According to a recent article titled, The Future of Entertainment, “as traditional television becomes obsolete, the entertainment landscape will continue to evolve embracing interactive and personalized experiences.”

I think this must be true, given all the unique diversions I keep seeing pop up on my daily news feed. “Explore a secret garden via VR glasses.” “Go into the world of Stranger Things, where YOU become a character in the story!” That kind of thing. Even my own teambuilding business, Dr. Clue Treasure Hunts, is a kind of interactive experience, a step beyond the traditional entertainment of the past when we’d all merely sit in a movie theater or on our living room couch, passively receiving entertainment. People these days want to get involved; they want to step into a story.

It’s 2002 and my San Francisco volleyball group has come to San Simeon, on the California coast, to enjoy our annual, summer, group retreat. By day, we’re playing vigorous sand volleyball, but nighttime is open for local entertainment, which leads us quite naturally to nearby Hearst Castle. Built between 1919 and 1947 by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his architect, Julia Morgan, the remarkable Hearst Castle is a vast, sprawling luxury palace, an ode to opulence, with a 115-room main house plus guesthouses, pools and 8 acres of cultivated gardens. Orson Welles, who satirized Hearst in his classic 1941 film Citizen Kane, described the Hearst Castle-like Xanadu in his film as a place with “paintings, pictures, statues, the very stones of many other places – a collection of everything so big it can never be cataloged or appraised; enough for ten museums; the loot of the world.” That is certainly the impression we have as we tour the estate on a foggy June evening – one extravagantly lavish room following the next – a California Versailles.

What makes our visit to the Castle special and interactive, however, is all the costumed actors milling about. You see, for an extra fee we booked the deluxe night tour, where each room is populated by people dressed in 20s attire, having drinks, making droll chit chat and essentially bringing alive a scene from the Great Gatsby. As we amble around, taking in the atmosphere, it’s not difficult to imagine that the actors working the room before us are some of the A-list stars of yore who once stayed here as Hearst’s guests, people like: Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford and Clark Gable, not to mention other luminaries like Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill and Charles Lindbergh. We have truly stepped into the past, and it’s definitely a Wow.

(Athough tempting to hop on a tour bus and view exotic lands behind the safety of bullet-proof glass – is tour bus glass bullet proof? – there’s enormous benefit to getting out and interacting with people. By all means attend a VR-enhanced event or some other interactive entertainment, but don’t forget that the most personal growth comes when you’re actually associating with real people. Bargain for jewelry in a Moroccan souk; strike up a chat in a Parisian bistro; take a cooking class in northern Thailand (Wow Place #107). Get out there and interact and see where it takes you!)