A few weeks ago my husband said he would have a few days off coming up and he'd like us to take the kids on a surprise trip. I'm always in favor of surprising the kids, so I jumped at the opportunity, even though they would miss a few days of school.
Now we had to figure out what to do. Michael knew he would be in Chicago for a work trip right before his time off so he looked for things to do in the area. Chicago, you say? In the middle of winter? Some parents opt for warmer climates for trips -- like Laura did when she and her family went to Hawaii -- but alas, it is what it is.
My husband's search produced a great find. Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park, was 45 minutes away from Chicago. After debating whether it was too cold for this, I did what every mother does when trying to decide if an attraction is really worth it. I conferred with Mr. Google.
The mostly good reviews sealed the deal for me -- and they gave me a tip to check Groupon for a discounted rate. Groupon for the win, as the whole stay would now be almost 50 percent less. When the time came for the trip, I packed the warmest clothes the kids had, along with their swimming gear, and off to Chicago we went, via Amtrak.
A lodge after a mom's own heart
Let me tell you, any lingering reservations I had about swimming in the middle of a Chicago winter (even if it was inside) completely disappeared the minute I stepped into Great Wolf Lodge. It was warm and inviting, with a long line of excited parents and kids waiting to check in. You could see a view of the water park from the reservations desk, and it was clear that many other moms and dads thought this place was a great idea.
Everything you need is on the property -- inside -- so there really isn't a need to venture out, unless you want to. A pizza parlor, taco truck, Ben & Jerry's, cafeteria, and Dunkin' Donuts takes care of your dining and must-have-coffee needs. An arcade, mini bowling alley, miniature golf, and rock climbing takes care of the "I'm bored" types. And kids' activities, including dance parties, story time, and character appearances, happen throughout the day as well for the "can't sit still" types.
Who knew the lazy river could be so relaxing?
And that water park is amazing. The entire space and water is kept at an optimal temperature, so you would never know it's 10 degrees outside. We spent hours splashing, tubing on super slides, and enjoying the wave pool. The best part for me, yes me, was the lazy river. OMG, I haven't been that relaxed in a long time, just floating with the current. (Thanks, honey, for that.) And when the youngest would join me, she could stand up in the river if she flipped over so no worries there, especially with her life vest on. Oh yes, they provide life vests for kids!
I cannot say enough about this water park that was truly a highlight for my children. They spent a lot of time guessing what the surprise could be and could not believe their luck on this one. And it made this mom very happy that she didn't have to worry about her kids getting sick because they went to a water park in the middle of winter.