We spent last week in the Carolinas, on a family trip based around college visits and a giant indoor water park. Furman, Davidson, Wake Forest, Duke…and Great Wolf Lodge, home to water slides, wolf mascots, and various animatronic characters chirping or growling from every nook and cranny.
We like water parks in general. And game rooms. (Have I ever mentioned that part of The Boy’s fascination with geography includes a certainty that many African countries have excellent games rooms? Why does he want to go Algeria? Game rooms. South Sudan? Game rooms. He seems to sense some connection between fundamentalist Muslim countries and arcades, and he will not be deterred.) Anyway, Great Wolf Lodge had more than its share of everything water-y and everything game-y.
On the upside, the water slides were really lovely.
On the down side–depending on your view–things kept moving when you didn’t expect it. By “things” I mean paintings or statues, or, oh, squirrels hanging from the ceiling. They have this special package where kids can buy a wand that activates various parts of the hotel decor. So we were sitting in a restaurant eating dinner one night, underneath a big fake tree with plastic squirrels hanging from a swing–and that is not the weird part of this sentence–when a kid came up with a wand, waved it at the tree, and hidden lights on the tree branches started flashing. Then the squirrels started swinging back and forth. Then another kid came and waved his wand, and another, and lights flashed and squirrels swung, and it was a good demonstration of why Hogwarts didn’t start in kindergarten.
Portraits hanging on the wall suddenly had their eyes light up, treasure chests opened and closed, stuffed birds flapped their wings. Etc.
Now, on a related note, one of my favorite details of the trip was listening to the essay questions Wake Forest typically puts on an application. One of them was “Your Top Ten.” Nothing more than that. You can list your top ten anything. So, in honor of our trip, here is my….
Top Ten Weirdest Tourist Places I Have Ever Been (Not to Imply the Weirdness was not Awesome in Some Cases)
In no particular order….
10. Great Wolf Lodge
9. The Secret Bed and Breakfast in Leesburg, Al.: This is the first thing that came to mind, largely because it’s another place where things kept suddenly coming to life.
8. The World’s Large Transvestite Cabaret Show in Pattaya, Thailand: This is the title that I remember, though I believe, looking online, the show is actually called the Tiffany Cabaret. The weird thing here was how stunningly beautiful these performers were. Like, drop-dead gorgeous. Like, if you are a straight man, be careful when picking up a woman in a Thai bar. My best friend leaned over at some point and said, “Does it depress you that all these men are so much prettier than we are?”
Oh, and also they were topless.
7. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museums: Any wax museum. Anywhere.
6. Thai New Year in Chiang Mai, Thailand: A city-wide waterfight with kids and adults and grandmas shooting water guns out of backs of trucks, tossing water on you with everything from ladles to buckets to shoes. a) It was a blast. b) I threw up afterwards.
5. Hotel Los Lagos, near La Fortuna in Costa Rica: It’s walking distance from an active volcano. Beautiful. Big swimming pools with water slides. The water slides were concrete. I lost large swathes of skin.
4.Hotel Monte Igueldo in San Sebastian, Spain: Favorite hotel in the entire world. We honeymooned there. A beautiful hotel on the mountainside built in 1912. You ride a funicular down to the town below. There is an ancient amusement part right on the hotel grounds. Log plume. Tunnel of terror. All of which look like the might legitimately kill you because they could fall apart and drop you off the mountain at any moment. Also there are plastic gnomes pulling their pants down without any modesty.
3. Dollywood: Love it.
2/1. I’m stumped now. Paris Sewer Museum? Vancouver X-Files Tour? Beaches in Wilmington, Delaware? The Haunted Mansion in Gatlinburg?