A Winter Getaway to Sandusky, Ohio

The Kids at Great Wolf Lodge

My latest post at the Kitchener Post is now up, and can be accessed here. We’re actually just back from the vacation described within, having spent two nights at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio.

My column gives you all the reason we eventually decided against spending time in Florida or Cuba or the Dominican Republic. What we got instead was an experience the children should remember for a long, long time.

Sandusky, Ohio, was a six hour drive from Kitchener, and the border crossing was easy. The Great Wolf Lodge itself was located on your basic suburban arterial road, right next to a Steak ‘n’ Shake drive-in and a Mayer-anchored power centre. On the outside, the only way to tell that it’s more than your typical hotel is the presence of waterslide tubes poking out of part of the building, looping around a while before diving back in — and that in itself isn’t too atypical; we’ve seen that on larger chain hotels during our trips to Des Moines.

The Great Wolf Lodge itself puts on a Canadian northwest air, despite the fact that it’s probably as far from the Canadian Klondike as Sandusky itself is. There are totem poles holding up the roof by the front door, and a mechanical clock in the library with anamatronic furry animals and a native American figure that I later learned was named “Yellowfeather”. There were snowshoes hanging on the wall beside our hotel room bed.

Erin and I were not entirely sure how we felt about this, but the kids didn’t notice. How could they, when their attention was dragged to a four-storey tall indoor waterpark located behind the front lobby?

The waterpark itself is worth the price of admission alone (and we got a good deal of about $150 per night). There are almost a dozen waterslides ranging in speed and complexity from those made for little kids, to things that were definitely not for the faint-of-heart. There was a huge jungle-gym of water that kids could scramble all over.

The centrepiece of the whole arrangement was found at the top of this jungle-gym: a big (and I do mean big) bucket perched about four storeys in the air, gradually filling with water. As the bucket filled up, a bell would start to ring, and the whole thing would start to tip forward. Kids and adults alike would have about twenty seconds to rush to the splash area, where they would be dumped on by about a hundred gallons of water or more. The splash actually produced a visible shockwave of mist, and delivered a gust of wind to those who were outside the splash zone.

Well, let me tell you that Vivian was in heaven. Nora enjoyed herself too, although she tended to stick to the toddler’s splash pool. The food was overpriced — as is usual for hotel fare — but of good quality. The girls were sad to leave when we did (we checked out at eleven, but were allowed to stay in the waterpark until midafternoon on the day of our departure), but two nights is probably the best length of time to stay at this sort of place, before you wear out your own welcome.

We intend to go back again, but may check out the Great Wolf Lodge location in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The only reason we chose Sandusky over Niagara Falls was because the Great Wolf Lodge there had rooms that were $250/night cheaper than the hotel in Niagara Falls, which surprised me. Given the competition of Niagara Falls’ many attractions, I wouldn’t have thought that the lodge there would have priced itself so high. Sandusky is surrounded by some beautiful scenery around the shores of Lake Erie, but at first glance there seemed to be so much less to do around there (except go to the Thomas Edison museum).

So, if you have kids, especially young kids in the 5-10 range, a vacation at the Great Wolf Lodge might be a good investment if you want to get to some place wet and wild, but can’t afford the airfare to Florida.

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