Among the many benefits of somewhat late in life, re-boot parenting, I was 46 when my youngest was born, are the extended opportunities to experience the joys and wonderment often still found in this world of ours, seen through the eyes of a child. My first born is now 26, and will be teaching 4th graders this fall in Gwinnett county, her half-sister and my youngest, Olivia, will be entering 5th grade in DeKalb county schools this fall.
Heading out on summer vacation, Olivia, her best friend Alexus and I headed south and west to LaGrange, Georgia and the new Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park. Great Wolf is part of a mid-western chain of now 12 family resorts, based in Chicago, but with locations all across the country. The Great Wolf Lodge, Atlanta/LaGrange opened Memorial Day weekend of 2018. Just off I-85 south, the Lodge sits freshly painted and nestled, baying at the moon one exit north of the Kia Sorrento manufacturing plant.
At roughly half the cost of a Disney or Universal stay and much lower costs of travel, a family suite or similar large room, with fridge and microwave (including the water park and a large number of other free kid-friendly amenities) is offered in a much more protected, secluded and safe family setting, seemingly most ideal from the toddler to pre-teen sets.
This Great Wolf Lodge smartly operates at least three to four business lines and revenue streams simultaneously...a summer camp (day-side), a conference center, season passes for nearby area residents and the full-service family lodge and resort. There are ten restaurants on property from a Dunkin Donuts and Ben & Jerry's to a sit down dining room with linens and a full-service menu.
The center-piece of the resort is an enclosed 100,000 square foot water park, with the water temperature at a surprisingly constant 74 degrees. The outdoor resort pool, with cabanas and a huge jacuzzi is even warmer. Kids who can swim at most any level are as a result safer and trained life-guards are omni-present at all times. The pool and water park close at 8 p.m., minimizing noise and late night teen or older high-jinks, sometimes a challenge for other family resorts. The clean-cut, well trained staff were another highlight, and judging from the accents highly dependent on the local labor pool, but all also apparently graduates of the Chick Fil A school of guest courtesy and deference.
Olivia has blossomed into a strong swimmer, but that took some patience and a few years of instruction by a gifted swim teacher, Miss Amanda. Conquering fears can take some time, and though this was far from our first water park or rodeo, Olivia was still largely clinging to the kiddie slides, or the almost ubiquitous Lazy River nearby. This trip was complicated by a blister tear under the big toe after one too many trips around the Lazy River sans swim shoes on day one.
Thank God for good friends with big smiles and some prior experience at the resort. By day two, there was no water slide we were unwilling to conquer. Triple Thunder, Otter Run racing and the River Canyon Run were each another conquest to be had. From clinging hands and slow steps of trepidation up the four floors of stairs to, "...Can we do that again?" followed by a dead sprint up the same staircase. Ol' dad's legs were going to give out long before the enthusiasm to climb every mountain. And we did.
The last two challenges were single rides, flume style. The more visually intimidating is called The Wolf Tail. Though the font and visual of this ride name looks more like Wolf Pile, my youngest calls it the "Green Pooper," as the rider appears to get flushed. You load in what appears to be a glass casket, in a standing position. The ride operator instructs you to fold your arms across your chest, or perhaps to pinch your nose if water shooting up same bothers you in any way. Further instructions to cross your legs at the ankle and lock your knees straight. Listen well and take heed.
After a brief count-down of 3-2-1, the bottom of the casket drops away and the rider takes a direct vertical plunge of 75-100 feet, before exiting the building into a loop to slow your descent, and soon after depositing you into a long shoot flume at the bottom of this slide. IF not for the leg cross and knees lock, you might also exit the ride with another memory, reminiscent of the Great Wolf out front baying at the moon...with a certain Ow-Ow--ow-woohoo sensation from all that water paying a call reminiscent of a high colonic. Great memories, Great Wolf, great fun. We'll be back.