I’ll admit, the start of our trip is crazy. My heart is heavy with the intense celebration of our firstborn’s seventh birthday and the mourning of seven years gone by so quickly. I am supposed to be packing for our supreme off island destination celebration, but I am sworn into office for my local School Board elected position #4.
I get food poisoning or something exactly like it right after my first official meeting, so the red eye ferry off island doesn’t sound so brilliant.
I wake up around Olympia, somehow we are packed in and almost to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA as the haze of a sleepless night evaporates over talk of a water park birthday adventure.
We are greeted by a wolf pack of jolly helpers so sincere and excited for our arrival, we feel instantly at home.
I am so happy to be working with Great Wolf Lodge and feel incredibly lucky and honored to be able to celebrate a daughter’s birthday in such an awesome place. I am certain the words and pictures of our journey off our tiny island to 56,000 square feet of water-logged joy will be amazing.
Our behind the scenes guide is Cody, quite possibly the most knowledgeable and authentically friendly tour guide in Washington. He is kind, funny and able to answer my husband’s in-depth questions with quick answers like, all air inside the park is exhausted three times an hour and the hot water throughout the park and resort is fed through a supply-demand circulating loop with the same six burners delivering the exchange.
Cody is serious, but more importantly a dad. So when our four year old asks, what happens to all the poop and pee in a pool? he can explain with flowery language and a teachable edge, inside this tube are fingers like a straw all covered in mesh…..back wash of water goes to the sewer and shakes with snow-flake shaped filters and is shaken like a milk shake…every 100 gallons of water..
My husband is a lineman for our local power company who has had the pleasure of touring our island’s water treatment plant, and he is fascinated to learn the water meant for us to swim in is purified and cleansed in the same way as our island’s drinking water.
Each time the wave pool begins to swell, it’s due to the wave machine. There’s a recorded wolf howl, a Wolf Howl Amplifier to be exact, to let swimmers know of arriving waves.
Please tell me how waves are made, says Betty.
There are two really huge fans that push down on the water, and a different computer program is used for different types of waves, says Cody. Our oldest daughter, Betty, is fascinated with this machine and wants to create a similar portable machine to bring to the beach with her. Someday, maybe she will.
I am most impressed with how green Great Wolf Lodge is. I mention to Cody that the lightening is like sunlight and he talks of LED, how it costs $.50 per day for 80 lights and uses 45 watts of electricity when old lights use 550 watts each. Crazy, considering each LED bulb costs $450, where the old bulbs cost about $25.
My head is full of school board budgets, and when Cody mentions the monthly water and power bill for The Lodge, with costs cut by staggering turn-on and being billed at peak performance I think of how we can all learn a lot from Great Wolf’s procedures.
Great Wolf Lodge meets the Green Seal Environmental Standard for environmental responsibility, and there’s even children’s entertainment developed with partner National Geographic Kids with activities, a Green Wolf TV channel and interactive web content.
We are interrupted by our four year old: what if there’s a fire?
Well, says Cody, the fire suppression system will drain the pool.
Wooooaaaahhhh, say our two oldest girls.
As soon as the girls see Fort Mackenzie, the 4-story tree house of splish-splash fun, they can not wait to get into bathing suits.
As soon as the girls see the tip of the 1,000 gallon bucket, they really can not wait to get into bathing suits.
In today’s world, food allergies are common. But Betty’s food intolerance Fructose Malabsorbtion still raises eyebrows and confusion.
She has a gluten allergy and a fructose allergy. Oh, and she only eats duck eggs. Chicken eggs cause bizarre things.
Great Wolf is so accommodating and greets us with howls and a gluten-free spread. Warm cookies make the entrance to any room incredible, especially a KidCabin Suite, happily packed with a cabin-themed bunk bed area, queen beds for read alouds and a pull out sofa for spread-out nap times.
Our room’s tub is perfect for bubbly sister soaking. I think we might have two mermaids on our hands as hours and hours at a water park lead to happy tub time with bath time giggles.
There was a sweater I tried to finish, a bolero to be exact, that I’d initially named the First Day of First Grade sweater. It took so long, as sleeves often do in their repetitive time consumingness.
I rename it the First Day of Age Seven sweater. She loves it so.
Ever since I knit this elephant that accompanied her to Kindergarten’s first day, Betty has been obsessed with African Elephants.
I love my new birthday elephant so much and I bet it would love a wolf for a friend. I bet this is the first elephant to ever sleep over in a wold den, Mama.
We successfully carry a duck egg, gluten-free cake decorated with red and purple and an elephant and a seven on the ferry and it remains unharmed during our five hour car ride.
Two other island families join us and the main dining hall is happy to host ten kids and four adults for a hyper birthday dinner bash. Our kids love the wolf tails, wolf ears handed out to dining guests.
The waitstaff surrounds our table with clappy flair and sings a sweet wolf pack song.
Happy Birthday, Betty
Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday
Baby sister Olive approves, sings CAKE at a high octave, stuck on repeat like an exultation.
Our family days always end with story time, so Great Wolf Lodge’s Great Clock Tower show is the perfect finale to water park soaks, splashes. It is a magical woodland creature puppet show where everyone is pajama-clad and snuggle ready.
I don’t want to get eaten by a wolf when we drive back to Montana, says Betty. This is something she mentions a lot. It even keeps her awake some nights.
She’s seven, where the line that blurs the Easter Bunny and a human in a furry suit begins to divide.
Why is Wiley the Wolf so big and wearing clothes? she asks.
I don’t think a wolf wears clothes. Oh, I get it. He works here. This is his job. He has a wolf family.
She gets his autograph for her little sisters, gives a big hug and asks for a photo.
You know what, Mama? I really liked Wiley. He was super cool, says Betty.
I am so happy she believes he is real and kind.
Elevators are fun for little girls who live on a tiny island, and so are long hallway walks with images fit for a memory.
We opted out of MagiQuest, a magic wand scavenger hunt where the end dual is against a dragon. The wand also has the ability to make squirrels giggle and swing, make paintings come to life with sound and trick. I think once we’ve moved away from fairy play and enter more of a Harry Potter age, we’ll quest it up.
Funny, in all there is to visually absorb our little Olive was most smitten with the bear image on the hallway rugs. Sometimes kids are so easy to please.
I love Skee Ball. I’d play it competitively if I could. Whenever an arcade has pinball and Skee Ball my hubby and I flounder between watching our kids while helping them play games to falling into the tunnel vision of a game we love.
So I fully get our girls’ love of the disco black light, neon games with luring songs and digital happy sounds.
Our girls are experts in pretend play, video games without quarters, on our island ferry rides. There’s simply so much joy in the motions of play. But Great Wolf did an excellent job with an arcade for all levels where young babes could feel successful in focus and play.
Our island friend hit the jackpot early on. It took a long time to turn out tickets like streamers.
Olive has new penguin slippers and big sister Betty wanted to surprise her with a stuffed friend. She spent almost her whole arcade budget on the possibility of a little sister smile.
Solemn, she learned a lesson often taught from an arcade claw: so many things in life are often out of reach.
Olive taps into her inner teen at Gr8_Space, a teen hang out with Guitar Hero, video games, Tech Jockey DJ booth and iPod docking stations.
Club Critter looks like a fantastic apres nap space. The color-cut-paste possibilities are endless, with even tie dye, bottle sand art and personalized story book design. Scoops Kid Spa deliciously delivers ice cream themed manicures and pedicures, sherbet scrubs all on a banana split throne.
Great Wolf Lodge is high on safety and proud of their lifeguards. I’m paranoid, so this works out great for me. There’s lifeguards everywhere on constant high alert. I’m used to texting, flirting lifeguards so this is a nice change.
Cody, the finest tour guide imaginable tells us, Great Wolf has the highest scoring lifeguards who repeatedly exceed the standard Platinum award.
I’m impressed enough to let our children play without worry, to swim beside our children with the ease of relaxation knowing we are all in good hands.
Frequently, we see a lifeguard tester throw a mannequin in the water. Lifeguards have ten seconds to spot it. Each one we watch is scooped out and saved within eight seconds.
Great Wolf is the perfect escape to our Pacific Northwest climate. The air leaves us without foggy steam since it is three degrees warmer than the water. 84 degree water leaves us without goose bumps when it’s time for towel snuggles.
There is so much beauty in walking around in all that warm laughter.
There is so much beauty in tiny water play places, little spouts and splashes.
The Howlin’ Tornado, as seen from our window, is a 30-foot drop and swish in a 6-story funnel water slide.
I scream, eyes shut tight, with mama friends. At night, the LED lights make it a terrifyingly fantastic disco swirl of a time.
Big sisters rocked the Cup Paw pool,
stuck on repeat.
Big Foot Pass and the Chinook Cove Activity Pool was like monkey bars and tiny trampolines in water. At least that’s how our girls describe it.
Olive loves the mushroom shower, the rain blankie, the super water. She has so many names for it.
Lucy loves the Totem Tower escape from the tree house.
Her fingers and toes are all white, wrinkly from hours of slip sliding.
She’s all giggles until we mention the dreaded words, last ride.
Our middle child pouts like no one else. I break the news it is time to stop our three straight hours of water play to eat. Plus, littlest sister needs a nap. I pinky swear we’ll come back to ride more of the red slide in a bit and middle sister couldn’t keep a frown on.
It’s no secret the Pacific Northwest isn’t know for its snow.
The holiday season’s arrival makes the grey December rains more pronounced.
Great Wolf’s winter wonderland is beautiful, enchanting.
Great Wolf Lodge has eleven resorts around the country. I had heard about if from so many families, so many friends and was excited to find out it was everything and more. Yes, three swimming days with three little girls was exhausting but it was really the good kind of tired, the good kind of fun.
Make sure you check out Great Wolf Lodge’s Facebook page for news and discounts.
Thank you, Great Wolf Lodge for a great birthday celebration, a wonderful island getaway and a fantastic water park holiday vacation.
Yup. You’re that cool.