Escape to Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs

*Thank you to Great Wolf Lodge for hosting us. All opinions are ours and ours alone.

When we lived in Florida with our small children, we didn’t really get the concept of an indoor water park. Why on earth would you want to drive somewhere to play inside in the water all day.

Then we moved to Colorado.

While this winter has felt very mild compared to the first one that we experienced four years ago, it was nice to escape to the newly opened Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs where the indoor water park is forever 84 degrees.

Where Is It?

As Denver residents, the trip to Great Wolf Lodge is a quick one without traffic. It is located across I-25 from the Air Force Academy so you don’t even really need to go into town to get there. There is a movie theater and a few restaurants within walking distance and plenty more if you are willing to drive. That being said, you could park your car at Great Wolf Lodge and not get back in it until it is time to head back home.

The Rooms

When we walked into our room, we were a bit disappointed to find that we weren’t in one of the fancy suites that offers bunk bed areas for the kids. Our room was much larger than a typical hotel room but it had two beds and a twin pull out sofa. If you need room for a 6th person, make sure you book the room with the double sleeper sofa.

The was a balcony with a lovely view but, unfortunately, there were no chairs to enjoy the view.

The Water Park

The water park offers a little bit for everyone. There are four thrill slides, two you ride down on your own (though you are racing other people on one) and two you can ride down with other people. There are lines but they do move relatively quickly. Fort Mackenzie offers a jungle gym type setting for kids to climb, slide, and spray people with water. Don’t miss the bucket tipping! There is a wave pool that kids and adults will love to splash and play in. Life jackets are available.

The water park might be small at first glance but it is certainly mighty. There was plenty to do and it entertained us for hours.

Other Adventures

Once you tire of the water park, there are plenty of other activities to keep you and your family entertained. At the Great Wolf Adventure Park, you can mine for gems, create a stuffed friend to take home with you, climb a rock wall, or complete a ropes course. There is also mini golf, an arcade, and the cutest teeny tiny bowling alley you have ever seen.

The hit with my family was the MagiQuest: The Rise of the Totem Masters. MagiQuest is perfect for the video game lovers in your family. You purchase a wand and walk around the hotel completing the tasks. You can bring your wand back on your next visit and keep using it!

The Kids Scooops Spa is a fun way to treat your kids to a pedicure or manicure. The deliciously smelling hair perfume will be on the table for my daughter when she wakes up on Valentine’s Day morning!

The Food

There are several food options in the Great Wolf Lodge. The prices are reasonable and the food is pretty good. Don’t miss the mac and cheese in the Loose Moose Family Kitchen. The buffet offers delicious food but we were pretty disappointed by the lack of dessert. At the end of your dinner, you will get a few brownies, cookies, and doughnut holes. I was expecting buffet worthy dessert spreads (and after ending the Whole30 during that weekend, I was hoping for a treat!).

The Barnwood is a delicious farm to table restaurant and the food is worth the cost. We had pizza at Hungry as a Wolf and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. You can grab a burger poolside and there is a place for adults to grab a drink just around every corner. Ben and Jerry’s and Dunkin Donuts offer up quick treats but the lines can get very long at popular times. Great Wolf Lodge takes allergies seriously so if you have a concern be sure to ask to speak to the chef. They will take good care of you.

Who is it Perfect For?

Because I was invited on a media trip with other Colorado bloggers and writers, I had the added benefit of spending time with some fabulous people in my life. Our kids had fun running around together and the adults had fun hanging out while the kids ran around. I think that this would be the perfect adventure for kids up to about 10 or 12, older if they had a friend with them. My 12 year old started to run out of things to do but ended up coming down with an illness at the end of our trip so it wasn’t a big deal that he spent most of our last day in bed. I think if we were to return he would want to bring a friend or run around with his sister.

Coming from Denver? Trying to Save Money? Here is Our Suggestion…

Great Wolf Lodge is a fantastic staycation getaway  from Denver. If you are looking to get the most bang for your buck, I recommend booking a Saturday night hotel room. It would be preferable to go on a less busy day but if that isn’t an option, Saturday still works. We were at the hotel when it was at about 80% capacity and it did not seem busy except when I had to wait in line for one of the only three elevators.

Arrive around 2 or 3 on Saturday afternoon to avoid the folks who arrive right at 1pm (the earliest you can check in on your arrival day). Get checked in and check your luggage. Your room won’t be ready until after 4. Head to the water park and play until dinner. Get settled in your room, go to dinner, and play some more. On Sunday, you will have to check out by 11am. Before you check out, make sure you have a “beach” bag with a change of clothes for the ride home. Load up your car with everything except the beach bag and then you can stay and play until everything closes that night.

Keeping up with Events in Nearby Towns

We live in a suburb south of Denver that offers pretty much all that we need. If we didn’t want to, we would never have to leave our area. Our sense of adventure is too strong for that though and we love finding out what other areas nearby have to offer, especially during the holidays. When we got the opportunity to visit Parker, a town on the southeast side of Denver, we said yes. We have friends who live in the Parker area and they talk about how great the Main Street is but we have never been. Parker was inviting bloggers to come check out what they have to offer.

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Our morning started with breakfast at Rory’s Diner. This diner seats about twenty people (I am guessing that number but it was a tiny little space!) and is worth the wait you might encounter. We have a favorite breakfast place in just about every city we have visited and Rory’s Diner is at the top of the list. I would make the 30 minute drive to Parker just for the breakfast burrito.

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All of their baked goods and most other items are made in house. The Belgian Waffles were deliciously fluffy and the homemade cinnamon roll was huge. My husband and I both ordered the breakfast burrito. It had just the right kick.

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After breakfast, we headed to Main Street and wandered the shops. We walked all the way down to the new library that recently opened. What a space! There is a recording studio, cool and comfy chairs all over, and more. This librarian was super impressed with the space. We saw little shops, restaurants, and a cupcake shop. Unfortunately, we were stuffed from our breakfast so we skipped the cupcakes but we will need to go back soon! We stopped in at Parker Panache, where they provided a $50 gift certificate to check out their wares. The store is small but it was stocked full of beautiful items. We loved the Christmas decorations. The boot socks, shirts, and jewelry were what caught my eye. I ended up going home with a Brighton piece picked out by my daughter. I have a feeling I will need to go back to find a piece of my own.

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After shopping around, it was time for the Carriage Parade to start. This charming parade had horse drawn carriages, local high school bands and more. All up and down the street, the businesses were giving away hot chocolate and cookies. It reminded me of what it was like to visit our Main Street in Pensacola every year for the Christmas parade.

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As we were wandering around, I wondered why we hadn’t checked out Main Street Parker and it got me thinking about how to find out what is going on around your area.

Follow the tourism board on Facebook. In this case, it is Town of Parker, Colorado. When we got home, I hopped on Facebook and followed all of the pages of surrounding towns.

Check out the local Chamber of Commerce page. This page sometimes offers details of upcoming events.

Follow the pages of the major activities in the town. For example, Parker offers the Pace Cultural Center, which offers shows, art exhibits, and more. Both their website and Facebook page are updated regularly with upcoming events.

Lastly, get out there! It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and do the same things day in and day out. Adventures don’t have to be to far flung spots in other states or countries. Your family can experience adventure just a few minutes away from your house.

 

 

Tips for Cutting Down Your Own Christmas Tree (in Winter Park, CO)

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For years and years, we would grab a Christmas tree from the local home improvement store or Target. We would get it home, get it decorated, and call it good. We lived in Pensacola, Florida where Christmas tree cutting areas aren’t exactly a thing. With small children, getting a live tree felt like more of a hassle than a fun holiday tradition so we switched to a gorgeous fake tree. We had a huge great room with vaulted ceilings and our gigantic tree looked wonderful in it. Fast forward to our move to Colorado. The tree was way too big for our tiny, chopped up house so we got rid of it and tried our hand at cutting down our own tree. In the forest. WHAT?

This is the tree we took home with us!

This is the tree we took home with us!

Since moving here, we have fallen in love with Winter Park, Colorado. We love the laid back mountain scene, it is where we buy our annual ski passes, and where I will someday have a mountain home (well, if the mountain home is in the cards). Naturally, it made sense to us to find a cutting area in Winter Park. We prefer the Elk Creek Cutting area. It is accessibly only by 4WD, chains, or AWD for a two week time period. They plow some semblance of a road and it is a bumpy ride in! The kids love it. There are a number of parking areas but they fill up fast. We pick a parking spot we like, get parked and start hiking. You have to get in early or else you will be battling for a parking space the whole time you are there. This was our second year and I feel like we have some tips and tricks to help make your process go a little easier:

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Tips and Tricks for Cutting Down Your Own Christmas Tree

  • Make it an early morning. We left our house in Denver at 6:30, arrived to purchase our permit when they opened at 8am, and were at the gates of the cutting area at 9am when they were opened. We cruised right in and found a parking spot in our favorite cutting area.
  • Bring the snowshoes if you have them. Even though it felt like there hasn’t been as much snow this season, we threw the snowshoes in the back of the car and we were glad that we did. We walked pretty far up a hill and the snow was deep enough that the snowshoes made it much easier for us to trek through.
  • Be prepared for the Charlie Brown tree, not the Rockefeller tree. The trees that we were choosing from are a little more sparse than what you are used to in the stores but each one was perfect in its own way.
  • Know and follow the rules set out in the cutting area.
  • Bring snacks! We saw people making a whole day of it. They brought tables, camp stoves, food, and drink. We had to be back down the mountain that afternoon so we all just brought a few snacks to share: muffins, crackers, meats and cheeses. Next year, we are making a day of it!
  • Bring something to cut the tree down and something to tie it to your car. Most places do not provide these items.

Best Long Weekend Trips from Denver, Colorado

When we first moved to Denver a couple of years ago, one of the things that struck me was how far it actually was from other cities. Denver is sort of nestled away on its own, but there are some great weekend trips waiting for you if you are willing to drive a bit.

Rapid City, South Dakota

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Seeing Mount Rushmore is something that we quickly added to our list when we realized that it was less than seven hours away from Denver. The drive to Rapid City is beautiful and full of historical stops. We stopped just outside of Cheyenne to see the Oregon Trail ruts. When we were just outside of Rapid City, we stopped at the Mammoth Site. Over 60 mammoths have been discovered at this site and if you are lucky you will see them working the dig while you visit.

While in Rapid City, we went to Mount Rushmore. We drove through Custer State Park and had to sit in our car for about half an hour as a large herd of buffalo wandered in and out of the cars as they crossed the road. We had the best steaks at the Alpine Inn and we learned about the Crazy Horse Monument. There was so much more that we could have done but we ran out of time.

See my post about what to do on a three day trip to Rapid City.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

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Glenwood Springs is less than three hours from Denver without traffic and it is lovely. We often talk about just driving over for the day but we haven’t tried it yet. I could spend the entire long weekend sitting in the Glenwood Springs and renewing my body and spirit but there is so much more to do.

The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is worth a visit just to ride the alpine slide on the side of the mountain. You can tour the caverns, ride some rides, and play some games. We visited in the summertime, but some day I would like to go in the winter so that we can see it covered with snow.

See my post about what to do on a three day trip to Glenwood Springs.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sandia Peak Tramway

Albuquerque is about a six hour drive south of Denver. We spent three days in Albuquerque and during that time we squeezed in some hikes, saw petroglyphs, and learned all about hot air balloons. We also did a self-guided tour of all the Breaking Bad film spots. My kids weren’t very interested in this part but luckily we had lots of other fun stops. We took the Sandia Tramway up the mountain and it was almost as scary as the one we took in Switzerland. The views are worth it though so I am glad that I swallowed my fear and went. I am so glad we stopped at the International Balloon Museum. We spent way more time exploring than I had allotted for but we were having too much fun.

See my post about what to do on a three day trip to Albuquerque.

 

 

Shop Denver Holiday Flea this Weekend

*I was given admission to the Denver Flea and a $20 gift card to facilitate this review. All opinions are mine and mine alone. Rest assured, I spent well over $20.

From December 3rd to the 6th, the old Denver Post Production Facilities will be transformed into a holiday shopping wonderland. The warehouse will be filled with rows and rows of makers and retailers who “cultivate the Colorado lifestyle” and you won’t know where to begin.

I was able to go tonight to attend the Ultimate Shopping Experience. My family and I love supporting local businesses whenever we can. Before attending the Denver Holiday Flea, I looked through the list of vendors and retailers. I was excited to see some that I recognized and many that I couldn’t wait to check out.

You know how sometimes you go to the maker fair and it is just booth after booth of the same stuff? This is not that maker fair. Every single booth was different and I wanted to buy something from every one of them.  What sorts of things will you see at the Denver Flea?

This was the find of the night for me. It is framed in reclaimed barn wood and I just adore this picture. The only thing that would make it better would be if it said Ski Winter Park. When we were in Winter Park a couple of weeks ago, I saw this picture but it was much larger and pretty expensive so I decided to pass on it. When I saw it tonight, I had to have it. I know exactly where it is going to go.

Denver Flea

I have been following Helliemae’s Caramels on Instagram pretty much since I arrived in Denver but I haven’t had a chance to try their caramels. Oh. my. The Sea Salt Caramel? Just try one and try to walk away from the table without making a purchase.

Denver Flea

I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts at the Naked Goat Farm so I can’t tell you what I got but if you love handmade soaps, lotions, balms, and scrubs, you will love this place. They also sell delicious jams.

Denver Flea

I leave you with the t-shirt I wanted to get but they were out of my size. So Gnar has created a t-shirt that states exactly how I feel about this fine city of Denver. I am always telling people that Denver is my happiest place on Earth. I will be searching for this one online.

Denver Flea

Tips for shopping the Denver Holiday Flea:

  • Do a lap around the entire place so that you can get your bearings. Take note of your favorite things and then go back and pick them up when you know what you really want.
  • Try the spiked cider. But, only if you aren’t driving. It is crazy strong.
  • Bring cash to help support small businesses. Those credit card fees can eat up a small businesses profits and if it doesn’t, the fees are usually transferred to you somehow.
  • Bring your jacket inside with you. I left mine in the car and it is cold in there!
  • Don’t forget to visit the food trucks and grab something to eat.

Breckenridge Brewery Tour – Littleton, Colorado

“I know what that does. I have been on tons of brewery tours,” said my 11 year old son.

I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed or proud at that moment. Luckily for me, I was among beer lovers so my face turned red with a hint of embarrassment while everyone around us giggled at my son’s comment.

Breck Brewery

Breceknridge Brewery has recently opened an operation in Littleton, Colorado. We had family in town for the week and we decided that was a perfect time to take the tour. We had a fascinating tour guide who told us how the brewery got its humble beginning from beer growlers left on the front porch by neighbors waiting for them to be filled with beer to the operation that they have now. The tour took us through the different stages of beer making. My favorite part was seeing the offices where the beer production calendar could be seen through the window that looked onto the floor.

Before you start your tour, you can get a glass of beer poured to carry with you. After the tour, you head back to the tasting room to try four different beers available. While on the tour, you learn about some of the tour guide and local favorites but, unfortunately, they aren’t all available for tasting. The tour lasted approximately an hour. Our party ranged from 9 to 60 years old and everybody was captivated throughout the tour. My kids loved the science aspect of it.

Breck Brewery

After our tour, we walked over to the Farmhouse restaurant where we had reservations for lunch. The seasonal sweet bread appetizer was pumpkin and it was delicious. My Ranch Grilled Chicken sandwich with the roast Colorado chile cream cheese was fantastic. The Farmhouse is difficult to get into without reservations. You can try, but you will likely be waiting.

Breck Brewery

Tips for visiting the Breckenridge Brewery

Make reservations for the tour. You have to pay $3 for drinkers and non-drinkers are not charged but all must have a reservation to save a space.

Make reservations for the Farmhouse restaurant after. This will ensure that you won’t have to wait too long. It was recommended that we make our reservation for 1.5 hours after the tour and we walked right in and were seated right away.

 

Winter Park, CO – A Research Report

*This week, my third grade daughter came home and showed me her latest writing piece. They had to choose a favorite place or space in Colorado and write about it. She chose Winter Park because it is one of her favorite places. We just might have a family full of travel writers! I am sharing this here with her permission.

Winter Park

Are you looking for a place in the great state Colorado?  The location of Winter park is Winter Park, Colorado 80482. In the winter there is ice skating and skiing. In Winter Park there usually is a lot of snow. Maybe that will be your first white Christmas. You can always go sledding on a hill. The population of Winter Park is 946. Winter Park’s mountain elevation is 9,100 feet. It takes one hour and a half to get there from Denver, Colorado to Winter Park, Colorado. In the summer there is the alpine slide and mini golf. Winter Park has great skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing in the winter. Winter Park has amazing mountains. There is some really nice mountains. My favorite part of the mountain is called Jack Kendrik. My favorite restaurant is by a place where you ski. It is Goody’s Creperie.  I’d prefer Winter Park if you want all that stuff. I think if you are looking for a mountain paradise and awesome condos than Winter Park is the place for you.

 

Summer Ski Resort Activities at Copper Mountain Resort

Copper Mountain Ski Resort in the summertime? Yes, please.

Copper Mountain in the Summer

I still have the Copper Mountain t-shirt that my husband brought home to me. I was six months pregnant with our now 10 year old son and my husband went on a boy’s ski trip weekend. They loved Copper Mountain and we have since visited it a couple of times in the winter time. We have driven past it in the summertime but decided to take the time to visit this summer when Copper Mountain invited us up to try out their Summer Activity Passes.

Included in the pass was access to three bungee, one zip line and one go-kart session, unlimited access to mini golf, bike haul, diggler (scooters), scenic chair, lake activities and the climbing wall.

Copper Mountain

We arrived around ten in the morning and easily found parking. After we parked, we stopped by guest services to pick up our tickets, courtesy of Copper Mountain. You can purchase individual tickets but by the time you add them up, it will most likely make sense to buy the adventure pass.

We wandered from activity to activity having a blast. We were lucky to be there during the week so while there were crowds, we did not find ourselves waiting in line for more than a minute or two.

Copper Mountain

Our first activity was the bungee jump. The guys working the bungee jump were by far the most friendly group we encountered. They made sure that the kids enjoyed their time and also helped them to conquer some of their fears about jumping higher or trying to do a flip.

After the bungee jump, the kids spent awhile soaking each other on the bumper boats. They also raced around the go-kart track, and zipped across the lake. They were able to get a couple holes in at the putt-putt course but the sky turned black quickly and the rain started pouring.

At this point, we decided to call it a day, but we could have easily stayed for a couple more hours. We will definitely be back.

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Things to Know Before You Go:

Do adults need a ticket? Yes, and no. The only thing that my husband did was ride the go-karts. Even then, the only reason he did that was because my daughter was too small to go by herself. Check the height requirements and decide if you are going to need a ticket to participate. If we went back, we would definitely save some money by not purchasing tickets for the adults.

But I want to ride the lift up to the top. Copper offers free lift tickets for each $12 spent in the village. Grab a snack and then use the receipt to get up to the top to see the views.

Plan to arrive right when the activities open. Storms are common in the mountains. If they see lightning, activities will shut down until 30 minutes after that last seen strike. If it is raining hard enough, many of the activities shut down with or without lightning.

*Thank you to Copper Mountain for providing us with Summer Activity Passes. All opinions are mine.

Rocky Mountain National Park in 4 Hours or Less from the Grand Lake Entrance Station

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park has so much to offer visitors from animal sightings, hiking trails, and pretty drives. Four hours just isn’t enough time to do the park justice but if you only have a few hours and you still want to see Rocky Mountain National Park, it is doable.

Start your morning early and try to be at the entrance by 7 or 8am. We were staying the night at the Winter Park Resort so we chose to enter through the Grand Lake entrance. It took us about 50 minutes from Winter Park and would have taken us a little over 2 hours from our home in Denver. There is a visitor’s center just outside the entrance where you can stop for information. We chose to skip this visitor’s center because we were headed to the Alpine Visitor Center off of Trail Ridge Road.

moose at RMNP
Planning an early morning will increase your chances to see some wildlife looking for their breakfast. We weren’t in the park for five minutes before we spotted a moose in a meadow. There were actually three. We saw two males and one female with a baby! We were too far away to make out any features on the baby moose but we were able to see it bound around in the grass while the mama moose tried to get her breakfast.

RMNP
After watching the moose, we continued on along the Trail Ridge Road. We stopped at a couple of pull offs. Each pull off had a couple of park rangers or volunteers to answer questions. We stopped to take in views and to stand at the Continental Divide.

Alpine Visitor Center
Once we reached the Alpine Visitor Center, we parked and explored the visitor center and spoke with rangers. There are restrooms here as well as a shop and a small cafeteria. There is a short trail up many stairs but the views make the walk up worth it. When you visit, stop at the shop and pick up some Huckleberry Gummi Bears. They were a hit with my kids who needed a snack.

alpine visitor center
From here, we headed back down to Winter Park. On the way back, we spotted a herd of deer and several elk sunning themselves. The entire round trip took about four hours. We will definitely be going back to spend some more time but I am glad that we got a little taste of what Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer.

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Tips for spotting wildlife:

Don’t speed through the park. The speed limits are there for a reason and if you are going too fast, you will miss the beauty surrounding you.

Look for other cars that are stopped. You will want to keep an eye out for stopped cars because they don’t always pull off of the road but also because this is usually a sign that there is wildlife (or something to see) nearby.

Look up! We caught three elk sunning themselves up on a hill. We would have driven right past them had we not been looking all over.

Indoor Skydiving at iFly Denver

If you can’t tell from this blog, I am not what most would call incredibly adventurous. I try but my idea of adventurous does not match up with other people’s idea of adventurous. Sure, I like to step outside of my comfort zone every now and again but step outside of a perfectly good airplane? Um, no.

When I first visited the mall area that is closest to us, I noticed a funny shaped building. I saw that it was an indoor skydiving place and it immediately went on our list of things to do. We haven’t had a chance to get there yet but hopefully we will be able to check it off of our list this summer.

If you are in Denver and are interested in trying it out for yourself, you can save 10% off the cost.

Indoor Skydiving iFly Denver is a fun birthday celebration venue for all ages! They offer exhilaration coupled with the freedom of flight in our one-of-kind, World Class facility. Anyone from 3 to 103 can fly!

You can give a child the birthday of a lifetime, a unique celebration for that over the hill party, or any other special occasion. Birthday party packages can include a total of 24 minutes of tunnel time, good for up to 12 people, flight training class, flight gear, and flight rotations with your certified instructor. All participants receive a souvenir flight certificate. This entire flight experience takes about one and a half hours. Add-ons available such as: iFly Denver T-shirts, and catering.

Prices:

Earn Your Wings – $59.95 (1 Flyer 2 Flights)

Spread your Wings – $109.95 (1 Flyer 4 Flights)

Spread your Wings for 2 $129.95 (2 Flyer 2 Flights Each)

Family Pack – $269.95 (5 Flyers 10 Flights + Video)

Get a load of this!