Thursday, August 18, 2011

Great Wolf Lodge

I know I'm a little late wrapping this vacation up. But I have yet to blog about Dane and Aidan's favorite part of Road Trip Extravaganza 2011. I thought I would start with an open letter to the friendly and accomodating people at the Great Wolf Lodge.

Dear WolfMan,

Thank you for hosting our little family on our final night of Road Trip Extravaganza 2011. We wrapped up a week-long road trip with a night in your hotel last week, and I would love to share with you a snippet of our experience.

We arrived at about 1pm, after driving in from the Comfort Inn in Oklahoma City. We had just enjoyed a lovely night at the Comfort Inn, taken advantage of their indoor swimming pool, where we were the only patrons, and partook of a tasty continental breakfast before heading your way. The room was clean, quiet, with ample room for the six of us. In the morning we filled our cooler with the free ice, refilled the sippy cups with the complimenary juice and milk, and headed out. All for the very reasonable price of $69.

I know.

The Great Wolf Lodge is not the Comfort Inn. But remember, it's not Disney World either.

I am not intending to compare apples to oranges. I made reservations at your establishment ahead of time online, and I was aware of the rates before I ever set foot in your hotel. I was prepared to shell out the $369 per night plus taxes and fees for my family to enjoy a night in a fun hotel and take full advantage of your much-publicized indoor water park. Upon check in, I was bombarded before I even left the desk with offers to shell out an additional $60 per child for them to enjoy a package of activities in addition to the water park. Didn't I want my kids to play MagiQuest? To run around the hotel with their wands, searching for treasure and slaying dragons? Don't you know they are going to see the build-a-bear store and cry big crocodile tears if they are denied the opportunity to stuff their very own Violet the Wolf? And the kid-geared nail spa! Don't forget the nail spa! What two year old doesn't need a $40 pedicure?

Really? I've just paid over $400 for the room and water park passes, and now you want me to fork over another HUGE chunk of change for additional activities? We're only going to be here one night. ONE NIGHT. 24 HOURS. So, no. We'll stick with the water park.

Our room was not yet ready when we checked in (the hotel generously allows guests to use their facilities before the actual check-in time of 4pm), so we took off to enjoy the much-talked about indoor water park. I had hoped to use a locker for my purse, only to learn that it would cost me an additional $10 to rent a locker for a couple of hours. Seriously. So we grabbed a couple of chairs, and hid my purse and husband's wallet under the diaper bag and the bag of clothes we had to change into.

One well thought detail: mine and my husband's wristbands were coded with our room key, so we didn't have to keep up with the room key while we enjoyed the water park. However. I had heard from others about the Great Wolf Lodge's "secure indoor water park", and applied the wrist bands required for admission to the little wrists of my children. And I have to say, I think some may have played it a little fast and loose with the word "secure". Basically anyone with a wristband on (every guest of the hotel) can walk into the water park and walk out with any child they want to. I thought maybe the room number would be coded on the kids' bands, or have a bar code they would have to swipe in and out with, but in reality their arm bands look just like the allergy bands that I put on my patients in the ER. Just a red plastic band.

We really enjoyed the water park. As I expected, I stayed with the girls in the toddler area, and Brandon and the boys ran around riding on all of the huge slides, Aidan tiptoeing past the lifeguards on duty so that he would appear tall enough to ride the cool rides. When I say I "stayed with the girls", what I meant was, I stood in the 18 inch toddler pool for a day and a half, two-year old Harper clinging to my neck and clutching at my swimsuit if I dared to venture anywhere except the toddler pool.

We did eventually hand over an extra $33 for my sons to share a wand (a cheap, broke-as-soon-as-we-got-home wand), and the boys and husband ran all over your fine establishment way past bedtime, playing MagiQuest, finding clues and treasure, slaying the dragons. MagiQuest was Dane's favorite part of the entire family vacation, in fact.

Mr. WolfMan, my family had a wonderful time at the Great Wolf Lodge. The rooms were clean. The water park was great fun. The whole "scan your wristband to get in your room" thing is brilliant.

But if you want me to come back anytime in the next five years, you're out of luck.

A couple of things I wish you had asked my opinion about before you opened your lovely hotel:

1. I appreciate you not charging for my 2 year old to use the water park. However, recognize that an adult will be attached to that 2 year old in the water park the entire visit, and consider a discounted adult rate for said adult. Because that adult will not be able to partake of your twisty slides and wave pool, she will be fighting to keep her swimsuit in place while her terrified daugher tries to pull it down the entire day.

2. Maybe think about more than 6 elevators for several thousand people in an 8 story building. Just a thought.

3. I just spent more money for a one night visit in your hotel than I did the previous 6 days on my road trip. Please don't make me think that my kids are "missing out" on something super fun if I don't pay an additional $33 for the MagiQuest wand. For crying out loud, we're staying at a hotel with a huge indoor water park. If there's another super fun activity, and it's costing you, Mr. Wolfman, the cost of a cheap break-as-soon-as-you-get-home wand, please consider making it a complimentary part of The Great Wolf Lodge experience. School age boys everywhere will appreciate it. The MagiQuest game was a huge hit with the boys in my family, the highlight of their stay was getting to stay up till 11pm and run around the hotel on a scavenger hunt with their Daddy. Well, done, Harry Potter-obsessed video game savant who came up with this concept. Mr. WolfMan is making a killing on it.

4. I'd love to give you suggestions about the food in your lovely establishment, but I decided my children may like a little money left in their college fund instead of sampling what I'm sure are world class cheeseburgers and pizza. We enjoyed our granola bar breakfast and sandwiches for dinner in our room very much.

5. I noticed, when we were in the lobby for the 8:30 "bedtime story" (complete with a wonderful story teller and one of those people-wearing-a-wolf-costume things), that your hotel bar is situated overlooking the main lobby, complete with its' 8:30 bedtime story. A horrifying thought struck me: there are adults here who may not have children with them. Business travelers, perhaps? Meetings? Conventions? Bless their hearts. They are in your fine hotel, sharing tight elevator space with all manor of half dressed people in soaking wet swimwear, my children are running up and down the hallways at 11pm, and now when they pop into the hotel bar for a little adult interaction, they are subjected to the preschool bedtime stories from Wiley the Wolf. File this one away with the elevator suggestion: Maybe next time put the bar as far away from children as possible. Everyone in there is trying to pretend children, and anything associated with a water parks and giant wolf costumes do not exist.

6. I hate to keep harping on how expensive this was. Did I mention I paid approximately $400 for the night? The hotel room was lovely, but it was a $120 room. The water park was unlike anything I have ever seen when it comes to on-site family entertainment, but simply put, it was not worth the money. I would have happily paid $250 for the experience that we had, but we shelled out way more than that, without ever paying for a meal. I understand that there are slightly more reasonable rates available mid-week during the school year, but I expected a lot more than I got for my money on this visit.

Hopefully, a few years down the road, we will reunite, Great Wolf Lodge. Perhaps my children will all be old enough, at that time, to better utilize your impressive facilities. Perhaps my cooler will be better stocked with goodies. Perhaps we will all play hooky and come during the school year. Perhaps we will request a room on the second floor and take the stairs instead of waiting for your six elevators. Until then, I am afraid this is good-bye, for now at least.



Truth be told, we had a good time at The Great Wolf Lodge. We just drove away the next day feeling robbed of all of our money, left with only a chlorine-ruined pedicure and a bag full of wet swimsuits. And a wand that broke when we got home.

All in all, our week-long Road Trip Extravaganza was a success! We learned a few things along the way (Harper + 3 siblings does not equal falling asleep at night successfully) and had some wonderful experiences together that I hope our children will remember for a long time. Dane's most favorite thing: MagiQuest and the water park. Aidan's most favorite thing: "When Daddy was throwing me in the air at the swimming pool". AKA, swimming at the Comfort Inn in Oklahoma City. Emerson's favorite part: "Yeah, it was fun!!". Harper's favorite part was probably feeling like a big kid the whole week, sleeping with her sister and brothers and playing and goofing off well past her bedtime.

My favorite part? Spending a week with my favorite people in the world.


Anonymous said...

Little Blond Blogging Hood meets the Big Bad Wolf... "My what a big cash register you have..."