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What's to do at a waterpark? Lots!


by Debra Illingworth Greene - WisconsinGuide Magazine

Indoor waterparks make for great family getaways in the dead of Wisconsin winter. The humidity alone will transport you to the tropics, and the kids will wear themselves out in the water. Of course, families come to the Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells for the 42,000 square feet of waterpark action, but a visit here won't leave you all wet - there's so much more to do than swim!

Fun in the water The indoor waterpark at the Great Wolf Lodge is actually two large rooms connected by a bar area where hair-braiding and temporary tattoos are available.

The main feature of one room is a four-story treehouse water fort with 60 sprays and geysers that pour and squirt water from 12 levels. The treehouse also includes an 8-foot tall bucket that dumps up to 1,000 gallons of water on the heads of all those gathered every five minutes. The other room has a variety of water slides, hot tubs and a lazy river.

Most adults can't resist the fun, and all ages can be seen walking excitedly from one water feature to another. However, if your kids are old enough to get in the water without you, relax at a patio table with drink in hand.

Since our visit, Great Wolf has added another waterpark attraction - the Howlin' Tornado. Adventure seekers can climb the enclosed stairwell to the top of the giant funnel, which is covered by a clear "sky dome." Heading straight into the eye of the storm on four-person tubes, riders whirl and swirl back and forth across the 65-foot funnel, dropping 30 feet every second before shooting down through a dark tunnel and into the plunge pool below. Also new in the waterpark is a 25-foot climbing wall.

Lots more for kids With lodge-style furnishings in every room and a full-size stuffed moose in the lobby, the décor is definitely "Great White North." However, the pace is more like a cruise ship, with activities galore.

From the morning "Wolf Walk" for kids, which includes craft time and a tour of the Great Wolf's impressive lobby, to bedtime stories by the animated clock tower, there is always something to do at Great Wolf.

My kids spent hours at Wiley's Woods, a four-story interactive video game adventure, complete with slides, bridges, cargo nets and 25,000 foam balls. The main activity is to feed foam "berries" into various machines to earn points. Young children can wander around and play with the foam balls, while older kids and their competitive adult companions can rack up points to redeem for prizes in the arcade. Our family especially enjoyed shooting foam balls at each other from multiple air "cannons."

When we redeemed our points at the arcade we couldn't help but notice the seventy games there. If you budget your quarters right, you could spend hours there too. The prizes are decent, and the black lighting is festive.

Next to the arcade you'll find a 3-D theatre that shows virtual reality movies, with family movies shown each evening. Then there's a coloring contest every day for the kids and a character breakfast à la Disney World each morning with Great Wolf's mascot, Wiley the Wolf.

Lodging in style With so much to do there's not much time to spend in your room at Great Wolf. But that's really a shame, as even the smallest room at the lodge is spacious. Our room, at the more modest end, had a fireplace, a living room area, two televisions, a refrigerator and microwave.

If you want to splurge, consider a Kidcabin Suite, where the kids can sleep in their own log cabin built into one end of the room. The cabin has bunk beds, a daybed and its own TV. The Wolf Den Suite is the same idea, only the kids sleep in a "cave." The Loft Fireplace Suites sleep up to eight people, have two levels and a bath and a half.

Fun for adults, too If you tire of the lodge theme and have another adult with you to watch the kids, schedule a visit to the Cameo Spa Salon. Tucked away on the lower level of the Great Wolf, this full-service spa is a completely different scene than the rest of the family-oriented hotel. Serene, with the soothing scents of Aveda products wafting through the air, consider this an escape from your escape.

Cameo offers several spa packages, or you can go à la carte. If winter has chilled you to the bones, try a hot stone massage, which combines a relaxing massage with the touch of smooth, hot river rock.

After a little time at the spa, you'll be ready for more excitement back at the waterpark.

For more information Great Wolf Lodge is near the intersection of Highway 12 and I-90/94 at the entrance to Wisconsin Dells. For more information, call 800-559-9653 or visit www.greatwolflodge.com ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Don't miss the Dells

Like a cruise ship, Great Wolf Lodge has everything you need for a weekend - or more - of family fun. But you'll miss out on the local color if you "stay on the boat."

Just a few miles down the road is Lake Delton, where you can experience classic Dells. If you've had enough lodge food, consider dinner at House of Embers. You can't miss their retro neon sign and the décor will take you back in time.

But the food is thoroughly up-to-date, created by brothers and Culinary Institute of America graduates Mark and Mike Obois. This is definitely fine dining, but they offer an extensive children's menu, with everything from grilled cheese and fries to a kid-size portion of their signature hickory smoked barbequed ribs. If a sweet tooth runs in your family, don't skip dessert. They're outstanding, and an order of Bananas Foster is a show in itself.

For another local dining experience, try The Cheese Factory. This down-home diner serves a wide range of vegetarian fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When it comes to attractions, Tommy Bartlett made the Wisconsin Dells famous. Unfortunately, you won't catch his renowned water ski show in the dead of winter, but you can visit the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, which features 150 interactive exhibits and a display of the Russian Space Station MIR. Circus World Museum is also open year-round, as is the Rick Wilcox Theater, billed as the Dells' premier illusion show. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

More Wisconsin waterpark fun

*Green Bay: Tundra Lodge celebrated its first anniversary this fall. 877-886-3725 or www.tundralodge.com

*Sheboygan: on the shores of Lake Michigan, Blue Harbor Resort brings indoor waterpark excitement to the beach. 920-452-2900 or www.blueharborresort.com

*Wausau: the all-suite Lodge at Cedar Creek opened in June 2004. 888-365-6343 or www.lodgeatcedarcreek.com

*Wisconsin Dells: the Kalahari just added the FlowRider, designed to simulate surfing. 877-253-5466 or www.kalahariresort.com

 For more on Where to go & What to do in Wisconsin, check out http://www.WisconsinGuide.com

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