Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Weekend: Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio

Last week, Michigan turned 175 years old. We celebrated by...going to Ohio for the weekend. So uh, yeah, Happy Birthday, Michigan.

The kids and their wolf den
Captivated by the lobby entertainment
Months ago, I mentioned that I was thinking about putting the word out that we'd like cash in lieu of gifts for Christmas so we could plan a fun winter trip. I thought the kids would love it, and it would give me something to look forward to during these dreary months. We were indeed gifted enough money to book a weekend at a water park hotel. Since there are several water park hotels within 2-5 hours of us, and we had never been to any of them, I asked around and decided on Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. What sold me was the price, location, and the cool rooms. The rates of these water park hotels floored me, seriously! (I may have mentioned that I am kind of cheap...). We wanted to stay two nights and limit our drive to about two and a half hours. Great Wolf Lodge had the most reasonable rates for rooms accommodating six people. The room I booked had a little cave-like "wolf den" for the kids, with bunk beds and their own television. It also had a sofa bed, a table and chairs for eating, and a fridge and microwave (both standard at this location).

Watching the show from a safe distance
The kids loved the place from the first moment they laid their eyes upon it. We got there too late to hit the water park Friday night, but we did spend some money, um I mean time, at the arcade. The arcade was clean and there was a decent selection of games. Almost everything cost two or more tokens, which I thought was overkill considering the place is already denying plenty of mid-western kids a college education as it is by re-directing their potential education funding. But the kids had fun, and that's what the weekend was all about! Well, that and doing permanent damage to their bodies by feeding them more fast food than they'd ever consumed! Just a note, I did pack some fruit as snacks, so at least they had a little bit of nutritional sustenance to counter-act the crap. Next time I will definitely plan better and pack a cooler so we can eat healthier and a whole lot cheaper.

Not looking at the camera has become a game
Saturday we walked down the hall to the water park (how awesome is that?!) after enjoying an extremely unhealthy breakfast in our room. We stayed for a few hours, until mom and dad were ready to breathe some non-chlorinated air. Then we headed back to our room for lunch and relaxation. It was so nice just to hang out together. Chris and the three biggest kids went back to the arcade, while Mattie and I stayed behind so she could take a snooze on my lap. Then everyone chilled for awhile longer before we returned to the water park for a couple more hours. We went back to the room in time to change for the evening children's show and story time in the lobby before having a late dinner in our room. Little did we know we should have gone down to the lobby way early because it was totally packed. However, our kids edged their way to the front and found seats for themselves on the floor. Mattie was understandably a little unsure of the rubber animated trees, animals, and people, so she kept inching backward, until she was practically sitting on the lap of a total stranger and talking her ear off.

Sunday we packed up our room, checked out and went back to the water park for another hour or so. One of the great things about Great Wolf Lodge is that they allow you to use the water park for a couple hours before you check-in (check-in time is 4:00 p.m.) and until closing on the day you check-out. I'm pretty sure many of the other water park hotels do the same. We each packed a plastic bag to take to the pool with our clothes we'd be driving home in, and Chris took the rest of our stuff to the van. So then we each had a bag to put our wet suits in when we changed. There are lockers to rent, but we went with trusting our fellow water park guests and just left our stuff on a table. It looked like most other people did the same thing.

Some random thoughts about our weekend:
  • It was an expensive weekend getaway, but worth it. I'd do it again. The convenience of not needing to leave the hotel was great. Chris did leave to get food a few times, but the kids and I never left. Lucy kept saying, "Best. Hotel. Ever!"
  • We really should have taken better advantage of the in-room fridge and microwave. Next time I will grocery shop for our trip and pack a cooler! Since we couldn't stomach paying $8 for a hot dog pool-side, we ended up eating way too much pizza and fast food. There is a Meijer close by, and Chris did go there to get breakfast stuff for Sunday morning.
  • The pizza right in the hotel is not a bad deal. I think we paid about $30 for a large pizza, salad, bread sticks, and 2L of Sprite.
  • No need to bring your own towels - they have plenty of pool towels right in the water park. A cover up and flip flops or Crocs for walking back and forth from the room are nice to have though. 
  • A surprising number of parents let their toddlers run wild in the little kid area. Hello, parents of the one-year old little boy sitting at the top of slide and holding up a line of 15 kids? Care to notice and do something about it? No? Well good thing the life guard is more observant than you. Also there are many little stinkers happy to take cuts in front of my 2-year old with parents who are either too engrossed in their conversations, or who think it's admirable to fight your way to the front of the line. Don't get me wrong, Mathilda would also be happy to take cuts, which is why I was watching her. I know, I'm such a helicopter parent, right?
  • The water was warm. I'm the biggest wimp ever about cold water, and I'm telling you - it was warm enough to get right in. A few of the splashy areas were a bit cooler, but anyplace there was water to immerse myself in, it was warm.
  • There are life jackets available for free for the little ones to use. Lucy and Mattie used them when they went down the water slides that were a step up from the little kid area. 
  • I got Chris a waterproof video camera for Christmas, and it was the best! He took lots of videos, and even videotaped while going down a water slide. I didn't take very many pictures because I was afraid of my camera getting wet.
  • Connor doesn't like big water slides, but there was still plenty to keep him occupied. 
  • There are lots of skinny moms out there. Wow.  How do you make your tummy look like you never had a baby? Unless...they were the 19 year old babysitters the dads left the moms for during their midlife crises? That was probably it. If that's the case, it happens way more than I knew, what jerks!!
  • A two-night stay was perfect. That way we could relax all day on Saturday, with no driving to interrupt our day. More than two nights would be too much.
  • The only water slide I went on was the one you take a tube on, and it was super fun! Bethany and I did a two-person tube. It was wicked fast and your face barely gets wet when coming off the slide. Perfect for me because I don't like getting a face full of water at the bottom.
Hmmm...not sure this is much better
Getting away for a couple days was fabulous. I'm so grateful we had this opportunity. Everyone had fun and it was nice and relaxing. Now I need to plan some more fun stuff to get me through until spring time...

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