Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fort Rapids Waterpark review

Looking for something fun to do in nearby Ohio? In the spirit of Great Wolf Lodge, Columbus, Ohio's new Fort Rapids Resort and Indoor Water park is a destination in itself. A converted Holiday Inn, at 4560 Hilton Corporate Drive, turned Disney style resort, this water park is a blast. My family and I decided to stay at the water park last week for four nights, while in the city for a conference. After a good deal of research which turned up a great variety of truly lacklustre motels, we happened on this one and took our chances booking on the Internet. Prices at Fort Rapids were only slightly higher than those at motels like the Hyatt and the Red Roof Inn - we paid about $200 a night - and the bunk beds alone (see lower picture) were enough to win my girls over. Also included in the price of our stay was unlimited use of the water attractions. While the room was not without some problems, staff at the resort were incredibly friendly and helpful. Fruit flies were present in the first room we checked into and the room itself was hastily cleaned at best. So when the plumbing in the bathroom was an issue, we complained and were quickly moved to another room on the same floor. The complaint was effectively resolved and the manager was understanding. The on site Gold Mine Arcade was a lot of fun for my kids. My husband and I enjoyed it too. The water park area itself is 60,000 square feet of adrenaline-inducing thrilling fun. There's absolutely something for everyone and the activity pool (slightly warmer than other areas) was a big draw for my five-year-old who swims like a fish and loved the basketball nets on the side. Blackout pass was one of the fiercest waterslides I've ever seen and while my husband tried it a couple of times, it was much too daring for me. Height restrictions were in place that prevented either one of my daughters (5 and 8) from riding this particular slide, but the rest of the slides were fair game. The children's area Kiddie Corral had several pint-sized waterslides and the park itself was well supervised and clean. Tubes and mats are available and included in the cost of the water park. We stayed in a Cisco Kid bunkroom with children's bunk beds that were sort of separate from the main room and well worth the money. Our package for $200 a night  A particular hit was the gigantic bucket that periodically tipped over soaking everyone underneath.

This is the Kiddie Corral - as you can see Ainsley loved it. If I had one complaint about Fort Rapids it would be that the food itself was not great. The pub on site had burgers and fries and children's meals, but meals were slow and the menu was quite unappealing. There are however, dozens of restaurants nearby. Big Boy, Olive Garden and Red Lobster were all within a five minute drive.

Our really neat Cisco Kid bunk room.

Thriftymommagogo gives it $$$$ out of $$$$$. Well worth the money. Check in time at 4 p.m. and hours of operation most days are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. for water park.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Heading out on another family road trip which means I got some packing to do. Since we started this great foray into family travel my husband and I - well mostly I - have learned a few things about the tricky business of travelling with tots in tow. My first tip for travelling with children is planning, planning and then planning some more. When we flew to Disney last year it was my daughter, Ainsley's first flight. She was four and, for those of you who don't know, she has sensory processing disorder, which means life is often too loud, too bright, too fast and etc.. you get the idea. Anyways having a child with special needs means you plan differently and sometimes smarter. We planned our trip to be in a quiet month at the destination. Disney Orlando in April is the slowest month. Fewer lineups mean fewer chances for meltdowns. Then there are the travel tools.

These are from our must have list of children's travel tools.

1. Nintendo.

2. In automobile DVD player.

3. MP3s for both children. My Ainsley can't live without her FP3 from Fisher Price. (Toys R Us and Walmart) We used it often on the flight and in the airport to help her filter strange noises out. Payton has an inexpensive Toys "R Us model loaded with Hannah Montana of course.

4. Pens, crayons, paper (Crayola are best as they don't snap quite as easily as others and my daughter places too much pressure on the crayon so snappage is common.)

5. Workbooks from the dollar store.

6. Brushes (Ainsley needs Willbarger brushing protocol every 90 minutes to calm and soothe, especially sense of touch.)

7. Hibou. My daughter Payton's school has an owl as a mascot (It's one of those Shining Stars toys, seen her in picture) and she loves to take him with us so he can be photographed in new and exciting lands. (I bought a duplicate of the school's mascot, so I needn't clear it with principal every time.)

8. First Aid Kit. (Amazing how children can get booboos even while sitting still in a van.)
9. Fisher Price camera. Ainsley loves to take pictures and it helps distract her.

10. Teddy bears for each child. (Build-A-Bear bears we made two years ago.)

11. Hannah Montana CD because they love it and if I have to time them out while driving I can turn it off instead of pulling over.

12. Leapster (by Leapfrog excellent learning tool and sort of early version of Nintendo for Ainsley)

13. Sunglasses. Because even through tinted windows sometimes the sunlight is much too bright for children with sensory processing issues and that can lead to screaming meltdown. Not good on the highway.

14. Chapter books to read when they get bored of all the other stuff. Probable Hannah Montana content.

A Canadian in the U.S. of A.

I have never really thought of myself as a big Canuck, though I've lived here all my life. In fact, perhaps I've been delusional, but I have always thought that if the right opportunity presented itself, I'd jump ship. I'd pack my things, leave my double double, take my chances with nonexistent health care and move to one of the less scary states in the great U.S of A. In fact there are some states I have even found myself daydreaming about. Alabama sounds lovely, Florida sunny, Southern Carolina, whoot! Texas and Arizona are obviously sizzlin' and California, well what's not to like? But this past week as I visited Ohio for a conference that turned into a lovely family vacay at a waterpark called Fort Rapids in Columbus, I made so many Canadian faux pas that it's become clear to me my ship has sailed. On my first day in Ohio, clearly exhausted by the six hour drive and determined not to sound like a silly Canadian I refrained from ordering a double double only to hand the cashier at a coffee shop loonies and toonies in exchange for breakfast and a coffee. The look on her face was priceless. She couldn't have been more stunned if I'd handed her arcade tokens from Fort Rapids. Anyways, that small gaffe under my belt I proceeded to embarrass Canadians even further during my few days outside the country. During a mandatory stop at a United States McDonald's I asked for two grilled cheese happy meals. When our cheeseburgers arrived my kids were more than a bit dismayed and I attempted to return them realizing midway through my sentence: "Don't you have grilled cheese here?" that my Canadian was showing. Oops! I was only the tiniest bit offended by the finger-pointing and chuckling that followed. If that was all that I had done during the week I could laugh but truly the mistakes only seemed to compound themselves until we finally set foot back on Canadian soil. Thankfully thoughtful husband reminded me at Arby's in Detroit there would be no Great Canadian on the menu here, so please don't order one. So au revoir dear U.S of A. I love you dearly but will not be moving any time soon. To be quite honest I've never really taken a liking to the odd confection you call iced tea. Now fetch me a double double, eh?