Dom Joly: Family holiday centres make me head for the rapids

Share
Related Topics

One of my favourite films ever, if I'm being honest, is 'National Lampoon's American Vacation'. If I'm ever actually asked, then I reply with more sophisticated choices such as '37.2 Degrees le Matin' (Betty Blue) or 'Being There'. The truth, however, is that I love this light comedy starring Chevy Chase travelling across the USA with his dysfunctional family for a holiday at Wally World, a nightmarish Disney-type destination.

Last weekend I went to Wally World well, it wasn't called Wally World, but Great Wolf Lodge and it was child heaven and parent hell. Great Wolf Lodge, in true keeping with the Canadian love of self-enhancing statistics, purports to be "the biggest indoor water-park in North America". Like all these types of places, they are designed with children in mind and completely ignore the needs of the parents. This means that the kids can't get enough of it and you seem like a bad parent when, after 48 times, you eventually refuse to queue up for the Mega-Vortex and head for the bar.

The moment we arrived I knew that I was going to hate the place. In the main lobby a fat man with a fake beard was "entertaining" children, by pretending to be a "moose hunter" and telling loud and dull stories about the "wilderness" the closest to which he'd ever gone was surveying the arid wasteland of his entertainment career. We parents had to join a long and winding queue to check in and hand over our plastic. All around us was a cacophony of robotic bears, wolves and trees singing cheesy songs. Every three minutes or so, large groups of wet Chinese, clad only in tight swimming trunks, wandered through the throng, attracted by the shiny lights of the amusement arcade.

When we were eventually checked in we roamed the labyrinthine corridors trying to find our room we'd gone for a "Wolf Den" and the kids were very excited about it. Upon opening the door, there was an immediate family division.

The younger part of the family my daughter, Parker, my son, Jackson, and their cousin Madde, rushed excitedly into the plastic "wolf" enclosure, complete with bunk beds. Stacey, Grandma and I looked despairingly around the tiny, dark area that was to be our home from home. I felt suicidal and wept quietly in the tiny, dark bathroom.

Meanwhile, the kids were changed into their swimming stuff and demanding to be taken to the Waterpark. This was my job, so I dried my tears, donned my trunks, and, since there were no towels or robes in the room, braved the walk through the packed lobby, down some stairs and into the Waterpark. It was an impressive sight a massive room the size of four football fields, filled with thousands of screaming children and fat Canadian fathers holding huge plastic glasses of beer.

All around this vast expanse stretched coloured pipes and tunnels through which little people were whizzing and sliding and screaming. The smell of chlorine was intense and my eyes started stinging but there was no time for pain we had to queue. Over and over we lined up for rides in which sadistic attendants spun you down long, dark tunnels into great bowls where you spun round until you were eventually flushed out into the huge lake that flowed beneath.

Every ride was terrifying for me but not for the right reasons. I couldn't get that urban myth out of my head the one about some nutter Blu-Tacking razor blades on the inside of the tunnels. Every time I hurtled down one I braced myself for something slicing through my buttocks. I finally gave up and found an outdoor hot tub where children were not allowed. It was about the size of your average living room but it seemed that every desperate father in the place had slipped through the plastic flaps that lead you into it. It would have made a fabulous picture. A thousand depressed dads squeezed together in a steaming hot tub outside an aircraft hangar full of their screaming children being fired down coloured tubes. It was almost Dante-esque.

In the evening we went to see Niagara Falls. I noticed that I wasn't the only one who peered a little bit too long and hard at the barrels that people had used to go down the falls. It seemed a fitting way to go.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Help for victims of domestic violence is in a state of crisis  

Controlling behaviour in relationships is now outlawed in the UK, and my story of abuse proves why it should be

Laura Lyons
Russell Brand joins residents and supporters from the New Era housing estate in East London as they deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street  

With Russell Brand and the public on our side, this is how I helped my family and countless others from being evicted this Christmas

Lindsey Garrett
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick