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.

Maple Fun at MapleFest!

Wandering around a Maple Syrup festival is about as “Canadian” as, well…a Maple Syrup festival.

We took advantage of one of the first warm and sunny days of the year and ventured out to Maple Fest at McLean Berry Farm in Buckhorn, Ontario.  The sun, nature and exercise are exactly what our family needed after a long winter.  While we have managed to spend more time outdoors this year, I’ll still be pretty happy to give the old man Winter the old heave ho.

We took two cars.  I drove in first and then realized that we were to pay upon entering the lot.  $24/family.  Cash.  I had about $3.80 in cold, hard cash.  Whoops.  Luckily, Ed had the forethought to recognize that we would likely need it and saved the day.  There is a chip truck onsite with an ATM as well as a store with a debit machine so I’m sure we would have been able to pay one way or another.  We were given a scavenger hunt to fill out and were on our way.

We were waiting for a couple of minutes in line for the horse-powered hay wagon but it turned out it was the horse’s break time.  There was a tractor pulling the hay wagon but we decided to hike down to the Sugar Shack and take the horse drawn wagon back at the end.

At the Sugar Shack we found out all about how sap is boiled in the evaporator until it becomes syrup.  We learned that it takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup.  We also discovered that the colour and darkness of the syrup is due to the point in the season when it is collected, not how long it had been boiled like I had thought.  From here we meandered through a trail in the hard woods where we found lots of tapped trees with buckets to check for sap.  Isaac saw it as a personal mission to check them all and since Maddie is his little shadow she followed right behind.  Many of them were at kid height, but thankfully their tall big brother was there to hoist them up to check the buckets high on the trees.  There are posters along the trail telling of the history of Maple Syrup in Canada.   We were wondering how people discovered it in the first place and how they collected the sap.  These signs answered all of our questions.   In typical fashion, we accidentally did the trail backwards.  If you do it properly you will wander through the woods, see the sap and then at the end of the trail will go into the sugar shack to see how to sap is boiled down which makes more sense.

Next up was Maple Syrup Cotton Candy.  Yes, that’s right – Maple Syrup Cotton Candy.  I don’t really care for cotton candy but this was seriously yum!  Behind that building was a little obstacle course and cedar teepee to explore.  It was then time for the Maple Syrup Toffee.  They fill a tray with snow, pour on hot maple sugar on and we roll it up on sticks.  I would recommend staying at the back until the crowd has cleared some as little Maddie was nearly run down by excited 9 year olds which was a little too much for this mom.

We rushed right over to see the snow cannon in action.  During PumpkinFest this is a pumpkin cannon but for Maple Fest, snow it is.  And really, pretty much anything being blasted out of a cannon is endlessly entertaining for kids.

They also had demonstrations of sawing logs, tapping trees and rope making.  They had a large supply of snowshoes to try out but since the snow is on the way out there wasn’t quite enough to test our snowshoe skills.  The boys had fun with sawing the logs.  After sawing off our chunks of cedar we went over to a fire where they were branded with a maple leaf.  All I could hear was my Grandfather’s voice in my head, laughingly saying “My dear, people these days paying good money to saw up a log.  Next they’ll be paying to jump in a puddle.” It was well worth every penny.

We waited in line and took the horse drawn hay wagon back out to the parking area.  It was a wonderful day for our family and has us looking forward to the longer, sunnier and much warmer days ahead including swimming, hiking, road trips and strawberry picking in Buckhorn.

If you are looking to check out MapleFest, next weekend (March 25 & 26) is the final weekend for this year.

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?”

PUMPKINFEST! Fun on the Farm for the Entire Family!

Buckhorn & Lakefield, Ontario:

PUMPKINFEST!  Two Words:  Pumpkin.  Cannon.

About 40 minutes North-ish of Peterborough, Ontario lies the itsy bitsy village of Buckhorn.  We’ve been to the area several times to eat delectable Chinese food at the Cody Inn, inhale a Kawartha Hoagie at Mainsreet Landing or to Pizza Alloro for the most interesting and mouthwatering pizza I’ve ever had. Continue reading “PUMPKINFEST! Fun on the Farm for the Entire Family!”

Bobcaygeon “Cottage Country at its Finest”

With the excitement and festivities of Canada’s 149th birthday fast approaching, we are all looking for ways to celebrate the great white North.  Every city, town and cottage will be blasting off bright fireworks.  Parades will be marching up and down Main St.  BBQ’s will barely get a chance too cool down before the next round begins.  Campfires will be surrounded with the familiar sound of our friends and Continue reading “Bobcaygeon “Cottage Country at its Finest””

Fishing Fun for the Little Ones in Beautiful Trent Lakes

Ontario has an abundance of clean and accessible lakes for your family to explore.  Our family loves to get outside and will take any excuse to get out and take it all in.  Fishing is a family favourite.  My husband fishes in a couple of tournaments which is inevitably followed by a chorus  of “But Moooooom, I want to fish in a tournament just like Daddy!”  Well kids, you’re in luck.  There is a perfect fishing tournament just for the little ones Continue reading “Fishing Fun for the Little Ones in Beautiful Trent Lakes”