“You want me to get on that and go down to where?” I wailed from high atop the Alberta Falls waterslide, looking down to an alleged pool that was well out of visual range. My 11-year-old granddaughter nodded with a look of both consternation and resignation that I tried very hard to take in stride.
Such was my introduction to a vast array of unusual children’s activities that mesmerized the kid in me as much as they did Dalya, 14, and Mollie, 11, as we frolicked through Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. There are 18 such water parks nationwide.
So much was going on at the water park that I didn’t know where to look: the pool basketball game, the lazy river, the wave pool, the kiddie pool, Fort Mackenzie—a 12-level interactive treehouse with a section of ascending interconnected rope tunnels leading to two winding slides—a surf simulator, and eight waterslides that dominate the park and stretch both inside and outside the building. Everywhere, the smiles were as wide as the lazy river was long. And no matter what the activity, we were never too far from a potential dousing from overhead buckets both large and small that elicited cries of surprise from bathers of every age.
Options ranged from the toddler pool that proudly boasted its depth at 0 feet and contained miniature water buckets and slides to an array of adult slides from family raft rides of gentle descent to the terror-inducing Howlin’ Tornado with its sheer drops and challenging turns. And then there was the wave pool. Not exactly ocean-worthy diving potential, but if you’re under 3 feet tall or willing, as I was, to kneel down, you can simulate riding the waves even if you can’t exactly dive into them.
Once our skins unpruned, we were ready for more land-based adventures, and there were as many of those as there were water-park options. First, we had to eat, so we entered the dinner buffet right off the lobby where continuous activities unfolded. When I went for my salad, there was dancing in the lobby; when I went back for my entree, 50 little kids were engrossed in story time; during dessert, a musical presentation with singing trees, animals, and other fanciful creatures enthralled. Entertaining kids around the clock is what Great Wolf Lodge is all about.
The pièce de résistance (after the water park) is MagiQuest, a hard-to-describe adventure that takes kids throughout all four floors of the hotel seeking magical powers, potions, and portents—all enabled by their magic wands—to satisfy the demands of a Merlin-like presence ensconced inside a tree. Multiple quests with multiple clues to each one require you to visit the Enchanted Forest, Tangled Woods, Piney Path, and Whispery Woods, all located throughout the hotel.
“The Ancient Book of Wisdom,” which you get when you sign up for MagiQuest, directs you to the clues.
Surprising encounters occur throughout. Let’s say you find a Quest site that’s not on your list. You might hear: “Silly Magi, you have to be on THIS quest before I waste my time with you.” At the Book of Freezing Spells, a voice admonishes: “Don’t be so literal. You’re reading way too much into this.” And the huge, larger-than-life knight in a stairwell pleads: “You have found 200 pieces of gold hidden in my armor. Now get me out of here!”
Word of warning: You have to stay out of the way of younger kids racing around as if their wands were swords and the quests just an excuse to duel with each other through the hallways. If you tire of this unusual game, you can opt to play miniature golf at Howl in One or hang out at the arcade and come back to the quest at a later time.
There was so much going on, so many bizarre places to wield a wand with a variety of big screens showing animated adventures spaced throughout that I just gave up trying to understand what was happening and happily trailed behind my granddaughters in their quest. Overheard from one frustrated mom with three little ones in tow: “Man, this is crazy. I give up.” I knew just how she felt. I was glad when Dalya finally pronounced that she only needed Tree Slime to finish her latest quest. Sounded like a good way to end to me.
The list of the things we didn’t do was almost as long as those we did. We didn’t try the lifesize time-challenge game where you race both against the clock and your opponents to push out balloon-sized blinking light buttons. We didn’t bowl at Ten Paw Alley with five-pound balls and bumpers along the pint-size lanes. We didn’t attend any of the several 4-D movies offered at the Howly Wood Theater.
We could have spent a week there and never gotten bored, but Williamsburg and Busch Gardens beckoned, and I reluctantly followed.
When You Go
Fyllis Hockman is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2021 Creators.com