A family trip to Williamsburg, VA with kids in tow was wet fun since we decided to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge.
A tree almost fell on our tent during a rainstorm when we camped in Williamsburg, Va., during our last vacation. I decided that this year I’m going to find an affordable indoorvacation in the same area. Great Wolf Lodge® seems the perfect choice — a full-service entertainment resort for families with children ages 2 to 14. My husband will be coming home on R&R (rest-and-recuperation leave program) from a U.S. Army deployment in Iraq and we, along with our 6- and 8-year-old kids, will head south for a long-awaited family road trip. I’ve been studying the Great Wolf brochure in anticipation. We will be setting out for what’s described as “a four-story, log-sided, 301-suite family destination designed to capture the atmosphere and adventure of the northwoods.” That’s fancy talk for a fun place to stay and play! It has an indoor waterpark with a signature 12-level treehouse water fort. While it sounds like we’re definitely going to get wet, at least we don’t have to stay out in the rain this year. Only four months to go…
We only have a month and a half to go until our big Williamsburg trip. It is now mid-July and the kids and I are getting antsy. We call Great Wolf just to make sure we have a reservation. We do — whew! To help pass the time, we look at pictures of the waterpark on the website at www.greatwolflodge.com. It looks cool! The site has several 360 degree views of the resort so we can see the actual slides, play fort, outdoor pool and eateries. Considering there are over 60 water effects, body slides and a lazy river, what we see online is just a fraction of what we can expect. The website gets my kids jazzed and they begin whooping it up in anticipation.
Just five days to go! At 6 a.m. my husband, Rick, calls. He is still in Baghdad waiting to get to Kuwait, and then he’ll travel to the states. He should be home on Sunday or Monday. I guess I’ll be driving to Williamsburg since he will be exhausted. Thankfully, the resort is a reasonable drive — only about 3.5 hours from the Baltimore area. Maybe Rick can catch a couple z’s in the car so he’ll be ready to play when we arrive. Then, he can take the kids to the waterpark, “Northern Lights” game arcades or gift shop. Maybe I can relax at the spa or work out at the fitness center. Doubtful. I want to try the high-speed body slide and freeform hot tub at the waterpark. I am ready to play too!
Once we arrive in Williamsburg, we take the exit with an easy-to-spot sign directing us to the lodge. Funny how we drive by a Walmart, Ihop and Sonic on our way there — not exactly what I expect to see en route to a woodsy retreat! The lodge, however, is set back in the trees around a curve. The kids are impressed with the front of the building with its big flag and carved bears. An enormous bear chair carved from wood provides the first bit of excitement, so we take pictures of the kids on it. Once inside, low and behold, there is an animated character display in the middle of the lobby. The show runs twice a day; it’s fun the first time, cute the next and…then, I quickly explain how the new arrivals need a turn to see the show.
We hurry to check in so we can experience the waterpark. On the way to the room, the kids envy others who get the rooms with big bunk beds. The KidCabin® suite resembles a log cabin-style fort with bunk bed, day bed, flat screen TV for the kids, queen bed and a full-size sofa sleeper. There are other themed rooms too, including a KidKamp™ suite (with a tented sleeping area) and a Wolf Den™ suite. Since we booked a mere standard suite, we tell the kids we’ll be way too busy to worry about what’s in our room. We wend our way through the moose-covered hall, drop our luggage, put on our bathing suits, admire the view of the parking lot from our room and then head out to enjoy the waterpark.
We hardly know where to start in the giant room filled with oodles of water fun. I choose the waterslides first. The whole family gets in the tube. I have a mental snapshot of my little boy’s look of shock as we fly backwards down the steep tube. I scream, then he screams and we all grin. I am hooked! We play for hours jumping from slides, wave pools, and the lazy river over to the treehouse. My son loves the treehouse interactive water toys. Eventually, I try every water possibility…even the outdoor pool (open during warmer months) complete with live music, grown-up beverages and family huts.
The lodge is also expanding by adding 12,000 sq. ft. of waterpark space (including two new rides), 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 103 additional suites. There’s a new attraction coming late this year called the “Howlin’ Tornado,” which is a giant tubing funnel. Four-person rafts will slide down six stories into the mouth of the Tornado, swirling the raft back and forth before splashing into the bottom. We can see the construction and it looks amazing (to see construction photos online, go to the lodge’s website).
The best thing about Great Wolf Lodge is being able to stay and play all day — and eat — without ever leaving the premises. We don’t have enough energy for all of the kids’ activities offered by the lodge. It’s truly an all-inclusive resort, which makes it perfect for a getaway any time of the year. If we ever do start to get “cabin fever,” we can venture out to the Williamsburg attractions, all within a short drive. Overall, hanging out and having fun is a truly wonderful way to reconnect as a family.
By Diana Brown
Great Wolf Lodge
549 East Rochambeau Drive
The lodge offers 10 different suite accommodations. Rates start at $259. “Snowland” specials run through the month of December. Call the lodge or check the website for details. The grand lobby will feature the sights and sounds of the holiday season with twinkling lights, bright stars and icebergs that glow, lit snow, holiday music and beautiful wreaths and trees. “Candy Cane Lane” will have a snow-covered, brick-lined path flanked by animated snowmen, toy trains and Christmas trees. At “North Pole University,” children will be able to earn degrees in holiday craftmaking and enjoy other activities led by the “Ambassador of Fun.” A daily Snowland Wolf Walk will educate young guests on cold region animals, including polar bears and more. Storytime with Snowland mascot, Rowdy the Reindeer, will be held each evening by the roaring fireplace.
Families will be able to howl in the New Year with the annual SnowBall™ event on Sunday, December 31. With festivities such as karaoke, New Year’s Eve buffet, a duck race down the waterslides, DJ and dancing, and a midnight balloon drop, guests will ring in a memorable New Year with their families at Great Wolf Lodge.