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30 Jan, Monday
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Montreal Families

Lake George home to indoor water park

Standing at the top of the tall structure called the “tree house,” Maya, our normally intrepid 5-year-old, peered cautiously into the slightly spooky darkness of an enclosed slide, part of the huge water park we were visiting in Lake George, New York. The lifeguard at the top was sympathetic to Maya’s hesitation. “It’s not so dark inside,” he reassured her. “And it’s only closed in for a couple of seconds.”

Time and time again, Maya climbed to the top, paused at the entrance and held back, electing instead to take a ride down the open slide. “You don’t have to do it,” I reminded her. “This is about having fun.” But, true to style, she kept going back again to check it out, to the amusement of the lifeguard.

After more than two hours of persistent reluctance, she served up a determined grin at me and launched herself down the dark slide. When she climbed back to the top, puffed up with pride, the lifeguard congratulated her with a huge smile and a high five. It was a fitting cap to an entertaining afternoon of sliding, boogie boarding and water play.

In fact, it was exactly that kind of afternoon we had dreamed of when we booked a weekend trip to the Great Escape Lodge and Waterpark in Lake George, just a three-hour trip from Montreal. With the days growing shorter and air getting chillier, we wanted a small dose of tropical fun, but without the cost and hassle of flying somewhere south. So we picked the lodge, run by Six Flags (who also manages La Ronde in Montreal), that offers not only family-style suites with refrigerators, microwaves and coffee makers, but also unlimited access to the indoor water park.

Our family, three kids under the age of 10 plus two adults, made the trek down to Lake George on a brilliant November weekend, when the leaves were at their peak. The ride there is part of the draw – the area’s high peaks offer impressive views. We arrived at the lodge to find a special children’s tea being served (for $10) with visits from Dorothy the Dinosaur and Henry the Octopus of the Disney show The Wiggles.

However, it was the enormous indoor water park that grabbed our girls’ attention. They ran to the park’s observation window and stared. “It’s really wow!” Maya enthused.

The spotlessly clean and well-staffed water park boasts three giant waterslides that curve their way from the top floor outside the building and back in. One of them allows up to four people to ride together in a giant tube, and two others require riders to go alone.

These high thrill waterslides are fully enclosed and very dark, which may put off some younger kids. Those who prefer more moderate excitement will enjoy the lazy river that winds its way around the park, as well as an enormous tree house structure in the middle that offers two medium-height slides, and two smaller slides for younger kids. There are numerous water guns, water spouts and fountains to play with, and an enormous bucket at the top of the structure slowly fills with water and periodically tips over in a gush that soaks everyone below. There is also a toddler pool, with a small slide, some fountains and swings for the littlest members of your family.

Our 9-year-old daughters, Sophie and Alex, and their dad, Martin, particularly loved the boogie board pool, which allows people to try out surfing on the water’s constantly moving waves. Riders hop onto a board then head down a slope while trying to maintain their balance. Some people even manage to do flips and spins.

The 80-degree temperature feels very warm when you enter, but can be a little chilly when you are wet, so be prepared with sweatshirts. On sunny days, you’ll almost feel like you are outside as natural light pours in from the glassed-in roof and walls.

Towels are provided with admission, and can be changed as often as you like. Lifejackets are also available for non-swimmers, though they are not necessary on the smaller slides. There is a snack bar and a gift shop. Lockers are available for day visitors at $6 each.

While the hotel was filled to capacity on the day we visited, there were minimal wait times for the waterslides.

Most people using the park are also staying at the hotel but some day passes are available. These must be booked in advance.

Guests who stay at the lodge can also participate in a wide variety of activities for kids, some of which cost extra. During our visit, there was sand art and paddleball decorating, as well as lunch with Tweety Bird. Storytime in the library before bed was free. You can also have a Loony Tunes character show up at your hotel room with hot chocolate before bed.

Unfortunately, an error with our reservations meant that we were unable to stay at the hotel itself. While our kids were initially disappointed, we were quite pleased to discover the Comfort Suites just down the road, which gave us a well-appointed two-room suite (with fridge and microwave) for considerably less than the one-bedroom with two queen beds we were going to squeeze into at the Great Escape. Moreover, they offered a very good complimentary full breakfast, complete with make-your-own waffles (a hit with the kids). If you’re looking to economize, this would be a good option.

After expending a tremendous amount of time and energy at the water park, we were content to play a round of mini-golf at a nearby location and then shop at some of the area’s outlet stores. As we drove home, we all agreed that our weekend had a little something for everyone. And Maya was still glowing with pride for having pushed herself a little past her comfort zone.

Other activities in the area

Since even the most die-hard waterpark enthusiast will admit that one afternoon of sliding is enough, you might want to explore the Lake George area. During the spring, summer and early fall, families will want to visit the Great Escape amusement park, featuring many different rides including a wooden roller coaster. (The park closes by late October.)

Other options include a drive or hike up Prospect Mountain. The hike itself will take about 90 minutes and requires a reasonable degree of fitness, but is full of spectacular views. The toll road costs $7 per carload and allows unlimited re-entries during the day. There are several places to pull over that have amazing views and the short climb to the summit from the parking lot is definitely worth it.

In the winter, there are several ski stations open at the area’s many mountains including Gore Mountain, West Mountain, Stratton, Bromely, Killington and Okemo.

The Lake George Chamber of Commerce’s website, www.lakegeorgechamber.com offers information and links to indoor and outdoor activities in the area as well as suggestions for planning a trip to the region.

If You Go

Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark.
www.sixflagsgreatescapelodge.com • (888) 708-2684

Comfort Suites
www.choicehotels.com • (518) 761-0001

Lake George Chamber of Commerce

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