With the economy the way it is, I’ve noticed a real trend this March Break for families to stay a little closer to home. Far fewer of us are planning the big weeklong getaway to southern climes, and more of us are looking at local and more economical options.
When offered a night away at Niagara Fall’s Great Wolf Lodge for my family and I, it felt like a dream come true. After a brutally long winter and our first season with two boys playing rep hockey, no family needed a break from reality more than ours. I secured our reservations, packed our bags, loaded our two-week old van (we’d been itching for a road trip to test it) and picked the kids up from school early Friday afternoon to surprise them.
One hour later, the surprise was on us as we sat on the shoulder of the 401 with a flat tire. Our getaway was off to an inauspicious beginning as my husband struggled with the manual to find the spare tire and the kids complained about the freezing cold air with the door open. Me? I was panicking as the designated time for my spa appointment drew nearer and nearer, and the destination seemed so far away.
Fortunately, our luck changed fairly quickly, and we checked in to Great Wolf Lodge with 30 minutes to spare before my spa appointment.
Tip Number One: Be sure to make a two-day trip of your stay. Your waterpark passes are included for the day of check-in and check-out, so arrive early to get the lay of the land and get some waterpark time in.
Tip Number Two: Pack only swimsuits and a plastic bag in separate luggage and leave everything else in the car until you can check-in at 4:00pm. There are lockers if you need them, and towels are plentiful in the waterpark.
Aaaahhh…the spa. With my husband and three kids roaming the arcade (fifteen tokens each managed to keep them occupied for an hour), I settled in for my pumpkin body wrap. Never having experienced a water massage treatment before, I can only agree with my masseuse, Serena, who said, “this is the way we’d all choose to bathe everyday if we had all the money in the world.” I left the salon an hour later feeling buffed, indulged and relaxed.
We had a quick dinner at the Camp Critter Bar and Grill restaurant (more than adequate buffet which featured kids and parents’ favourites and a surprising selection of vegetables) and then the kids enjoyed storytime in the beautiful lodge-like atmosphere of the main lobby. This giant pyjama party happens every evening at 8 pm and seems to be a hit with kids of all ages.
Finally, we retired to our room, and what a room it was! The accommodations are definitely high on the list of my kids’ favourite part of Great Wolf Lodge. There are a variety of differnt room styles, and ours was very large and spacious, and featured a separate cabin with bunk beds and a twin bed, and its own television.
Tip Number Three: These kids’ beds feature plastic covers on the mattress (duh!) and kid-sized linens. My nine-year old son was almost too big for his and transferred to the pull-out couch in the middle of the nine. Parents of tweens or teens may be more interested in a room with full-sized beds.
The next morning we had a quick buffet breakfast (my eldest son loved the omelette station, my daughter was in heaven with the cereal selection, and my middle son enjoyed a visit with Wiley the mascot).
And then it was on to the waterpark.
Tip Number Four: Get to the park as close to opening time as possible to secure a bunch of lounge chairs together.
The waterpark was the highlight of the visit. My daredevil son enjoyed all the rides, and his more cautious brother found them just exciting enough. This was the first waterpark that had as much to offer my preschooler as it did for her school age brothers. The highlight for her was the entire family getting to ride the tube together. Rylan’s still telling everyone about that two weeks later.
In all, the waterpark has 13 waterslides, four pools (loved the wave pool!) and a four-story treehouse waterfort. There’s more than enough to keep the entire family busy for hours. I enjoyed that there was plenty to do without waiting in lineups.
Finally, we packed our bags, visited the Cub Club craft room, where the kids were able to choose their own build-a-bear, stuff it and dress it. A quick and uneventful drive down the 401 and we were home. All three kids describe the experience as “awesome” (and I made my daughter repeat this a few times as I love the way her little three-year old mouth forms that word).
Tip Number Five: Have a cold beverage of your choice waiting for the parents at home upon arrival. Great Wolf Lodge was awesome, but exhausting.
Sound like a dream come true to you, too? Fortunately, the folks at Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls want everyone to be able to experience a family getaway. They’re offering a 10% discount promotion exclusively for urbanmoms.ca members. As an added bonus, each month (from April to November) one lucky member who books with the promotion code (which members will receive in the weekly member email) will win a free night’s stay! Some conditions apply. Be sure to check out the contest details for more information.