Thursday, August 14, 2008

the great wolf lodge is an alternate universe...

I think that after a day at home, I've officially recovered from the Great Wolf Lodge. We all had an amazing time, seriously, but for the first twelve or so hours at the lodge, Ally and I had to readjust our mentalities in order to survive. Seriously.

The place is bizarre. I'm not sure what I expected, but their Web site made it look like heaven. Parents were lounging on deck chairs happily watching their kids, children are smiling and laughing, and there is even a shot of a small child sleeping, exhausted, on his mom. There are photos of buffets, high lobby ceilings, the "Iron Horse" fitness center (that we never even pretended we'd use), and luxurious rooms.

These are the photos used to lure unsuspecting parents into their lair...

I was shocked to pull up to the lodge to find a glorified and enlarged Mariott decked out entirely with a North Woods theme, complete with huge wood carved statues of wolves in front. We wait in a Disneyland-sized line to check in, collect our wristbands (which we immediately all put on too tightly) and drag our brood of four to our Kids Kabin room.

(Can I just note for the record that I will consider the room's cuteness--or kuteness-- EVEN if they had decided to use proper spelling. K'mon Great Wolf!)

Ally and I find the room disappointing. We'd splurged on a big room with a special kids room, but found it small and sort of barren, but definitely woodsy. However, when we look to see how the kids are reacting, they're ecstatic. Their special kid room is a little log cabin tucked into a generic hotel room, complete with a bunkbed, daybed, painted walls, and their own... gasp... flat screen television and remote. The three big kids each claim a bed, without fighting, and settle in happily playing with Legos while we unpack.

"This is the best vacation ever!" Samuel says. We haven't even left the room.

We head down to find the waterpark. I wonder if there seemed like there would be more big slides, but the kids are in heaven. There's a wave pool, a huge tree house to climb on with buckets of water to dump and pulleys and levers everywhere. There's a toddler section that is just as fun for the big kids, fountains coming out from the ground that Naomi loved to step on, and a big regular pool with basketball hoops and floating animals to climb on. We haven't even touched the slides yets. We continue nonstop for hours until we're exhausted and then emerge from the heated and indoor waterpark into the hotel, change our clothes quickly and then head to the buffet dinner where all four kids sit nicely, use their best manners, and eat like little great wolves. The food is decent, the decor is equivalent to that of a school cafeteria. It doesn't matter because we're drinking wine.

After dinner there's an animatronic show about the rhythm of life (which seemed suspiciously like a knock-off of "The Lion King" theme) and then story time. They had our kids full attention, even Naomi's.

Then, the kids played this Magiquest game where they use purchased magic wands to fulfill quests and adventures. Suddenly, all of the tacky decor comes to life as the kids literally run around the entire hotel with the wands waving them at everything. The art on the walls light up, bear rugs come to life, treasure chests open and crystals ignite. These runes are all over the hotel, on every floor, in the stairwells, in the lobby, in the restaurants and kids are running up and down the halls with wands and capes. And then brilliantly, at 10pm, the game is turned off. Time for bed. Or for some television in your own Kid Kabin.

Ally and I suspended schedules for this trip. I'm usually sort of a slave to schedules because I know they keep my kids sane. But oddly at The Lodge, the kids were on their best behavior and feeling great on their own schedule, all while being extremely indulged. Huh? They seemed possessed.
We'd tell them it was time to take a break from the water and they'd nod and say okay. We'd say it was time to go to bed and Samuel responded by saying, "Oh good!"

So what's up with the water at this place?

Ally and I finally realized that it must be because while most of the world caters to adults with gestures to kids in the forms of a desert bar or a kiddie ride, The Great Wolf Lodge caters to kids with a small gesture to adults in the form of a very inaccessible and expensive full bar. This place did not even have clocks around, so we never knew what time it was, nor was there a newspaper to be found.

So we embraced the challenge. The kids passed out in their beds when they were so exhausted, they couldn't stand it any longer. They swam and played in the water until their fingers and toes turned to prunes. They ate dessert with their meals and didn't ask for more. Samuel and I went out at 9pm one night to ride the scariest water slides over and over, screaming at the top of our lungs, until the park closed. And seriously, every so often each one of them would turn to us, or grab our hands and spontaneously say thank you, or I love you, or give us a hug. It was just like the ads--all happy family and good parenting...
And Ally and I had so much fun, too. We caught up on each other's lives, picked up where we left off, and had a ridiculously fun time playing with the kids in the water, at the arcade, talking at night... We got to be kids again for a few days, too.

I have no illusions about the Great Wolf. It is not a family vacation. It is a kid vacation. But I'll go back because a vacation where the kids are so happy that I get a chance to be a kid, too, is worth it.

**note that there are no pictures of the waterpark part of the trip because, um, we forgot to take them since we were too busy playing.**


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Becky said...

Wow, now I have to compete with that?!??

I'll make sure the bathtub in my place is really fun and clean.