Chris had a week off of work before he started his new job at Boeing and to spend some quality, family time together, I planned us a two-day mini getaway. Through Groupon, I booked a night at Great Wolf Lodge for $119 (I was amazed at what was included for that price. That’s how much a regular hotel room would cost and this one had an indoor water park!). I packed up the food, buckled the kids into the Jeep, and when I checked our reservation to GPS the address to the hotel, I realized I booked the wrong one. (Insert face palm here.)
We were supposed to be headed south for one hour however, I booked our reservation at the Great Wolf Lodge two hours north of us! I quickly called Great Wolf’s customer service and they were extremely accommodating. Within ten minutes we had everything figured out; I cancelled my incorrect reservation and made a new reservation at the correct lodge. Thankfully, this resort had rooms available and because of COVID, they were not charging cancelation fees.
Walking into the lobby at Great Wolf was like entering a log cabin mansion. There were carved tree statues and signs, taxidermied animals, log stumps for chairs, etc. Ropes led the way to check-in and because it was a weekday after 4pm, I walked right up to the counter. We were given wristbands that doubled as our our room keys and a schedule of all the children’s activities at the lodge. I met Chris back in the parking lot and we lugged the kids and our overnight bags up to our room. The room was decorated like a hunting lodge; antlers as light fixtures and moose prints on the carpet. The room itself was incredibly spacious. It had a sitting area, a table and chairs, a mini fridge, and a microwave. The kids were so excited to be someplace new. Millie picked out her bed, our room had two queens, and we got our bathing suits on for a night in the water park!
It was 6pm when we walked the kids down the hall in their hooded towels, looking like baby Jedi, to go to the water park. The children we passed were melting down, “I don’t want to leave the pool!” Chris and I nodded at the parents for emotional support. Every family there looked like us; frazzled, tending to children’s needs, and over weight (No judgement – I felt comfortable letting my stretch marks show!). We felt like we found our people. Many families were leaving the water park when we were just arriving. We were grateful to be getting there at a less populated time.
As we walked into to the water park, we were confronted with humidity and the smell of chlorine, both of which we welcomed compared to the frigid, weather outside. The sound of rushing water and children shouting made it hard to hear Wells saying, “wow” as he was taking in his surroundings; I could read his lips and paired with the astonished facial expression, it felt like a mom win. We started in water that was knee deep and it was the perfect temperature. Millie saw the slides and fearlessly slid down them with Wells and Me at the bottom to catch her from going under. Reluctantly, Wells went down the slide but after he realized it was fun, we couldn’t tear him away.
It was nice to be able to let the kids play in water without coating them in sunscreen. Wells loved the water squirting out from the fountains in the floor. He would put his foot overtop of the holes and blast himself and others with the water pressure. Millie didn’t want to go down any of the big slides and we didn’t push her to. Both kids liked the warmth of the “hot springs” which we called, the hot tub for babies. Wells laughed each time he felt the warm water (Maw said that meant he was probably peeing). Hindsight, I have read some disgusting facts about hot tubs and there were way too many strangers sharing that water.
I was so anxious watching Millie and Wells play on the water structures. The bigger kids, water buckets spilling over, slippery stair steps – it was enough to give me a heart attack but both kids loved the adventure and independence. There were basketball hoops and balls and we enjoyed passing the basketball through the water to each other. Millie and Wells were not fond of the waves in the wave pool but that didn’t surprise me because both my kids have a tendency to get motion sick, like me. I remember feeling motion sick as a child treading water in the wave pool at Wyandotte Lake, I’m aging myself; it’s Zoombeezi Bay now.
After two hours of playing, their lips were turning a light purple hue and their toes and fingers were shriveled. We went back to the room, changed into dry clothes, and went down the the arcade to play some games. Chris loaded money onto an arcade card and the kids went wild. Millie and Wells got to play a game together where they sat in a firetruck and used squirt guns as hoses to put out fires. They also got to ride on little motorcycles and race. The tickets they compiled were enough to get some smarties, a package of car stickers, and a mermaid pen (it was the last mermaid pen in the bunch and Millie was very excited about it).
As we walked upstairs to head back to our room, we heard music coming from the lobby. We stopped in and joined a nighttime dance party! It was so funny, Wells walked straight into a group of kids and started dancing without a care. When the dancing was over, Wells decided he was going to get on the stage. I chased him down and in the meantime, some boys with bubble wands were putting their bubbles over Mills head. She was showing some annoyance with getting soapy and Wells saw this and decided he didn’t like what was happening. He grabbed Millie’s hand and walked her away from the boys after giving them a serious, baby babbling talking-to.
Before we went back to our room, we let the kids get rock candy at the candy store. Of course Wells chose blue and Millie, pink. The store looked like Willy Wonka’s factory. We walked back to our room and ate a late night snack before bed; potato chips and Oreos. The bed felt sandy from all the crumbs that landed on the blankets. Mill chose to sleep with her dad and Wells slept with me. He dream-fed basically all night so my sleep sucked and morning came early. Bananas, grapes, and vegan sausage sandwiches were for breakfast.
Checkout was at 11am. Chris packed up our things; our singular suitcase full of the clothes we no longer needed. He packed a tote bag with our water park needs and clothes to change into after. (This was the only part of the trip that I did not enjoy because of the hustle and bustle of trying to check out in time. Not to mention, changing ourselves and the kids at the water park was chaotic.) If we do this again, we will not go to the water park on the day we leave.
The kids were just as excited to be at the water park the second time as they were the first. We met a nice family in the hot springs that reminded me of the Newport Aquarium only thirty minutes away from the resort. While the kids ate lunch on beach chairs, I bought tickets for Wells to see some sharks. Changing the kids from their wet bathing suits into dry clothes in the damp, resort bathroom was not fun. Also, because it was going to be freezing outside, we were changing into sweaters in the heat of the humid park and that felt gross. Walking out into the thirty degree weather actually felt refreshing.
Both kids fell asleep in the car on the way to the aquarium. Finding parking in a new place is always stressful for Chris and me but once we did, we woke up the kids, and made our way across the Levee. We found the aquarium and I was irritated before we walked through the doors; the listed operating hours differed from the automated machine I listened to before I bought our tickets. We had less time to explore the aquarium than I expected and when I spoke to the ticket office about the discrepancy, they admitted that they had not updated their automated service and the manager refunded us half our money back for the inconvenience. I was impressed by the customer service and was ready to have a good time with Millie and Wells at the aquarium.
The fish in this aquarium were unlike any we’d ever seen; different species of seahorses, prehistoric-air-breathing fish, stingray sharks, etc. The most breathtaking moment happened when a giant sea turtle made eye contact with Wells and started swimming to him. We were the only ones in that exhibit and it was magical. We were lucky to catch this moment on video. Months later, Wells still watches the sea turtle video with amazement.
One of the exhibits had a coloring station where you would color a fish, scan it into a machine, and your colored fish would show up, swimming on a digital aquarium screen. It was really cool! I colored a fish with eighth notes but the technology mirrored the image and the note heads were backward (that still bugs me a month later). A little girl at the penguin exhibit asked Millie her name, and Mill proudly stated her full name and her age. She held up the correct number of fingers and then she asked the girl her name. The little girl introduced herself as Ry-Ry. Wells put his hand on his chest and very clearly said, “Wells”. I looked over at Chris and started to tear up. Not only did he understand to introduce himself in that social setting, but he did it with such clarity and confidence. My whole heart welled with pride.
Both babes slept the two hour car ride home. I was exhausted from the trip but managed to prepare and eat dinner, bathe the kids, unpack the over night bag, and crawl into bed by ten. It was difficult waking up for work the next morning but the trip happening mid-week made the weekend come quick. Millie was so excited to call the grandparents and tell them all about her experience. She wants them all to be with us the next time we go to Great Wolf Lodge. A quick vacation with lasting memories.