Great Wolf Lodge: Splashing Through the Winter

This past Christmas we gave our kids a trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls instead of a gaggle of gifts.  Christmas morning arrived and they were delighted with their small gifts and started planning what they were going to do first when we got to the water park.  Every morning Isaac would come roaring into our room, screaming the number of days left on the countdown.

The day finally arrived and we struck out bright and early so we could cram in as much time in the water park as possible.  We checked in and strapped on our fancy dancy bracelets. The bracelets are multipurpose.  They act as room key and the adults bracelets are connected to your credit card info so you don’t have to carry around you wallet.

You can use the water park before your room is ready, so pack your swimsuits and towels in a quickly accessible bag.  We were meeting friends there and they had rented a locker so we were able to put our boots and coats in there.  We’ve never rented a locker before though and have left our faith in humanity not to steal our gear, and thus far, humanity has prevailed.  Maddie braved the “Wooly Mammoth” slide this year, which is a slide with a giant tube that the whole family can go on.  She hated it so much that I think that if she ever sees it again it will be too soon.  She spent the rest of her water park time in the kiddie section which was perfect for her with 4 slides, basketball nets and various water installations.  Isaac loved the Squirrel & Falls slides which are twisty and fast.  I convinced him to go on the Canada Vortex a few times which is a tube ride for 2 that I love.  Isaac liked it, but for him, it didn’t hold a candle to the other two.

After a few hours we received the email telling us that our room was ready.  We had booked the Kid Camp room which has tent-style room with bunkbeds, a wee little desk and a TV for the kiddos.  Separate from that we had a queen bed, a pull out sofa, tv, mini-fridge and a balcony.

We invested in the MagiQuest wand and game this year.  Luckily our friend’s oldest son was there to figure out the game and explain it to the younger ones because my hubby and I are about as techie as a kitchen chair.  From what I gather you embark on these “quests”, sort of like scavenger hunts, that consist of riddles sending you throughout the lodge opening up treasure chests, lighting up crystals and paintings on the wall.  This seems to be a hit with a lot of people.  We encountered one woman who had an entire outfit dedicated to the game and has apparently been doing it for years.

If you are planning on getting the wand, definitely opt for the Paw Pass.  The wand alone, along with the topper for it came to $60.  The Paw Pass is $69.99 and includes a bunch of activities that you’re likely to do anyway like bowling, a set of wolf ears and a stuffing station animal.

We opt for the Breakfast buffet.  It was $40 per day for our room.  We’re big breakfast people and have always been full by the time we leave.  They have an omelet station, fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, French toast, pancakes, ham, an assortment of yummy egg dishes, cereal – and that’s just the stuff we devoured.  There is certainly something for everyone to fill up on, even my picky 6 year old.  We brought sandwich fixin’s, fruit, milk, crackers and other snackies to keep in the room for lunch.  For supper each night we ordered pizza from downstairs.  It was around $17 and enough to fill us all up with a few slices to spare.  I also ordered the “loaded potatoes” which to my disappointment were decidedly unloaded.  The snack foods in the bakery are too much to resist.  We had chocolate covered strawberries, Oreo cheesecake (twice), chocolate covered marshmallows and cookies.

The kiddie-casino, er, arcade is a hit with every single kid.  The points to play are loaded onto a card to swipe at the games instead of carting around bags of quarters.  Points are awarded onto the card at each game and can be redeemed at the counter for various toys and trinkets.  Since Christmas morning, Isaac and Maddie had been working little jobs to save up their arcade cash.  It was burning a Jupiter sized hole in their pocket and they asked to go to the arcade the second we left the water park.

We did the bowling on our last day there.  The lanes are shorter than a standard bowling lane so the kids love it.  It’s fairly pricey at $5 per person/per game, but we got a pizza and bowling package so it wasn’t as steep.

I was hoping to check out the Scoops Spa for a pedicure with Maddie this year but didn’t get the chance.  Something to look forward to for next year.

The coffee at the shop in the lobby is just strong enough to jolt me to life after being awoken at 5 by two crazy kids that are desperate to hit the slides.  This is also where you can distinguish the parents on day 1 from the parents on day 3.  Day 1 parents are dressed in clothes that make sense, hair brushed, shoes on, a glimmer in their eyes and are ready to take on the day.  Day 3 parents are in their jammies, serious bedhead, are wearing a single sock and with a vacant stare just mouth the words “coffee” to the barista.

We were able to stay for a third night but switched to a standard room to save money.  There were two queen beds and a pull-out couch.  The kids begged to sleep on the pullout, because “Whoa! Mom! Mom! Mom! Watch this! The couch IS a bed.”  I wish that we still got that excited about a pull out.

We look forward to our little Great Wolf Lodge getaway every year.  There’s something extra fun about a water park in the dead of winter, plus it’s when they have the best deals.  You could absolutely do Great Wolf Lodge for just the price of the room.  Bring your own food to keep in the mini fridge.  There is so much included to keep your littles busy like the water park, story time, dance party and yoga.  Just be prepared to say “no” quite a bit.

Quick Tips:
1. Wednesday was the least busy
2. The best deals are to be had in December (for the January stay)
3. Get to story time early to get a good seat
4. If there is availability they will offer you an additional night at a great discount

Very important side note:  While our husbands and kids were having some downtime in the rooms my friend and I snuck away for some girl time.  We ordered a couple margaritas from the bar by the wave pool and Oh. My. Goodness. It was far and away the best margarita I’ve ever had.  If you like margaritas, even just a little, order one up…Wolf strength.

Cape D’Or: Rugged and Unplugged

We were able to sneak away for a last minute escape to Lockeport, Nova Scotia this Spring.  On our way back home to Ontario, we had the chance to make a couple of stops.

Like every 5 year old I’ve ever known, my little guy loves all things dinosaur, so we headed to the Fundy Geological Museum and Joggins Cliffs Fossil Centre.  While looking for a place to stay in between the two, a few spots popped up including the Cape D’Or Lighthouse in Advocate Harbour.  I’m a certified lighthouse junkie and staying at a lighthouse has long been on my bucket list.  I knew that it would be a thrill for my little people, too.  The tourist season hadn’t officially started yet so most of the touristy type spots were still closed for another couple weeks.  I took a chance though and sent an email to the manager.  To my delight, he called me that evening.  They weren’t truly open yet but he was going to see if he could make it work.  The next day he called to say that everything would be ready.  I told the kids that we were going to stay at a lighthouse but we knew nothing of the adventure we were about to embark upon.

We spent the day driving and checking out the Geological Museum where they learned about the formation of rock and the different dinos that have been discovered in the area.  We then started our journey to the lighthouse.  Google Maps told me that the drive would be 52 minutes.  That, my friends, may be true in theory but certainly not in practice.  We turned off the paved, Parrsboro Shore Road onto one of the twistiest, hilliest road I’ve ever been on.  The transmission in my trusty Camry was in a near constant state of confusion as we drove up, down and twisted around.  Just as soon as I started to wonder what I’d gotten us into or if Google maps was hacked, the tippy top of a lighthouse appeared.  Phew!  It was the little, replica lighthouse in the parking lot at Cape D’Or.  We got out and took in the view.  Breathtaking!  The scenery was straight off of a postcard.  With a wee bit of intimidation and a whole lot of determination we stared down the hill we were to hike down to the lighthouse.  We gathered our belongings for the night and began the trek down.  This took longer than I had anticipated.  After being at the Geological Museum earlier, the kids were very interested in the gravel we were walking on and picked up and examined many of the colourful stones on the way down.  With our pockets lined with rocks, we made it to the bottom.  It was worth every minute of the adventure thus far.  We ran over to check out the lighthouse and…what was that little thing in front of the lighthouse?  A Foghorn!  Isaac was very excited about this. We explored all we could until the rain began.  Isaac and Maddie played pirates, pretended to be lobster fishermen and played baseball with the buoys.  The daffodils had just emerged and were a glorious shot of colour when the skies turned grey.

Once the rain started we headed into the “Light Keepers Guest House”.  It’s a shared type of accommodation.  Upon entering, there was a sitting area with two couches, a sink, dishes, coffee maker with coffee, bar fridge, bookshelf full of books and a table and chairs with some of the fresh cut daffodils in a vase.  The kids, of course, were most excited to check out their rooms.  We had the two rooms at the back with a bathroom to use at the end of the hallway.  One room had a queen bed and the other two twins.  Isaac decided on his bed right away and staked his claim.  Maddie ended up with me that night so he had the room to himself.

We dug out our supper, devoured it and headed back outside where we found some rabbits!  Maddie was in love with them.  They ran and played until dusk.  As we were headed inside, the fog horn sounded for the first time.  It was as loud as expected and startled all of us.  Maddie covered her ears and Isaac shouted “Whooooa! That’s so cool, Mom!”.  Back in the house the noise was substantially muffled, but still loud.  I was concerned that the horn going off, 3 times a minute, would keep them awake.  And it did, but not much later than usual and Isaac thought it was just so cool.  Maddie didn’t share his interest in it but it didn’t seem to bother her too much.  Isaac played lighthouse keeper until bedtime.  There isn’t any tv or wifi which for the most part was a welcome break from the world but at the witching hour before bed I like the little break that tv offers me.  I plugged in my computer and prayed that the temperamental DVD player in it would work.  I popped in The Lorax and waited.  The opening credits popped up.  Yay!  Isaac snuggled up in a blanket on the couch and watched.  Maddie wasn’t into the movie so instead hopped like one of the bunnies up and down the hallway.  I was super grateful to have the place to ourselves because keeping these two secluded to one room would have been a little like herding cats at that moment. We all got ready for bed, read our stories and let the sound of the waves (and fog horn) send us to sleep.  Early in the morning- so, so early- Isaac came bounding into the room excited that the fog horn was still sounding.  We were up and outside to investigate in 5 minutes flat.  The sun was peaking through the clouds and the bunnies were watching us from the bushes.  We explored and hiked around the area and they played pirates for a couple hours.  The restaurant onsite wasn’t open yet for the season so we munched on the snacks we had left and I drank a pot of coffee.  We did the dishes, packed up our stuff, closed up and readied ourselves for the trek back up to the car.  Again, with pockets full of colourful stones and some sticks for good measure, we made it to the car.  It was at this moment that I realized just how out of shape I was and committed to get back running and biking again upon our return home.

This is a one-of-a-kind spot that is worth the twisty roads and hills to find.  This was far and away the most secluded and rugged spot I have stayed with the kids.  The unplugged nature of it was relaxing.  I love watching imaginations come to life in the absence of screens.  I’ve heard great things of the restaurant but we didn’t get to test it out ourselves.  The manager, Darcy, is kind and as unique as the location itself.  He’s accommodating and I’m sure, given some notice would be able to give you a ride up and down the hill if you aren’t able to hike it.  This is a functioning lighthouse with a light and a fog horn when it’s foggy.   Do not come with 5 star resort expectations.  This is not the Marriot Harbourfront.  You will not find a spa, wifi, jacuzzi or sauna.  You will however have an authentic, rugged and memorable Nova Scotia experience.

Niagara Falls: Just How Do They Light Up The Falls?

The Illumination of Niagara Falls has been amazing visitors for more than a century.  Each time we are there, my husband and I sit in our hotel room, looking out onto the falls and hypothesize how it all works.  Are the lights behind it?  In front?  It is automated?  How many lights?  How did it start? Continue reading “Niagara Falls: Just How Do They Light Up The Falls?”

The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter

My name is Allison and I unintentionally lie to my husband and children every November, without fail.

Allow me to set the scene.  It’s mid-November, the leaves have all fallen off of the trees, the days are shorter and getting greyer by the second.  I grab my giant cup of coffee and proudly announce that this-this is the year I am going to enjoy winter!  We’re going to learn to snowshoe and cross-country ski and enjoy all of the parks that are open around us.  Then, before I know it it’s mid-January and I’m spending my spare moments wrapped in my Snuggie, Continue reading “The Beauty and the Brrrr: 5 Niagara Falls Attractions for Your Family This Winter”

OH CANADA! 7 Reasons For You To Explore The Great White North

Canada is truly free.  That’s not just a word that we throw around, it really is the true north, strong and free!  Canada was actually named the “Most Free Country on Earth” in 2015.  One of the reasons was because 94% of Canadians believe they have the freedom to choose the course of their own lives.  The current Canadian Cabinet members are equally divided between men and women, along with many different cultures because we see the value of each group of citizens being represented. Our previous Governor General, Michaëlle Jean was not only a woman, she was a Haitian refugee. Our Minister of Defense is Sikh.  Many Members of Parliament are immigrants from countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, India, the United States, England and Switzerland. Immigrants are encouraged to share the traditions and stories from their homeland.  This leads to great understanding and compassion along with yummy food and festivals.  There are so many other reasons to list as well including the fact that Continue reading “OH CANADA! 7 Reasons For You To Explore The Great White North”

Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls (Love, Love, Love)

We were graciously gifted a 2 night stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario by my parents for Christmas.  We have been actively trying to get rid of much of the “stuff” taking up residence in our home and are loving “experience” gifts as an alternative, to give and to receive.  We were booked in from January 4-6 which is decidedly the off-season.  The busiest (see: most expensive) times to go are the times Continue reading “Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls (Love, Love, Love)”