Monday, August 20, 2018

Gurnee Fun: Great Wolf Lodge to Six Flags


It was the end of the trip to the new Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee,Illinois, but it was far from the end of fun for the weekend.

The day started with a farewell breakfast for the journalists and their families. In my case, it was with Brittany, Shaun, and Kyler.

The buffet filled with delicious food was in one of the resort’s convention rooms. In addition to the writers, the public relations staff, and the hotel’s management, we were greeted by Wiley the Wolf, who took the time to visit with all the kids.

After breakfast, we had a chance to enjoy one of the cabana’s (which guests can rent) as we did our last round in the waterpark. (I stuck with the lazy river.)

Then we headed around Great Wolf Lodge to see if there were any spots we missed.

We never did make it to Ten Paw Alley. With just two lanes of bowling, there was always a wait and there seemed like so much else to do without waiting.

We walked through the Build-A-Bear Workshop without a purchase but couldn’t resist picking up some goodies at Candy & Company (the dipped marshmallows were delicious).

Great Wolf Lodge also has its own Ben & Jerry’s and Dunkin Donuts, where we grabbed some coffee for the road. 

We never did make it in to Freshwoods Market, which sells all types of snacks.

I have to say that I definitely recommend the Paw Passes at Great Wolf Lodge Illinois. There are a couple different ones to choose from, depending on your family. 

They can save you a lot of money on the attractions, and even food and drinks.

We checked out and said goodbye to the staff for hosting us on such a fun trip. I also said goodbye to my friends as we were heading in different directions.

I was going up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for some exploration of that area, while they were heading down the road to Six Flags Great America.

It’s almost always a great time to go to Six Flags (and an even better family vacation combined with Great Wolf Lodge).

The amusement park is open weekends all year. Summer fun includes its waterparks.

This year Six Flags Great America started something new, Holidays in the Park, weekends November 23-December 23, and daily from December 26-31. It includes rides, light displays, shows, and activities such as arts and crafts in Santa’s Workshop.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fun, Fun, Fun at Great Wolf Lodge Illinois

I have always enjoyed trips initiated by a resort. This has been especially true since I’ve been dealing with health issues and don’t do a lot of walking. I can bring my scooter into the place and use it wherever needed – without having to worry to get me (and it) in and out of the car.



Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, Illinois, is made for those of us who like an all-inclusive experience in one place.

There is never a need to get into your car, whether it’s Band-Aids, lunch, or activities you are looking for.

A lot of the experience at the Illinois Great Wolf Lodge is about bringing the outside in – with the exception of the weather. The outdoorsy experiences and d├ęcor make you forget that you are inside a resort.

After a hearty breakfast, Brittany, Kyler, Shaun and I toured the lodge, checking out the various suites (they have ones that are even big enough for 12) with the management and those from the public relations firm.

Then we were off on our own. We were given one of Great Wolf’s all-inclusive packages, which included many activities, as well as credits for the Northern Lights Arcade and Magic Quest wands, for which there are spots throughout the hotel to check out.



You will not find any shortage of things to do here. We could have easily spread it out over three or four days.

I was able to enjoy the Howl in One Mini Golf and Oliver's Mining Co attractions with my friends, before we stopped at Hungry As A Wolf for a family-size special with pizza and salads.



I also loved the Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain in the Great Wolf food court for sugar-free flavored iced tea, while everyone else did a bit more experimenting with flavors.

We finished up the pizza and I watched a bit while they went through the Rustic Ridge Climbing Wall and the Howler Peak Ropes Course (definitely for older children).

I then headed to the waterpark, where I relaxed in the lazy river and then headed to our room for a nap.



Great Wolf's Barnwoods is a full-service restaurant that has everything from Wisconsin Cheese Curds to New York Strip Steak.

Their bar is also interesting, and I met some local friends there for some cocktails and a warm Bavarian pretzel, large enough to share.



I met back with my friends, who had been playing Magic Quest, and going down the slides in the waterpark, for dinner at the Campfire Kitchen.

This food outlet has different entrees each night. Their portions are large and side dishes plentiful. We were very satisfied with our BBQ Ribs.


In addition to attractions, Great Wolf Lodge has free activities for all its guests.

Although most are geared toward younger kids, we did stop in on the Yoga for Kids and Parents and the Nighttime Story Time.



As I had the night before, I spent some time with Brittany in the Whirlpool before bedtime.

It had been a very long, but extremely fun, day at Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee.



Monday, August 6, 2018

Welcome to Great Wolf Lodge Illinois

When I received an invitation to bring my family to the opening of the first Great Wolf Lodge in Illinois, I was excited. I had never been to one of the chain’s properties and I’m always anxious for a press trip that keeps me in one place for food, lodging, and activities.

The Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee was actually not a new structure, but the brand updated the resort to be similar to their others-a family-friendly hotel with non-stop fun for everyone in the family.

There was a check-in desk set up near the entrance for the press group, about a dozen of us with families. In my case, my “family” for the weekend was Brittany, Shaun, and Kyler.

Since Great Wolf Lodge is meant for family groups, they have 13 different types of suites. The largest suite can sleep 12.

Our had more than enough room for the four of us, with two queen size beds and a pull-out couch in the living room area.  

We explored the property and found there was more to keep us busy the entire weekend than we imagined.

Great Wolf encompasses a combination of games and activities, such as story time, yoga and character appearances, with attractions.

This Gurnee location also has nine different food venues, which range from a Ben & Jerry's to the Barnwood, where you can feast on steak, seafood, and craft cocktails.

The group was meeting for the first time at the bar in the back of the Indoor Water Park, so we decided to go early and check out the facilities.

There are three large slides within the waterpark, along with a lazy river (my favorite), and areas for younger children.

I was most impressed with the machine which brought the rafts (which are large enough for the whole family) up to the top, so you didn’t have to carry that heavy piece of equipment to the top.

We sampled some of the delicious food and cocktails at the bar and got to know each other a bit. Management from Great Wolf, as well as their public relations company, Agency h5, were on hand to great us and answer any questions we had about our stay.

When the group broke up, Brittany and I headed outside to the heated outdoor pool and whirlpool. In the summer, the bar opens its windows out there, so you don’t have to go inside if you want to get something to drink.

Everyone in the press group was given an all-inclusive bracelet so that we could experience everything Great Wolf Gurnee had to offer.

You do not need to purchase one of these packages to take advantage of the water park and daily activities, but it can save you a lot of money if you have kids who want to go to all the attractions.

The package included tickets to use in the arcade, so we headed there before going back to the suite.

It was a lot of fun, but we were pretty worn out from the drive and evening in the water.

There would be plenty of time the next day to explore and enjoy Great Wolf Lodge Illinois.



Saturday, July 21, 2018

Luxuriating in Bay Harbor

It didn’t take me long to feel relaxed and comfortable at the Inn at Bay Harbor, a hotel in the Marriott Bonvoy Autograph Collection. 

My suite was perfect, and I had slept well. I was ready to take the relaxation to another level.

My day was wide open with the exception of the start of it -- at The Spa.
I arrived a few minutes before my appointment for the Ginger Glow treatment. 

I changed into my luxurious robe and sat down with a cup of tea in the quiet waiting area.




The Ginger Glow is one of the signature offerings at the Inn at Bay Harbor, and I can certainly understand why its so popular. I could easily rename it “Heaven on Earth.”

It began with a scrub made of ginger, with a hint of eucalyptus, to get rid of the dead cells on my skin. 



After that was rinsed off, I had a full body massaged with a ginger oil and hot stones.

The next part was probably my favorite as arthritis always has me seeking warmth: my whole body was wrapped in a warm robe-like cocoon while I received a scalp massage.
When the spa experience was done, I was ready to take a nap, but I was too hungry to do so. It was late for breakfast at the resort and 

I asked one of the drivers to take me to the Marina.

It's a free perk if you are looking to go around Bay Harbor and don’t want to walk or bike along the beach path. 

I saw a sign in front of the Original Pancake House for their famous Apple Pancake. 
I decided to go inside and, with a side of eggs for some protein. 


I managed to get through less than half of the scrumptious treat. (Of course, I brought the rest back to my room.)


I asked the driver to give me a little tour on the way back to my hotel suite.


In addition to the main lodge, there are also 35 cottages on the property. 

They are two and three-bedrooms each, and popular for family reunions, girlfriend getaways, and golf weekends.

Guests have the option of playing at the Bay Harbor Golf Club, an award winner with 27 holes along the shoreline, or the 18-hole championship course at Crooked Tree.

Golf is available in three seasons.

 In the winter, guests can do cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, or arrange to head to the sister properties, Boyne Highlands or Boyne Mountain, for downhill skiing.

In the afternoon, I took a drive to Charlevoix (about 20 minutes away). I stopped at one of their beautiful beaches before heading to the quaint downtown to visit one of my favorite Michigan stores, Cherry Republic. 






I picked up two bags of cherry goodies (especially the Cherry Fudge Sauce my daughter loves).

Brittany and Jamie came back to the hotel to join me for our final night in Michigan. 

We decided to stay on property and relax with s’mores by the fire pit in front of the beach. (I also decided to stick with some leftover cheese for dinner as I had enough snacking.) 
It’s just one of the free activities the Inn at Bay Harbor offers its guests.

Before leaving the next day, I had a delicious breakfast of Blueberry Pancakes and conversation with Erin Ernst, Director of Communications for the Boyne properties.

Then it was time to head south, back to Illinois. It was good to be going home, but I was also happy that I’d be going back to beautiful Michigan in just a few short weeks.



Friday, July 13, 2018

Sault Ste Marie to Bay Harbor

I had really enjoyed my time in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, with Brittany and Jamie. We had seen a lot and learned quite a bit about this important basin that borders the U.S. and Canada.

We packed up our things at Superior Place and got ready to head south a bit to our next Michigan stop, but first we had one more Sault Ste Marie restaurant to try.

Antlers Restaurant gets its current name from the taxidermy display on the countertops and walls. It was previously known as the Bucket-of-Blood Saloon, a favorite in this area during Prohibition.

The original restaurant goes back four generations and we could see why it was so popular.

The Poutine (a French dish of fries in gravy) is very popular here.

Brittany and Jamie agreed it was one of the best they ever had since it had Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds mixed in.

For their main courses, they chose the Whitefish Po’boy and the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, both of which were very good.

I wasn’t quite as hungry, so I nibbled on the fries with a cup of tasty cream of chicken soup and saved my appetite for dessert.

I had their famous apple strudel, with a side of ice cream, while they shared the Moose Track Sundae.


Before leaving Sault Ste Marie, we went downtown once more to pick up some souvenirs.

The trip across the Mackinaw Bridge and down to Petoskey didn’t take very long.

I dropped Brittany and Jamie off to visit relatives and I headed to my retreat for the next few days, the Inn at Bay Harbor, just a couple miles from Petoskey.


The Inn at Bay Harbor is part of the same resort family as Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain, both of which I visited during ski seasons.

This resort is very different than the two others were. 
First, it’s overlooking a beautiful beach instead of a mountain.

Then, it’s in the middle of a great complex, that includes restaurants and a theater.



One thing it does have in common with the Boyne properties is that it’s a resort for all seasons.  

Whether you want to enjoy the beach and pool, and local activities (like borrowing a bike to the nearby town) or take a drive and use the winter sports facilities at their sister hotels, the Inn at Bay Harbor is ready for you.


This resort also has a big assortment of accommodations so it’s especially friendly to families, even extended ones. 

All of the rooms, suites, apartments have been recently remodeled too.

I was given one of the Master Suites, which had a living room with a cozy fireplace and pull-out couch, a kitchen and dining area, and a separate bedroom.

There were two bathrooms, with a jacuzzi in the master one.


I also had a balcony overlooking the front of the resort. I sat out there and enjoyed the breeze, while nibbling on the Kilwin’s chocolates and cheese and charcuterie plate that was waiting for me.

While that was a special gift from the management, all guests at the Inn at Bay Harbor do receive a special nightly treat. On this evening it was a box of chocolates and a small bottle of Kahlua.

I took a walk around the property before heading back to my room. After the (fun, but) hectic few days in the Upper Peninsula, I decided I would take the night to just stay in and relax. My biggest appointment on the next day’s schedule was at the spa.