WILDWOOD - The city's Boardwalk has a long tradition of funhouse attractions that entice tourists with optical illusions, misdirection and trickery.
Palace of Sweets Adventure Maze follows that path with its Boardwalk mirror maze, which packs a lot of disorienting surprises into a small space.
The attraction opened in 2010 in a partnership with Morey's Piers and Robert Masterson, former president of Ripley Entertainment Inc., the company behind the museum Ripley's Believe it or Not! in Atlantic City.
The Ripley's influence is obvious in the attraction's larger-than-life props and signs.
"We have two family attractions and a candy store," said operations manager Joseph Battaglia, of Wildwood.
The mirror maze is a one-of-a-kind attraction designed by international maze-maker Adrian Fisher, who has designed them across five continents.
In keeping with the store, Palace of Sweets has a candy theme, Battaglia said.
"It's the only one like it. It's kind of like Willy Wonka meets sensory overload," he said. "You're lost as soon as you walk in."
The attraction is especially popular on rainy days, when families are looking for indoor amusements, he said.
The maze has dead ends and false exits and lots of twists.
Participants wear plastic disposable gloves, which serve the dual purpose of keeping the glass clean and satisfying germophobes.
"We go through a ton of Windex and paper towels," he said.
The glass labyrinth is infused with the artificial scent of cotton candy and chocolate bars, a subliminal suggestion for guests before they reach the exit leading to the candy store.
The maze is complemented by the Vault, a laser game in which participants play cat burglars who have to jump over, duck and dodge green laser beams with the clock ticking.
Family members can watch the fun through a live feed and pick up clues for their turn. Battaglia is looking at recording and selling optional videos for families to share on social networks.
The store sells candy by the cup using colorful, gravity-fed containers that keep the treats fresh. Most of the self-serve machines, including a pour-your-own Pixie stick, are unique to Wildwood, he said.
"It's like a battery for kids," he said. "That keeps them going all day."
Wildwood's Boardwalk has been home to various funhouse attractions over the years, said Al Brannen, a board member with the Wildwood Historical Society, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
Brannen, 70, of Wildwood, said mirror mazes are a popular because they can be enjoyed by customers of all ages.
"There are certain rides people never tire of and a funhouse or mirror house is one of them," he said.
"I've had my grandchildren in that one a couple times. They're from age 4 to 11 and it's one of the places they want to gravitate to," he said.
"You can take the whole family there and have a few laughs."
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