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My daughter turned 10 this spring. Double digits. Worth an extra layer of sophistication than the princess, cup-cake-focused, plastic party favor events of her past. She remembered the lobby of the Grand Traverse Resort from the November Chamber Expo, when she helped set up our corporate booth. While this may sound like an easy idea, I have the following challenges when planning for my daughter's friends:
1. Healthy entertainment at an affordable price … If I didn't work so much, I'm sure I could find those cute games where you balance a pencil on your nose until an orange knocks over a soda can … but who has time for that?
2. Food … in my daughter's crowd there's a vegan and a peanut allergy … no kidding; what solves one child's menu could kill the other.
3. Special … it is her 10th birthday. We've been backstage at Suttons Bay's production of Cinderella, a couple times at Great Wolf Lodge, a favorite, and last year we went to Chicago. What competes with that?
Entertainment galore! The pools are gorgeous. There's a great slide with mist inside. There's a turtle crossing and a mini fountain park. The facility is housed inside the Spa area, which means you can get a coffee, or a snack, or see the Kentucky Derby while keeping a watchful eye on your kids having a blast.
It was decidedly tropical inside and on Saturday, my girlfriends, the mothers of our second round of girls enjoyed chatting poolside, catching up on several months of news.
On Friday my daughter and her friends dined at Aerie. Of course the view was stunning, but the real star was the service … Our vegan loved the curry carrot linguini with coconut. The other girls enjoyed the New York Strip. They toasted with Shirley Temples, dipped their asiago bread into Fustini's oil and vinegar and giggled as the service staff fairly gushed over them.
Dessert was at Dylan's Cafe which stays open until 10:00. The lovely lady behind the counter helped our vegan find a white chocolate covered rice crispy treat. Our birthday girl enjoyed a dirt sunday, with a gummy worm and 10-candy-bar ice cream. And her guest enjoyed red velvet ice cream.
The next day (after all the soccer games), my daughter returned with a second group of girls and enjoyed a similar schedule. The pool occupied them for hours that afternoon. I spent the afternoon chatting with their moms, and just enough time in the adults only hot tub. We dined at the Sweetwater Grill, perfect for our friend with the peanut allergy. She could get her familiar (and safe) chicken strips.
Because our schedule was a bit earlier, we were able to get dessert at the Dylan's candy store, which closes at 8:00 pm and where peanut free chocolates and lollypops could be found. (Dylan's ice cream cafe wasn't as confident that they were peanut free.) The girls enjoyed filling bags from a giant selection of scoopable candies--and I recommend this as part of the entertainment. I gave the girls a limit of half a pound (a little more than $5) and had a lot of fun watching the girls figure out how to get the most candy into that half pound.
There was also a bit of time for shopping, although i didn't quite get enough time in the adult stores.
We then headed up to the Aerie Lounge to have a Shirley Temple and enjoy the live music. The girls were absolutely charmed when the solo guitarist was able to croon one of their favorite pop tunes.
Throughout our experience I was impressed by the service and in fact when a maintenance man walking down a hallway asked if I was having a good time, I was immediately reminded of Disney. I'd brought a bottle of wine to enjoy while the girls opened presents--but forgot the corkscrew. I brought the bottle down to a jammed Jack's bar. With a cheerful smile the bartender opened my bottle and brushed away my tip … don't worry, I still left the tip. From Aeirie to the pool, the staff fawned over the girls and treated them like little ladies.
My daughter is not only comfortable in restaurants, I'd put her manners and her palate against most adults. I'm delighted to report that Grand Traverse Resort treated her thus. They spoke to her directly. They listened to her requests. And they were so attentive, we all felt spoiled, which was the point.
This was one approach to toasting the beginning of a young lady's second decade. Our friends invited us to join their celebration at the Presque Isle Lodge and I chronicled that approach as well, so stay tuned for that adventure.