Review: Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky

Have you stayed at one of the Great Wolf Lodge properties? Our family had the privilege to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, Ohio recently as part of a long weekend. We opted to take advantage of a deal through Groupon, offering us a Loft Fireplace Suite for 8 guests that included a $25 dining credit for $249. After taxes and resort fee, the total was $304.60. Even with the Groupon discount, for over $300 per night, it is a lot to swallow for only a single night. So does it live up to the high cost?

After checking in, our room was not ready yet, so we headed straight to the waterpark, which guests can get in as early as 1:00 pm. With only one entrance into the waterpark, the facility made for an excellent way to conveniently keep track of your kids. Our two oldest went off and explored within view of us while we watched our youngest in some of the little kid pools.

The park featured almost everything you would come to expect from a waterpark, with the exception of a wave pool, which was fine with us. While smaller, Great Wolf Lodge did provide a lazy river, beautiful hot tubs surrounded by faux rocks, and a variety of climbing and slide complexes for the kids.

We were most surprised by the two large slides that you ride down in tubes. They were very fast with some nice small drops that made them really thrilling for kids and adults of all ages.

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We also happen to be celebrating our kids birthdays during our visit. Their wristbands granted them free ice cream throughout the property which they more than took advantage of to fill their tummies. We also used our $25 dining credit towards some slices of pizza and the $1 upcharge of Dippin’ Dots.

The resort also offers a Native American/Nature show in the lobby with animatronic figures. While it may have been entertaining for kids, the sound quality needed some improvement.

The facility also offered face painting, story time, and a variety of other activities. For an additional fee, guests could use the arcade or Magic Quest.

Our room was nicely appointed with two beds on the main floor and a bed up on the lobby. The sitting area included a small dining table, outdoor balcony, and several flat screen televisions throughout the room. A small dorm style fridge was also included.

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Overall our family loved our stay at Great Wolf Lodge! The facility was well maintained and very clean. We were not bothered constantly by the staff that the kids were forced to wear life vests like at Kalahari, Castaway Bay, and other resorts we have visited.

The only drawback was our oldest son was running his hand down the wall of the halls and a piece of wood was sticking up and sent a piece of wood down under his nail and into his finger. When approaching the staff at the front desk, they seemed unconcerned when requesting directions to an emergency room because of the incident. I would have expected them to consult the on-site medics (assuming they had one) and file a report, but no one seemed all that concerned. After a trip to the ER, we had the issue corrected and were back to enjoy the rest of our stay.

Have you stayed at a Great Wolf Lodge? How was your experience?

Review: Sheraton Fallsview Indoor Waterpark (Niagara Falls)

Our family has been to our fair share of indoor waterparks, but to celebrate my wife’s birthday and get out of the winter cold, we decided to try out the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark Niagara Falls. How we came about that decision was sort of by accident.

We have been to the big daddy of waterparks, Kalahari Sandusky, a couple of times, though it has been a couple of years since our return. We also have our family’s first time going to a Great Wolf Lodge in a couple of weeks. Then we have also been to Cedar Point’s Castaway Bay and a couple other smaller venues.

When diving into pricing for a Saturday night stay, the prices escalate quickly for a family of five. That being said, when comparison shopping for new waterparks to visit vs others out of our area, there is no such thing as a deal on a weekend. Sticking to our normal $100-150/night budget simply is out of the question at a waterpark.

We basically boiled it down to two properties, the Splash Lagoon waterpark (Erie, PA) or the Fallsview Waterpark (Niagara Falls). Honestly, I had always wanted to go to the Niagara Falls water park over our many visits to the area, but it never was in our favor. So I was naturally leaning towards that property.

In the end, the prices for Splash Lagoon with an overnight stay were not enticing enough to justify a stay when for relatively the same money we could venture up to the falls and have more to do outside the waterpark.

We opted to stay at the Sheraton Fallsview. The property is located closer to the American falls and attached to the waterpark, Casino Niagara, and a host of other facilities. Our family chose a city view room since we were only staying one night. We were fortunate to be placed on the top story with great views of Clifton Hill.

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We were also given the opportunity to peak in on the fallsview rooms.

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The really enticing aspect of staying at the Sheraton Fallsview is the close vicinity to so much. Our family has stayed closer to the Canadian falls many times, and while it is nice to see one of the wonders of the world, it really does not compare to the fun that be had down the road.

Attached to the complex is an arcade as well as the Rainforest Cafe, where we spent one of our meals. While the Rainforest Cafe is not the best food, it is more for the kids who enjoy seeing all of the animals and lightning shows.

In addition, being in such close vicinity of Clifton Hill means lots of entertainment options including haunted houses, Ripley’s properties, and Niagara Skywheel.

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We were in the area mostly to take in the Fallsview Waterpark. From the outside, the place looks huge. However, even though we had a lot of fun, we were a bit underwhelmed when we went inside.

The water park includes a kids area with tipping bucket, slides, etc. I will say though that it was nice to finally have a water park where they let kids go down the slides with their parents, and the kids were not forced to wear life jackets like they are at Kalahari, Castaway Bay, etc. The US counterparts appear to have stricter rules, and while we understand it is about “safety,” it is also a pain.

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The water park also included a wave pool, a variety of slides, and an outdoor pool.

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I think the reason it is hard to compare is when you have been to Kalahari which is so big, they have everything. I was also disappointed to see they did not have a lazy river, which is always a huge crowd favorite.

The good news is not only the water park, but the entire area makes for such a fun weekend. Head downstairs and enjoy the Hershey store (and the best chocolate milkshake we have ever had). Go to the casino if it is your thing. Or just enjoy family time together at the variety of attractions.

Review: Grand Cayman Comfort Suites & Resort

Upon booking 6 nights at the Holiday Inn Resort Grand Cayman, we elected to “save the best for last” with two nights at the Grand Cayman Comfort Suites & Resort.

We had used up some old points via a US Bank credit card promo, and secured our nights at roughly $250 per night. What is ludicrous is that you can get a room for closer to $150 per night when booking on your own, though there are other charges like resort and energy fees that get tacked onto the rate, bringing it back up in cost. Considering that the Holiday Inn was only around $110 per night (plus resort and energy fees), it was quite the splurge to stay at the Comfort Suites.

The Comfort Suites is located along Seven Mile Beach, but is not beach front, as there is another hotel directly in front of it.

We had ordered a two queen bedroom for our stay. Since we were checking out of the Holiday Inn and into the Comfort Suites, we arranged with them in advance to allow us an early check in around 11:00 am, which was incredibly generous of them, and helpful to us since we had milk and some other items we needed to get into a fridge.

The staff was incredibly nice and helpful at the Comfort Suites on many instances. However, as soon as we entered the room, we had regretted our ever leaving the Holiday Inn.

What the Comfort Suites has on location, they are lacking in every other regard.

Our room was located on the first floor adjacent to the gym, which was no big deal, as it made access to the pool incredibly easy. Plus the hotel really does not have any “views” worth upgrading to since the ocean view is blocked by another hotel.

However, the room was incredibly small, at least compared to what we were used to over at the Holiday Inn. There was old carpet in the room, the “suite” aspect was completely lost apparently as there was a small bar area with sink and mini fridge, but that was about it. The furniture was incredibly cheap and dated, with a horrible layout, making it next to impossible to get into the second bed without crawling up into it.

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The bathroom was just as pitiful with the door practically hitting you in the knees when using the toilet, a very basic shower, and horrible water pressure.

I am not sure if the reason our room might have been so poor was because we got such an early check in and it was the only room available; however, in talking to a worker who was cleaning apparently the workers suite across the hall, lots of the room looked like ours.

Our family had never stayed in a Comfort Suites prior, and this experience was certainly good enough reason to never stay in one again. While we traditionally stick with more budget friendly hotels like Holiday Inns (IHG), Hampton Inns (Hilton), and even Club Carlson, the Comfort Suites was definitely a step down in room quality.

What was surprising though is that the rest of the hotel was rather nice. The hotel offered a free breakfast, which was good, and money saving. The outdoor pool area and landscaping were beautifully maintained and serene. There was easy beach access with lounge chairs and umbrellas. The food at the onsite Stingrays restaurant was good. It is just that the rooms were terrible!

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Not to mention, after requesting a crib in the room on the reservation, stopping in the day before our visit, and twice the day of checking in, we still did not get a crib in the room. It was only after I went down and requested one a fourth time was I told there would be a $15 per night charge for a crib. What? No where did we ever see this supplemental charge when booking, or the number of times we previously discussed about needing a crib. Let alone this was the first hotel I was ever being told we were going to be charged for needing a crib. What is also surprising is their website states “children 14 under stay free when with a paying adult.”

Fortunately, about questioning it, they waived the charges. Otherwise, we might have just checked out then and headed back over to the Holiday Inn.

The other pro of actually staying at the Comfort Suites is it was booked with lots of other families, which made it really easy for our kids to enjoy the company of others.

They also offer an easy towel service, allowing you to get towels, use them, and swap them out as needed.

I am sorry to say, while there are pros of being so close to the beach, especially for those without a vehicle, the Comfort Suites sadly was not well received by our family. Maybe it was because we were granted such an amazing stay over at the Holiday Inn, but surely when guests are paying a premium to be located over on Seven Mile Beach, the room should be adequately appointed, even for a “budget” hotel.

Sadly, we do not recommend staying at the Comfort Suites Grand Cayman unless you are without a vehicle and/or need to have immediate access of Seven Mile Beach. For our family, who was out exploring the island for the majority of the trip, the Comfort Suites was a major disappointment when it was expected to be the surprise ending.