Adventures at Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls, Ontario

32aWhen we left Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls, we had to literally peel my son’s fingers off of the door as he kicked and screamed. Needless, to say, he LOVED every minute and never wanted to leave. This was our first visit, and I want to share with you what we learned, what we loved and why we’ll be returning again as soon as possible!

To Paw Pass or Not to Paw Pass?

For first-timers I highly recommend the Paw Pass!  For $64.99 plus tax per kid, you get:

  • One MagiQuest game
  • One MagiQuest classic wand or classic topper
  • One quarter pound of fudge
  • One animal from our Great Wolf Stuffing Station (outfit not included)
  • One 5×7 Paw Prints water park action photo
  • 20 Paw Points and game card for Northern Lights Arcade
  • One gift at Scooops Kid Spa
  • Two games of bowling at Ten Paw Alley or one game at Wacky Wilderness Mini Golf
  • Two Great Wolf Kids activities in Cub Club
  • One pair of wolf ears

We did everything on the list except for the activities at the Cub Club.  The kids loved getting their wolf ears, their stuffed wolf (just like at Build-A-Bear), and their wands for the MagiQuest. I upgraded the Paw Prints photo for about $6 we got a printed picture of our family going over the Falls in a barrel. We have very few family pictures and I appreciate the kitsch of this souvenir.

Meal Plan or Bring Your Own?

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Dinner Buffet

Our package included the meal plan and I loved the breakfast and dinner buffets. There were lots of choices and my picky eaters were all happy. Niagara Wine samples came to the table (SCORE!) and as it was my daughter’s birthday, she received a special dessert and a birthday song from wait staff ending with a wolf howl! So fun!

Check out the video of the birthday song: Great Wolf Lodge Birthday Surprise

Lunch choices were ‘okay’. We could choose from a pizza slice, chips and pop; or a hot dog or burger w/fries and a pop.  Not as awesome as the buffet, but it was quick enough and let us get back to the more important task of enjoying the water park.

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Kitchenette

Next time I will consider bringing more food and possibly not getting the meal plan, it is certainly possible to make do without it, but I also really enjoyed the buffets!

The room had a mini-fridge and microwave oven, coffee maker and sink, so we could definitely have made do while in our room. No microwave popcorn is allowed to be popped in the hotel rooms – there are big warning labels on the microwave ovens. I brought snacks, chips, candy, and bottled water for the room.

Standard, Themed, or Premium Room?

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KidCabin TV bunk bed and single bed

Our room was a themed KidCabin Suite. The kids enjoyed the bunk bed room of their own. My son loved sleeping in the top bunk. My daughter turned 13 on the trip and found the beds very uncomfortable. Next time I would double a mattress for her (they were thinner than a standard mattress) and there were three beds in the suite and only two kids.

We would have been just as happy in a standard “Family Fireplace Suite” as we all really enjoyed the fireplace and would pay a little more for that perk (we visited in January and it was so nice to warm up by the fire and also to dry our towels). My daughter would’ve been more comfortable in a regular bed and would happily share with her brother.

If you have no budget, consider a premium suite. I’d love to try the loft fireplace suite. This would be great to book at Christmas as the room holds up to 8 people and Santa can bring presents to the fireplace! Some of the premium rooms come with dedicated parking right outside your suite so it is easier to load/unload.

The Waterpark!

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Massive Water Park – so much to do!

We have been to the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark in Niagara Falls twice thanks to Autism Ontario attending in the Winter and were rather disappointed both times. My kids are not thrill seekers and they only enjoyed the wave pool there and unfortunately as the day progresses the water park gets colder and colder as patrons go outside to the heated outdoor space letting cold air continually blast into the water park.

We were pleasantly surprised with Great Wolf Lodge as the temperature was nice and warm and stayed warm the whole time we were there. The water park had smaller water slides for young kids or ‘chickens’ like my two. They loved the lazy river (I think half of our day was spent in the lazy river)! The wave pool was a hit and they also loved the smaller swimming pool with basketball nets around the sides. It was easy to access self serve life vests. Heated towels were available and there were lockers for rent. On our second day, we remained at the water park after checking out from our hotel room, so we rented a locker. The locker was about $20 and when we returned our key we had the option to receive the key back or pick a wolf stuffed animal (my daughter chose the wolf).

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Bonus – they have a Swimsuit “Dryer” – spin cycle that gets most of the wet out!

One night or more?

For the budget conscious, you can get a lot of fun out of a one night stay.  If your room is not ready at your 1pm check in time, you can access the water park already!  And you have water park privileges for your check out day as well, so you can stay as long as the water park is open! My hope next time is that we book at least 2 nights as there is so much fun to be had and it would have been a more relaxed pace for squeezing in all of the fun activities.

The Happiest Place in Canada?

30We used to save up for Disney, the happiest place on earth for me and so many others – but now, in less than 2 hours with no border crossing, our family has found our new ‘happiest place’ and it’s IN CANADA. To celebrate #Canada150 a lot of bloggers are urging Canadians to make Canadian destinations a priority this year, so we will definitely be spending our vacation dollars in Canada and as often as possible, at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Check out all of my Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls videos on YouTube here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8kbJAZWbYm80uhs7pibCfBAW1eXnuG_w

Ready to book?

NEW!!  Enter to WIN here, ends May 24 2017: 
http://blog.parentlifenetwork.com/great-wolf-lodge-for-the-kid-in-all-of-us/

Discounts here:

Great Wolf Lodge Official Website Deals: https://www.greatwolf.com/niagara/deals

Entertain Kids on a Dime posts monthly deals, here are the APRIL 2017 ones:
http://entertainkidsonadime.com/2017/04/05/great-wolf-lodge-april-deals/  

cropped-access-2-logo-2014-eng-tageline-e1402684890727Special Needs Families! Did you know your Easter Seals Access 2 Entertainment card gets you a discount to Great Wolf Lodge? Scroll to the very bottom: http://www.access2card.ca/onattractions/

This Review is not an #Ad. It is my own opinion based on a stay my partner WON from CHYM-FM in Kitchener (Thank you for making me the #BestMomEver ).  

Celebrating 60 Years of Santa’s Village – Review and Giveaway 07/20

Santa's Village

Santa’s Village is 60 this year and we recently attended to visit our old favourites and to check out what’s new. Read below for a $5.00 discount per person at Santa’s Village–exclusively for AdventuresWithJennpup.com readers, and for my Santa’s Village contest!

I love Santa’s Village. I love spending a day at this family friendly amusement park nestled among tall pine trees. I love watching my kids with their elf ear hats on, gleefully hopping from ride to ride with virtually no delay.  It is the perfect place for the under 10 set and grandparents can keep up with the youngsters as the distances between attractions are small (and many of the grandparents will remember visiting as children and bringing their own kids there). Ah, memory lane!

First stop – Mrs. Claus Bake Shop – help yourself to a FREE coffee. Ah, now you’re ready to go!

Santa’s Village is located smack dab on the 45th Parallel – halfway from the Equator to the North Pole – this photo opp is a must!

Greetings from the 45th Parallel!

 

Village Stage

 

For 2015, Santa’s Village brings back old favourites and new entertainers as well. Kitchener-Waterloo residents will be happy to see beloved entertainer Erick Traplin performing. The full entertainment schedule is available here. For our recent visit, “Johnny Toronto” was performing. Much laughter was to be heard from this fun performance!  Last year, we were lucky to see Dan the Music Man in July and Erick Traplin in August.

These shows are so much fun!  Plan your visit to be sure and see your favourites!

Feeding the Reindeer

Of course Santa keeps his reindeer at the village – they get to enjoy a nice Summer vacation!   Feeding the reindeer and also visiting the animals at the Petting Zoo bring a lot of smiles to everyone’s faces.

One thing I really enjoyed are all of the little touches that are just waiting to be noticed.  While waiting to meet Santa so the kids could make their early Christmas list requests (of course my daughter asked for a DOG) and receive their elf hats, clocks told the time from around the world as a miniature train circled the ceiling. Santa’s To Do List, a lovely lamp post with ‘snow’ swirling inside and books that you’d expect to find in Santa’s library provided entertainment and smiles.

 

Did Santa get your wish list item? A helmet for me – perfect!

Our first stop (after coffee) was to ride Rudolph’s Rollercoaster. I rode with my 5 year old son. My 11 year old daughter was too scared to try it, but as the day went on she became braver and we eventually rode it together 5 times!  With little to no line-ups on a Thursday, we were off and on rides as much as we wanted!

After visiting Santa, the kids made a bee-line for the Airplane, Jumping Star and Merry Go Round. Both kids enjoyed all three rides, going from one to the next as much as they liked! Benches and shady pine trees make it a lovely spot for parents to wait and watch, but of course, you can join in as well!  The rides are long and full of fun. There’s a big Christmas ornament ferris wheel nearby (and a perfect little ice cream stand for those afraid of heights). My son and I enjoyed the ferris wheel and I enjoyed taking pictures of Santa’s Summer Sleigh and the Splash Pad.

Pizza Pizza Time!

We enjoyed all of our favourites from last year! When we were ready for lunch, Pizza Pizza was ready for us with the ooey-gooiest cheese pizza ever – the kids were in cheese heaven!  We purchased a full sized pizza family combo with 2 pops and 2 juice boxes. The pizza was ready very quickly and it was delicious!

We took a ride on the train through the park (a great way to see all the park has to offer and plan your visit).

Santa’s Village is on a beautiful waterway and you’ll definitely want to take a ride on Santa’s Summer Sleigh. Enjoy kitschy music and see the beauty of Muskoka! Young and old enjoy this boat ride.

My daughter loves the ‘games of chance’ where every player is guaranteed a pretty decent prize.  This year my son picked an inflatable “Boots” monkey from Dora the Explorer. My daughter won a ‘donut bear’ and later won an inflatable elephant.

Winners!

New this year to Santa’s Village is a Zip Line that takes you over the lake where Swan paddle boats paddle along. We watched a little girl get harnessed up, climb a tall ladder up a pine tree and then whiz over the lake to the other side. It looked like so much fun!  The Zip Line had a cost of $10.

Elves Island was quite transformed this year! Santa’s Village has two bouncy castles, one for kids 5+ and one for kids 4 and younger. Last year, the younger kids bouncy castle was on Elves Island, but now there is a mini aerial park set up  called “Elf Sky Challenge” where kids can test out their skills before heading to Sportsland for a bigger challenge.  Parents and children were seen climbing around together. We witnessed lots of encouragement and help from staff and it looked like a lot of fun, too! 🙂

New for 2015 – Elf Sky Challenge – a new children’s aerial adventure park on Elves Island!

Santa’s Village has a campground in case you need a place to stay. Whispering Pines Campground, includes twenty roofed rustic cabins, full serviced sites, pool, rec hall, and nightly programmed family activities. After an extensive renovation in 2010, Whispering Pines has been voted Muskoka’s best campground four years in a row!

 

There are many locations picture perfect for an annual family photo!  We decided to go ‘silly’ for the 2015 version!

Funny faces!

And we all took lots of #Elfies of course!

I highly recommend a visit to Santa’s Village this Summer!  It has something for everyone!  My kids both enjoyed decorating gingerbread cookies and this year we gave the splash pad and beach a try.

Splish Splash!

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter loved the splash pad the best and my son was all about the beach!  Everything about Santa’s Village just warms my heart. There is more to do and see there than ever before!  Be sure and pick up their 60th Anniversary Commemorative Book and if you’re headed up soon, drop in for SantaFest: “To commemorate the park’s anniversary, Santa’s Village—in partnership with the local community— will host the inaugural SantaFest, a street fair held in downtown Bracebridge on Saturday July 25 (10am to 5pm). There will be children’s entertainers such as Ronno and Johnny Toronto, gingerbread decorating, face painting, and a host of other activities ideal for the young and young-at-heart. The highlight of the day will be a special 60th anniversary parade, beginning at noon. Fuel up on the eggnog beforehand, because it promises to be a full day of fun.”

Muskoka perfection!

The best part of the day for me was when my daughter decided to face her fear and ride Rudolph’s Roller Coaster Sleigh Ride. She rocked it and left feeling completely proud of herself! It was the perfect end to a perfect day!

So proud of herself! 5 times!!

Santa’s Village will be announcing various promotions and deals throughout the season to commemorate the park’s magical 60th anniversary. To keep abreast of them, people should opt-in to the Nice List on the Santa’s Village via my exclusive link below or like their Facebook page.

>>Adventures With Jennpup readers can access an exclusive $5 discount on tickets here!<<

Enter to win a Family Pass for 4 – one day’s admission this 2015 Season – click on the link below!

—GIVEAWAY—GIVEAWAY—GIVEAWAY—GIVEAWAY—

Adventures With Jennpup Santa’s Village Giveaway 07/20

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Be sure and check out my Facebook page and give a LIKE – there’s a huge photo album with all of our pictures from Santa’s Village!

*Our family received a family pass to check out what’s new at Santa’s Village for 2015. All opinions belong to @Jennpup!

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada – Adventure Review!

My 5 year old has Autism. He is the loveliest, happiest little guy – and he lights up our lives. He teaches us so much every day about how to enjoy life – and he brings out the best in his big sister!

Autism Ontario puts together some wonderful programs for families to attend. It is so nice to go to an event knowing the staff are expecting kids who don’t necessarily behave or react the same as ‘neurotypicals’. 🙂  Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada partnered with Autism Ontario for their first “Sensory Friendly” evening on Sunday, April 19th.  We registered and received a 4pm-5pm entry time.

We arrived right around 4pm – just as the Blue Jay’s game was letting out.  Ripley’s Aquarium is right under the CN Tower and right next to Rogers Centre.

Ripley’s Aquarium Toronto

This meant there was a LOT of parking suddenly becoming available.  We parked at a lot just off of Bremner Boulevard – the rate was about $24 for the ‘day’. We could have saved by parking elsewhere, one resource I looked at before heading out was this: http://toronto.bestparking.com/destinations/cn-tower-parking/   But in the end, I just wanted to be close by and we didn’t have to pay for our Ripley’s Admission so it seemed ‘worth it’.

After checking in, we visited the washrooms. My son is on a potty training routine and the toilets at Ripley’s were ‘auto flush’ which scared him – so no successes while we were there. Both kids loved the initial fish tanks that were around to explore.  My son tried to count the fish in one tank (over 1,000 – not sure he can count quite that high yet, so we moved on).

Counting Fish!

So much for the kids to see and do!

One of the first really cool things we saw – reminded us we were at a RIPLEY’s – inventor of the “Believe it or Not” series – check out this YouTube video I found!  Fleshy Sea Pens!

There’s lots to see and explore! Eventually you get to the amazing shark tanks! A conveyor belt keeps the crowd flowing, but gives lots of time to see everything! You are fully immersed in the aquarium – it was really cool! Currently, Ripley’s is running a #SharkSelfie contest until June 26, 2015 – so we were certain to take lots of selfies for our weekly entry! 🙂

Jennpup #SharkSelfie

After the Shark tank, there was so much for the kids to do and explore!  There were snack bars, slides, horseshoe crabs to touch and sharks to pet. My favourite area was “Planet Jellies” – truly an out of this world experience!

ripleys filmstrip

The kids had a blast and it wouldn’t be complete without an “Exit Thru the GiftShop” – my 11 year old picked a stuffy Jellyfish to hang from her ceiling. It will definitely remind us of a great day!

ripleys filmstrip 2

I hope you get the chance to check it out soon! 🙂

Love,

Jennpup

P.S. Want to try to win tickets?
This contest from DurhamRegion.com ends May 3rd, 2015 – enter here.
ParentSource.ca has a contest to win Ripley’s Passes and another for a CN Tower experience ending April 30th, 2015 – check out their current contests here!  Good luck!

Bingemans Big Splash

On my Summer “Big Bucket” List was a trip to Bingemans Big Splash.  Earlier in the Summer my daughter and I visited King’s Island Amusement Park and enjoyed their wave pool so much that I started looking for local wave pools to try out!
bigsplash

Local radio station Country 106.7 had a contest to win tickets to their Bingemans Big Splash “Country Splash Down” event day in July and we won a family four pass!

That day was rainy and just as the kids were in their suits and ready to swim, the skies opened up and the pool was closed! We got dressed and headed inside to watch the kids play on the climber and slides. My son with Autism did not understand why we couldn’t swim and he was very upset, but the climber and slides calmed him down and he had  a lot of fun.  

Soon, the rain ended and the sun peeked through, but we still didn’t get to do too much swimming that day.

Later in the Summer, I won 4 passes from 91.5 The Beat radio (they have a fantastic call in contest tied to their Top 9 at Noon). I tried for about 2 weeks and finally got through and won the 4 splash park passes  and a family pass to African Lion Safari (stay tuned for that review in a few weeks). 

We picked one of the forecasted hot and sunny days in August to return to Bingemans Big Splash.

No rain this time, and the day was just beautiful. My daughter is timid about rides, so we didn’t go on any of the big slides, but by the end of the day she was happy to slide in the Bucket area.

Both kids had the best time. My son really enjoyed the bubble pool to the side of the wave pool.  Later in the afternoon it started to get super crowded and we headed home with lots of happy memories!

For more information, visit Bingemans Big Splash!

Please check out my Bingemans Big Splash Flickr album.

-Jennpup

Santa’s Village

Reposting my 2014 Review – check out the links at the bottom of this post for details on how to WIN tickets to Santa’s Village for use during the 2015 Season!

We are very lucky to have access to a family Cottage near Muskoka, which allows us take a vacation on a beautiful lake with minimal expenses. We have been going for years, but had never been to Santa’s Village. Thanks to a WIN from a contest run by “Help, We’ve Got Kids: Toronto” we received a Family Four Pass to use any day this Summer!

This Summer has had a lot of cool days, so we decided on one of those days in July when it was not exactly swimming weather, it would be the perfect day to keep the kids occupied at Santa’s Village!

Right away we were greeted by a giant bear!  The kids posed for a quick picture! 🙂

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Then we headed up the path and my daughter HAD to get her face painted (I was concerned about the picture with Santa, so I insisted on a ‘cheek paint’ only). The face paint artist created exactly the symbol my daughter requested!

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My son and partner headed up to the hill to “RING THE BELL” at the little Chapel 061

We arrived just as RONNO was performing (every Summer, Santa’s Village attracts some of the most talented children’s performers in Canada). Everybody was dancing (and I got to remember when my 10 year old was little and I’d take her to see Ronno at the Kitchener Market’s Kids Hop). 072

NOTE: Any children left unattended will be put to work as Elves! 083

We found SANTA – the kids posed with Santa for what will have to be our Christmas card this year! My son loved Santa’s BEARD! 091

Now that the kids met Santa, they were ELVES. There is nothing more adorable than watching your two little elves running around all day, playing and smiling at Santa’s Village.  They loved feeding Santa’s reindeer. 329

They have carnival games that are FANTASTIC. For one low price, your child can play until they win – a prize is guaranteed and it is no ‘booby prize’ – it is a full size, choose whatever you like prize!

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The RIDES!  My kids are 10 and 4. My 10 year old daughter is terrified of roller coasters (they have one at Santa’s Village, but there was no way she was going to go on it). My 4 year old son has autism and is pretty good about going on rides, but we worry about losing him and don’t always know what he ‘wants’. At Santa’s Village, there were lots of opportunities for my son to climb and slide and burn up any energy he had. The park is big enough, but not so big that we ever worried about losing him. He let us know quite clearly what rides he wanted to go on, and after one turn on the carousel with his sister, he was able to go on and off the ride independently.

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We took a ride on Santa’s Summer Sleigh (a river cruise) – it was so much fun! Beautiful waterway. Fun music played like the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song.
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We also went for a ride on the Train.

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Santa often comes out to watch the children on the rides! He waves at them and jingles his jingle bells, sometimes he gets on and goes for a ride, too!

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They have a JUMPING star ride, that looks a lot scarier than it is. The motion is much more of a gentle bounce and not a feeling of plummeting.  My TIMID 10 year old decided to get brave and try it after watching her brother and I survive and laugh a lot!  Great memories!

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When my son saw the Ferris Wheel, he had to go on it immediately!  You sit in a big Christmas ornament and enjoy the beautiful wooded views!

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I sent my family onto a paddle boat swan while I took pictures!  I love these swans!

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We followed the signs to Elves Island, where the kids bounced, climbed, coloured and went down slides. So much fun, and definitely helped them burn energy on a day when we’d have been hearing lots of “I’m BORED” from my daugher at the cottage!

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The Staff were so friendly!  The operator of the Ferris Wheel offered to take a picture of my son and I.

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Santa’s Village is so CLEAN! It seemed like every 20 minutes we were passed yet again by the two teen girls on garbage duty – they always had a friendly smile and greeting, and they were constantly keeping the park pristine! I was very impressed!

The kids were hungry and tired of all of the healthy eating we were doing at the cottage. Luckily, Santa’s Village has Pizza Pizza!  We enjoyed a family meal deal (a large pizza, 2 pops and 2 juice boxes)! The pizza was so huge we couldn’t eat it all.

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Later my daughter decorated a Gingerbread Man at Mrs. Claus’ Bake Shop and I enjoyed COMPLIMENTARY COFFEE!  This is not a park where you leave feeling overcharged and used – they treat you like family and give everyone the best experience!

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We will definitely be returning again!  Perhaps this month (in August 2014, there’s 2-for-1 admission every Friday and Monday). Thank you so much to “Help, We’ve Got Kids: Toronto” and to Santa’s Village! When they heard we were headed to the Muskoka area, they offered to hold our prize win at the front gates rather than make us wait for it to arrive in the mail.  That kind of exceptional customer service was evident the entire day!

Thank you Santa’s Village!
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Check out all of the pictures from our July 2014 visit at my Flickr Album 🙂

Ho-Ho-Ho Merry Christmas in July!

-Jennpup

Updates!  We returned again in August. During August, Santa’s Village offered 1/2 price admission (or Buy One Get One) ticketing on certain days.  We headed out on a cloudy, overcast ‘iffy’ day.  We had a great time, but it did rain – not enough to shut everything down, but enough to get the kids wet.  Later, we went to see Erick Traplin perform (a local Kitchener-Waterloo legend) and the skies opened – it poured and poured for over an hour (but we were nice and dry in the covered theatre enjoying the show)…  But don’t worry! Santa’s Village has a rainy day policy and our entire family received a ‘rain check’ so we can visit again in the following season!  We will definitely be returning in 2015!

Want to win a family pass?

Check out this contest (ends July 1st) and coupon from “SnyMed”: http://www.snymed.com/2015/06/santas-village-turns-60-5-off-coupon.html

Check out this contest (ends July 5th) from “Frugal Mom Eh”: http://www.frugalmomeh.com/2015/06/win-a-familys-pass-to-santas-village-giveaway.html

Check out this contest (ends July 11th) from Maple Mouse Mama: http://maplemousemama.com/win-a-family-pass-to-santas-village-in-bracebridge-on-open-to-canus-ends-711/

Stay tuned! Adventures with Jennpup is excited to be hosting a giveaway in July 2015!