Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Great Wolf Lodge

I wasn't really sure what I was getting us into when I booked our trip to Great Wolf Lodge a little over a month ago. I knew David would at least enjoy splashing around in the water, playing around other children, and taking in some of the kiddie-appropriate atmosphere promoted by this indoor theme park resort near Cincinnati, Ohio. I knew I was taking a risk, challenging his daily routines by changing his traditional nap times and sleeping arrangements, even in the name of fun. Risky, even for the most well-behaved toddler.

I had no idea this risk would be so worth it, that he would blossom in this little indoor waterworld of adventure. What an amazing place, and what an amazing experience.

The amount and variety of attractions was staggering. Various swimming pools, a wave pool with a tide as strong as the ocean, a tree house with various spouts & fountains, bubbling geysers, a lazy river, and a handful of water slides, some roller coaster-like in their thrill factor and proportion. All of this housed in a colossal atrium kept at a toasty 84 degrees. It has to be seen to be appreciated, but here is a taste. Keep in mind this is still just a fraction of the place.

When we first arrived, we warily explored the toddler area, a large wading pool shallow enough for David to explore it's entirety, all while wearing a lifejacket and gripping my hand, of course. We were splashed by various water features and fountains, surrounded by dozens of playing kids and their parents. It didn't take long for David to agree to brave one of the water slides. The first ones were small, but David reacted with glee, and wanted to do it again and again.

After a handful of trips down the itty-bitty slides in the toddler pool, we decided to explore some of the other sections of the park. David enjoyed playing in the lapping surf of the wave pool. We floated down the lazy river on inner tubes together, he laughed as we got squirted and dumped on more than once (I did not). We floated in the deeper pool, and climbed the gigantic treehouse. We stopped for a bite at a snack bar overlooking the lazy river, and he waved and said "hi" to the passersby as he ate a soft pretzel and drank his apple juice. Eventually we made our way back to where we started.

The best part, by far, was a pair of long, curved slides emptying into the toddler pool. Although the lifeguards told me they were the same on either side, one was clearly more challenging than the other, with a faster and more voluminous water flow. David went down the first one several times uneventfully, and Cory and I took turns catching him at the bottom while the other helped him make the long walk and stair climb to the top of the slide. Those slides are the green (slow) and blue (fast) ones in the center of this picture.

At one point when I was at the bottom, I looked up to see Cory launching him down the second slide. I had no opportunity or ability to protest, so I positioned myself at the bottom and watched him careen down, face first and down, to the bottom. I grabbed him and scooped him up, thinking to myself, "this is it, we're going to have to leave now", and expecting a terrified tot to dissolve in hysterics. Instead, he wiped his face, sputtered a bit, and pointed through squinting eyes to the steps, grinning all the while. He wanted to go again! Oh my, we have a daredevil on our hands.

And, lucky you, I risked the life and health of my treasured iPhone to capture a clip of him going down this very slide. Keep in mind, this was taken on the second day after he had become an expert on exactly how to maneuver himself. He was a fast learner.

That slide wasn't the only place where David demonstrated his good nature. More than once he was inadvertently dunked by his bumbling parents, and each time he recovered without complaint. He was squirted in the face multiple times, and laughed it off. Up in the treehouse, he played with some older girls where he was drenched with buckets and sprayed in the face with fountains over and over again, he was laughing so hard I though he'd fall over. He attempted to swim away from me more than once in the deeper pools, eager to explore on his own. I think swimming lessons might be in order for this boy.

Our trip wasn't just about the water, although that was the highlight. We enjoyed a nice dinner out together on Saturday night, where David flirted incessantly with a table of pre-teen girls that flirted right back (and their moms did, too). We eventually convinced him to wear the wolf ears that came with his meal, to the delight of everyone.

We also spent some quality family time lounging about our room waiting for the water park to open on Monday morning. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast at the hotel, where we attempted to teach David not to eat the rind of cantaloupe. Oh, and in this picture David is not posing for the camera or saying cheese as it appears that he is, he is looking out the window above the camera to check out a bus going by, lol.

The second day at the water park was a repeat of the first, except this time our little daredevil was more opinionated about what things he wanted to do. He begged, in his way, to try the giant watersides overhead, and no longer wanted any part of the slower rides and less exciting pools. The blue waterslide was the most daring one I was willing to let him try, so we had to do that about 40 times in a row. We played for a few hours, until the meltdowns outnumbered the happy moments. I'm sure lack of sleep in our communal room didn't help his mood much. 

By the end of our trip, although it lasted a mere 24 hours, we were all pretty whooped. But that's the price of fun, I guess. We will be going back to this place sometime soon, I'm sure.

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