Monday, February 10, 2014

Castaway Bay: Our Favorite Winter Escape

Two years ago, we went to Castaway Bay and the boys have been asking to go back ever since. We intended on going back last year, but there was the whole thing where I drove an awful, unreliable Ford Focus that broke down on a moment's whim and we didn't go anywhere for awhile. So, I was definitely excited when we received an invite to this year's mom blogger event at Castaway Bay. Almost as excited as Luke and Tommy, but it was hard to match their excitement! As soon as they found out about the trip, they immediately began discussing their favorite parts of the waterpark. Since it'd been two years since we visited, Tommy wasn't old enough to do everything that Luke did, so Luke begin filling him in on all the things he would be able to do now. Needless to say, it seemed like February 7th would never arrive.

For us, Castaway Bay is the same driving distance mileage-wise as the Dells, but we avoid Chicago traffic. This is a huge perk, especially with recent weather conditions. The interstates have been awful, so going just a straight shot on the Ohio turnpike was a welcome, easy relief. When we arrived, check-in was quick and simple, and the boys were thrilled to find these goodies waiting for us in our room.

They changed into swimsuits pretty much right away, and we headed to the waterpark before I even had a chance to look around, but I did a quick moment to notice what a nice view we had.

I can imagine the water view and balcony our especially nice during the summer, but it wasn't all bad during the winter. There was just no way I was venturing out on the balcony with single digit temps!

We headed down to the waterpark, where the 82 degrees was honestly the most welcoming temperature ever. I don't think I've felt that warm once this entire frigid winter. Tommy played it safe and went on the smaller slide in the toddler pool, but I told him he was now tall enough for the Rendezvous Run which was Luke's favorite ride two years ago and convinced him to go on it with me. Since it's a water coaster, I thought he might feel more comfortable on that than a waterslide right away. As we went down the first hill, then into a dark tube, he was quiet. Then he started yelling, "This is awesome!" Then he made me go on it seven times in a row, and I regretted suggesting it and passed him off to Shane.
Luke, meanwhile, discovered that he is now tall enough for the Cargo Crossing and was busy making his way across the rope over and over again.

What I love about this is that there's a lifeguard posted at the entrance and only one kid is allowed in at a time. We've been at other waterparks where they don't limit the number of kids and the rope/float area can get kind of frantic and hard to watch. He also discovered that he is now tall enough for the biggest tube slides, so he drug me down those a few times. They are definitely fast!

After a few hours of play, it was time to get dried off and head to dinner (this was accomplished with the promise of arcade and more waterpark time later). Dinner was all-you-can-eat pizza and salad, both of which were delicious, but the highlight was obviously a guest appearance by Snoopy.

After dinner, we headed across the hall where the boys got to do some really neat crafts. They were able to decorate their own beach towels, paint picture frames and meet Lucy!

Peanuts Meet-and-Greet and Castaway Crafts are all fun activities offered to Castaway Bay guests (some crafts may cost extra). My boys definitely love the ability to meet and hug the Peanuts characters. And of course, the crafts were a blast. They always want souvenirs everywhere we go, so it's nice to have souvenirs that they have put time and effort into creating themselves.

After crafts, we headed to the arcade, where Tommy either wanted to play the games with the giant guns or ride on anything that moves. Of course.

The boys managed to win a combined total of 550 points and scored themselves a bunch of fun goodies. Like everyone else in the resort, the girl at the arcade was incredibly helpful and beyond patient as the boys took approximately 800 years to choose how to redeem their points. We let them go back to the waterpark for another hour or so after the arcade, then they were good and worn out for bed. And I got to head out to taste some local wines, which made my husband jealous.

With good reason… I'm still thinking about the smoked salmon and cream cheese. Being from the Northwest Indiana area, I'm mostly familiar with Southwestern Michigan wineries. However, it appears that the Lake Erie Shores and Islands area is not without its own celebrated wineries, either. We were able to sample several different wines and choose a bottle of our favorite to take. Second to spending time with my family, of course, this was definitely my favorite part of the weekend. I love the celebration and highlighting of locally owned businesses and while we pass signs for wineries on our drive in, it's not easy to stop with two small kids in the car. So to get the chance to sample these wines was really unique and a lot of fun. I chose a bottle of riesling from Firelands Winery and after looking at their website, I hope to get there someday soon to sample more! Although it was a family event, I liked that an adult event was planned after bedtime--it was definitely nice to get out and chat. It's hard to talk to other adults when you're helping your kids with crafts or dinner, so this was a nice way to make it work out so the attendees could visit with one another. I had a great time meeting a few new people and stayed out a little later by the fireplace in the lobby, chatting with and getting to know Theresa of Theresa's Mixed Nuts. It was definitely a fun night!

Saturday morning, the boys slept in a little, then Tommy and I went to get donuts (and coffee--Starbucks!). We ran into Snoopy in his nightshirt on the way to get breakfast. While we were waiting for our coffee, the girl at the register overheard me talking to Tommy and addressed him by name, asking him to come back and let her know how much fun he had at the waterpark. Again, I can't stress enough how great the staff is at Castaway Bay when it comes to dealing with children. After eating breakfast, we packed up, then headed back to the waterpark as soon as it opened. Tommy, of course, wanted to ride the raft over and over, but I convinced him to try the slide at the top of the Lookout Lagoon funhouse by promising him I would go down first and meet him at the bottom. Despite recently being terrified of even getting bathwater in his eyes, he loved it!

After about five times of my going up with him, he told me could do it by himself. What I like about Castaway Bay is that most of the areas are wide open so that you have the ability to stand and observe without losing sight of your children. So while Tommy went all the way to the top, I could keep an eye on his bright red swim trunks from the bottom of the slide and see him every bit of the way. Of course, he was moving so fast that he was pretty much a blur until he got to the top of the slide!

I lost count of how many times he went down the blue slide, but it must've been close to 20. Suffice to say, by the time we got him out of the park and into the car, he was exhausted. Happily exhausted.

Neither boy wanted to leave, but we've promised we'll go back--sooner this time. Of course, about two hours into our drive, we were headed back into more of our lovely Indiana winter, so we were missing the waterpark more than ever.

On the drive home, I read through some of the information that Shores&Islands left in our hotel room and realized that this area has much more to offer than we've realized. The Blind Perch is a new gastro-pub that specializes in local farm-grown meats and produce, as well as Lake Erie fish. Volstead Bar, housed in an old winery and brothel, and crafts classic cocktails hearkening back to the Roaring Twenties. I could go on and on, but suffice to say, between the list of unique restaurants and wineries, Shane and I are definitely considering the Lake Erie shore area for our anniversary get-away this June. I mean, provided we don't have any more snow days and we're actually out of school by June 25th!

As always, I can't say enough good things about Castaway Bay and would definitely recommend it as a fun, affordable family vacation. My kids would agree!

Although Castaway Bay provided us with this visit, all opinions are my own

1 comment:

Theresa Mahoney said...

Hi Erin!!! Look at you, already with your review up. You are definitely putting me to shame. Laundry done, review done. You certainly are a superhero lol. Your boys are simply adorable! Isn't it so nice when they can finally do everything on their own? By the end of our stay, my 10 year old was finally going down the slides without us, but by then I was too exhausted to be excited about it. I think you got a better view than we did too! I had such a great time chatting by the fire with you! Hopefully we can do it again next year ;)