Joanna Venditti: Styled Chaos


Tips On How to Make the Most of a Great Wolf Lodge Visit

Plus, the surprise bonding effect of a mini vacation

Tips On How to Make the Most of a Great Wolf Lodge Visit

I've always prided myself on parenting from a non-guilty place, but when our twins were born, I must admit, I always felt like I was failing at giving every one of our four kids enough attention. No one ever really complained to me, it was something I put on myself.

Recently, when our family had the opportunity to go on a mini vacation to the indoor water park resort, Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara, I decided to make this trip about focusing on our older kids, while our twin toddlers stayed at home with their grandparents. Great Wolf Lodge offers great family fun with their massive 84-degree indoor water park. With heart-stopping thrill rides and water slides, along with zero-depth-entry playgrounds, your family can swim and splash the day away while creating unforgettable memories together.

It is so rare these days that our older kids, Holden and Beau, get our undivided attention. This was a perfect opportunity.

As we pulled up to Great Wolf Lodge, everyone really started to get excited. The resort was a huge log cabin, flanked with incredible wood carvings. As we walked through the doors, we marvelled at the amount of detail. We felt as if we had just walked into a different world, filled with animated forest animals, log cabin details, and a little bit of magic around every corner.

We spent our first day enjoying the 103,000 square foot water park, bowling at Ten Paw Bowling Alley, going to The Trading Post, and the Northern Lights Arcade.

My husband, Mike, even tried Great Wolf Lodge’s brand new, thrilling water slide, the Wolf Tail. Let’s just say it starts with the floor disappearing under your feet! The brand new Wolf Tail slide opened April 13 and it will hurl you into a nearly vertical, 20-foot freefall, followed by a 360-degree, high-speed loop. He’s the brave one, not me.

When it was time to sit down for dinner, I noticed Holden’s face, that had been beaming with excitement all day, had shifted to a more serious expression. I could tell he was lost in thought.

“What’s up, Holden?” I asked. “I miss the babies.” (That’s what we call his twin toddler sisters). Beau quickly piped up, “me too.” This sweet, but unexpected admission took me completely by surprise. I had pictured them gleefully waving goodbye to their little sisters as we drove away, while thinking to themselves, “good riddance.”

Instead, they were pining for them. This launched us into a conversation that will change my view of motherhood going forward. We talked about how they would see them again soon and that my husband and I wanted to give them special time away because we feel like we are so focused on the babies. Both Holden and Beau told us that they never feel like we give their sisters more attention, and that they love spending time with them.

I could feel something inside of me exhale. I had been carrying around this unfounded guilt all along for no reason. This little dinner conversation coupled with the four of us excitedly peering through a window overlooking the water park, cheering each time an oversized bucket poured water on people, was probably my favorite memory of our mini-vacation.

That evening, after dinner, I got to escape for an hour to enjoy a relaxing massage at Elements Spa, while Mike took our kids to story-time and a dance party in the Grand Living Room.

On day two, after enjoying a little MagiQuest, we split up so I could take Beau for a little spa date at Scooops Kid’s Spa and Mike could enjoy the water park a little longer with Holden.

After lunch, it was time to head home. Both kids (and I) slept during the drive home, still buzzing from all of the excitement we had.

When we walked through the door, Holden and Beau couldn’t wait to be reunited with their sisters, giving them the bear ears they had carefully picked out for them. For the rest of the day, all four kids pretended they were wolves and bears, filling the house with laughter and animal noises. They didn’t leave each other’s side for a second.

Mike and I sat there watching our four kids, with full hearts, feeling guilt-free, while we reminisced about the exciting mini-vacation adventure we had just taken. We loved it so much we put together this cute video of all the cool things you can do there. Take a peek:

Here are some tips on how to have a successful family-focused mini-vacation with your kids:

1. Choose a spot that's within a short driving distance

If you're only going away for 24-48 hours, don’t spend a lot of time driving. Choose somewhere that's preferably under two hours away. This way, you won’t feel exhausted from the drive when you get there.

2. Make sure your destination has lots of activities

Being able to hop from one activity to the next was thrilling for all of us. Because Holden and Beau are six and five-years-old, they can get tired of things quickly. At Great Wolf Lodge, we had so much to do that there was never a lull.

3. Let your kids take the lead

We didn’t go into our vacation with too much of a schedule. We knew what we wanted to do, but we let our kids decide what was next. Sometimes, we even split up so one child could enjoy a more fast-paced activity while the other could do something a little more relaxing.

4. Let loose and have fun!

As a mother of four, I find I can be so focused on my to-do lists and preparing meals that it can become rare for my kids to see me laugh and have fun. While floating on the lazy river with my son and running through the indoor rain with my daughter, I couldn’t stop laughing. Seeing them excitedly react to my happiness reminded me that I need to show that side of myself to them more often.