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  • Melissa Blanco
    Melissa Blanco

    Traveling Gluten-Free in Grand Mound, Washington—A Great Time at Great Wolf Lodge

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 09/01/2009 - I recently passed a milestone, upon reaching the first anniversary,since my celiac disease diagnosis.  There was no golden coin or awardceremony, but rather a sense of personal accomplishment.  Although itis true that I feel better not eating gluten than I have in years—Istill miss my former diet every single day.  I no longer crave glutenfilled meals, nor do I feel sorry for myself, as often as I did,immediately following my diagnosis.  Yet, I still find it necessary tojustify my condition whenever I get confused looks at dinner parties orpotlucks.  There are also the days when I will pass a pizza shop orhave a craving for a glazed donut with my morning coffee.  It is inthose moments when familiar pangs will resurface and make me long forjust an instance that I could put on my gluten shield and indulge.

    Itwas at this time last year, that I celebrated my first summergluten-free.  I ate at only restaurants with gluten-free selections, Ibegan dabbling in store bought wheat-free mixes, and jumped up and downin my kitchen the day my husband discovered a gluten-free bakery,several towns away.  Last summer was also my first opportunity totravel gluten-free.  It was during those normally carefree months thatI attended a Family Camp, at a retreat center, in the mountains. Although I meticulously planned for the trip; packing clothing, extratennis shoes, swimming essentials, and toiletries—I neglected toremember that I now had dietary limitations which would possibly have atremendous impact on the outcome of this family weekend.  Yes, I packedgluten-free breakfast bars and fresh fruit, but that was it.  I didn’tcall ahead and ask if they had menu options for celiac sufferers, nordid I plan for lunches and dinners.

    Walking into the retreatcenter dining hall among the smell of fresh baked bread, pasta salad,and breaded chicken made my mouth water like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  Iglanced around the table to see salad drizzled with vinaigrette andrealized that was all I would be eating for the day.  My head began toache and tears stung the back of my eyes.  I inwardly cursed myself formy lack of preparation.  I am the mother of three young children, thewife of a deployed soldier, a responsible and organized woman—yet Icompletely forgot to prepare for a weekend in the mountains, withceliac disease.

    I soon learned two of my fellow campers alsosuffered from gluten intolerance and was informed that there wasgluten-free bread and peanut butter, in the kitchen.  I breathed a sighof relief as I walked up to the chef and asked him if I could possiblyhave a slice of gluten-free bread.  He looked at me and responded,“sure, but this is the only loaf we have, so when it’s gone, it’sgone.”  He was completely put off by my request and irritated thatthree celiacs would arrive at his retreat center, simultaneously,forcing him into a position to alter his meals for dietaryrestrictions.  I grabbed the smallest slice of bread in the loaf,ensuring that the young boy with celiac would have food to eat, andwalked out of the kitchen, in tears.

    That was one year ago, andalthough the date on the calendar has changed, I am still coping withmy condition and learning to travel gluten-free.  My husband recentlyreturned from his yearlong deployment to Iraq, and decided it was timeto treat the family to a couple days of fun-filled water adventure;with a trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.  It wouldbe an understatement to say that my children were excited—rather, theywere beyond ecstatic at the prospect of water slides, swimming pools,and the giant bucket of water which spills and drenches everyone in itspath, every few moments.      

    I packed my morning gluten-freebreakfast bars, alongside of my toddler’s swim diapers, and we hit theroad, ready for an adventure at Great Wolf Lodge.  As I prepared formeals of bunless hamburgers and grilled chicken Caesar salads, minusthe croutons, my children began psyching themselves up for the thrillof a rushing waterslide.  I wasn’t sure how food allergies would begreeted at this indoor water park, as was I nervous for a reoccurrenceof past experiences.  My ultimate hope was that my Celiac Disease wouldbe understood and recognized for its seriousness.   

    The Loose Moose Cottage


    Onthe first evening of our stay, my husband suggested eating at The LooseMoose Cottage, to partake of their dinner buffet.  After being seatedin a comfortable booth, we ordered our drinks, before I perused ourselection of food for the evening.  The buffet was quite organized witha variety of offerings assembled in different ethnic sections featuringMexican food, Italian food, and Chinese cuisine.  There was a selectionof sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and sliced roast beef; a kid’s stationwith macaroni and cheese and mini corndogs, a salad bar, and a dessertstation.  After preparing my children’s’ plates, I approached a chef,as she refilled the nacho tray, and asked if the enchiladas were madeusing corn or flour tortillas.  She informed me that they were madewith flour before asking if there was something she could help me with.

    I told her that I have celiac disease, and expected to explain to herwhat that was; yet was surprised as she began walking down theselection of foods, informing me one-by-one which were safe for me toeat.  As I kept up with her, amazed at her accommodating demeanor, sheworked all the way from the Mexican food to the salad bar.  She thenwalked back to the kitchen and returned with two pieces of gluten-freegrilled chicken breast.  As I was thanking her, she offered to make megluten-free pasta.  When I declined, she told me that if I would likethem to make me pasta the following day, to let the kitchen know andthey would be more than happy to prepare it for me.

    My personalreview of The Loose Moose Cottage: The food was good, the service wasexceptional, and the atmosphere was accommodating for my family.  Theonly thing which would have made dining easier would have been if eachdish’s ingredients were listed on a sign beside the dish itself.
      

    Poolside Grill


    During our afternoon of swimming, we ventured outside where staff wereoffering grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, along with potato chips anddrinks.  The smell of the grill was invigorating—after several hours ofswimming, we were starving—so my husband and I decided it was time fora power lunch.  I requested a hotdog, without a bun.  The chef lookedat me and asked, “Do you have celiac disease?”

    I nodded my headand said, “Yes, I do.”  Then I watched with astonishment as sheimmediately removed the plastic gloves she had been using, beforereplacing them with new gloves, and sticking my hotdog on a clean partof the grill.  When I questioned her about her knowledge of foodallergies, and specifically celiac disease, she explained that GreatWolf Lodge has a lot of guests with food restrictions and the chefsmake every effort to be knowledgeable and helpful.

    My personal review of the Poolside Grill: The food was delicious and the staff was informed and respectful.

    Bear Paw Café


    The smell ofthe Bear Paw Café began wafting through the air the moment I exited theelevator.  This small café is not to be taken lightly by the averagedieter, with the aroma of delicious desserts; fudge, ice cream, bakedgoods and popcorn.  Typically, this is an area I would avoid; however,I decided that in order to fully assess the food selections of theGreat Wolf Lodge, it would only be fair to visit the bakery.  Plus, Ireally wanted a piece of fudge.

    When I approached the personat the counter and explained that I was unable to eat anything withwheat in it and wondered if they had any gluten-free offerings, shesmiled and went to find a person more capable of assisting me.  A bakercame out from the kitchen and greeted me with a smile, before tellingme that her mom has suffered from Celiac Disease for twenty-years.  Shethen pointed out the assortment of gluten-free fudges and offered tomake me gluten-free cookies.  Although I was tempted to take her up onthe cookies, I rather, chose a piece of fudge.  I can say, without adoubt—it was delicious.

    My personal review of the Bear Paw Café:The fudge was delicious and the service was exceptional.  I do wishthere was more of a variety of baked goods for those with foodallergies; such as wheat, peanut, and egg-free ingredients.

    Camp Critter


    Forour final meal at the Great Wolf Lodge, we ate at the Camp Critterrestaurant.  After a day of swimming, we were all completely famishedand felt at home in the warm atmosphere of this sit down restaurant. The menu had a variety of kids’ meal offerings, as well as adultselections ranging from burgers, to salads, to steaks.  I was onceagain met with a server who was knowledgeable and sympathetic to mydietary restrictions.  I asked for a cheeseburger, without a bun, andwhen it was delivered, I was informed that my fries were made inseparate oil, to avoid cross contamination.  What can I say; it wasAll-American dining, and my entire family enjoyed it.

    Mypersonal review of Camp Critter: Although the menu did not have avariety of gluten-free selections; the food I chose was preparedgluten-free, cooked well, and the staff was accommodating and helpful.

    After two fun-filled days of water bliss at the Great Wolf Lodge, wedeparted for home, exhausted, and with chlorine seeping out of ourswimming suits.  I rate our trip 5 of 5 stars—it was a great get-away,and I didn’t feel hindered by my celiac disease.  And on a side note…mykids thought the water park was amazing.
      


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    Thanks for sharing! We are going to the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA next month with my newly diagnosed celiac 5 year old. I was a little nervous about meal times! You article was very helpful. I'm going to call them in advance to see if they have the same policies there...

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    We've been to the Great Wolf lodge several times. I called ahead the first time and they told me what I could eat at Camp Critter. They seemed very knowledgeable. My husband was also deployed last year, but he went to Djibouti. We're talking about a family trip to Great Wolf Lodge soon. I've was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1987 and I must say, the gluten-free life is getting easier and better tasting.

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    Thank you so much for this information! My daughter is on a gluten free diet and we've been wanting so badly to go to the Great Wolf Lodge however haven't due to her food allergies. In reading this, I realize it is possible now! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this!!

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    I can't begin to tell you about how much that this web sight helped me tonight! For my mom; (85 years old), wanted to take my daughter, (20 yrs old w/ major celiac), over to Europe this next summer. I.E.: She planned an "oldtimers trip" through the back country of England. Whereas, I got upset with her plans, for there was nothing for her to either eat or buy!... So they settled on going to New Orleans instead. Hopefully there is gluten free food there.

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    My girlfriend was recently diagnosed with celiac disease and we are trying to make the best of planning her little brother's birthday party at the Great Wolf Lodge. I just wanted to thank you for creating a detailed and reassuring review of the food accommodations for the resort.

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    Thank you so much for this article! We were considering a trip to the Grand Mound GWL and I was nervous because my daughter (who would turn 1 during our trip) and I both have to eat gluten free. I hope their policies are still as accommodating now as they were when you went.

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    Thank you so much for this article! We were considering a trip to the Grand Mound GWL and I was nervous because my daughter (who would turn 1 during our trip) and I both have to eat gluten free. I hope their policies are still as accommodating now as they were when you went.

    Did you end up visiting? And if so, may I ask how it was re: gluten-free options?

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  • About Me

    Melissa Blanco is a freelance writer and blogger who was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007.  You can visit her website at www.melissablanco.com.

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