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Great Wolf Lodge & Jamestown Settlement: Review

GreatWolfLodge-01For Annika’s second birthday, we decided to treat her (and ourselves) to a small getaway trip.  I wanted to take Annika to a water park because she enjoys being in the water. I had two criteria for a water-park: it had to be indoors because it was November and it had to have special area or rides that are suitable  for toddlers.  I had almost given up  hope on finding such a place when a colleague mentioned the Great Wolf Lodge.  The Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor water park with several locations around the country. The two closest to us were at Poconos, NY  and  Williamsburg, Virginia.

Entrance to the waterpark is limited to guests of the lodge, so we booked a weekend at the Williamsburg resort. We selected Williamsburg as it was substantially cheaper than Poconos  as well asGreatWolfLodge-06 a tad bit closer. We left work a little early on Friday to make the three hour drive to Williamsburg and reached the lodge at around 6pm.  After the check in formalities , we spent some time exploring the resort and the water-park.  We were given a wrist tag with RF ID embedded : this way we could move throughout the lodge and the water-park area without needing a room-key or any money. Any purchases could be billed directly to the room using the tag.  The lodge was quite large : our rooms were near one end of the lodge so it was quite a trek  to get to the main lobby  and the park. The rooms were quite standard with a microwave and refrigerator. Clearly we were not meant to spend a lot of time in the room itself. The Lodge has a lot of other activities for children : it had a play area where children could be dropped off, an arcade, a kiddie spa, a couple of eating spots and of course the park itself.  The decor at the lodge was quite interesting:  you are greeted at the entrance of the lobby by a humongous stone sculpture of  a wolf. You enter into a huge and welcoming lobby with multiple fireplaces — the whole place has a log cabin like  feel to it with rustic log  furniture.  There is a grand clock-tower at the center of the lobby — we were told that each evening there is story time for kids near the clock tower along with sightings of Wiley the Wolf and Violet the Vixen. There were several life sized statues of wolves placed here and there , I counted about 15 of them.  We decided not to  go into the water that day but instead went out to dinner  buffet at Captain George’s sea-food restaurant Short Review: lots of variety, average taste , not recommended unless you want to eat a huge quantity of sea-food.

GreatWolfLodge-02After breakfast on Saturday morning (we stocked up at Walmart on the way back from dinner the previous night), we started at the water-park.  The water-park is maintained at a warm 80F regardless of outside temperature.  The center of the park-area is a 4 storeyed tree house like structure complete with tunnels you have to crawl through and rope bridges and strategically placed water-buckets and fountains that continuously spray water on you.  Two twisting turning water slides get people all the way down from the top.  At the top of the tree house there is a large bucket which tips over spraying the entire area with about 1000 gallons of water every few minutes.  We spent most of our time in the kiddie pool. The water was barely up to our knees and it had three water slides: two of them were basic slides that ended up in the pool while the third one was angled so that you slid slightly faster and had water jets that sprayed at you while you came down.  Annika spent most of the time going up and down the regular slide. After a while, she noticed that the bigger kids seem to be going down the advanced one, so she naturally decided to try that one out and was hooked! We couldn’t get her away from the slides after that.  There were miniature fountains in the kiddie pool, so she had fun running around the fountains and trying to capture or stop the water spouting. After she had gone up and down the slides a few hundred times,  we relaxed a bit by grabbing a donut like tube and floating in a giant wave pool. The excitement started when after a few minutes of floating in the placid waters, the “tide” came in.  With gentle rhythmic waves, we bobbed up and down the pool till the water pushed us towards the shore.

By this time it was late afternoon and we were hungry, After changing our clothes, we decided to go out to eat. By all accounts the food within the lodge wasn’t spectacular and we were not in the mood for cheese pizzas – the ubiquitous favoriteGreatWolfLodge-07 of all kids.  We went to a local restaurant called Food for Thought.   Short Review : Good food, great ambiance, slightly pricey but recommended.   Stomach full and a short afternoon nap later, we were ready for round two at the pool. This time Seejo and I took turns with one of playing with Annika while the other tried some of the more grown –up rides.  Most of these were various versions of water-slides – all of them ending with a splash into the lazy river pool.  We also managed to spend some time floating down the lazy river in a double donut tube with Annika sitting between us.  Annika had a few final slides and then we ended park-time by spending a few relaxing minutes at the warm water pool. By this time it was 8:30 pm.  It was story time in the main lobby and Violet the wolf was there to tell a bed-time story and wave good night to the children. Annika enjoyed the story but refused to go anywhere near the “wolf”. We ate left-overs for dinner that night  (the portions at Food for thought was generous!)  and called it an early night.  All in all, it was a fun place, although a tad over priced.  I can see myself  coming back for another weekend quite easily if we get some good deals.

GreatWolfLodge-27We checked out the next morning and decided to stop off to see Jamestown on our way back home.  Luckily the weather cooperated and it was very pleasant.  There are several spots in the East coast of United states that all claim to the be the area where the first immigrants from Europe settled.  Jamestown’s claim is that it is first permanent English settlement in the Americas and was first established by English entrepreneurs in 1607. Replicas of the three ships (Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed,) that carried about 120 men in total from England to Virginia are docked at the James River. After seeing the modern ships and boats,  it seems marvelous that a ships that tiny carried so many passengers and successfully crossed the Atlantic.

The guided tour at Jamestown settlement shows a traditional Powhatan (Native American tribe) settlement with circular reed houses, outside cooking areas &GreatWolfLodge-17equipment, tools to process  deer hides for clothes and their hunting tools.  The story of Pocohontas , the daughter  of the Powhatan chief, is almost a legend.  She is said to have saved the life of one of the English settlers by pleading with her father just before the Englishman was supposed to be executed. Whether they were in love is debated but history doesn’t show a record of them being married. She later married another Englishman and ended up going to England and taking her place in the English society.    No one knows the true story but her life has been dramatized and made into the subject of movies, books and songs.GreatWolfLodge-25

GreatWolfLodge-24The settlement museum also has life size buildings that replicate the church, the fort and residences of the settlers in early 17th century.  Volunteers dressed in historical costume are stationed here and there  and they tell more about life  and times of the settlers and the Indians.  The guides tell the story of how Jamestown prospered as a settlement, how tobacco was introduced as a cash crop and dramatically change the fortunes of the local populace and how the early settlers fought against hunger and disease , how slavery started in America and the ups and downs in the relations between the Indians and the English.  It was over all quite educational – even for us with rudimentary knowledge about American history.  I can understand that this would be a worthwhile experience for history buffs or students taking a course in American history.

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