Thursday, January 31, 2013

Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg January 13-14, 2013

A relatively short drive from our house is a beautiful, extravagant resort called Great Wolf Lodge. We have always been curious about it, and when a Groupon came up for it, we jumped on it. 

On the way there, we stopped at a fun rest area.

We are there!! Of course, that means that they must climb the giant wolf.
When we checked in, we were given wrist bands. Rainbow Girl had a narrow one, Sugar Bear did not have to wear one, and my mom and I got magic bands. Yes, I said magic. We were told that to open our room, all we had to do was scan a particular paw print on our bands. Epic. That's not all! To pay for anything in the resort, all we had to do was have someone scan the Great Wolf logo on our bands! So. Cool.

I noticed right away the multiple easels with crayons and Great Wolf Lodge themed coloring pages. This was going to be a fun adventure.

Our first activity was MagiQuest. "MagiQuest is an interactive live-action, role playing game where players embark on quests and adventures in an enchanted fantasy world using real magic wands to solve the mysteries of the game."

We went to the MagiQuest store onsite for the kids to get their wands. I was very stoked to offer my wrist as a form of payment. They had quite an assortment, wand toppers, wand sheaths, and kingdom costumes. Both of the children were very pleased with their wands. (Until Sugar Bear was very rough with Rainbow Girl's wand later in the day and broke the topper. I brought it into the store and they replaced it free of charge!!) 

Throughout the entire resort, there were different things to wave the wands at. The kids had the option to follow a "quest" or to just go around waving their wands at the different items to see what they do. While I saw several children (mostly older than Rainbow Girl) and teens (and some adults) working hard to complete specific quests, my babes chose to run around willy nilly waving their wands to and fro with nary a care in the world- and they had a ball.

After an hour or so of playing MagiQuest, we decided to go to the water park. We bought our lunch in the water park's cafe. Although ALL of their entrees included meat, they very gladly made me a meatless salad that was lovely. They also had adult beverages to enjoy poolside. As a wine lover, this was awesome. As a lifeguard, I could not help but feel so sorry for the guards on duty, having to deal with the possibility of intoxicated swimmers. 

Thankfully, I never saw evidence of that. All the guests were just lovely to one another. There were tons of people there, but the water area is so spread out that I never felt very crowded. I only lost sight of Rainbow Girl once, and I found her pretty quickly- she was waiting under the giant bucket that pours 1,000 gallons of water over "Fort Mackenzie" every few minutes. 

"Fort Mackenzie" has no age or height limit, and really gave little challenge to my kids. That being said, it was HUGE and I was not comfortable letting them go up on their own. It is not all visible from the outside. Once you make it to the top, there are two water slides to go down, or you can turn around and make your way back down the obstacles. The slides have a one person limit. Sugar Bear never got a turn because I was uncomfortable letting him go down- and he was not at all interested in going alone. The two slides are twisty turny and very fast. When Rainbow Girl came down the first time, she ended up on her back and head first!! She decided to try the little kid area after that.

There was a special section for the little ones called "Cub Paw Pool".  It has zero-depth entry with a maximum depth of 1'6". In this area, I was much more comfortable to let them frolic and be free because I could see them in the area. There were three small slides, all also one person slides. Yes, my mom is riding one with Sugar Bear because he was scared, and we had not been told the rule yet.

They also have a lazy river, two large hot tubs, a wave pool, a basketball pool, crazy scary looking slides and a surf simulator. Definitely all inclusive- and we did not even get to see the outdoor area!

After we left the water park, we went and checked into our room to change and decompress. There are changing rooms and showers provided beside the water park, but we wanted to see our room, and everyone else was walking around in wet bathing suits too! 

Our room was so neat. There were two full beds, one pull out sofa, access to the porch, a fireplace, wet bar, mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and a full bath on the first level and another full bed and half bath up in the loft. 

After getting dressed, the kids and I took the elevator downstairs and grabbed some dippin dots together from the sweets shop. We, of course, played with our wands in all the halls.

We all went back to our room to have dinner, which we brought and had in our mini fridge. We were all very pooped- no nap for everyone, plus going swimming will do that- buy we knew that at 8pm there was a children's bedtime program in the lobby that we wanted to attend. We decided to explore the lodge some more and came across the "Cub Club."

The "Cub Club" was awesome. If I had to work at the resort, I would choose to work in this room. It was calm. Very nice lighting, not loud, and not crowded. There were several free activities: a reading area, wolf coloring pages and a playing area. There were also a few paid activities. My kids chose to paint treasure boxes. The very friendly staff set them up with paints, water and brushes- and my kids were right at home.  

The awesome "Cub Club" staff took their very wet painted treasure boxes and set them aside to dry so that we could pick them up the next day instead of trying to carry them- and the kids back to our room.

Sugar Bear LOVES CROCS. When he saw a Sugar Bear sized Croc with arms and legs, he had to stop for a second look. (Yes, there is a Croc's store onsite, and yes, HE is also wearing his red Crocs. ^_^)

After the "Cub Club", we still had lots of time before the night time children's program, so we all went to the bowling alley! It is very much child sized here, however, my mom and I did take a few turns. Bowling shoes are not required, there are bumpers if you want them, you pay with your wrist, and all the balls are very cute five pounders. The kids had a great time!

While my mom and Sugar Bear stayed to bowl, Rainbow Girl and I went down the hall to the "Howlywood XD Theater" to watch a roller coaster movie. It did cost extra as well. We would have taken Sugar Bear as well, but he was not tall enough. The seats moved around like crazy, the 3D effects were awesome- and the wind machine left us very wind blown. Rainbow Girl squealed the entire ten minutes and said "That was AWESOME!" when it was over.

We went back to meet up with my mom and Sugar Bear and then made our way through the halls back to our room to get jammies on for story time!

Sugar Bear is so tired and so confused. 

Downstairs in the lobby, every night the "clock tower comes to life" and all the animals and people sing a silly, long drawn out that is stuck in the parent's head for weeks and weeks to come. BUT, the kids liked it. After the song, an enthusiastic staff member and someone dressed up in a wolf suit came out to read a book. This would have been lonely had there not been 50 or 60 other children there. It was impossible for the kids to hear the story. I think the reader would have had much better luck without the echoing microphone. We left the story a little early and headed back to our room with two very sleepy little ones.

They both fell asleep very quickly. This is the view from the loft in our room.

The next morning, the children were up early as usual and ready to go swimming at the crack of dawn. The water park does not open until 9- pretty reasonable if you ask me- not so reasonable if you ask a child. :) However, the buffet restaurant opened up at 7, so we went there for breakfast. It was an enjoyable breakfast. They had lots of choices and everyone got something they liked. 

The decor and furniture was awesome in the eating area. Right beside us was a tree that the kids could wave their wands at and the tree would light up and an animatronic animal would swing from the branch!

Right outside of the buffet area was a lovely seating area overlooking the water park.

Love. This. Table.

After breakfast, it was 8:30am, almost time for the water park to open. 11am is checkout time, so we decided to pack up and bring our things to the car before going to the water park. 

Our room's fireplace.

The door to our porch.

We swam and swam until we were hungry and went to the restaurant for a lovely lunch, then to the sweet shoppe for some fudge before hitting the road. I had walnut fudge and Rainbow Girl had purple glittery princess fudge.

We had a lovely time at Great Wolf Lodge and definitely plan to go again.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 2-12, 2013- Snowflakes, ABCmouse, Science Museum

We have such a fun life. This week was full of play dates, outings, crafts, explorations, and new experiences.

Playing with her new princess Play Doh set from her Aunt.

Waiting for the birds to come to the new bird feeder.

Our favorite book about snow: It's Snowing by Gail Gibbons. We love Gail Gibbons. Her books are full of in-depth information, written in an entertaining, easy to read fashion.

In an effort to ask Mother Nature for snow, and in connection with our lessons of the week, we made glittery snowflakes! I helped the kids cut out the snowflakes and then we put them in their lighted water play tables for gluing and glittering! Clean up was a snap, and no glitter on the floor!

Both of the children are able to operate touch screens wonderfully, and are masters of iPhone's operating system. However, they do not have many skills in using a trackpad or mouse. In an effort to add this skill to their repertoire, we decided to give ABCmouse a try. 

It is a wonderfully laid out comprehensive curriculum with over 450 lessons and 6 levels. Based on age and the level the parent setting it up puts the child, a "Learning Path" is provided. The child can follow the provided path, or independently jump around to different lessons. When the child completes an activity, they are awarded with tickets. (This option can be disabled.) With those tickets, they can buy items to dress their avatar in, decorate their digital room, build an environment for their hamster, and buy fish and decor for their aquarium. 

It is a lot of fun, and inspiring for the kids. There is a free 30 day trial, but after that, there is a cost of $7.95 a month or a year of membership for $19.95 a month for 3 months. You can add up to three children to each account. 

Rainbow Girl is very much an independent learner and loves holding the laptop. I have her sit at on one couch where I can see her screen while I sit with Sugar Bear helping him on the other laptop. I think it is worth the cost and will be a nice addition to our learning. 

I brought the kids to the Science Museum for the first time this week. They had a very nice time, although I will definitely call ahead before we go next time as there were four busses of older elementary children running all around and it made it difficult to stop and focus on the different exhibits.

In addition to snow, we are also working on the phases of the moon. Rainbow Girl was thrilled to see this interactive moon exhibit. 

We also found a wall of magnified snow flakes!

This quote was above a rain exhibit. I love that movie. 

Interactive huge bubble maker! 

Smooshed penny

Waiting for our IMAX movie, Coral Reef Adventure

While Rainbow Girl is in Spanish class, Sugar Bear and I have some special alone time. One place we frequent is the Petsmart. It is like a little zoo! He loves looking at all of the animals, and we end up spending a while there.

Super Sugar Bear loves the guinea pigs. 


We ended the week with a playdate with some dear friends. That evening, we packed for an adventure!