- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Great Wolf Lodge resorts, already known for indoor water parks set within a northern woods environment, offers a new attraction for the spirited adventurer.

The two properties in the chain closest to Washington are in Scotrun in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains and in Williamsburg. Each recently has added MagiQuest, a Dungeons-and-Dragons-meets-Harry-Potter experience. Created through an exclusive relationship with the game developer Creative Kingdoms, MagiQuest takes three-dimensional interactive fantasy challenges to their highest levels with some slick technology and inspired hands-on journeys.

Players check into the resort, where, with a MagiQuest package ($289 on weeknights, $429 to $479 per night on weekends), they stay in a special QuestMaster suite and receive two wands and two game activations. The room offers about half a dozen elements that come to life (with help from the wand) such as twinkling lights around the door, a treasure chest and a talking torch.

Eager players must then stop by the MagiQuest store to have their wands personalized and programmed by staff members wearing Renaissance costumes.

This infrared wand is set up to recognize an individual player’s journey, uses internal flash memory to store scores and can be taken to other MagiQuest locations to continue the adventures.

Once armed with a wand, the declared Magi in training (player) can view a tutorial or enter a forest in which monitors are embedded in trees. A touch of the wand brings a tree screen to life, introducing the player to a kindly old Quest Master, of the Merlin variety, who will offer guidance and carefully explain the parameters of each quest.

For each of the quests, the Magi must search for different elements that, when activated, are tallied into the wand.

Now, nestled among parts of the second- and third-floor hallways as well as the lobby, Magi will find about 60 interactive items, including pictures, statues, treasure boxes and medieval-themed decorations — such as a suit of armor —that respond with lights, music, sounds and verbal instructions when a player waves the magic wand.

The quest elements players seek might be, for example, a series of crystals hidden among the four lands of the gaming environment. The painted hallways, embellished with foliage, are named the Piney Path, Tangled Woods, Enchanted Woods and Whispery Woods, and within them, the crystals are displayed on pedestals.

Waving a wand at each crystal turns it a bright color. Once all are lighted, the Magi must find a monitor station containing a Lady in the Leaves, who is contacted by a touch-screen presentation triggered by fingers or the Magi’s wand to have her present the Dazzle Rune.

Or Magi might be searching for the fungi needed for a Healing Rune or the tools of the Magi warrior — the code book, armor, shield and sword — that the Gargoyle demands before giving up the Lightning Rune. There are nine Rune quests in all. Once those are completed, the player can embark on a pair of final Master Magi Rune gantlets to fight a great Goblin and dragon.

The dragon challenge is especially difficult and is presented on a large front-projection screen contained in a gold-filled cavern. The battle could keep the players stymied for numerous attempts as they must slay the creature with wand manipulation to direct arrows and freeze the beast.

Scores are ranked and displayed at the end of the day on any room’s TV and are broken into weekly, daily and yearly statistics.

Adding to the fun (also called parental expense) are the extra items available in the MagiQuest stores, such as costumes; wand accouterments that spin and glow; and real, not virtual, runes to hang from a vest, wand belt or wand.

Those who are not part of a MagiQuest package deal can buy wands ($14.99) enhanced with lighted toppers ($14.99) and runes ($3.99) at the store. Those who just wish to visit Great Wolf Lodge for the day can take part in the MagiQuest experience for a very reasonable $9.99. Wands purchased at the Pocono Mountains property can be taken to other Great Wolf lodges; however, a new game must be programmed into the wand at each destination.

The game can take many hours (at least four) to conquer, depending on the number and ages of the players. Stairs will become a major obstacle for the older folk (only wimpy Magi use the elevators) while younger children will need plenty of help from parents. If MagiQuest is not enough to keep the family busy, there also are the water parks — the wet and watery thrills are very different at each resort.

The Williamsburg Great Wolf has a 55,000-square-foot indoor water park that includes eight water slides, six pools and a towering four-level treehouse and water fort. The Pocono resort’s water park encompasses 78,000 square feet with 11 water slides, six pools, hot tubs and the four-story treehouse and water fort.

Williamsburg also has a new Howlin’ Tornado multirider fast ride in addition to its two 687-foot inside-outside twisting-tube slides, the four-passenger River Canyon Run, Totem Towers body slide and the children’s slides.

The Pocono Mountains property still has the best of the bunch, the Hydro Plunge. This uphill, conveyor belt-propelled multirider water roller coaster travels 727 feet and has a 52-foot vertical drop.

Other thrills at the Poconos include Coyote Cannon, featuring a swirling cannon bowl and a 40-foot plunge, and the Alberta Falls, with three tube slides covering 1,100 feet as it twists inside and outside the lodge before dropping into a plunge pool below.

For more information about the Williamsburg, Poconos and other Great Wolf Lodge properties, visit www.greatwolf.com.

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