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Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge:
An Unparalleled Land-and-Water Adventure
For Kids of all Ages

Story by Fyllis Hockman

ou 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 grand-daughter nodded with a look of both consternation and resignation that I tried very hard to take in stride.

Alberta Falls waterslide, Great Wolf Lodge, Williamsburg, VA
Photo courtesy Great Wolf Lodge

Such was my introduction to a vast array of unusual children's activities that mesmerized the 70-year-old kid in me as much as they did Dalya, 14 and Mollie, 11 as we frolicked through Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA. (There are 12 such waterparks nationwide).

We could have spent all three days at the resort and still not exhausted the available options. Having to leave to also visit Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens for me was just a distraction. Mollie and Dalya might take issue with that.

There is so much going on at the waterpark that I didn't know where to look. The pool basketball game, the lazy river, the wave pool, the kiddie pool, the 4-story interactive treehouse with a section of ascending inter-connected rope tunnels leading to two winding slides, a surf stimulator and, of course, the three waterslides that dominate the park and stretch both inside and outside the building. And everywhere the smiles were as wide as the lazy river was long. And no matter what the activity, you're never too far from a potential dousing from overhead buckets both large and small eliciting cries of surprise from bathers of every age.

overhead bucket tips over at young guests at the Great Wolf Lodge waterpark
Photo courtesy Great Wolf Lodge

Options ranged from the toddler pool proudly boasting its depth at 0' and containing 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 sheer drops and challenging turns. Okay, we didn't go near that one but yes, we returned to the Alberta Falls waterslide multiple times.

And then there was the wave pool. Okay, not exactly ocean-worthy diving potential, but if you're under three feet or willing, as I was, to kneel down, you can simulate riding the waves even if you can't exactly dive into them.

the waterpark at the Great Wolf Lodge, Williamsburg
Photo courtesy Great Wolf Lodge

Once our skins unpruned, we were ready for more land-based adventures – and there were as many of those as there were waterpark options. But first we had to eat – and so we entered the dinner buffet, right off the lobby where continuous other activities unfold. When I went for my salad, there was dancing in the lobby; back for my entrée, 50 little kids were engrossed in story hour; during dessert, a musical presentation enthralled with singing trees, animals and other fanciful creatures. Entertaining kids around the clock is what Great Lodge is all about. So it was a surprise to see so many adults sporting the turquoise wolf ears the kids get at check in. I resisted the temptation...

The piece de resistance (after the waterpark) is the 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 wand – to satisfy the demands of the Questmaster, a Merlin-like presence ensconced in a computer inside a tree. You don't dare not follow his instructions!

There are multiple quests with multiple clues to each quest which 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. It's a good thing I was with Dalya and Mollie: I never could have figured out what to do.

boy playing MagiQuest
Photo courtesy Great Wolf Lodge

Surprising encounters occur throughout. Let's say you wand 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-lifesize knight in a stairwell pleads: "You have found 200 pieces of gold hidden in my armor. Now get me out of here!"

Dalya and Mollie meet the knight at MagiQuest
Photo courtesy Victor Block

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 each other through the hallways.

And if you tire of this unusual game of dungeons and dragons, you can opt to play miniature golf at the Howl in One course, hang out at the Arcade, or get a Henna tattoo and come back to the quest at a later time.

There was so much going on, so many bizarre places to wend 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 grand-daughters in their quest for... well... other items 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 so 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.

And yes, there were actually more quests to do – the Shadow Quest and the Compass Quest – that I didn't even want to ask about. And the list of the things we didn't do was almost as long as those we did. We did not go to the Scoops Kid's Spa, where the nail polish for mini-manicures all come with ice cream flavor names, the pedicures are done while seated in giant banana split thrones, the facials, bath balms and scrubs are either vanilla, chocolate or strawberry and the glitter make-up application comes with a tiara.

Scoops Kid's Spa
Photo courtesy Great Wolf Lodge

We didn't try the life-size time challenge game where you race both against the clock and your opponents to push out balloon-size 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 4D-movies offered at the Howly Wood Theater. We could have spent a week there and never gotten bored, but hey, Williamsburg and Busch Gardens beckoned, and I reluctantly followed. For more information about Great Wolf Lodge, visit greatwolf.com/Williamsburg.

Related Articles:
Tips for Surviving a Day at a Theme Park; Universal Studios Hollywood Celebrates 50 Years of Movie-Making Magic; Charlottesville, Virginia: Mr. Jefferson's Country

(Posted 9-2-2015)



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Let Fyllis know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Gullah Culture

I think a lot of the plantation enslaved Africans began with a variety of African languages and little contact with English speakers. Even today some of the speech patterns of modern descents of the enslaved hold onto this language or some of the patterns even after being away from the area for generations. That's what we heard in N Carolina.

-- Barbara, Mill Creek, WA

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Thank you for your extensive and accurate story of a remarkable, resilient culture!

-- Marlene O'Bryant-Seabrook, Ph.D. – Charleston, SC

And Marlene – thank you so very much for your comment. Nothing makes a writer feel better than hearing something like that!!!

Fyllis

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Nice story thanks, however there are also Gullah speak in southern Belize and Honduras coast to Trujillo, been all over both thanks.

-- Michael Johnson – Myrtle Beach, SC

Hi Michael,

Thank you so much for your comment. However, I think what you're referring to in the Belize/Honduras region is more accurately characterized as the Garifuna culture and language, which somewhat parallels the Gullah. If you'd like more information about that, please read my November 2011 story in travelingboy.com about the Garifuna.

Fyllis

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Toooooooo cooooooool Now I want to go to Florida!!!!

-- Kathy Marianelli – Columbia, Maryland

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Feedback for Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

I'm a Vietnamese and I can't help but went through all of your pictures. They are beautiful, both the couples and the natural sceneries. Vietnam is such a beautiful place, I love it. I have been to Ha Long Bay once, in fact, I have been too all places that you took pictures of. I love your pictures and certainly will comeback for more. Thank you for these wonderful images of Vietnam and its people.

-- Quyen

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Feedback for Family Magic in Orlando

Great article!!! Makes me want to go back and experience it ALL all over again.

-- Ariane – Chicago

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Feedback for Mohonk

I love your signature and the writing (in "Mohonk: Sumptuous Old-World Flavor Tastefully Wrapped in Casual Elegance")... but the place is a bit expensive... more like the Romney types! Is Vic a "photographer" or does he just take pretty good pictures?

-- John Strauss – Campton Hills, IL

Hi John,

Thanks so much for your kind comments. Much appreciated! Yes, I do know Mohonk is expensive -- as is true for so many of the fine resorts -- but it is a historical structure that has been in operation for so many years and offers so many activity options for the whole family without nickel and diming the guest, that for those who can afford it, it actually is somewhat of a bargain.

And no, Vic is not a "real" photographer as much as he is a travel writer in his own right, but sometimes, as he says, he does get lucky.

Again, thanks for your feedback.

Fyllis

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Feedback for the Road to Hana

We enjoyed seeing the Road to Hana from a helicopter! After you get to Hana you've still got to make the return journey. Thanks but no thanks!

-- Betsy Tuel – Rosendale, NY

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Feedback for Dominican Republic

Thank you, Fyllis, for this engaging tour. For years I thought the Dominican Republic was all-tourists, all-the-time. You just made me want to go there! (those waterfall adventures look like great fun)

-- Richard F. – Saugerties

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Feedback for Traveling the Canadian Rockies

We (our family) also took The Rocky Mountaineer (gold leaf) in early June 2011. Great memories! Great food! Great service! I am sorry to hear about this labor dispute, as clearly, the attendants were a HUGE part of the experience. They felt like friends by the end of the trip. Good luck to all employees!

-- Susie – Hana

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Hi Fyllis,

I am one of the locked out onboard attendants. I enjoyed reading your lovely writing based on the trip you took with the level of service that was delivered until June 22, 2011. It is misleading to share this review at this time. Many current guests are dismayed when they experience the low level of service which does not live up to what this blog post boasts. The company is not even responding to the complaints of their guests who have paid top dollar, and are now consistently ignored when they write to ask for a refund. If you do not believe me, go to Trip Advisor and read the recent reviews. There are a few good ones, and they are almost all from pre-lock out dates. Many of those are from complimentary trips and the company seems to be pressuring them to post positive reviews. If you are unaware of what is happening, please consider visiting a site which has many news stories and letters of support from guests and local politicians.

--- City: onboard – Vancouver

Can I ask when this article was written? One of the managers onboard would have been travelling on it for more than 6 years by now...last I heard Shauna was in Edmonton.

--- tnoakes – Edmonton, Alberta

Dear Whomever --

I am so very sorry to hear about the lockout and the bad feelings that have been engendered between management and employees. It was not a situation I knew anything about and realize the timing of my article indeed was unfortunate.

What I wrote about was based totally on my personal experience and only reflects my trip at that time. Please accept my apologies for the difficulties current and former employees are now experiencing and the apparent disparate levels of service experienced by me and more recent guests. It was not something I had any knowledge of.

Fyllis, TravelingBoy


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