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Places We Adore

5 Don’t-Miss Activities for Tweens in Pigeon Forge, TN! #hosted

by Paula on August 12, 2015


We recently visited Pigeon Forge, TN, hosted by the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, and were delighted with the huge magnitude of activities available for (and appealing to) tweens. Since we were only in town for two days, we had to pare down our HUGE wanna-do list to a slightly more manageable itinerary and definitely plan on a return trip to experience the rest! There was way more than we adventurous souls could attempt in a short period of time!!


5 Don't-Miss Activities for Tweens in Pigeon Forge, TN!


So what did we do in Pigeon Forge, TN?


#5…. We Soared at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving!


Warning signs at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving in Pigeon Forge, TN


Oh yes, we did!! We couldn’t get in the building, up the stairs, and in the training room fast enough!!


Equipment Preparation time at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving in Pigeon Forge, TN


After a short 20 minute training session and a brief equipment prep, it was flight time! WOOT!


Soaring at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving in Pigeon Forge, TN


What a blast! This was such a unique and different experience, exactly what we always try to accomplish when on vacation—try something we can’t do in our hometown. It was a bit hot for Ariel, as she doesn’t like wearing layers and layers of clothes, but I think the excitement of the activity overcame being a bit uncomfortable. Indoor skydiving was a huge thrill, one she believes everyone should try at least once. Her tip: If you have long hair, be sure to pull your hair back in a bun, tucked inside your helmet, or you’ll have knots the size of Tennessee!! I agree… her hair was quite the rat’s nest when she finished!!

Timing: we did have a few minutes wait before each stage, but nothing major. We had planned on this taking about an hour and it did.

For more information, visit the Flyaway Indoor Skydiving website here, their Facebook here, and their Twitter here.


#4….We Got Our Plaid On at the Lumberjack Feud!


Get Your Plaid On! at Lumberjack Feud Dinner & Show in Pigeon Forge, TN


(See, I wasn’t making that headline up! It’s a real thing! :) )

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament on a trip to Myrtle Beach and thought we’d like to try another dinner and entertainment evening. What a treat Lumberjack Feud was!!


A Hearty Dinner at Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, TN!


The dinner, consisting of cream of potato soup, roasted chicken, potatoes, corn on the cob, a biscuit, and an apple turnover, and choice of non-alcoholic beverage, was delicious and filling. And good food is really important when you’re on vacation and need fuel. 😉


It's Time for The Must See Show in the Smokies Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, TN!!


But the entertainment was even better than the food! A pre-show warm-up tickled our funny bones and had us clapping our hands and stomping our feet. A thoughtful salute to veterans warmed our hearts. And then our hearts started pounding with excitement as we thrilled to the lumber sports competition!


Awesome Lumberjacks and Lumberdogs at Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, TN


I didn’t know a lot about the arena of lumber sports… but I’m a lot more interested in learning more now! These guys (lumberJACKS) and gals (lumberJILLS) are true athletes…. I love that they post their real names and achievements on the big screens to recognize their athletic prowess. (Even the specially trained lumberDOGS get recognized!! They were amazing too!!)


Loads of Timber Sports Fun at Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, TN!


There was some good ol’ mountain dancing–clogging– and some great fiddle playin’ along with just enough cheesy humor to delight all ages throughout the show. I was afraid Ariel would think this kind of show was too young for her… or too old for her. So I was super glad when she wanted to add it to our top 5 list….that’s high praise from a 12 year old!!

Timing: you should plan on arriving 30 minutes before the posted show time. We had called ahead for reservations and ended up in a short line to pick up our tickets, but it wasn’t major. The pre-show music was playing as we walked through the small museum on our way to the arena and we were seated and our dinner served shortly. We had thought it would take about 2 hours and counting in our early (suggested) arrival time, we were right.

Visit the Lumberjack Feud website here or find them on Facebook here and Twitter here.


Please Remember Your Servers at Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge, TN!


(And don’t forget to take tip money for your servers, just like at Medieval Times. Those folks are working really hard and deserve every bit of that tip money!! When you pay for your dinner ahead of time, it’s easy to not think about cash for tips until it’s too late! :) )


#3….We Set Sail on the Titanic Museum Attraction!


The Impressive Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN is the area's number 1 rated attraction by TripAdvisor

Yes, our hearts will go on… but they won’t be the same after we experienced the impressive and compelling Titanic Museum Attraction. Housed in a building designed to look like the RMS Titanic at the fateful moment as it struck the iceberg, the museum is Pigeon Forge’s #1 attraction (as rated on TripAdvisor) and it’s easy to see why! It’s a well-organized and attractive museum built around precious relics rescued from the world-renowned wreckage of the infamous unsinkable ship.


We Loved the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN!!


Photos are strictly forbidden inside the museum, so I have nothing wonderful to show you, but you can see lots of the interior on the Titanic Museum Attraction’s website here. If you have a “Titaniac” in your family, like I do (or maybe you’re one yourself), then you need to make this a definite stop on your trip to Pigeon Forge. And make sure you allow plenty of time for your visit. We allowed two hours and wished we’d had another hour. We did read a lot, because that is what you do when you’re in a museum, and we were lucky to be able to hear some of the roaming tour guides’ spiels, but we would have gladly soaked up more. The artifacts, the stories, the presentation–all first class. They host traveling exhibits and special events here regularly too.

Visit the Titanic Museum Attraction website here, on Facebook here, or Twitter here.

#2….We Splished and Splashed at the Outdoor Gravity Park!!


Roll down a 1000 foot hill in an 11 foot ball at Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge, TN!!


Ever roll down a hill in an 11 foot clear plastic ball? Me neither.

If I’m completely honest, the idea of doing it never even crossed my mind!!

But obviously the brains behind Outdoor Gravity Park decided humans could play like hamsters (with water–wet hamsters at that!) and would LOVE IT!! And they were SO RIGHT!! The concept is so brilliant… and the fun is exuberant and contagious!!


Balls of Fun at Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge, TN!!


Bring your bathing suit and join in the fun! More than one person can ride in the OGO or you can ride separately and race. There are three different courses for all kinds of fun. None of the folks I saw after their rides were disappointed!! And you can use their Go-Pro camera and video yourself coming down the 1000 foot long hill–perfect for the selfie lover in your life!! 😉


Splish and Splash at Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge, TN!


I wasn’t quite sure how to find the Outdoor Gravity Park–it’s not right on the Parkway like everything else and there wasn’t much, if any, signage at traffic light 1 off the Parkway. The area really looked like a residential neighborhood and Siri insisted I wasn’t there yet. But… turn left onto the side road when you see the green gate and the sign. Don’t continue on past it, even though your GPS might insist on it.

Timing: There wasn’t a long line, thank goodness, because rain was threatening, but the entire process took a bit of time. We had planned on this taking about an hour, and with swimsuit changes and waiting times, it took about that long. If the line had been more than a few folks, it would have taken longer.

And have fun!! Want more info? Check out the Outdoor Gravity Park website here, on Facebook here, and on Twitter here.

#1….We Played at WonderWorks!!


The upside down facade for WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN


Science is playful? Huh?!?

Indeed! Science is a blast!! How could it be otherwise in an upside-down building, right?!?!


Extreme Fun at Astronaut Training Challenge at WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN!


And I have to tell you, I would have bet my next to my last dollar that Ariel would have thought WonderWorks was too young for her… too babyish. I was so wrong.


Rock climbing wall at WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN


World's Largest Indoor Ropes Challenge Course at WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN


And I’m so glad I was. I just wish we had budgeted more time for our visit. It didn’t help that WonderWorks is an incredibly popular place–there were a lot of people there having a great time–there were at least short waits for almost every exhibit. And some lines, like the one for the World’s Largest Indoor Ropes Challenge Course, were quite lengthy. It wasn’t possible for us to leave and come back at a later time in the same day to try to avoid the crowds, but I so appreciate that they allow that option if you need it. Perfect for families with children of varying ages and their multi-level scheduling needs!

There are over 100 interactive exhibits, each one offering something different, educational, and FUN.


Science Fun at WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN!!


One of our favorites was the Xtreme 360° Bikes, where the movement of your bike depends on your pedaling speed and intensity! You can make a 360° revolution if you work at it!! Another favorite was the puck-less Air Hockey. So cool! And the child-size Wonder Brite—adorable!


Entering the exhibits area through the dizzying Inversion Tunnel at WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge, TN!


WonderWorks is one of those places that is sensory overload! And for that reason alone, it was perfect for my tween! Lights, action, music, adrenaline, color, energy–every box was checked! In spades!! Even entering the exhibit area through the inversion tunnel was exhilarating! I wasn’t sure if the room was turning…. or just my stomach!!

When planning your visit, remember that some activities, like the Xtreme 360° Bikes, have physical restrictions. You may have to meet certain height or weight restrictions to be safe on the exhibit. Check the restrictions on the WonderWorks website–I found the best listing in their FAQ section. And make sure everyone that’s planning to participate is wearing closed toe shoes–no flip flops or sandals on some of the exhibits.

Want to find out more about WonderWorks? Check out the WonderWorks website here, their Facebook here, and their Twitter here.


So now you know what kind of fun we had in Pigeon Forge, TN! We can’t wait to go back!!

Looking to make a trip to Pigeon Forge, TN? Then be sure to check out the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism website for all kinds of great tips about what to see, where to stay, where to dine… jam-packed full of everything you’ll need to plan your visit!! You can also connect with them on Facebook here, Twitter here, and YouTube here.


Have you ever been to Pigeon Forge? What were your favorite activities? What should we plan on next time?



Disclaimer: We received a complimentary VIP Pass from the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, which granted us free admission to a number of attractions in Pigeon Forge. However, ALL views and opinions expressed here are our own.



The Inn On The River: Pigeon Forge’s Perfectly Located Hotel #hosted

by Paula on August 5, 2015


The Inn On The River is Pigeon Forge's Perfectly Located Hotel


Are you among the 11 million folks that will visit Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, this year? If so, you NEED to know about The Inn On The River!! We visited Pigeon Forge last week and were graciously hosted at The Inn On The River by General Manager Karl Thomas. He even gave us a sneak peek into what’s upcoming as far as their continuing renovations and improvements!


Exciting Renovations Plans for The Inn On The River presented by General Manager Karl Thomas


First off, The Inn On The River is an older property that is being redone from the ground up. It was a chain and now is privately owned. Can I just tell you how perfectly located this hotel is? It’s right on the banks of the Little Pigeon River at traffic light #2 (all of the directions given throughout Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg use directions from the closest main traffic light on US Highway 441 (known around town as “Parkway”)–much easier than learning street names in an unfamiliar area!). The Inn On The River is one of the very few hotels located on the banks of the river, giving it a peaceful and beautiful aspect that is unrivaled in the area.


Scenic View of the Little Pigeon River from The Inn On The River, Pigeon Forge, TN


Beautiful View of the Little Pigeon River from The Inn On The River, Pigeon Forge, TN


And convenient! We were mere minutes away from all of the attractions on our agenda. If we had wanted to, we could have even left our car parked at the hotel and taken the multi-route trolley. It departs just a few steps from the Inn’s front door. (We didn’t this time, but will definitely do it next time! It looks so convenient and easy.)


Fun Time Trolley Stop in Pigeon Forge, TN


As Mr. Thomas showed us around The Inn On The River, his pride in the all of the improvements being implemented was obvious. He told us of the new pool upgrades happening later in August/early September (properly timed after the summer rush is over). Note: The Inn On The River is one of the few hotels in the area to have both indoor and outdoor pools. The new color combinations are beautiful and attention has been paid to choose function too: the new flooring tiles have non-slip properties. And since the current pools are already so attractive, I can’t wait to see the new look! They’re going to be amazing!!


Lovely indoor and outdoor pools at The Inn On The River


The guest rooms are all being remodeled and we enjoyed a newly-done spacious and lovely first floor room that faced onto the river. It was fun waking up to a family of ducks (and a few geese) in the morning!!


We loved the ducks and geese at The Inn On The River


The guest rooms feature Serta pillow top mattresses–ours had two queen sized beds, but king sized beds are also available. We loved the in-room Keurig and thought the bathroom was gorgeous. The Bath & Body Works Stress Relief toiletries were a nice touch too.


Beautiful Newly Remodeled Guest Rooms at The Inn On The River in Pigeon Forge, TN


From the moment we walked into The Inn On The River, we knew it was a special place. A popcorn machine is not normal hotel lobby decor!! But here, it makes evenings fun. Toss in some family board games (tucked away–but within little ones’ reach–in special bins in the lobby) and 24 hour complimentary coffee, hot tea, and hot chocolate and you have some of the unique touches that make The Inn On The River so delightful. Oh, and there is a special “Vacation Starter Kit” for kids 10 and under. It includes such fun items as an arcade gift card, a deck of playing cards, stickers, and some other assorted toys. Such a sweet idea!


Kids' Vacation Starter Kit at The Inn On The River in Pigeon Forge, TN


There’s a free breakfast buffet in the morning with all the expected standards and plenty of seating inside and out. I was impressed that an awning was being installed on the patio to turn it into more of a multi-season space. It’s a beautiful area next to the river, but full of sunlight… and in the summer, it gets hot quickly. So an awning makes perfect sense. In the fall, they’re going to add patio heaters and the space will become a warm, welcoming retreat. Perfect!


Rest, Relax, and Recharge in the spacious and comfortable newly renovated lobby of The Inn On The River


So, as you can tell, we thought The Inn On The River was perfectly located, quiet spot on the river but within reach of so many favorite spots…. but we also thought it was just perfect. We loved all the little extras that added up to one fantastic hotel. It’s #3 on TripAdvisor for a reason!!


The Inn On The River is #3 out of 94 hotels in Pigeon Forge on Trip Advisor!


Disclosure: We were invited by the folks at The Inn On The River to stay with them while we were in Pigeon Forge so we did receive a complimentary night’s stay in exchange for an honest review on our blog. ALL of the opinions in this post are completely our own.




Save While Visiting Ripley’s Gatlinburg Attractions This Summer!

by Paula on May 17, 2015


Gatlinburg Ripley's Attractions


Looking to visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee, this summer?  It’s a popular area, full of family-friendly attractions.  Some of the top places to visit include eight Ripley’s Attractions, and now you can save when you purchase tickets online with a special code!

Visit our 8 Gatlinburg Attractions! Experience eight unique attractions including Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, our 85,000 sq ft Aquarium of the Smokies, a 5D Moving Theater, our bone-chilling Haunted Adventure, the mind-bending Marvelous Mirror Maze, and our two fully themed mini-golf courses!

My readers can save $3 Off Adult and $2 Off Child Admission to all of Ripley’s Attractions in Tennessee.  Use Online Promo Code: USFAMILYGUIDE

Must purchase online here. Guinness World Records Museum, Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, and Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze

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Tween Fun at #hosted Great Wolf Lodge Part 2

by Paula on March 25, 2015


Love Great Wolf Lodge shirt design | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)

We recently were hosted by Great Wolf Lodge Concord to attend a special tour and luncheon and I told you all about what I learned last week.  What I didn’t have space then to tell you was HOW MUCH FUN we had after the tour!!

There is so much to experience at Great Wolf Lodge that it’s hard to fit in everything you might want to do while there.


What?  You don’t believe me?

You think:  Great Wolf Lodge = Fun Water Park Hotel

And you’re right.

They are known for their water parks!  And truthfully, you don’t HAVE to do anything else there.  I know that many families come to Great Wolf Lodge just to experience the water parks and are extremely happy to do that.  And why not?  The huge, 84° water park is AMAZING and a lot of fun.  (and while each GWL property is unique and has features specific to its location, the AMAZING part is standard!)

But…. let me tell you about some of the other temptations at Great Wolf Lodge!

(And there are many!)


Tween Fun at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)



OMG.  Can I just tell you, I think Ariel would play MagiQuest all day AND all night long if allowed.  (Thankfully, it’s turned off at 10 pm and starts back up at 9 am, for Hibernation Hours.)  I’m sure there are some readers asking:  What exactly is MagiQuest?  Here’s my simple-because-I-really-don’t-completely-understand-it answer:  it’s an electronic scavenger hunt that takes participants frantically up and down stairways and hallways, looking for the next answer on their quest.  Ariel’s tried to explain it to me, but like the Concord General Manager Angie Brown stated in her tour, most adults have a hard time grasping the concepts; kids don’t have a problem at all!


MagiQuest Shopping Fun at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)


You need a special wand, which is easily purchased at the MagiQuest shop on GWL property for $15-20 each.  We’ve always had one per participant but it’s easy enough to share, and the wand can be used for future games as well so hold on to it.  A game runs about $13 and will last a while—maybe 6-8 hours!  (If you don’t finish your game on a visit, you can restart it for a fee on your next visit.)

New similar games, Compass Quest and ShadowQuest, have been developed in the last few years and promise even more challenging fun.  We’re definitely going to try those on a future visit!

If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, know that the staff members in the MagiQuest store are wonderful.  I asked all kinds of questions and they answered them all, just as patiently as if I were the first to ask…. and you know I wasn’t!


MagiQuest Fun at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)


MagiQuest is best for children that can read well enough to comprehend the clues and remember locations.  Some families do the activity together, but it’s perfect for tweens and teens that can do it on their own in a group.  They gain some independence and parents can take a breather.  I’m NOT advocating leaving young children unattended for a long length of time!!  I’m saying I was okay with my older tween and her older cousin (both equipped with cell phones) to attack the course located in the main part of the hotel together, checking in visually with me every 8-10 minutes or so.  The Grand Lobby of the hotel is well situated for this viewing activity and a welcoming fireplace and comfy couches provide an opportunity to relax while the kids burn off some energy.

MagiQuest is such a great way for tweens to problem-solve and get some much needed exercise.  I imagine MagiQuest as feeling like you’re inside a video game and you’re the hero!  What a fun experience!

And what warms my heart so much is that as the kids are racing around, looking for clues and answers, they are often stopping to help others that aren’t quite as far along.  Advice, tips, encouragement.  Love that feeling of community that’s engendered with MagiQuest!

TIP:  Take good running shoes as well as shorts and a t-shirt for your MagiQuest participants!  We were at Great Wolf Lodge in early March, which means we arrived in (and only packed) jeans and long-sleeve tops for non-water park time.  Didn’t even think about all of the running around with MagiQuest.  (I felt like an idiot, but Ariel (of course!) was excited to have a valid, Mom-can’t-say-no reason to go shopping!)  We ended up buying a super cute tank and shorts, so not too sorry, but we could have saved a few bucks and some time if we had packed appropriately.  :)

Here’s the outfit Ariel chose:


Ariel's Great Wolf Lodge cute outfit | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)

According to Concord General Manager Angie Brown, about 50% of the families that stay at Great Wolf Lodge participate in MagiQuest.  It’s huge, I tell you!!  All of these families cannot be wrong!

Scoops Kid Spa

What girl doesn’t love to be spoiled?  We didn’t do spa stuff this trip, but definitely enjoyed it last time we were at Great Wolf Lodge.  (read about that trip hereTIP:  Make your appointment as early in your planning as possible!!  There are only so many appointment times available and the spa is a very popular experience!!  Scooops is for children 4-12; Elements is for adults, with special services for teens 13-18.

You will have to call the spa at your Great Wolf Lodge to make the appointment–can’t do it over the interwebs!– but that will give you the opportunity to find out all the available options and if needed, make any special requests.  For example, I was interested in treating Ariel to a Chocolate Covered Organic Facial, which is recommended to teach tweens the importance of proper skin care.  Sounds amazing, right?  But she has extremely sensitive skin and the online brochure indicated that it wasn’t for sensitive skin.  I immediately discounted that as an option.  However, after talking to Mihaela Werner, the spa manager at Concord, I was assured that the treatment could be easily modified to fit my daughter’s skin care needs and that Ariel would benefit tremendously.  SWEET!  You can bet next time we go to Great Wolf Lodge, I’ll be arranging one of these.  You know Ariel will listen to the professionals about skin care far more than she will listen to me!!

But…. don’t be too sad if you don’t get an appointment.  You can still shop in Elements Spa— they feature awesome brands such as bareMinerals, Éminence, OPI, and Aveda  —and there are some super-cute gift ideas that you probably won’t find in your local shops.  The ice cream themed items make me smile!


Fun at Scooops Spa at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)

There’s even a budget-friendly $9.99  children’s spa treatment!  It’s “Sprinkled in Scooops” and doesn’t require reservations.  It’s perfect for every age, especially little ones that might not have the patience for a full-blown spa experience but want to be pampered.


Spa Fun at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)

Northern Lights Arcade

We love a good arcade and Great Wolf Lodge has a fun one!!  Lots of interactive games that involve movement and activity, as well as some fun games of luck and chance.  We enjoyed all of them!!  The lights are bright, the music is fun, and the atmosphere is lively.


Arcade Fun at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)


I love a good deal and was so happy when I realized going to the arcade BEFORE the rest of Temptation Alley (the area right next to the arcade; so-called by property GM Angie Brown) was a great idea.  Why, you ask.  Because buying a larger gaming package equals more Paw Points per dollar…. and because Paw Points can be used to pay for all the other activities on Temptation Alley.  I had totally planned on visiting those other attractions, so it was an easy way to save a few bucks.

(Yes, I did totally stand there in the middle of the arcade to take this picture.  Yes, I did totally embarrass Ariel by doing it.  No, I don’t feel guilty about it at all!)


Great Wolf Lodge Northern Lights Arcade Pricing Packages | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)


(And, yes, I do know it’s not perfectly straight and publishing the picture is completely not in agreement with my OCD-ness, but it’s the best I’ve got.  I was being rushed by an overly-anxious and embarrassed tween.)

Before buying a package, I quickly calculated the value of a Paw Point at each level, thinking about how much I was willing to spend at the arcade as well as many of the other activities I wanted us to experience.  Knowing that a certain number of Paw Points would be used for those other attractions made it much easier, as well as practical, to buy a more expensive package and therefore getting more bonus points.  :)

TIP:  If you’re the kind of person who’ll be able to find your game card next time, it’s worth a buck to save it:  you can just recharge your old card instead of buying another one.

I had planned on us each participating in Atomic Rush ($3 each), 4D World ($3 each), and Howly Wood XD Theater ($6 each), so I knew I’d be spending $24 for two of us for those experiences.  Add in some arcade fun and the $50 package made a lot of sense for us, although it seemed like A LOT of money at the time!

(Turns out, when you calculate the various prices of the different packages available at Great Wolf Lodge, they’re all incredible deals!  We bought a Paw Package on a previous trip and thought it was a great value!)


Howly Wood XD Theater

Much more of a ride than I anticipated (which means I let Ariel have my ticket too!), Howly Wood XD Theater is a short, 3-6 minute (depending on which one you choose) movie+ride+special effect experience.  There are three different movies to watch and a package to do all three is a bit cheaper than buying all three individually.  Ariel loved it!!  I was able to watch her outside in the lobby area so I could see her reactions to all the different effects.  That was fun for me!



4D World


4D World Fun at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)


This 4D experience is new since our last visit to Great Wolf Lodge and I could see where a lot of folks would love it.  It’s highly interactive and engaging.  Ariel had a good time playing.  Me?  I get incredibly motion sick and couldn’t handle the depth perception differences in my head, so I didn’t try to play.  It did look like fun though!




Atomic Rush at Great Wolf Lodge | The Tween & Me (www.TheTweenAndMe.com)

Do you know the electronic hand-held game Simon, where you press differently colored buttons in ever-increasing patterns, competing against the clock and the computer?  Well, Atomic Rush is just like that—except it’s LIFE-SIZE!!  Fast-paced and challenging, even on “easy,” Atomic Rush was a lot of fun!  So much fun that we played it multiple times!!  (so much for budgeting my Paw Points!)  Definitely something Ariel would want to do again and again and again.


So Much More to Explore

With Howly Wood XD Theater, 4D World, and AtomicRush all located in one communal area just down the hall from the Northern Lights Arcade, everything was easy to find and not have to search for them.  It would be easy for the space to become cramped—and maybe it is some of the time.  But it wasn’t during our time there.  In between these two spaces is Ten Paw Alley, the cutest, sweetest bowling alley ever!  My tween is much too tall to enjoy bowling there now, but it’s perfect for those with little ones.  Sized perfectly for those under 4′ tall!


More Fun Activities at Great Wolf Lodge

Other fun activities at Great Wolf Lodge include Cub Club and Creation StationWe did both of those on our last trip to Great Wolf Lodge and enjoyed them thoroughly.  We found out about the Face Painting and the Dance Party held in the Grand Lobby and were happy to take part in those activities.  Tip:  Be sure to read Lodge Life, the calendar of events that you’ll be given at check-in.  There are many free experiences for your children to enjoy!


So much tween fun!  We had a wonderful time at Great Wolf Lodge!!  It seems like every time we go, we find new experiences to enjoy while still thrilling to favorites from before.  I love that so many of the activities are fun for children of all ages.

And…. I still haven’t told you about our fabulous dining and fun shopping experiences at Great Wolf Lodge!  Stay tuned!

Have you been to Great Wolf Lodge?  What was your absolute very favorite part?






Awesome #hosted Trip to Great Wolf Lodge! Part 1

by Paula on March 18, 2015


If you’ve been around here for a while, you may remember our first trip to Great Wolf Lodge back in 2012, when I attended a conference hosted at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, North Carolina.  We LOVED it!!  (Here’s the post if you’re interested in reading about that trip.)

So, then, you will know just. how. thrilled! we were when they asked us to come back–and this time to take part in some special activities.


We were part of a fantastic group of bloggers and journalists on this press trip.  I met three awesome bloggers:  Maria from Mamalicious Maria; Shelly from Mom Files; and Laura from Carolina Epicurean.  I already knew the wonderful Jen from Mommy B Knows Best:)

Besides getting lots of free time to enjoy the water park and other amenities, the members of the press trip were treated to a tour of the facility by the property General Manager, Angie Brown.  It was obvious that Angie is a perfect fit for the Concord location.  Her hospitable personality sets the tone for the congenial staff.  I love that she patiently answered all of our questions (and you know with a group of bloggers and journalists, there were a lot!) and kept us entertained with Great Wolf history, facts, and information.  (Tidbit:  Did you know Great Wolf Lodge has its roots in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, the water park capital of the world?  Makes sense!  And so smart to put a really good idea under a roof and make it an even better idea!!  Genius!)


GM Angie Brown takes press group on a tour of Cub Club activity room


We toured the water park and learned some behind the scenes info.  Great Wolf Lodge properties are each individual, so while a visit will always have the same pleasant staff members and great customer service, features will vary slightly to give unique thrills.  Concord is one of only two properties to have Mat Racers, a popular water park ride.


Mat Racers at Great Wolf Lodge Concord

Angie also showed us where some of the rides exit the building and then come back inside.  Some parks, she said, are visible from the highway coming in and seeing the water ride flumes adds to the excitement when arriving.  Concord’s front face is the grand lodge itself and I can attest, we were all giddy driving up I-85 when we first spotted it!


outside water ride flumes at Great Wolf Lodge Concord


I loved hearing about how the life guard staff members are constantly patrolling for safety.  They are tested daily and while being present during testing can be unnerving for parents and children, it’s SO REASSURING to know that the guards are always performing at top ability.  I didn’t take a photo of “Timmy,” the life-size mannequin they use for testing, but he’s on display at the front of the park where visitors can see him and learn more about the safety procedures.


Water Safety at Great Wolf Lodge


We learned about all of the fun activities that aren’t water park related, like shopping at one of five themed shops, the Northern Lights Arcade, Elements Spa Salon and Scoops Kid Spa, the Iron Horse Fitness Room, and Cub Club.  There’s also Creation Station, where you can make your own stuffed animal–and dress it with a great custom look, a sweet pint-size bowling alley, and several electronic games/videos.  And our favorite for tweens:  MAGIQUEST!!  Not a chance to be bored at Great Wolf Lodge!!


MagiQuest at Great Wolf Lodge Concord


And we were told a great teaser:  coming to Great Wolf Lodge Concord in May……. a ropes course!!  You know Ariel is pumped about that!!!  And I’m betting there’s not a kid at her school that hasn’t heard about it by now!   Just something about tweens and ropes courses!  😀

After our tour, we enjoyed a tasting luncheon with Corporate Director of Food & Beverage, Chris Hammond, and Corporate Director of Culinary, Russ Meeks.

Have you ever seen a meal that looked too pretty to eat?


tasting food at Great Wolf Lodge luncheon


Ummmm.  Yes.  It was too pretty to eat… but eat it we did!  And it was just as delicious as it looked!

Here’s what we sampled, starting at the top right and proceeding clockwise:

Mini Grilled Cheese: toasted with cheddar cheese and served with tomato soup shooters

Grilled Shrimp & Farro: Grilled Shrimp with seasonal greens, cucumbers, feta cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, Kalamata olives and fresh mint. Served with red wine vinaigrette.

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pasta: Farfalle pasta with crimini, portabello and shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, roasted tomatoes and mushroom jus.

House-Made Hummus: with extra virgin olive oil, paprika, feta cheese and olive tapenade.  Served with grilled flatbread and vegetables.

Salted Caramel Brownie:  Do I even have to say more?  It was divine!

And not only was the meal delicious, but listening to Chris and Russ describe the lengthy journey Great Wolf Lodge’s culinary service has been through was very interesting.  Certainly parts of Great Wolf Lodge are perfect for families as they are.  Who can complain about an 84º oasis in any weather?  It’s downright decadent in freezing cold and quite refreshing in a baking hot summer.  You can check in as early as 1 pm on the day of your arrival  to use the water park (rooms won’t be available until 4 pm) and you can stay in the water park for the whole day on the day you check out (room check out is at 11 am).  Two days of fun for one night’s room charge.

Having restaurants in the facility made sense.  To families.  To Great Wolf Lodge.

But the restaurants weren’t great.  Food was expensive and just not awesome, the way families wanted it to be.  GMO this.  Non-organic that.  Nuts in products.

All of that has changed.

Chris believes that “Food has to have soul,” meaning that he wants the food at Great Wolf Lodge to have meaning, to be nourishing, fresh, to be the best of the best.

What a great idea.  Its implementation at Great Wolf Lodge has been a challenge.  I’m sure there have been times when upper management screamed at some of the costs incurred.  I’m sure most visitors don’t know all that goes into their meal prep.  Probably a lot of the GWL staff doesn’t know.  But it’s good for families that it’s happened, so much healthier and safer, and I’m glad I was able to learn a little bit more about what they’re doing with the food they’re making at Great Wolf Lodge.

Here are a few notes I jotted down as Chris spoke:

  • All ground beef served at Great Wolf Lodge is 100% pure beef, never frozen.
  • The new, improved pizza now served at the brand’s Wolf It Down restaurants took 6 months to develop!  They even figured out that THE WATER was critical to the great-tasting dough in New York style pizza, so they found a bakery in Brooklyn to make dough for all of the pizza restaurants!
  • All of the chicken served at Great Wolf Lodge is antibiotic and hormone free.
  • Special gluten-free pizzas are available at Great Wolf Lodge–and even though it costs more to make them, the restaurant absorbs the extra costs and don’t pass them on to the consumer.  :)
  • All of the newly implemented recipes at Lodge Wood Fired Grill were created using the cleanest methods possible, meaning if they could make something without gluten- or allergen-containing products, they did.  This is HUGE because it means that it doesn’t take any longer prep time to make a special request meal…. it’s already compliant!
  • No nuts are served in the restaurants or snack bars.  None.
  • Their chicken strips are breaded in rice flour.
  • No yellow #5 in the macaroni and cheese!  (and they serve over 60,000 portions of mac & cheese annually!)
  • He gave the example that they were buying non-GMO potatoes and frying them in non-GMO oil…. but then realized that a key part of the processing was done with GMO products.  UGH.  So they went to their suppliers and (because they are a large customer) were able to get the processor to change the process and use non-GMO products throughout the rest of the processing.  That’s using your leverage for good!


Remember:  each room at Great Wolf Lodge comes with a fridge and a microwave and there are tons of restaurants around the area in Concord.  You can eat snacks and meals in your room if you wish.  You cannot take outside food or beverages into the water park, but you don’t have to eat there to have a great time.

BUT, with all of the wonderful changes being implemented at the food service level at Great Wolf Lodge, you can enjoy meals there knowing that special diets or accommodations are welcomed and not treated as an inconvenience.  To me, knowing that my child’s friend with a peanut allergy can safely eat anything served at GWL makes me VERY happy!  Knowing that another friend with celiac won’t feel ostracized by not being able to have pizza with the rest of the birthday party friends is awesome.  KUDOS to Great Wolf Lodge for making these warranted and appreciated changes!!


nut-free treats equal safe dining options at Great Wolf Lodge


As he ended his presentation, Chris said something that made so much sense to me.  He said, “It’s the right thing to do.”  He’s right.  I am grateful that my family doesn’t have special dietary needs and that we can eat out pretty much anywhere we want to, but I know so many people who can’t.  What a relief this must be for families that do have those concerns!  Additionally, guests are encouraged to contact the chef of the property they’re visiting via phone or email prior to their visit to ensure that all their needs are addressed in advance.  Such a great way of providing customer service.

What a wonderful addition to a fun, fabulous, and SAFE water park hotel:  food service that makes eating out safer and worry-free for families that have dietary concerns.


We had so much fun and learned so much about Great Wolf Lodge’s new initiatives on Family Travel Dining and their continuing emphasis on safety.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and learned something too!  Soon, I’ll tell you about the rest of the fun we had at Great Wolf Lodge!!


Disclosure:  We attended a press trip at Great Wolf Lodge where we received one free night’s stay and chose to pay a reduced rate for another night’s stay.  We were also given vouchers to sample each of the restaurants while we were there.  We bought an additional meal plan (great value!) and purchased various souvenirs too.  (Of course!)  All opinions here, as always, are my own. 


Go Ape Gift Certificate Giveaway!!

by Paula on December 15, 2014


Go Ape Gift Certificate Giveaway

Go Ape Treetop Adventure Courses add another element of fun in addition to zip lines and are great for those who love an adventure. You can take your spouse, a group of friends or your entire family and swing through trees, zip line and complete obstacles. For 2-3 hours you can explore the park from an otherwise unobtainable vantage point while you navigate through the obstacle course.

Get your adrenaline pumping and jump out of your comfort zone for awhile! A Go Ape gift certificate is the perfect gift and/or stocking stuffer for the outdoorsy and the next great activity for your corporate group. Go Ape courses are located around the US in Missouri, Indiana, Virginia, Delaware, Ohio, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Participants are equipped with harnesses, pulleys and carabiners, as well as a 30 minute safety training session before they are let loose into the forest canopy. Instructors are always on hand and patrolling to make sure everyone stays safe.

Visit Go Ape online for more information and to purchase gift certificates and tickets! You can also follow them on social media.

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram
One lucky reader will receive 2 $25 gift certificates to use at your nearest Go Ape location! This giveaway is open to U.S. residents and will end on 12/23. Please enter on the Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified by e-mail and must respond within 48 hours to claim prize or another winner will be chosen. All entries will be verified. Participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.


$500 Disney Gift Card Giveaway!!

by Paula on September 24, 2014


Disney Gift Card giveaway

One of our favorite memories is Ariel’s first trip to Disney World.  We went over fall break way back when she was in 2nd grade and it was SO. MUCH. FUN.  Of course, we want to go back!  Who wouldn’t?  It’s called the happiest place on earth for a reason!

So why not partner with a lot of other great bloggers and give a lucky person a chance to make their family’s dream trip come true?

One winner will receive a $500 Disney Gift Card!!

Giveaway ends October 14 at 11:59 pm, open to US and Canada.  Excludes Quebec. Ages 18+. Only one entrant per household, per address. Void where prohibited.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Enter using the giveaway form below. Good luck!

Disclaimer: The participating bloggers were not compensated for this post. No purchase is necessary to enter. One entrant per household, per address. Void where prohibited by law. Winner(s) will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. The sponsor(s) will be responsible for product shipment to winner(s) of this sweepstakes. This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by, or associated with, Facebook and/or Twitter, Google, Pinterest. Contact teri@mompoweredmedia.com if you have any additional questions or comments.


Ideal Family Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Downtown {a review} {ad}

by Paula on August 17, 2014


Ideal Family Hotel Perfect Location Fabulous Staff Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta


It’s always a little scary picking a hotel sight-unseen.  Is it really a place you want to stay?  Are the rooms clean and spacious?  Is the property well-kept?  Are the staff members nice?  How about safety?  Is the parking well-lit and secure?  What about convenience?  How close is the hotel to what you are planning to do?

What’s a mom to do?  Well, it helps if you can find reviews, like this one.  😉

It also helps to find maps of the area, so you can plot out everything in the area.

When Ariel and I started planning our quick getaway to Atlanta, I pored over everything I could find about the area surrounding our desired attractions.  We had decided that visiting the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola topped our list (aided by the fact that they are adjacent to one another) and that we’d also love to experience Zoo Atlanta.  To avoid driving in city traffic and paying parking fees at various places, I wanted to stay within walking distance of the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.


Luckie Marietta District Downtown Atlanta Georgia


There are several hotels in the surrounding Luckie-Marietta District–named for the streets bordering the ten block section of downtown (and an overwhelming number in the neighboring areas!).  We were excited to see the Olympic Park and Sky View were within walking distance of GA and WOCC.  The district also boasts shopping and dining opportunities galore.

But upon closer examination, one hotel stood out from all the rest:  Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta.  Why?  Because it is NEXT DOOR to the Georgia Aquarium!!  Can’t get much closer than that!!


The amazing view from the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta Breakfast Room


And…. the hotel is home to Legal Seafood and Game-X…. tempting and waiting to be discovered!

The online pics looked amazing, the room packages were affordable, and there were rooms available.  DEAL DONE!

When we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta, we knew we had made the right choice.  It *was* perfectly located and I couldn’t have been more impressed by our new home away from home.


lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta


I had reserved a room rate that included parking, but changed my mind to valet (only $6 more and well worth it!  Comes with in and out privileges  :) ) when I pulled in and was greeted by smiles and friendly southern hospitality.  The same genuine helpfulness continued as we checked in.  The lobby wasn’t overly large, but it was fresh and clean and staffed by super-friendly desk staff.


Sleek and Spacious Rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta


From the moment we checked in, we knew we were in good hands.  We loved the attractive hall decor, thoroughly enjoyed the sparkling rooftop pool, and thrilled to the stunning skyline views.  The delicious breakfast was matched by the amazing views from the large breakfast room.


stunningly beautiful and educational hallway art at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta



Rooftop Pool Paradise at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta


Striking Skyline view from the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta


The sign in the lobby with a QR code for Game-X earned us a 10 game playcard, which we put to good use.  Front desk staff also had a coupon for Game-X.  (I had wondered if Game-X was age-appropriate for Ariel, since I had noticed on their website that they had a bar and that most of the people in the pics looked like adults.  Front desk staff assured me that early in the day would not be a problem for us.  In fact, later on Ariel wouldn’t have even been allowed in the establishment.  When we stopped by at lunchtime, they had just opened and we had the run of the place.  I didn’t feel like we were out of place at all and we noticed several small family groups coming in as we were leaving.)

We enjoyed a delicious dinner from Legal Seafood, which we brought back to our room to enjoy.

Would we stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta again?  You betcha.  Would we tell all of our friends about this gem?  We already have!  😉

Details You Need To Know:  Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta is located at 275 Baker Street, Atlanta, Georgia, 30313.  You can reach them at 404-577-2001 or at their website.


Disclosure:  We had already planned to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta (because we were convinced it would be perfect for us!) but were pleased to accept the offer of a media rate discount in exchange for an honest review on our site. 



Myrtle Beach Vacation Giveaway!

by Paula on June 24, 2014


Myrtle Beach Family Vacation Giveaway

It’s sweet summertime and there is one word on the minds of moms everywhere…..


Ahh, glorious vacation! But if you’re like me, with even the thought of vacation, you’re seeing dollar signs.

What if I told you that one lucky reader will win a FREE 4 Day/3 Night trip to the incredible, oceanfront Sand Dunes Resort and Spa in Myrtle Beach, SC resort along with FREE water park passes, FREE golf, FREE breakfast buffet for children, and MORE?! Keep reading to find out how your family could be our lucky winner!

But first, what if you’re not the lucky winner, but still want to take your family on a fun and memorable vacation without breaking the bank? How do you do that?

5 Tips for a Frugal {and FUN} Family Vacation

Here are 5 Tips for taking a frugal {and fun} family vacation:

1. Stay within driving distance. This is a no-brainer, right? Airfare is expensive and unless you can find a totally awesome deal, it probably isn’t within the vacation budget. At least not for us. Chances are most of you are within driving distance to somewhere fun…the beach, mountains, state park, a different city, etc.

2. All-inclusive is good! Find a vacation spot that not only includes your lodging, but also food and entertainment! For example, when we stay at a Sands Resort, we not only get an incredible suite, we also receive complimentary tickets to Wild Water & Wheels water park, FREE Golf at Diamond Back Golf Course, kids eat free for breakfast every morning, FREE passes to the Ocean Drive Pavilion Amusement Park and more! These extras are not only fun, but save us money on entertainment!

3. Book a room with a kitchen! This allows you to cook your own meals and cuts down on the expenses of eating out!

4. Travel off-season– this is especially easy if you’re a homeschooling family! We’ve scored some awesome deals during the off season. For example New Year’s Eve, we stayed at a Sands Resort for less than $50 a night! It was a perfect {frugal} overnight trip!

5. Find discount codes! Like this one….

Huge Savings at Sands Resorts in Myrtle Beach, SC

Frugal is good…but FREE is better! One lucky family will win a 4 Day/3 Night trip to the beautiful oceanfront Sand Dunes Resort and Spa in Myrtle Beach, SC! This includes accommodations for up to four people, FREE tickets to Wild Water & Wheels, FREE golf at Diamond Back Golf Course, FREE passes to Ocean Drive Pavilion, FREE breakfast for children each morning, FREE admission to the on-site Sands Water Park and more! You choose your dates any time during August or September {with the exception of Labor Day weekend!} This incredible package is valued at over $1000! To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter form below! The giveaway will be open through 11:59pm EST on July 2nd. The winner will be announced on Monday, July 7th. Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Celebrate YOUR State Giveaway Hop–Sign Up Now!!

by Paula on June 4, 2014


I love being from South Carolina!  Beaches, mountains, history, great food…there’s so much here to be insanely proud of!!


South Carolina state flag


Where are you from?  Are you as proud of your state as I am of South Carolina?

Why not join our Celebrate Your State Giveaway Hop?  It’s going to be a blast!  We’re excited about showcasing our states with unique giveaways!!


Celebrate Your State Giveaway Hop



  • ~ This FREE Event will run June 27-11, 2014
  • ~ Posts must go live at 12:01AM (EST) on June 27, 2014
  • ~ Giveaways will end at 11:59PM (EST) on July 11, 2014
  • ~ Hashtag: #CelebrateYOURstate
  • ~ Prize Minimum: $25
  • ~ All participants must find their own sponsor(s) and host the giveaway on their own blog that starts the day of the event.
  • ~ All participants will be responsible for reporting their posts and removed from the event if not reported on time.
  • ~ Questions? Please contact PR@TheReviewWire.com with any questions!

~ DEADLINE:  June 23, 2014  *Linky will close and signups will no longer be accepted!  For more details on this Hop, please visit The Review Wire!


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