Day 1: Ottawa/Syracuse
Day 2: Syracuse/Niagara Falls
We woke up and headed out to take in shopping, dinner and a heap of games - my daughter got her new high in tickets won: 562. She was playing some strange game that neither one of us knew how to play. She said "Daddy, what do we do?" After looking at the huge pile of tickets she had won (we still don't know how) I said "I don't know either, but keep doing it!" Then she saw the tickets and started folding them up. :D After all the ticket redemption took place, we piled into the car, and headed for I-90 to get to Niagara Falls.
The ride along I-90 was fantastic - so much better than racing for your life along the 401 through Toronto. I set the cruise control and just surfed along for the nearly 3hr ride that takes you north of Buffalo to Niagara Falls. We got a wee bit mixed up in Niagara Falls, NY in trying to find the border crossing but managed to trip over it (I nearly drove past it). After dealing with a very kind Canadian customs agent, we crossed the Rainbow Bridge adjacent to "The Falls" and started the drive to Great Wolf Lodge. The excitement from my daughter in the backseat was very high...and rather contagious.
We pulled up to Great Wolf Lodge and were immediately impressed! What a great looking place! Located at the north end of downtown Niagara Falls, Ontario, right beside the chasm that holds the Niagara River and just south of the Niagara Parks, it's a very quiet and picturesque location to enjoy.
Not that we saw a lot of it for a few days. We found our (free, on-site) parking spot, checked-in, dropped off our bags and hit the waterpark for a couple of hours. Then we grabbed some supper and crashed hard for the night.
Days 3 and 4: Great Wolf Lodge
First off, I've got to say this: Great Wolf Lodge is fan-bloody-tastic in every way. I am so impressed by the facility, the waterpark, the experience, the people. The place is so well thought-out, so comfortable, so accommodating that I can't imagine someone *not* having a great time there. The level of service, the attention to detail, cleanliness - you name it, it's top notch. Worth every penny, and I highly recommend this place to everyone.
Second: GWL has the best approach for keycards - none. Instead, everyone in your room gets a bracelet not unlike what you'd get for a concert. But these bracelets are RF-capable, and can wirelessly communicate with everything you need/want at GWL. The bracelet will open your room door, purchase stuff at the restaurants/"canteens"/shops throughout the facility, even lock and unlock your currently-used locker in the waterpark. No keycards or wallets to lose, no need to bring your own lock to the change rooms. Just pure convenience. Oh yeah, you can even code your kids bracelets to have limited or no capability at the restaurants/canteens if you desire.
Third: Safety is paramount here. Each part of the waterpark had at least two lifeguards at all times, and they were actively engaged in watching everything going on. All waterslides have one and only one rider/raft on it at any time, as policed by lifeguards at the top and bottom of all slides. The response to infractions and injuries is immediate. Lifejackets are available for all who want them - at no charge. And the kids have to be measured for their height, and get a colored stamp on their hand that clearly identifies which slides, if any, they are permitted on.
My daughter woke up earlier than expected, probably from the sheer excitement of it all. We nibbled some cereal in our suite (the Kids Kamp - so cool!) until we were all ready to go to the waterpark. By that time, we were all hungry so we went for the buffet breakfast (I'm sure I added a couple of pounds there). We ate while looking over the waterpark, and then headed into it for ourselves.
Wow. Simply wow. There's something there for everyone - all ages can go there and have fun! Little kiddy waterslides, regular waterslides, big raft-based waterslides, beach/wave pool, splash pads, water cannons, water jets, obstacle/climbing pools, even The Lazy River where you just float along while a slow, steady current takes you along a meandering canal. We splashed, sprayed, swam, flopped, slid, floated, and laughed along for a solid 3hrs...that morning. Oh yeah, we also got supremely dumped on by the gigantic barrel at the top that pours a gazillion liters of water from about 50' up. Too. Fun.
We had lunch back at our room and chilled out for about 90min. My daughter was so content to just relax and play in her spot, coloring, drawing and watching TV in the bunk beds which she thought was pretty cool. Then she came back out and asked if we could go back to the waterpark. Instead we took a trip to the Northern Lights Arcade (yes, still onsite) and won a few hundred more tickets. Then we had supper at the buffet and went back to the waterpark for another couple of hours.
That was Friday. Saturday was much the same. But Saturday evening we decided to put on our pj's and go to the nightly Forest Friends Show and Storytime. It was great - parents and kids alike in their comfies, sitting on the floor, taking in the stories and fun before bedtime. It was all extremely professional and enjoyable, and a great way to end the day. But it wasn't over! They had a Family Valentines Dance Party right after the stories! We all danced and bopped to some great music while the staff joined in with the kids and handed out prizes. Even the (fake) animals in the area were dancing too (they're all animated). Huge fun...until my daughter didn't win the dance contest. That signaled the end of the day for us. (It was late anyways.)
Day 5: GWL, Niagara Falls, and back to Syracuse
Sunday was a last chance soaking in the waterpark before leaving. We got completely waterlogged, then washed up and repacked to check out. It was at the point we realized that we hadn't gone outside since we arrived there.
Only 10min north of us was the Butterfly Conservatory which brought another batch of excitement for the little one. We walked around for about 90min while hundreds of butterflies flew around and buzzed us from time to time. We saw some freshly-hatched butterflies still drying their wings, a heap of unhatched cocoons, and roughly 40 different types of butterflies all free in this space. I really enjoyed it - it's quite a unique experience. My daughter loved it, and took a gazillion pictures throughout the area. Thank goodness for digital cameras!
After that, we headed to Table Rock to get to the lookouts at Niagara Falls. We got to go to Behind The Falls, which are tunnels and lookouts that take you near water level, and in the summer you can literally go to a lookout behind the falls. It was very cool being under nearly 200' of solid rock, and being so close to the water itself. Not as great as The Maid of the Mist, but still pretty cool.
Lunchtime had us trying to find parking for a reasonable price (which we did eventually) so we could get to The Rainforest Café. Yet another great time was had by the wee critter, which made the dinner-for-the-price-of-supper bill a bit easier to swallow. More pictures, more fun, and then once again, we headed back to the car for the long roadtrip.
Until we crossed into NY again and headed to the outlet mall. Of course, I couldn't pass up the Oakley Vault store. Unfortunately I was the only one to have luck at the outlets. Back into the car we go, and back to I-90 towards Syracuse. We got in late, so it was a quick check-in and straight to bed for us all.
Day 6: One last shot
My daughter and I were up early, so we got some breakfast and hit the pool one last time (like we didn't get enough water at GWL). We got back to the room, washed up, packed and headed out...shopping. My wife wanted to hit Hobby Lobby and Kohl's. I wanted to hit Target. Our daughter wanted to do it all. After varying levels of success for all of us (except my wife again - ???) we piled into the car and headed to Watertown for supper at Cracker Barrel (there's another 3lbs). After that we got cozy in the car for the final drive home.
Now we're back. And it is very good to be back home. But it's hard to be back at work/school and getting back into that routine. We had so much fun, and we miss it terribly, but we've got some amazing memories that we won't soon forget.