Redefining the Family Vacation Experience
The Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark
Nestled among the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, in the Lake George Area of New York, you can find the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park. While the region offers the perfect opportunity for couples, families and group road-trippers to experience everything from outdoor adventure to peaceful solitude, the lodge offers the ideal location to stay where they play. Located directly across from The Great Escape Theme Park & Splashwater Kingdom, the lodge features 200 guest suites with a 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, White Water Bay, which is open year-round and is included with your stay at the lodge.
The beauty of the region and its appeal across the seasons has visitors flocking to the attractions. River tubing, swimming, kayaking and boating are all popular ways to cool off in the summer months. In autumn, the trees color the countryside with hues of amber, yellow and red, promoting hiking, biking, horseback riding and leaf “peeping.” In the winter months, the area becomes a haven for winter adventure seekers. Melting snow and springtime showers bring incredible river rafting to the area. Lake George has everything a family would want to do (including Fort William Henry and Fort Ticonderoga at the two ends of the 32-mile-long lake) and the Great Escape Lodge has become the ideal location to stay while visiting the area.
The Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park opened in 2006 and is the first waterpark built inside a hotel in the state of New York. The facility has the feel of a grand Adirondack lodge with exposed beams, rustic furnishings and a dramatic floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the lobby. The guest suites are described as being very spacious with a high attention to detail. Fashioned in the Adirondack décor as well, the rooms feature many appealing amenities, with the standard size suite comfortably accommodating a family of five.
White Water Bay, the 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, offers plenty to keep a family occupied for days. During the day, the park’s unique Texlon roof, which is a transparent lightweight material, allows for an abundance of natural sunlight. At all times, the temperature of both the water and the air is maintained at 80 degrees. White Water Bay includes nine primary water attractions. The focal point of the park is the Tall Timbers Treehouse, a 4,375-square-foot multi-level play structure (18 feet high) featuring 160 interactive water features and colorful body slides ranging from 137 feet to 156 feet in length, connecting with the activity play lagoon below. Guests enjoy the excitement and thrill of catching and riding simulated waves at Boogie Bear Surf, which offers a continual sheet wave of water for body boarding. For an additional fee, guests can take stand-up surfing lessons!
A section of White Water Bay was designed specifically for toddlers. Tip-A-Kanu-Beach is a 1,500-square-foot shallow activity play lagoon that has a safe zero-depth entry and includes baby swings, tiny waterslides and spurting fountains. Tak-it-eesi-Creek is a 6,050-square-foot themed adventure river that allows guests to float leisurely in inflatable tubes. The Avalanche (a favorite family ride) is a raft ride that holds up to four people as they adventure down a 382-foot winding path with a 41-foot drop that simulates a white water rafting adventure.
Other amenities at the lodge include a spa, called Serenity at the Lodge, where guests can avail themselves of such services as massage therapy, skin care treatments, sea salt scrubs, steam therapy and Reiki, a holistic relaxation therapy. Kids programs and activities are offered every day of the week with special events like Tea with Tweety, S’mores with Scooby-Doo, and Sundaes with Sylvester. Looney Tunes characters stroll through the property and even deliver milk and cookies to your child’s room at night or help them celebrate a birthday.
The lodge complements the family friendly attractions at The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom, a Six Flags theme park property. Six Flags is the world’s largest theme park company, with 19 parks worldwide. The theme park was built in 1954 by businessman Charles Wood and opened as Storytown USA, with a Mother Goose theme. In 1983, the park officially changed its name to The Great Escape and 12 years later it opened its waterpark, Splashwater Kingdom. In 1996, The Great Escape was sold to Premier Parks, Inc., which later changed its name to Six Flags, Inc. “Although there has been continued growth and many new attractions added, we are very proud of the park’s history and heritage,” remarked Six Flags Great Escape Properties President Don McCoy. “We feel that we have really preserved the history of Storytown and have many guests coming back who want their kids and grandkids to have the very same experience they had as kids.” McCoy noted that many of the local residents look at the park as their very own so it is important to bring back some old favorites and continue the traditions that have created lifelong memories. In fact, to celebrate the opening of the newly updated Storytown Train in 2010, the park hosted a community wide photo contest, Generations of Greatness, where guests could submit photos of family members in the park representing extended generations of Great Escape guests.
Today, the theme park is home to over 135 rides and attractions including thrill rides, family rides and a full waterpark. Little ones love the Wiggles World Children’s Theme Area, which opened in 2008, and the Looney Tunes National Theme Park, which first debuted in 2005. For 2010, Cinderella’s Castle was rebuilt from the ground up. Created straight from the fairytale, the new structure will be the backdrop to the Pumpkin Coach and Cinderella herself.
Although the seasonality of the area draws tourists from all regions, the local residents can find something to do all year long. The park acts as host to many local business groups and school outings, while the lodge welcomes weddings, birthday parties and banquets of all kinds. Season pass holders can earn prizes and there is a live and local concert series featuring the area’s best bands. Both properties are very committed to giving back to the community and participate in programs like the United Way’s “Live United” campaign, the JDR Duck Race and the American Red Cross’s “Frightfest” Blood Drive. Their biggest non-profit initiative is The Children’s Miracle Network “A Walk in the Park,” which benefits the local children’s hospital. The Walk raised over $20,000 this year. Rebecca Close, communications director for Six Flags Great Escape Properties, commented, “It is an unbelievable opportunity for us to use our parks as a venue for these activities and to partner with a local hospital and make sure that the funds raised stay in the community.” McCoy added, “To watch and experience a family who can bring their child out amidst all the personal things that are going on in their lives and to put that child in a position to just forget about all that by being able swim and relax at White Water Bay for even a small amount of time; the feedback from the family and the community is just overwhelming.” The Great Escape properties also support the Double H Ranch, developed by park founder Charles Wood and Paul Newman, which serves over 1,500 children and family members throughout the year who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses. The Great Escape properties act as the hosts for their annual gala and the camp kids visit the park each year.
When considering the challenge of promoting two very different properties as one destination, the team overseeing both the theme park and the lodge see this as an opportunity to study how the businesses differ in their offerings while still trying to co-promote the stay and play concept. The lodge and the theme park are uniquely different properties but appeal to the same demographics – families with young children. Close noted, “They recognize the need to market the properties independently at times due to seasonality, but can cross promote so that, from a guest perspective, the experiences are seamless and they are absolutely connected.” In considering their marketing efforts, changes have been made in the last few years to accommodate the growth in the Internet and all the research that is done prior to a family ever leaving for vacation. Close explained how important it is to recognize the family’s potential to get online to review locations in advance. Mommy blogs and travel savvy mom groups are influential in today’s society. Social media platforms like Facebook have become a popular method for reaching local guests. The Great Escape has over 10,000 Facebook fans, and they engage frequently with contests, upcoming events, park announcements and interactive promotions like the photo contest, Generations of Greatness.
Don and Rebecca were both very excited to talk about the Six Flags Green Initiative and how the theme park and the lodge have taken great strides to reduce their carbon footprints. The Six Flags Great Escape Lodge is an EPA Green Power Partner, having earned its Green Energy certification by purchasing New York State Wind energy. As part of the initiative, the lodge became the first hotel to offer Anatomic Global’s eco-friendly memory foam bedding, the Ecomfort Mattress. The lodge utilizes programmable thermostats to conserve energy and also provides eco-friendly amenities for bathrooms, eco-friendly laundry detergents and cleaners, and corn-based serve ware for in-suite kitchens. The lodge practices a facility wide recycling program, making it easy for guests to recycle bottles, cans and paper goods. Six Flags Great Escape Theme Park is also taking strides with several of the park’s diesel vehicles having been converted to operate on vegetable oil generated in the park’s kitchens.
Park President Don McCoy has been with the Great Escape properties for three years, having come from Six Flags Over Georgia in 2007 where he acted as director of operations for six years. His enthusiasm for the Great Escape properties is very evident in his comments and he believes that it is the “experience” that makes their location a family favorite. “It’s a great family experience where two properties work symbiotically. Families can enjoy White Water Bay as well as The Great Escape; all of the characters and all the amenities, all in the same trip. To a child, it is magical,” McCoy said.
Special thanks to Don McCoy and Rebecca Close for the great pictures and interviews. –