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What once was a buffalo farm is now home to the kid-friendly Elements Spa and Scooops Kid Spa, both part of the Great Wolf Lodge water park resort in Traverse City, Michigan. I found it nostalgic to be standing in the spa, which was constructed on the old Oleson Buffalo Farm, very near the site where I used to attend preschool many moons ago while growing up in Traverse City. However, the land has been modernized and the majority of the buffalo relocated, except for the token few that remain on the property as a tourist curiosity and nod to the land’s history.
Despite being located in the heart of a children’s paradise, the spa itself is calming and serene. Designed using slate and marble, soft lighting and earth tones, the facility offers parents a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle of family fun. “Our caring spa team members have created a retreat to restore your sense of balance and well-being where we use only environmentally friendly products,” says Lee MacDonald, spa director.
Elements offers a variety of local treatment specialties, including the Great Getaway, a signature treatment that includes a
60-minute aromatherapy massage, 60-minute Aveda Aqua Polish and express manicure; and the Mother-Daughter Escape, where mothers and daughters can each enjoy several hours of pampering with a 60-minute aromatherapy facial, spa manicure and spa pedicure. Other facial, body and massage services are available as well, all featuring Aveda products.
Probably the most innovative room of the spa is Scooops Kid Spa. It is decorated in a whimsical ice cream parlor fashion, designed specifically with the 12-and-under set in mind. “Because we are located within a family vacation destination, we decided it was about time to have something just for kids,” says MacDonald. “A kid spa really made sense.”
Its literal menu of services features ice cream-themed manicures and pedicures, as well as facials and makeup touch-ups. The soundproof room was specially placed within Elements so that kids could kick back and have fun in their own spa, while not disturbing the more quiet nature of Elements. The main products used include the very clever Me! Bath product line—absolutely perfect for the Scooops theme. And, of course, all of the delectable services are served with the youngster’s choice of ice cream flavor.
The menu includes a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pedicure or Manicure for the creative and organized kid; a Coconut Cream Pie Pedicure or Manicure for those who dare to be different and are adventurous; a Caramel Apple Pedicure or Manicure for kids who love to solve mysteries, play games and just plain have fun; a Peaches and Cream Pedicure or Manicure, for the kid who likes simplicity and enjoys day dreaming; a Gummy Worm Pedicure or Manicure, featuring chocolate ice cream fizz with real gummy worms tickling the toes—I’m told that this is a favorite with the boys; a Chocolate Brownie Pedicure or Manicure, for the lively and creative kid who likes to indulge; a Scooops Pedicure or Manicure, featuring chocolate and vanilla scents; a Scooops Facial that offers an interactive and fun way to learn how to keep skin soft and healthy; and a Scooops Touch-up for that finishing touch.
My 8-year-old daughter had a blast getting the Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pedicure and Manicure and topping it off with OPI’s fun kid colors from its Brights collection, complete with cute little decals to put the finishing touch on her fingers’ coiffed look. Spa robes in junior sizes are offered to all of the kid spa-goers, even though mine passed on the offer. And yes, the treatment duo was complete with a scoop of strawberry ice cream topped with strawberry sauce.
MacDonald says Scooops plays host to an array of birthday parties, as well as other special events. “Scooops birthday parties are the best, with each child receiving both an Ice Cream Pedicure and Ice Cream Manicure of their choice,” she explains. “They can bring their own music or listen to one of our CDs for younger kids. The birthday girl gets a tiara and a Great Wolf Lodge birthday cake. These parties run from $120–240, and can include up to six kids.”
MacDonald shares her philosophy that “everyone loves to be touched.” This includes infants, and, this fall, Elements Spa will be hosting Kristina Seth of Sweet Pea Products to train its staff to provide infant massage classes to parents, as well as Itsy Bitsy Yoga classes for babies and children up to 4-years-old.
“Scooops Kid Spa has received national attention and has absolutely taken off at all of our properties,” MacDonald says. “Teens and ’tweens are the next generations of spa-goers. It’s important that they’re taught at a young age how to properly take care of their skin, how to avoid sun damage and how to deal with acne as they grow. We also want them to know, as the next generation of multitaskers, that, in addition to taking care of those around them, it’s critical to take care of and make time for themselves. And, I’ve found this to be evident in my own life. My daughter watches me scurry around at lightning speed, but she also knows I take time to get a massage and pedicure on a regular basis. Spa treatments ground us, give us time to decompress and get us ready for the next round of life.”
Scooops Kid Spas will be included with all new Great Wolf properties being built. “And, who knows, we may nationally franchise,” adds MacDonald. She also leaves all spa owners and managers with these words of advice. “With regard to spa staff—trust and invest. Trust your team members, don’t micromanage; invest in their continuing education and listen to their needs,” she stresses. “And, for Pete’s sake, don’t get so serious that you forget to have fun at work.”
Now that is a definite scoop of advice worth taking.
Elements Spa and Scooops Kid Spa
Great Wolf Lodge
3575 N. U.S. Highway 31 S.
Traverse City, MI 49684
Established: Elements in March 2003; Scooops in May 2007
Spa director: Lee MacDonald
Staff: 14 total, including one assistant spa manager, three estheticians/nail techs, five massage therapists, two nail techs and two part-time desk staff
Hours: 9 AM–6 PM, Sunday–Wednesday; 9 AM–8 PM, Thursday–Saturday
Product lines: Elements: Aveda, OPI and Spa Ritual; Scooops: Me! Bath and OPI
Spa philosophy/mission: To provide guests with five-star customer service in a holistic and relaxing atmosphere.
Newest treatment: Adult Ice Cream Pedicures—the most popular being the Green Tea Ice Cream Pedicure—and Aveda’s OuterPeace Acne Facial.
Most popular treatments: Elements: Elemental Nature Massage and Deep Tissue Massage; Scooops: Ice Cream Pedicure and Manicure
Business collaborations: In the early stages of collaborating with Munson Medical Center, also in Traverse City, to provide spa services to its 4,000 employees and patients in a 382-bed hospital as approved by physicians.
Inspirations: The very family friendly environment of the Great Wolf Resort and its indoor water park.
Future plans: To expand the spa into the community in a variety of ways, including becoming involved with charitable organizations, professional womens’ groups and festivals.