Leader of the pack

Is there any better way to spend time on your precious summer vacation than bringing the family to Great Wolf Lodge resort and water park in Fitchburg, Massachusetts? I was asking myself the same question when my wife proposed this “fun-filled” family getaway. 

There was no sense arguing. I could tell it was a done deal when the hotel reservations appeared on my credit card.

Until now, I wasn’t exactly sure what Great Wolf Lodge was. When I saw the commercial for it, I thought I was watching a preview for a new Twilight movie – people sitting on the backs of giant wolves as they run through town streets smiling at startled onlookers. You’d never know it was an indoor water park from the ad campaign. Their slogan “Strengthen The Pack” felt more like a tagline for a morale-boosting corporate retreat than a water park.

“We’re leaving Wednesday morning and coming home Friday afternoon,” my wife informed me.

“Three days? Three days in a water park? What are we going to do for three days in a water park?” I asked.

I had lots of questions about this trip.

“There’s plenty of things to do,” she said. “The grandchildren will have so much fun. You’re daughter-in-law is already planning the activity itinerary.”

The fact that I don’t swim didn’t seem to bother anyone. I didn’t want to be a wet blanket. I knew I had to just go with the flow. 

The scenic drive to Fitchburg would have been beautiful in the fall, not so much on a 99 degree summer day. The traffic-stopping accidents on Route 128 and again on route 495 didn’t help. My Waze app cheerfully chirping “traffic stopped ahead” was not what I wanted to hear.

We found our middle-of-nowhere exit and proceeded to the Great Wolf Lodge compound. We were greeted with wolf-ear headbands to wear while we waited in the (long) check-in line. There were visitors from all across the country checking in at the front desk. Great Wolf’s obscure advertising campaign was paying off big time, although there was no sign of the giant rideable wolves.

I knew we were in deep trouble when the front desk gave us waterproof wristbands to be worn for three days at all times. Great Wolf Lodge is a cashless resort. Simply wave your wristband and everything is charged to your room. And I mean everything.

There were lots of things to do. The waterpark was secondary to miniature golf, rock climbing, rope walking, video arcades, candy shops and food courts. There were two restaurants with full bar service for the adults (to lessen the pain of the high prices). Luckily, there was also a Dunkin’ Donuts (the mile-long line was worth it). 

I’ll admit I had a good time even though the place felt a little “cultish”. The wolf ears, the howling chants, the story time circles where the children gathered, the group exercise classes and the sing-a-longs praising the balance of nature were a bit much. All the children had dazed smiles on their faces as they chanted, “Corroborate, communicate and consume!” High five! 

We spent our time during the day finding seats on the edge of the indoor pool area. My son and his wife took the children for a few spins down the winding water slides. I braved the crowded wave pool (only up to my knees). My favorite attraction was the “Crooked Creek”lazy river ride after I got the hang of getting on and off a giant tire tube without knocking over too many people.

Electronic magic wands were sold (cashing in on the never-ending Harry Potter craze) so patrons could participate in the Magic Quest activity. The wands were used to gather electronic gems, coins and prizes while kids followed a treasure map to the next checkpoint. Pointing the wands at treasures marked along the way electronically added them to your virtual stockpile. Whatever you do, don’t click on the button that says “Clear quest and start from the beginning.” I found out the hard way. Sorry, grandson. Magic wand technology is new to me.

Family trivia night was another highlight. I got to see the huge smile on my granddaughter’s face as we came in second place. She got to see how much useless information her Peepaw knows.

Friday’s check-out time crept up quickly. We were just beginning to figure out where everything was located. At the front desk, the clerk handed us the bill with our final total. It seemed high to me. When I turned to my wife, I noticed she was wearing her wolf-ear headband. She had a blank stare and a haunting smile on her face.

“It was well worth it,” she said.

Strengthen The Pack, indeed.

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