Andrea Loewen Nair: Connect-Four Parenting


Our Close-to-Home Trip to Great Wolf Lodge: Just What Your Family May Need

Maintain balance in your kids’ busy lives by taking a “close-by-cation”

Our Close-to-Home Trip to Great Wolf Lodge: Just What Your Family May Need

Last year, our family went on a big vacation to the Caribbean, which was really an amazing experience. This year, with the drop in the value of the Canadian dollar (compared to the American dollar), we decided to forego a big out-of-country trip and explore the area around us. So we booked a trip to Great Wolf Lodge Niagara.

Once booked, we watched our kids lose their minds by falling into the “rabbit hole” of water slide videos on the Great Wolf Lodge website. Before we even walked in the facility doors, my boys had ranked the slides in order of the ones they wanted to try first and had a countdown of “sleeps” happening on our whiteboard.

I really do love going away on a vacation, but finances aside, I was looking for an easy get-away this year. I wouldn’t call vacations with young children a “holiday” because it can sometimes take a week to get ready and a week to recover after getting back. I was looking for a WARM, low-prep place I could enjoy that would fill my boys' fun-buckets while at the same time wear them out a little bit! Some days, I feel like I’ve got two border collies on my hands who never wear out.

The look on my boys' faces when we walked in the resort doors was priceless! I was trying to imagine what would have made my face light up like that: probably winning the services of an Italian chef for a week.

We planned our arrival for check-in time to maximize our experience — it took us less than two hours to drive to the resort from our home in London, ON. After a high-speed visit to our awesome Kid’s Camp room (with bunk beds), my husband followed the boys to the arcade while I crawled onto an Elements Spa facial table. 

Then it was time to hit the slides. Again, we watched our boys' faces as we walked through the doors of the expansive water park. It was so much fun watching their eyes light up!

My husband went with the boys first while I enjoyed some R&R on the lounge chairs — I needed time for my facial relaxation to sink in! While I was there, I just chilled out and watched the other families in the park. I saw quite a range of children: babies were poking at the small geysers coming from the floor, toddlers were splashing in the fountains, and older children jumped over the waves in the wave pool. The lifeguards caught my eye because they were all on the move. It was interesting to see their paths and how they looked carefully into the corners and edges where the water met the floor. Periodically, my smiling children (and husband) would pop by to tell me all about the slide they had just come down.

The next morning was my turn to enjoy the slides! We started a system that worked really well for us: there was a bit of a lineup for the slides my children wanted to take me on (did I mention my boys like to be on the move?) so our plan was that I would stand in line and they would go with their dad in the wave pool, then join me when I was almost at the top. This turned out to be a great plan!

It’s crazy that the last time I was on a water slide was when I was a teenager! That was 10, 15, actually 30 years ago. My memory of those experiences was feeling sloshed and tossed around, ending the days with bruises on my back and legs. I was THRILLED to discover that most of the rides at Great Wolf Lodge are on single or double inner tubes, which made my rear-end and back very happy. I loved getting on a ride with my boys in the double tubes so we could kind of cuddle and have fun at the same time. I was feeling pretty "super-mom" like for going on all the “big” rides right along with my kids. I may have screamed a few times.

As I was holding our space in the Wooly Mammoth line (I loved that one—all four of us could ride together), my husband sheepishly came up the stairs beside me in the Wolf Tail line. I said, “Are you kidding me?!” This is the brand new ride that drops you into a twenty-foot freefall, followed by ripping you around a full loop before coming to a stop. He shrugged his shoulders as he stepped bravely up the steps. I saw the boys at the bottom of the ride, anxiously waiting for their dad to come hurtling toward them.

I was able to watch him get into the tube at the top (sorry, I didn’t have my camera with me), plug his nose, cross his legs, and close his eyes! I don’t know—eyes open or shut: what would I do?

Suddenly, he dropped out of sight and only a moment later he appeared at the bottom in front of my boys. They excitedly came back up the stairs to be in line with me. I asked him how it was and his reply was: “Intense!” That slide was to be our last for the day, so I’ve promised myself that I’d do the Wolf Tail the next time we visit. Really, I promise.

If you go to Great Wolf Lodge Niagara, I recommend getting a Paw Pass, which gets you a lot of activities for the children at half the price of paying for them individually. My boys are still really into Harry Potter, so getting a wand and going around the lodge on "Quests" was incredible for them. They are also still young enough to love stuffies, so they’ve been clutching their stuffed wolf toys since we got home.

I also recommend bringing a fan from home for white noise. The lodge is full of kids who, for the most part, go to bed early, but it is nice to have a fan on to cut out the sound of doors closing and little feet running down the hall. We all did have a good night’s sleep.