We spent the weekend at the lovely Great Wolf Lodge a couple of week ago, as part of a family-focused blogger outreach event with GWL's PR team and GM (see disclosure at the end of this post).
It's not every family road trip that ends with a hotel gone cabin fever crazy and employees that have their own signature wolf howl. Our road trip to Grapevine, TX (a ridiculously cute little town) to experience Great Wolf Lodge was not one we would have planned on our own.
Our family trips usually revolve around plans to attend some sort of hippie festival… or Austin… not to a commercial theme park. I'm glad we diverted off of our vegan-restaurant-fueled mini-trip path, this was an out of the ordinary adventure that helped us see a side of Ella we've never seen before.
She's always a confident independent creature, but to watch her climb, slide, splash, spray and float with the best of the 'big kids' at GWL was a kick. She was fearless and got into bouts of intense exploring, trying her best to master the various water splashing, streaming and dumping mechanisms on unsuspecting guests below.
It was wonderful – if I could have recorded the little hyper surprised Ella noises that she was emitting every 20 seconds, I would totally be blowing your speakers right now.
Typically, a semi-gloomy rainy afternoon would mean curtains at a water park, but having an 80,000 square foot INDOOR water park in your hotel lobby makes quite a difference (beyond saving certain people's pasty Irish skin) :) Behold, a small child howling in solidarity at the giant wolves getting splashed by rain:
The Great Wolf Lodge had a lot of other fun spaces for families to play – some teen-devoted rooms with gaming systems, internet cafes and an arcade were pretty nifty looking (helllooooo!! Wii!!!). They had a girls only spa / ice cream parlour where pampered young ladies could be girly and get a mani-pedi.
But Ella was mostly interested in the new friends she was making…
I would be remiss to not mention the incredibly extensive hotel-wide interactive game that happens on literally every single floor of the Lodge. Parents pony up $20 per kid to purchase a gender-specific wand that also gets them access to this (admittedly VERY VERY cool) scavenger / memory / adventure quest that leads to defeating a dragon and saving the known universe.
Ella wasn't quite old enough to be interested in investing the non-water park hours to playing the game, but I'm sure we'll do it when she gets older. It's beautifully set up, but has the side effect of setting forth multitudes of unsupervised children throughout the hotel. But then again, this hotel has at least one full bar – so with a group that consists of several reliable age-specific kiddos, that spells out a great night for the parents, ahem.
The other #chevygwl event attendees were a fun handful of 'mommy bloggers' and their families – it means a lot to be able to go on adventures with the family, so bonus points to GWL on that one. Author and blogger Katherine Center was there, along with Mr. Lady:
And pretty Rachel (of Following in My Shoes – a great blog that is currently down right now, hence the interview link):
Afterwards, Ken Broom (Assistant General Manager) was nice enough to give me a Business Maker's Overtime interview which was interesting to hear about the inner workings of a 13-location water park that still thinks and acts in many ways like a small business:
Final verdict for the happyfamily: We had a fun time, but the lodge wasn't really our scene. Super packed full of people (crowds can be tough for me at times…), awkward waits to catch an elevator, hyper kiddos roaming in unsupervised, sugar-fueled packs, fast food grub every which-way we turned… these were some of the things that made us go 'uhhhhgh'.
But those were isolated times – the lodge's theme was done and incredibly consistent / creative. Our room was clean, simple and comfy. The staff was awwwwwesome. There was a Starbucks in the lobby and coffee in your room. We will definitely go back – especially once Ella is a bit older / taller (to get on more rides!) and with a group of people, for sure.
The water park itself was fantastic – huge, fun and jam-packed full of loads of activities toddlers and adults could enjoy together. There was a enormous variety of people there (so yay people watching!) and everyone was super nice. Even though there were countless people enjoying their weekend there too, the water park is designed beautifully so that you never really feel overcrowded (unlike at the elevator banks in the hotel – uhhhhhgh) and never really had to wait in line for very long for anything.
Be sure you take a few jaunts into Grapevine, TX itself – we went out to grab some dinner (Pizza Hut was not sounding so great) and couldn't believe what a great little place it is. We HIGHLY recommend El Taco H as hands down some of the best tacos we have had in YEARS and super cheap to boot. Then check out Cassie's Frozen Yogurt – ridiculously good low fat frozen yogurt (think red velvet cupcake and cheesecake flavors – AAAMMMGGGOOODDD), in addition to the gazillions of very sweet wine tasting rooms and bar food spots.
It's worth a trip, just be ready to be dunked into an ocean of children and be willing to adventure offsite to help balance the overstimulation a bit (and grab some really amazing food to boot). Grab a couple of bathing suits and at least one form of water-safe camera equipment to snap the fun underwater and slide shots. Lots of drenchfamily Kodak moments await!
Disclosure: A few months back, I was contacted by a PR gal representing the Great Wolf Lodge
(a chain of ginormous water park resorts) about an upcoming mommy
blogger event. I was invited, along with my happyfamily (YIPPEE!!) to
spend a day/evening in Grapevine, TX splashing, swimming and hanging
with other geeky mamas just like me. General Motors jumped in on the
experience offering a free loaner car to make the trip that much more
exciting (see my Camaro post here).
I say no to 95% of the PR pitches that find their way into my
inbox (too little time, not the right fit and… honestly, I get afraid
of diluting my brand with the perception that I'm only around these
days to do a PR flack's bidding….) but this one felt cool, sounded
fun and got my whole little family involved. I was game. And it was
awesome. This posts collects my thoughts on the weekend experience –
straight from my brain and into yours.
was paid no money to write this post, in fact I wasn't even asked to
write this post. I found it was worth writing and talking about, so here we are.