By Amy Suski
Last weekend my family returned to Adventure Park at Sandy Springs Friends School to test our courage and see what fun new features have been added. We last visited in 2012 and had a blast. [To read that review click here.] What I absolutely love about this place is that its an experience the whole family can really bond over. From my 7-year-old daughter to her 70 year-old-grandad, everyone in our family was able to have fun, help each other along, and achieve more than they ever thought they could.
Located just a short drive from the capital beltway, Adventure Park is a the largest man-made outdoor climbing experience in the world. There are three main areas in the park: Adventure Forest plus two brand-new areas, The Monkey Grove and The Labyrinth.
Adventure Forest consists of 190 platforms high in the trees connected by ropes, bridges, climbing obstacles, and zip lines. Each of the 13 trails are ranked according to difficulty from purple (easiest) - yellow - green - blue - black - double black (hardest). To climb, children must be at least 5 years old and capable of independently using their safety lines. 5-6 year olds must be accompanied by an adult when climbing, and there are additional age and supervision requirements for children depending on the difficulty of the course.
I climbed together with my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. We'd climbed before so the purple and yellow courses were pretty easy and no problem. Although plenty of school-aged kids were traveling through the green course with great confidence, the green course "Fern Gully," was pretty challenging for us. In some cases, I encouraged my kids along only to reach the obstacle myself and hesitate. Then it was their turn to coach ME along. (This is where the family bonding comes in.) At one point, I was so nervous about crossing a trapeze line that I froze in my tracks…the smell of fear radiating from my armpits. Really, the only reason I made it across was that my kids had already made it to the other side and my 'mother-bear' instincts simply wouldn't let me abandon them. Of course, the challenge was purely mental -- physically we were safe and always able to do the obstacles. So when we finally completed the course, we were both relieved AND exhilarated at having conquered our fears.
My 12-year old son, husband and father-in-law, faced much bigger challenges on the blue and black trails -- and loved it. These courses provide a rare opportunity for teens and tweens to take risks while being safe. And being able to do that alongside Dad and a remarkably agile Grandad is something special. (Note: this would be a GREAT Father's Day outing!) If you have adventurous kids, tweens, or teens, Adventure Park is hands-down one of the best family experiences in the area.
Not sure whether your younger kids are ready for Adventure Forest? A good place to start for anyone would be the newly added Labyrinth. This structure offers climbers as young as 5 & 6 the chance to climb along with older kids and adults on a variety of fun elements. The Labyrinth is open to the public Friday & Saturday afternoons and is available by private reservation for birthday parties and groups.
Another cool new addition to Adventure Park is the Monkey Grove -- 10 trees with rigging similar to a rock-climbing wall that allows climbers to scale the heights of a tree and safely rappel down. For both the Monkey Grove and the Labyrinth, limited spots are available so tickets should be purchased online in advance.
Adventure Park at Sandy Springs is located at 16701 Norwood Road, Sandy Spring, Maryland, 20860. For more information please visit their website at www.sandyspringadventurepark.org or call (240) 389-4386. Tickets also make a great gift idea!
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