Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Lakes of Beauty in Munising


My first trip up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was in the wintertime. I took a ride to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and, even in winter, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. 


I vowed to come back and explore this area more and it seemed like an ideal way to spend my birthday.


I left Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee and drove through Wisconsin to the UP. I had decided that Munising was a base for me to start and it was the right choice.

It was near sunset when I arrived at the Alger Falls Motel. The Munising tourism board had set me up there for two nights. The rooms were large and the location was central.

 


I was a bit hungry and decided to go for something local. I drove down to Muldoon’s and had my very first Pastie, a local favorite they were known for.

 A pasty is a hand pie looks like a cross between a turnover and a calzone, or for those who have been to the U.K., a meat pie. I decided I was not in a beef mood and got one vegetable, and one apple for dessert.



I took my pasties down to the Munising dock. It was a beautiful scene of boats and glistening water, and the perfect way to end the day.

After a full night’s sleep back at the motel, I was ready for an extremely full day in Michigan. Lake Superior was the center of it all and the turquoise water was waiting for me.

 


First up was a fairly new attraction, the Munising Pirate Cruise. It was a warm, beautiful day for this family filled cruise.

It was a nice combination of pirate fun for the kids and adult sightseeing. I enjoyed watching and photographing both as we went up Grand Island and back along the cost of Pictured Rocks.

 


It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. I saw the Grand Island lighthouses, old and new, and rock formations that could only be made by nature.

I grew up near the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about enjoying life on Long Island, but the idea of these calm, clear, colorful, hurricane and shark-free waters of the great lakes appeals to me much more.

 


After the boat ride, I had most of the day free until another cruise in the evening. I headed back to the motel for some rest and then out to a late lunch/early dinner.

I decided on a local favorite, Dogpatch, for the salad bar and delicious pulled pork.


Despite rain in the forecast, it was ideal evening weather for the Shipwreck Tours with a glass bottom boat.

The boat was going in the same directions as the morning one, but the itinerary and purpose was different. We were going to see many of the shipwrecks left in these clear waters of this Great Lake.

 


The windows on the bottom of the ship were large and clear and it was easy to see the wrecks. The boat went in and out of some of the Grand Island caves, even stopping in one for us to get a closer look, as well as selfies.

The formations of these caves were a work of art. I was looking forward to seeing the ones on the other side, at Pictured Rocks, the next day.

 


I was extremely relaxed on this amazing body of water and had another peaceful night sleep. I was excited that I had more days to explore the wonders of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.



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.