Back-to-school break

Published 7:33 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Summer is, for all intents and purposes, over, and it’s time to get back to work. But if your kids are like most, there’s a good chance they still have a bit of energy to burn before they are truly able to concentrate on their schoolwork.

Maybe what they need is one last bit of summertime fun before putting their noses to the grindstone. Perhaps a brief break from back to school will give them the boost they need for high performance.

Williamsburg’s Great Wolf Lodge could be just the answer.

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Nearing its fifth year of operation, Great Wolf is the commonwealth’s only indoor waterpark. With 79,000 square feet of indoor entertainment — including a 67,000-square-foot waterpark complete with nine waterslides, four pools, a surf ride and an interactive treehouse water fort — there’s plenty of things to do.

And since the entertainment facilities are generally open only to guests of the 405-suite resort, you’ll find that the lines are reasonable, and the kids won’t leave disappointed that they didn’t have a chance to do their favorite things.

Great Wolf officials like to refer to the resort as a sort of “cruise ship on land,” where guests can stay for one night, while getting in two days of playtime.

Check-in time is at 4 p.m., and check-out is at 11 a.m. the following day, but guests can get access to the waterpark beginning at 1 p.m. the day of arrival and through closing time at 9 p.m. on the day of their departure. A locker room with showers and resort-provided towels makes changing to and from traveling clothes a cinch.

“It creates a real value,” Resort Manager Tom Neely said recently. And given the state of the economy, value ranks near the top of the list of things that a vacationing family is in search of, even if the vacation is only for a night or two.

In fact, Neely said, Great Wolf “stays pretty much full” as guests from closer to Williamsburg discover the opportunity for fun that exists so close to home, he said.

Whether in the relaxing wave pool or lazy river, in the exciting Howlin’ Tornado — a funnel-like tube that provides a bit of a different experience with each ride — or in the children’s activity pool, there’s a water experience at Great Wolf to meet the desires of every family member.

But, Neely acknowledged, “People can’t be wet all the time.”

So Great Wolf has taken pains to provide other fun and relaxing experiences for families visiting the resort.

There’s a black-lit arcade with more than 100 video and redemption games. There’s an interactive, resort-wide game called MagiQuest that sends kids on a series of quests. There’s miniature golf; crafts; bedtime stories; a fitness center; a “nightclub” with Internet and karaoke for teens; and — the newest addition to the resort — the Race Zone, where children and their parents can design, build and race their own radio-controlled cars.

And for those looking for a little time away from all the activity, there are spas for both children and adults.

“Our mission is to create family traditions, one family at a time,” Neely said. “We’re getting families doing things together.”

Great Wolf Lodge is open year-round. For more information, call 1-800-551-WOLF or visit