending on which resort you visit, you may be greeted by bears, moose and “patchwork” pattern or a lighter patterned floor with leaves, soft greens and fall colors. If you haven’t really noticed the carpet—I guarantee your kids have. While visiting the Great Wolf Lodge Mason, I watched one little girl play her version of hopscotch by only touching the “animal squares.”  She skipped over the patterns and prints and moved her feet by hopping from the bear to the deer to the moose and so on. It took her family awhile to get to their room—but everyone had fun along the way!

In 2012, our resorts in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin and Sandusky, Ohio were fully renovated and that meant adding brand new carpet throughout the entire resort. The colors pop brighter than ever and little feet enjoy the plush feel as they scamper down the hallways from the family suite to the water park.

Breaking with the outdoor theme a bit, the Northern Lights arcades also got a full facelift (that will continue into 2013) and once again, feet were not forgotten. I love the new swirly design, stars and bright colors that enhance the overall look and feel of the arcade. And don’t worryWiley the Wolf left his “paw of approval” on this new floor, too. The carpet is filled with our signature Great Wolf Lodge paw print.

Next time you visit a Great Wolf Lodge resort, be sure to glance down at your feet during your stay. They just may be pretty enough for a picture!

Remember being in middle school and having to learn a new vocabulary list each week? You’d study the list just enough to get through the test and then move on. And, occasionally a word would stick with you. Welltoday’s blog post is sponsored by such a word. Triskaidekaphobia.  And most importantlywhat Great Wolf Lodge is doing to combat it!

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. Did you know this fear is so real, that most hotels do not have a thirteenth floor and airplanes do not have a thirteenth row? 13 has long been viewed as an unlucky number. For anyone who has the fear of the number 13, 2013 will probably be a tough year.

The number 13 isn’t all bad, though. The United States was formed from 13 original colonies. A baker’s dozen is 13 yummy treats, not twelve. Turning 13 is a milestone for kids as they transition from child to teenager. And to give this New Year a lucky start—we are excited to announce the search for the Great Wolf Lodge Lucky 13.

Is your child turning 13 this year? Perhaps your niece, nephew or grandchild? Wouldn’t a trip to Great Wolf Lodge be the perfect way to help ensure they have a luck-filled year? Families that have a child celebrating their 13th birthday in 2013 are invited to enter the Lucky 13 contest.

When: Sunday, January 13, 2013 from 12:01 a.m. Central Time until 11:59 p.m. Central Time that night.

How To Enter: Eligible guests can send an email to lucky13@greatwolf.com with the subject line “Lucky 13” and the following information in the body of the email:

  1. Your name (parent or guardian submitting the entry)
  2. Your address 
  3. Name of your child who is turning 13 in 2013
  4. Birth date of your child who is turning 13 in 2013

13 lucky winners will be randomly selected to receive a single night’s stay at the Great Wolf Lodge resort nearest them for just $20.13. This very lucky reservation rate is more than 90% off of the average cost of a stay in a Family Suite at Great Wolf Lodge.

For official sweepstakes rules, visit www.greatwolf.com/sweepstakes.

Don’t have a child turning 13 this year? That’s Ok—all luck is not lost. You can still save up to 20% off a multi-night stay at your favorite Great Wolf Lodge by entering the promotion code EARLY to book your reservation by January 18. Want to keep this lucky savings streak going? Join the Great Wolf Lodge E-pack to receive news about limited time promotions and deals all year long! 

So next time you play Trivial Pursuit, you'll not only know the definition of triskaidekaphobia but you’ll also remember Great Wolf Lodge resorts helped ensure 13 teens were not affected by it!

 

 

I grew up in a family with three kids. Vacation hotel stays always presented a challenge. Most hotel rooms could only accommodate four people. Inevitably one of us slept on an uncomfortable fold-away bed that came at an extra cost, or on the floor. 

A trip to Great Wolf Lodge would not have presented this challenge to my family. No one would have to sleep on the floor and everyone could have comfortably spread out. My parents would have been happy too—they would not have had to pay for a second room so we could enjoy this comfort.

Great Wolf Lodge resorts are all-suite properties. Most families book a Family Suite, which includes two queen beds and a full size sleeper sofa, so six people can comfortably relax after their full day of water park fun! And while the Family Suite is a wonderful option, we offer so many additional others, too!  

During a visit to the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio, we surprised our son with a KidCabin suite. While he is probably too young to full enjoy it, he immediately recognized the KidCabin was just for him. The suite provides a separate sleeping area for children, complete with two bunk beds and a third bed. (It would have been perfect for my sister, brother and me.)

The KidCabin has its own TV, and while it does not have a door, the suite’s layout makes it easy to put your pups to bed, but still keep lights on in the room. (How many of us have sat in a dark hotel room because the baby was sleeping?) And, if you’re keeping score, the KidCabin suite is perfect for seven people, with its queen size bed and pull out sleeper sofa.

The KidKamp and Wolf Den are two other suites that are as fun and playful as they are spacious and comfortable. The cozy “tent” and animal-themed den feature bunk beds in a similar, separate space just for kids.

Cute theming aside, you can choose several other unique suite to meet your needs. My personal favorite is the Whirlpool Fireplace suite. Luxury king size bed, inroom fireplace, huge whirlpool tub. While this suite is for four people, nothing says vacation like a room with a fireplace. Great Wolf Lodge Suite

Our guests tell us that Great Wolf Lodge is the perfect destination for family reunions. From the Majestic Bear suite which includes a breakfast bar; to the Grizzly Bear suite and its two bathrooms; to the truly amazing Great Frontier Loft condo in Wisconsin Dells complete with four bedrooms; Great Wolf Lodge resorts have the perfect alternative to the boring hotel room.

Don’t forget all of our suites include a complimentary microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator, so sippy cups, bottles, snacks and leftovers from your dinner at the Loose Moose buffet can be saved and enjoyed throughout your stay.

For your next vacation - what suite style will you surprise your family with?

One of the best parts of my job is finding the little vignettes and anecdotes that collectively make our full Great Wolf Lodge story. Recently, one of our resorts did something that goes beyond the howl and straight to the heart. In the spirit of this holiday season, here is the story of the Norman family and their recent visit to Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg.

At Great Wolf Lodge, we focus on creating family traditions and making memories. For five year old Nathan Norman from Rustburg, Virginia, his recent visit made memories that will last a lifetime.

Like most boys his age, Nathan is happy, energetic and full of joy and hope. Unlike most boys, Nathan is fighting brain cancer. And in the middle of doctor appointments and treatments, Nathan’s parents are always looking to ways to help him feel and be like every other little boy. For example, in September, Nathan told his mom that Christmas lights would make him feel better. Soon his home was decorated, and his neighbors' homes were decorated, to help encourage his early holiday spirit. In October, a group even came to his home to sing Christmas carols to Nathan and his family.

Two weeks ago, the family took a much needed trip to Great Wolf Lodge and there, Nathan’s holiday dreams got even better.

Nathan’s heroes are those who keep us safe—firefighters, policemen, EMT’s—the men and women who help others when they need it most. When the York County Fire Department heard Nathan was coming to Great Wolf Lodge, they wanted to do something really special for him. They partnered with Fire Rescue TV who put out their own “All Points Bulletin” to create a lasting memory for Nathan. Together with the resort, the area's first responders threw Nathan his own parade.  

The fun began with a personal escort to the resort by police motorcade. Upon arrival, Nathan was greeted by Great Wolf Lodge’s Wiley the Wolf and characters from the local stations. The family then boarded an antique fire track to lead the parade around the resort.

The extra special treat was the arrival of Santa Claus on the Life Flight helicopter. He surprised Nathan and his family with gifts and then a ride in the helicopter. And to think – all of this took place before Nathan ever set foot in the resort!

During their stay, Nathan and his family got to experience everything! They enjoyed a dining experience in the magical life size gingerbread house, road the resort’s trolley and splashed in the waterpark—complete with their own personal cabana.

At this special time of year it warms my heart not only as a Great Wolf Lodge Pack Member, but also as a mom, to know there are people in our community who help others. Thank you, York County Fire, Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, and Nathan, for making us all smile.

 

When I was younger I used to love the “Hidden Pictures” puzzles in magazines. You know the ones—find the hidden apple, the hidden house, the hidden mouse. Probably the only good thing about going to the doctor as a child was having the chance to read Highlights magazine and its monthly puzzle.

That’s why I took great delight in learning that the gingerbread house at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City was not just a beautiful and delicious masterpiece—it is also a life size puzzle, complete with its own hidden pictures!

For two months, the team at the resort combined their baking skills with their production skills to build their gingerbread house. The ingredient list alone was huge—it took 1656 lbs. of confection sugar, 600 lbs. of sugar, 200 lbs. of popcorn and 300 lbs. of egg whites to create the unique structure. This year, the team also got special assistance from HGTV design expert Carter Oosterhouse. But even Carter got excited when the team told him that about the little game they added to their fairy tale-inspired home.

The “I Spy Gingerbread Rocks” were created and cleverly baked into the walls of the gingerbread house. Just seeing the house is not enough—guests are encouraged to seek and find each of the animals cleverly hidden in plain sight. And of course, the exterior of the house is not the only place to find unique, treat-based art. While dining inside, guests can also see artwork made from sugar crystals of Wiley the Wolf and friends, and  woodland creatures decorating a forest tree that lights up.

During my visit, I got in touch with my inner puzzle-loving child. List in hand, I looked for: a large turtle; two baby turtles, two wolves—one howling at the moon, a buffalo, the state of Michigan (complete with a candy heart denoting Traverse City); three gingerbread men, a foot, a bear, an elk, a fish, a snake, and a wolf pawprint. It was a fun challenge.

As I write this, I can visualize where each of these hidden creatures was located on the house. However, I must admit, I never did find the bear or the elk. So, to anyone making the trip to experience Snowland at the lodge in Michigan this month—I challenge you to find everything on the list. And then send me an email letting me know where that elk was hiding.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year. Amidst the parties, gift-giving, family traditions and overall feeling of goodwill, I also love the decorating. As soon as Thanksgiving ends, I get in touch with my inner Martha Stewart and pull out boxes and bins filled with holiday decorations. My snowman collection alone could take over the entire house. The house twinkles with lights, our Christmas tree, candles, garland, stockings and oh yes, those snowmen. (Did I mention many of them also sing?) I just love how our house transforms into a wintery home that’s cozy and filled with seasonal cheer.

The Great Wolf Lodge resorts REALLY get into the spirit of the holiday season. From the gingerbread houses that take more than two months to complete, to the hanging of lights, displays, icicles and snowflakes to trees, trees and more trees. Each December, the resorts take on an entirely new persona. They glow from within.

During a recent visit to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Pocono Mountains, I watched the lobby transform into a winter dreamland! And while the Grand Lobby and its amazing décor delight our guests, I think the parade of trees make Snowland at that resort something special. 

As you wander through the resort, you’ll spot seven trees that have their own individual personality.  During my stay, I asked Kids Experience Manager Terri Klee about the unique trees. She told me they are part of an annual tradition where resort departments design and decorate their own tree.  

This year, seven departments decorated trees around lodge. The Administration offices, Aquatics, Guest Services, Kids Experience, Food & Beverage, Housekeeping and Retail/spa departments were all given a tree to design any way they wished. Some trees reflect the departments themselves—the Aquatics tree is adorned with Band-Aid packs and rubber ducks dressed like lifeguards. The Food & Beverage team created a tree about pet rescue, complete with pet-themed ornaments, plush cats and dogs and even a few biscuits.

As I mentioned, I love snowmen, so that tree, created by Guest Services and Kids Experience, made me smile. The most unusual and “out of the box” tree definitely goes to the Administration department, as they created a tree out of water bottles. (It’s also fully recyclable.)

The Pack Member tree contest is an annual event, now in its seventh year. Throughout the month of December, guests can take a walk through the trees and vote for their favorite. The tree with the most votes earns a pizza party for the entire team that created it.

If you visit the Poconos Mountains this month, take a moment to look at the trees. They’re sure to give you something to howl about.

Carter Oosterhouse at Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City

This year, we were thrilled to partner with HGTV design expert, Carter Oosterhouse. Carter recently visited our resort in Traverse City, Michigan and assisted us with the life size gingerbread house. He also took a few moments to share his favorite seasonal decorating tips. 

The holidays are my favorite time of year, especially since I’m on the road so much. To make things even sweeter, this year I did something I’ve never done before—provided design insight and inspiration to a life-size gingerbread house at Great Wolf Lodge. Throughout the month of December, families can dine inside this edible creation—and similar gingerbread houses at each Great Wolf Lodge resort—for a $20 fee, which will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Life size gingerbread houses at Great Wolf Lodge are part of the resorts’ annual Snowland celebration. This year, when Great Wolf Lodge invited me to help bring something new to the gingerbread house project, I knew I could not say no. While in my hometown of Traverse City, I worked alongside the resort’s culinary team as we brought some of my fairy tale ideas to life. These included: icing icicles dripping from the roof, candy button wallpaper inside the house, “growing” poinsettias made of gingerbread for the window boxes and re-theming a traditional snow sled into a gingerbread sleigh to add candy curb appeal.

Families can visit the 11 Great Wolf Lodge resorts all this month to really get in the holiday spirit—and find inspiration to use at home for their own winter wonderlands.

While at the resort, I also worked with the team to take some of the big ideas from the gingerbread house and find inspiration to apply at home. We used some of the tasty materials from the gingerbread house to create a fun project at home—candy holiday photo frames.

We started with a simple wood frame found at your local craft store. Using favorite seasonal candies like red and green Pop Rocks, peppermints, cinnamon hearts and Nerds, the kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters Northwestern Michigan and I got creative. We applied the candy to the frames using glue sticks. This great indoor project is something the entire family can get into and the finished project is a perfect treat to hold your holiday family photos all season long.

While at the lodge, I was also asked about my favorite tips to help make your home ready for the holidays. Here are a few ideas to help create your personal winter wonderland:

  • When decorating your Christmas tree, use clear lights and ornaments adorned in white and silver alongside glass icicles, to create a snowy, outdoor feel.  Don’t forget to use spray snow or flocking before you light and decorate the tree!
  • In the dining room, lay a white tablecloth across the table and add a centerpiece of red and silver ornaments or pine cones sprinkled with silver glitter. Include subtle light with candles atop a festive table runner. Adding a dimmer switch in the room—and throughout the entire house—will really set the mood at dinnertime with your loved ones, and help enhance your home’s seasonal lighting.
  • Spread cheer throughout the house by introducing new seasonal colors with throw pillows or blankets. Red, green and silver accents will give your home an updated holiday feel without breaking the bank.
  • Decorate the windows with spray frost and place a flameless candle in each window to shimmer on the snow at night.
  • To put the finishing touches on your holiday home both inside and out, take the decorating outside by lining the driveway with white lights and hanging icicle lights from the rooftop.

Happy Holidays, 

Carter

 

Earlier this summer we began to write about the many new attractions that were being added to our Great Wolf Lodge resorts. With each story, we’d say to each other, “That sounds fun!” or “Can’t wait to try that!”

During a recent visit to Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, I got to try one of these new additions and play Oliver’s Time Challenge. Twice!

Located on Main Street on level one at the resort, Oliver’s Time Challenge is an interactive competition. It was first described to me as a life size version of the Milton & Bradley game, SIMON®. Remember that one? It had four color buttons that lit up, causing you to hit them quickly so they would turn off. Well, the resort definitely has a unique spin on that classic game!

Picture yourself running around, hitting lit buttons as fast as you can. Imagine you are competing against someone while you tap each button. And pretend you really, really want to win!

Oliver’s Time Challenge is a three minute experience that I think everyone should try. It can be played with two people, or an entire family. My trip to Williamsburg was for a photo and video shoot and Oliver’s Time Challenge was on the list. After looking at it and being told how it worked, we decided the best way to truly understand it was play it. Afterall, it was for was research, right? Sure – research!

My colleague, Kristen, took one side of the square room, and I took the other.  Next thing I knew, the buzzer went off and we were both dashing around hitting blinking buttons as quickly as possible. Some were up high, some down low – and yes, for a few, I was too slow.

Kristen and I are each slightly competitive, so we took the experience seriously. We played hard.  We dashed from one side of the room to the next, chasing the blinking lights and joking we just might be a little out of shape!

Almost too quickly, the final round started – multiple lights all lit up at once. It was like WHAC-A-MOLE® in the speed zone! When the game ended, we both found ourselves laughing – and gasping – from the three minute experience.

Later in the day, we invited several young guests to play, too. Remembering how much running around we did – and how fast it all went – we encouraged them to play in teams. Inevitably, the kids chose to play “boys vs. girls” first. Then “adults vs. kids” and soon it was, “We really, really just want to play one more time.”

Next time you are Williamsburg, check out Oliver’s Time Challenge. If you’re looking forward to some friendly family competition or you want to help your kids burn off the day’s last little bit of energy – this is the experience for you. Who knows, you just might find me there, waiting for someone to play against.

This week, my blog entry has been written by a young friend from my hometown. I hope you enjoy her personal story of her family's first visit to our resort in Sandusky. - Susie

Hi! My name is Evie Parfitt, and I love traveling!  I am 11 years old and live in Rochester, New York.  I also have my own blog, AlwaysEvie, and I sometimes guest write for my dad’s travel blog, Adventures by Daddy. I love brownies and videogames - as well as traveling! Here's my story about visiting Great Wolf Lodge.

It was a Friday Morning, the last weekend in June. I was super excited for the weekend to come! Because we were going to Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky.

It was supposed to be a five hour drive from Rochester, NY, to Sandusky, OH, but unfortunately, it took us seven and a half. All because of traffic! But, the drive was worth it, because the moment we got to the resort, I knew my family and I would have a great time!

When we first walked into our room – it was a family fireplace suite – we saw a box of cookies on the counter and milk in the fridge. We immediately felt at home. I got one of the queen beds, Mom and Dad got the other, and my teenage sister happily accepted the pull-out couch, due to the extra privacy behind the half wall. We settled in a bit, then went to dinner at the Gitchigoomie Grill. It was very nice and filling. I got the kids' chicken fingers, which came with a pair of complimentary wolf ears! They were AWESOME!

Then we went to the waterpark and I went around the Lazy River about 15 times! Then we went back to our room and enjoyed our cookies. (Which, by the way, were great!)

The next day, we had a delicious and filling breakfast at Lumber Jack’s Cook Shanty. Then, we visited some local attractions. At 3:30, my sister and I had manicures at Scooops Kid Spa. (And yes, it does have 3 o’s!) I got a very bright shade of purple, and my sister got a sparkly blue. We had warm towels put on our hands, got lotioned up, and then our nails were painted. It was very nice and relaxing! We then went back to the waterpark, where I went around the Lazy River another 20 times! After that, we just hung out and went to bed. (We were all exhausted!)

The next day, we packed up, and got breakfast at Bear Paw Sweets & Eats. After that, we hung out at the waterpark, then we had an AMAZING lunch at the Gitchigoomie Grill. I had a pulled pork sandwich. Then, bummer, we had to drive back home.

Overall, my experience at Great Wolf Lodge was GREAT! My favorite part was the waterpark! It had tons to do, I could stay there all day! I had an absolutely FUN time, so I really think everyone who wants a fun family vacation, should go to Great Wolf Lodge!

Great Wolf Lodge Splash MobWhat do you get when you bring together 380 cheerleaders, Wiley the Wolf and a huge waterpark? A HOWLIN’ good time! Last week at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas we presented our first-ever Splash Mob to the surprise and delight of our guests.

This year we knew we wanted to create something that would take place in one of our waterparks. We wanted an event that was memorable and captured just how fun Great Wolf Lodge is for summer travel, but would also show us in a unique light.  

It quickly dawned on us that we also had an amazing opportunity to highlight one of our larger groups of resort guests – the Universal Cheerleader Association (UCA) summer camp attendees. Each year, several of our properties host week-long cheer camps. The attendees work hard on their stunts, routines and cheers, and also enjoy all that Great Wolf Lodge has to offer.

The more our Splash Mob concept evolved, the more we knew the perfect partner was UCA. Months of emails, conference calls and planning led us to August 6, when we met the cheerleaders for the first time and told them WHAT they would be doing a mere two days later.

Our Splash Mob was our way of celebrating the summer games in London. We reached out to Dallas-area resident, Carrie Garten, a former member of the US National Synchronized Swimming Team and invited her provide input for the event. Carrie taught the cheerleaders a few signature arm moves and fan kicks from synchronized swimming that were easy to coordinate into the routine. 

On Wednesday, August 8, I woke up excited and ready to share the Splash Mob with the world. Our UCA staff partners, Adam Slutka and Jamie Graham, and their camp attendees were going to bring our little idea to life.

I can’t describe how it felt to see the camp attendees wearing Splash Mob t-shirts and our Great Wolf Lodge wolf ears and tails. When the music started, the energy level at the pool soared. First a few cheerleaders started their routine. Then a few more hopped into the pool. Suddenly, they were cartwheeling out of the cabanas – and soon our entire pool and pool deck – was filled with cheer. My favorite moment was seeing Wiley the Wolf join in – he knew the routine and danced with everyone.

Bet you wish you were there, too, right? Check out our video, and you’ll feel like you were:

Long ago I was given the advice, find what you love to do, and do it. That way, “going to work” won’t feel like work – but instead it will be something you enjoy. Standing on a balcony, watching 380 cheerleaders, a dancing wolf and excited resort guests, was definitely a “work event” that reminded me I love what I do. And I’m proud to do it for Great Wolf Lodge!

Wiley Golfing

While August is one a popular time to visit Great Wolf Lodge, it also means “back to school”. Kindergarten, grade school, high school and college - all of the above. This fall, 11 students are heading to college with a little bit of help from our dedicated Great Wolf Lodge Pack.

When I joined the Great Wolf Resorts team, I was excited to learn more about our Great Wolf Resorts Scholarship Program. Two years ago our CEO, Kim Schaefer, took part in the CBS prime-time show “Undercover Boss”. During her time visiting our resorts, and filming segments for the show, she met Pack Members who worked at Great Wolf Lodge while attending college. Upon returning home, she shared her desire to find a way to help with the cost of tuition. From that desire, we created the scholarship program.

Last fall we held our first ever fundraising golf outing – and then we shared the news of the scholarship with the Pack Members working at our resorts, corporate offices and the reservations center.

Flash forward to today and our inaugural class of scholarship recipients has been chosen! We are awarding $48,000 to 11 deserving Great Wolf Lodge Pack Members to put toward their college education for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. To apply for a scholarship, interested Pack Members submitted a letter of recommendation, an application and a personal essay for consideration.

Great Wolf Lodge Scholarship

I’m so excited to share that Pack Members from four Great Wolf Lodge resorts, located in Concord, N.C.; Grapevine, TX; Sandusky, OH and Traverse City, MI; as well as our reservations office in Madison, WI, make up the first group of scholarship recipients. 

The entire company is proud of the more than 100 applicants and 11 recipients of this year’s scholarship. A great Howl of congratulations is extended to the following Pack Members as they pursue their higher education goals this fall:

Pack Member Great Wolf Lodge resort College Attending
Elena Aleman Central Reservations Office, WI  Edgewood College
Kristina McNeill   Central Reservations Office, WI Edgewood College
Virginia Lytton Concord, NC Univ. of NC at Chapel Hill
Stephanie Walton Concord, NC Univ. of NC at Greensboro
Kelly Swanson Concord, NC Univ. of NC at Chapel Hill
Alexander DeRossi Grapevine, TX Texas Tech University
Kedric Rose Grapevine, TX University of Texas at Arlington
Mackenzie Keegan Sandusky, OH University of Toledo
Stephanie Hollis Sandusky, OH Terra Community College
Natalie Radocy Sandusky, OH Lorain County Community College
Erin Kuhn Traverse City, MI Grand Valley State University
 
We are already looking ahead and planning for of our next class of scholarship winners. The 2nd Annual Great Wolf Resorts Scholarship Golf Outing will take place next month here in Wisconsin – and I just know we’ll raise even more money to assist our Pack Members’ with their education.

 

Earlier this year, 13-year-old Jeremy Wuitschick made headlines when he and fellow student, Johnny Wood, helped prevent an accident as their bus driver suffered a heart attack while driving. Jeremy got behind the wheel of the school bus and brought it to a safe stop while Johnny started to perform CPR on the driver. The story earned national attention for the two boys from Milton, Washington.  

Jeremy Wuitschick visits Great Wolf Lodge Grand MoundAfter the incident, Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound invited the boys and their families to visit the resort and see how its lifeguards learn how to react when dealing with a stressful situation, like the one they experienced on their school bus. During Jeremy’s stay, he took part in the Junior Lifeguard Program. He learned about Great Wolf Lodge’s lifeguard training program and CPR basics. Jeremy received a personalized sweatshirt from Great Wolf Lodge and an “Honorary Lifeguard” certificate. He then had a great timing howling with waterpark guests.

During his stay, Jeremy told us about the situation on his school bus and shared his thoughts from the experience.  

Great Wolf Lodge: What was your first thought when you noticed something was wrong with your bus driver?

Jeremy Wuitschick: I thought, “This is so unusual.” I had never seen anything like that happen before.

GWL: How did you remain so calm?

JW: I didn’t know what to feel; my gut instinct took over and I just did what I did to help.

GWL: Were you surprised by all of the media attention you received?

JW: I was completely surprised! I had no idea our actions would get so much attention; we had no idea what to expect. I always dreamed about what it would be like to receive such attention but not during something tragic.

GWL: What has been the coolest thing to happen to you since the incident on your bus?

Jeremy Wuitschick visits Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound

JW: I got to visit New York City with my mom! We stayed across from Central Park. I actually thought it would be like (in the movie) Madagascar 3 but it was completely different. I enjoyed taking pictures of Lady Liberty and Rockefeller Center. 

GWL: Do you have any advice for other kids if they ever find themselves in a scary situation like you did?

JW: Expect everything. When something happens like that, expect everything because anything could happen.

GWL: As you got ready for your visit to Great Wolf Lodge, what were you most looking forward to?

JW: I couldn’t wait to see my mom go down the Howlin’ Tornado in the dark and scream. I also love the breakfast buffet in the Loose Moose Cottage! Give me bacon; bacon, bacon, bacon!

GWL: Has this experience made you think about what you want to be when you grow up?

JW: It would be fun to be a host on a show like “Top Gear” - driving cool cars and doing crazy stunts. But, if I were to be more logical about it, I’d say an accountant. I enjoy helping people and math.

 

As a new mom, I love the insight, parenting tips and ideas I get from blogsand I especially love to work with bloggers. After attending the Reviewer’s Retreat at Great Wolf Lodge Concord, PA-based mom-blogger, Gina Badalaty, wrote about her children’s dining experience on her blog, Mom-Blog.com. I asked her to share her story with you. 

Gina Badalaty blogs about parenting, raising children with disabilities and advocating for special needs families at Mom-Blog.com.  She lives in PA with her husband and 2 beautiful daughters, and a cat that thinks he's a dog. 

Enjoy, 

Susie

 

Tips for Traveling with Kids with Allergies

Gina's daughter enjoying a meal at Great Wolf LodgeMy children have allergies.  Specifically, their diets need to be gluten- and casein-free, which means they can’t have dairy or any kind of wheat products.  When we travel, we have to be careful not just to avoid glutens, but also to make sure the food they eat is not cross-contaminated. They can’t even eat something that has been on the same grill as food filled with glutens.

Going on vacation can be challenging! As you can imagine, this means that vacationing takes extra work on our part, so our favorite trips are to resorts that help make this easier. Great Wolf Lodge is a place we really enjoy. The resort’s chef will personally talk with you and discuss your needs for a gluten-free menu. My kids love that at Great Wolf Lodge they can eat food they love, and we are happy that everything can be made to their health requirements. Our meals are even cooked separately!

We’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are a few of my top tips for traveling families whose children have special diet restrictions and food allergies:

Do your homework beforehand.
There are dozens of apps that tell you where the gluten-free restaurants are, but it’s up to you to do your own due diligence.  We once went to a park that advertised itself as being dairy- and gluten-free, and when we got there, we discovered that was not the case. Spend time on your destination’s website. Call the resort or attraction. We were pleasantly surprised by how accommodating and helpful the staff at Great Wolf Lodge was—it made our vacation less stressful!

Buy fresh produce along the way.
My children eat tons of fruit and vegetables because they are naturally allergen-free and will do in a pinch!  We try to buy organic, and during family road trips, when we drive by a local farm stand, we make a stop.Gluten Free Meatballs and Mac

Take advantage of resort amenities.
At Great Wolf Lodge, each suite has a refrigerator and a microwave. We often travel with our own snacks and this is a great way for us to keep fruit fresh during our stay. Gluten-free bagels are easy to carry and eat in the car, as well as serve as late-night snacks!  

Talk to the staff.
It is always a good idea to talk to the chef. Many restaurants and resorts, like Great Wolf Lodge, invite you to talk to the chef specifically about your family’s dietary needs and allergies.  You can share your family’s needs and he or she can detail what steps they can take to prepare food that best suits your child.

When on vacation, what is important to you? Comfortable rooms? Variety of activities? Value for your money? For me, food is high on the list. When we travel, I subscribe to the “there are no calories on vacation” mentality, so restaurants with good food and variety are important!

My family and I have been having fun discovering—and tasting—the many options for meals, snacks and even drinks by the pool at our Great Wolf Lodge resorts. This summer Great Wolf Lodge has added a number of new dining options to help make eating at the resort just as much fun as it is playing there.

In my opinion, nothing says vacation like a delicious pizza. I love pizza fresh from the oven and so do our guests. Our new Hungry As A Wolf pizza location at the Great Wolf Lodge Mason is quickly becoming a guest favorite. With choices like homemade pizza, bread sticks, salad and the “Wolf-It-Down” family meal, everyone in your pack will agree on this meal. You can pick it up and enjoy it poolside, or take it back to your room. Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Mountains also has a Hungry As A Wolf takeout pizza window.

Vacation and buffet are two words that go hand in hand. And for guests staying at Great Wolf Lodge Concord, buffet also means value. At the Loose Moose Cottage in Concord, the breakfast buffet consists of Wiley Waffles, hash browns, bacon, muffins, cereal, fruit and my personal favorite, made-to-order omelets. Dinner features a carving station, salad bar, entrée specials and even a “kids only” buffet filled with healthy kid-friendly foods. And—we can’t forget to mention the Wiley Waffles are served at dinner, too! Wondering where “value” comes into play? Until September 3, Kids Eat Free at Great Wolf Lodge Concord. Children 10 and under can enjoy a free breakfast and dinner buffet, when accompanied by a paying adult.

Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky also has a similar summer program in Lumber Jack’s Cook Shanty and the Gitchigoomie Grill. Families can receive one free child breakfast or dinner entree per regular priced adult entree purchased. What a great way to save money—and experience a sit-down meal together!

Have you ever eaten with a wolf? How about a raccoon? Now at Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine you can. Each morning, guests can “Wake Up With Wiley and Friends” and enjoy a unique character breakfast in the Camp Critter Bar & Grill. Bring your camera because the experience includes tableside visits and autographs with Wiley, Violet and Oliver the Raccoon, and a complimentary 4x5 event photo and souvenir. Seating is limited for this fun-filled breakfast and reservations are recommended.

At Great Wolf Lodge, meals are the perfect time to come together and share highlights from your day in the waterpark, Cub Club activities and MagiQuest adventures. Happy dining!

 

 

When you think of what goes into a great resort stay, what comes to mind? At Great Wolf Lodge, so many things create memorable guest experiences – fun waterpark adventures, Cub Club activities, MagiQuest challenges and more. With all of these “active” aspects to your resort getaway, it’s easy to forget the quiet parts that are just as important. 

When families stay at Great Wolf Lodge, we want them to feel at home. Kids are encouraged to attend Story Time in their pajamas, parents wander the halls in bathing suits and flip flops; everyone is relaxed and happy.

This year, we invested $4.8 million in the Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells and the Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky. This investment is in you, our guest, and has been completely focused on making you feel at home. We took great care to identify areas where we could exceed your expectations and continue to improve. While these additions may not sound as thrilling as a new waterslide, to moms like me, they go a long way when I’m thinking about where to tuck my son in while on vacation.

Both resorts started small and spread out. Brand new carpet and curtains help enhance each family suite’s comfortable feel. New in-room appliances, including 32” flat screen TV’s, refrigerators and microwaves are all sleek and fresh. New sleeper sofas provide restful sleep and brand new mattresses and bed linens have been added to each family suite, so that you feel as though you are in your own own bed. (Not to be outdone, Great Wolf Lodge Grapevine has also upgraded its bedding by adding new pillow top mattresses to each family suite.)

These new additions are just the beginning for our Wisconsin Dells and Sandusky resorts. Both resorts are receiving new carpet property-wide in all public areas and a new paint scheme in the lobbies. Many of these changes can already be seen. I visited the Sandusky resort recently, and the soft green color, along with the new plush carpet in the lobby really helped me get in “vacation mode” within moments of entering the resort.

These additions do not mean that we didn’t also increase the fun at Great Wolf Lodge. The resort in Sandusky has added Scooops Kid Spa, complete with ice cream flavored manicures and pedicures. Already a guest favorite, Scooops is the perfect addition to the Sandusky resort. Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells continues to be one of the most unique places to play MagiQuest and the resort added Topper Powers, complete with new challenges – and rewards – for all players.

At Great Wolf Lodge, we are constantly working to ensure that no matter which of our resorts you visit, you receive exceptional service, in a safe, comfortable, fun environment. Plan your active daytime adventures and leave the restful nights to us.

This year Great Wolf Lodge is adding a wide array of family fun attractions and experiences resort-wide that will bring smiles to everyone in your family. Whether you are a first time visitor, or one of our loyal returning guests, you will find something new at your favorite resort. All summer, we will include posts about these new amenities so you can plan to take it all in during your next visit!

One of our newest family activities is Ten Paw Alley. This spring, we took the sport of bowling and put our own Great Wolf Lodge spin on it. Starting with bowling balls that are perfect for little hands, the new six alley lanes are already striking a chord in our resorts in Pocono Mountains, PA; Mason, OH; Williamsburg, VA and Concord, NC.

I had the opportunity to see how many pins I could knock down during a recent visit to the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord. The first thing I noticed – no rental shoes were required! Who hasn’t wanted to bowl in their own shoes?

The length of the lanes are half that of a regular alley, and as I bowled alongside children who ranged in age from 2 to 14, it was such fun to watch the little ones stare intently as their ball rolled toward the pins. The lanes also have the option to add glowing bumpers during play. This way the littlest bowlers can watch their scores go up alongside their older siblings, rather than watch their balls get trapped by the dreaded gutters. (I’m afraid, I had no excuse.)

Each game automatically scores, too, so you don’t have to remember when to mark an “X” and how to add the score after bowling a spare. And, just like everything else at Great Wolf Lodge, the atmosphere is light, cheery and definitely family-friendly. At Ten Paw Alley, parents can play alongside their kids and with other Great Wolf Lodge guests.

While a photo is worth a thousand words, as seen in the above picture of my little friend Spencer, you can watch our new YouTube video showcasing the fun to be had at Ten Paw Alley. Reservations are not required to play – just drop in after enjoying the water park, or before heading to the Loose Moose for dinner. As you prepare to visit Great Wolf Lodge, make sure Ten Paw Alley is on your “must do” list!