By TMoM team member Michelle Barson

We’ve all missed out on a lot these past 15 months and for our family its meant a lot of firsts. When the shutdown happened my twin boys were 5.5 years old. Finally at the point where they were a LOT more fun to take places and we could try more adventurous outings, day trips and weekends.

While we found lots of new, fun activities to do together like kayaking, hiking, fishing and board games, there also was definitely something missing. One of the things I felt like we were missing out on was Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) in Concord outside of Charlotte.

My boys LOVE to swim and are strong swimmers, but I always heard the sweet spot for GWL was ages 5-14. That this age range was ideal for parents being comfortable with them moving around on their own, as well as for avoiding any height restrictions on specific slides. I had always planned to take them during the winter when they were five – then the shut down happened. During those first few months of the pandemic my first thought was not GWL or how much we were missing out on, but as the months dragged on I started putting together my mental list of what we needed to do to make up for lost time.

Summer came and we swam all season at Brookwood Pool in Clemmons. It felt safe. We were outside, our pool limited the number of those that came, and I had heard that chlorine was helpful for limiting the virus’ ability to be spread as easily.  By the time fall came, things were still pretty quiet. The gyms were starting to open with restrictions and restaurants began opening up their doors.  As time went on, I felt more comfortable with playing in small groups and going to places with high ceilings and air movement, like for instance, trampoline parks.

The numbers started to spike as the weather got cooler, but we all knew a vaccine was coming soon and my confidence was high that we could make it through this second winter with restrictions and come out the other side just as happy and busy as usual. Then I lost a little confidence with continuously climbing numbers and started to pull my kids out of programs where they weren’t enforcing mask wearing and adhering to other appropriate protocol.  During this time, October through January, my husband and I had to talk about what we agreed on was safe and what we agreed on was not.  We also had to weigh our children’s wants and needs to be active. By time February came, we were both in a different place mentally, the numbers had decreased, and the vaccine was being distributed. It was time to get back out there!

We had the winter blues, and the holidays had been especially hard not getting to see family, so we planned a trip to Great Wolf Lodge where we would meet up with our friends who had moved to South Carolina and spend the weekend together.  Some people thought we were crazy. After all, who goes to a waterpark in the midst of a pandemic? But, we were desperate and excited! It was a “Mom and Kids'” trip that was sure to be a blast and a special, first-time experience for my friends two children and for mine.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well Great Wolf handled the restrictions and with how their staff enforced them. Masks were to be worn in all public places, at all times, except for in the water or sitting at your own designated space.  A majority of people complied and regardless the tables and chairs were socially distanced and then some.

The ceilings are probably as tall as a four-story building (which helps with air flow) and there were stickers clearly marking how far away to stand from one another in any area there might be a line formed – including on the water slides.  While there were a LOT of people there it was clear the water park could handle many more.  From the stories I heard of how busy it could get, I felt as though my experience didn’t align and assume that’s because they are enforcing reduced capacity.

While it might not sound like the best idea to go there during this time, I would share that my experience was positive and safe. In fact, I already have two trips planned to go back there this summer!  Here’s hoping the numbers stay down, the vaccines are effective and we all get to have a normal summer, fall and 2022 filled with sports, activities and never wiping down a plastic bag again!

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