This year, because we're spending a lot of money on having a new baby, among other things (babies are priceless but the medical bills make them darn expensive!), we decided we would not take a family vacation this year - well - not a far-away vacation anyway. We decided to just do a little mid-winter get-away, and what more perfect time than smack dab on my THIRTY-FIFTH birthday!?!?
It didn't bother me turning 25 or 30 or 33 or even 34...but for some reason this year I felt turning 35 was making me rather "old". So what better way to combat feeling old than to go to a place that makes you feel young and fun (even though you're 20 weeks pregnant and have just reached official "advanced maternal" age)? We decided to get-away to the Great Wolf Lodge, just south of Olympia - so about a 80 minute drive from our home. (hint to my sisters Rachel and Jen in PA and OH - they have lodges near you, too! Go Go Go! It's FUN FUN FUN!)
You'd think we were going to Disneyland or something, the kids were just so excited to go to the lodge/hotel and indoor waterpark. Sawyer got to sleep on his own queen sized bed, which he was pretty stoked about, and Aspen loved curling up on the sofa with her animals/dolls/books. She is quite obsessed with a little story called "Baby Dear" and wants to read it a gazillion times a day.
After we got settled and hit the waterpark the first day, we had a mellow evening and I surprised the kids with new coloring books. They loooove to color and so they were really excited to have a Dinosaur book and Animal ABC book all fresh to color in.
Jacob and the lifeguards thought I was completely crazy to bring my big and very expensive camera into the hot, humid, and very wet water park, but I just had to for a few minutes. I took a very few pictures and then ran and put it back in our room away from random squirting and spraying features. So here's what the water park looks like. There's a wave pool and then a play pool (3-4ft deep with lots of hoops and fun stuff), then there's the "big, scary" waterslide tubes (they actually run outside the building, you can see them through the window) and then there's the middle part with smaller slides and lots of spray features. There's the big bucket in the middle that dumps 1000 gallons of water every 5 or so minutes. You don't want to be standing under it! Finally, there is the kiddie area, which is where we spent the majority of our time (besides when we took turns to go down the "big" runs).
It was a balmy and warm 84 degrees. We were there for 3 days and that's pretty much all we did - play in the water, eat, took a nap just one day, played more in the water - oh, and went to the arcade for an hour or so the afternoon of my birthday to spice things up a bit. LOTS of water fun and it was just heaven to be warm and splashing around in the water - seriously, my heaven, my favorite thing in the world to do.
Okay, here I am: The Birthday Girl.
35 years old.
20 weeks preggo.
Not looking super great, but having a GREAT time!
And look at that baby bump! There's baby Hazel getting bigger!
And there's her sister.
In her oh-la-la new sunglasses and swimsuit.
I think she's rather cute.
I've got some tips coming here at the end, for those who want to plan a trip like this one ;)
And some brotherly love, of course
This was by far Sawyer's favorite part: the squirty spraying jet-skis for the kiddies. He discovered later that he really enjoyed the small slide as well, but this thing...
We could hardly peel him away from it!
As always, I did research before we went. Here's what I learned from the research that panned out in the experience:
1) Do NOT go on a weekend if you can help it. From what others have said, it is just nuts. We went Monday-Wednesday and there were definitely still people around, but not too many. For example, there were NO lines, or maybe maybe just one person wait to go down the big waterslides. That was really nice!
2) Even though there's food there, you don't have to eat it. Again, word on the street was that the food is mediocre at best and pretty overprice (of course, it is a resort). We asked around and did some looking up on YELP and found a few local restaurants we really wanted to try out. Each room also comes equipt with a small refrigerator and microwave, so we brought along snacks and also stuff for lunch one day and breakfast another (yogurt, bagels & cream cheese, cheese sticks, fruit, and milk for Aspen the milk-lover, etc.)
Our favorite food spots:
La Tarasca (Authentic Mexican)
Country Cousin (Down Home Cookin' Great for Breakfast, super Family Friendly, they even have a tractor out front for kids to sit on and some hens and rooster in a henhouse nearby to visit)
Papa Pete's Pizzaria (Honestly delish pizza! We went twice! Our favorites were the plain old cheese pizza and the Gourmet Chicken - didn't love the atmosphere, so we called in our order and took out one night).
The Berry Fields Cafe. We went for lunch. From scratch and delicious. Large portions. And if you like antiques, it's housed next to an antique mall.
3) Just get the basic room. You won't be spending enough time there to truly enjoy some of the higher-end aspects to the "themed" rooms. Really, all we did there was shower, change clothes, and sleep. Well, we did color a little and we ate the cupcakes we brought along from Whole Foods on my birthday, but otherwise, we were out exploring, eating, and mostly PLAYING.
4) The Magiquest game can be by-passed by toddlers. If you're kids are older (I'd say maybe 5 or 6 on up) or if they're really into Harry Potter, they will LOVE the scavenger game that takes you all over the lodge and let's you practice some "magic". Otherwise, toddlers will barely notice, or maybe peek in a room and see a fairy fluttering and that will bring smile enough. We thought it was
kind of weird interesting to see some adults who were there on there own without kids who got very into the game.
5) There is a show and story time at 8-9pm, but not all kids will enjoy it, but some will likely love it. Our kids were kind of scared of the weird looking dolls that popped up out of trees etc. during the show. But your kids might love it. Wiley the Wolf also shows up to give hugs and for photo ops after story time. Sawyer was interested in Wiley but didn't want to hug a strange wolf )who can blame him?) and Aspen kept saying "I scared of big bad wolf!" so no photo ops for us. We went one night and opted for our own story time the next night.
6) Leave a little room to breathe. We had such a great time and were busy having fun, but the one full day we were there without checking in or out or traveling, we took the time to let the kids have their naps. We were going non-stop and it was pretty stimulating so it was nice. I needed a nap, too. And Jacob had the rare opportunity to read a book he checked out from the library. Relax, remember, it's a vacation even if it's not far away and if it's not a whole week long.
7) Don't over-stay your welcome. Not that you're not welcome, but we spent two nights and three days (you check out at 11am but can use the water park until 9pm the day you check out). We felt like it was the perfect amount of time. One day less would've felt a little short and one day more would've felt a little long. AND you can usually get a 20% off deal if you book more than one night, so take advantage :)
8) Bring your own beach towels. They have towels in your room and in the water park but you're not supposed to transport to and from with their towels...so bring your own unless you want to parade all wet from water park to room.
9) Bring more than one swimming suit, if you have one. We each brought two. That way, you can let one dry out a little in-between sessions at the water park, unless you like the feeling of putting your wet suit back on.
10) Have FUN! We sure did! Sawyer didn't want to leave, and I would love to go back again sometime! It is a bit cheesy - aren't most themed parks? But it was all in good fun, and a great way to spend a birthday, if you ask me!