The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring School

Sometimes for the love of a child you might do something that you would otherwise never do. Pay hundreds of dollars for music lessons when you know they have no rhythm but love it, sing along with a purple dinosaur, fight vehemently that your potty training technique is better than your mother in law's....

Or walk on some freaking tiny wire rope up a bajilionty feet in the air.

Okay, fine, it was 15 feet at the highest I went up. But it FELT like a bajilionty to me. My husband and the 7 year old thought it was great fun and left me in the dust clinging to my harness :) So it goes sometimes!
 Our 7 year old loves all things adventure and outdoors. I love all things non-TV/Computer. This made the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring School a perfect match for us! We decided to use our day there as a Parent/Child "date day" which we try to fit in once a month for each child so they get alone time. The drive up wasn't bad at all. We opted to go for an earlier climb so that it wouldn't be too hot (although the trees provide tons of shade and while we were there until 1:30pm and I was sweating bullets- it was from me being a pansy and not uncomfortable heat).
Children ages 7 and up are eligible to climb, but there are age restrictions on different levels of climbs. 7 year olds may climb yellow courses alone or green courses with an adult, 10 year olds may climb blue with an adult, 12 year olds may climb black with an adult, and starting at 14 all climbs through double black diamond may be done solo. I don't know that I'd put a 7 year old on alone on a yellow their first time, our VERY adventerous child paused for quite some time looking down at the first zip line and needed a gentle nudge and some encouragement to get over that hurdle. After that he did fine, but I completely understand because had I not been in front of him and not wanted him to think I was a scaredy cat, I probably would have needed more time to do the first zip line, too. Even with my distaste for heights, I have to admit after doing it the first time and getting over the initial fear, the zip lines were totally fun!!

Backing up a bit, let's outline the experience. BEFORE YOU GO YOU SHOULD FILL OUT YOUR CLIMB CARD AND SAVE TIME! The drive is not bad at all. From Lake Ridge it took us about an hour and 15 minutes to get to the Adventure Park, and it was a pleasant drive zipping up the highway. Parking is free, and "rustic" on a rock/gravel/grass field. When you walk from the parking lot there are signs directing you to a cabin-type building where you sign in and get fitted for equipment. There's staff to help. Much like when you go skiing, you'll get a tag with an "off time" telling you when you need to vacate the courses and get outta dodge. Trust me, your kids will be plenty tired after 4 hours.
Next you'll go to a group instruction session where they'll explain all the equipment. The genius part about it is that when you first get onto the course you have to snap into a safety system using two tweezles. One is always locked and you physically cannot move it without locking the other one first. It's hard to explain but it's a really easy system and means that you literally CANNOT fall. Well, you can fall, but you're only going 4 inches. This should indicate you should not be a giant baby like I was!  This video demonstrates- note that one carabeener has to be clicked into the tweezle (then the zip line is added, which also snaps in) and then the other carabeener can be moved.  All the ropes courses end with zip lines, so this is a video of the end of a course.

There's a practice course where you can work (on the ground) on the tweezle system and the zip procedures. This was pretty tough for our son the first few times because of the gloves, but he got it and was totally self-sufficient 99.9 percent of the course. Granted, we're the "do it yourself or you're not going up" type of parents. We're also the "no, you're not climbing down at the first scary zip line, you do it once and then you decide" type. If you are the "I will do it for you" and "you can quit now" type, which is fine, this would probably not be a good use of your money. It's challenging, but I think that's a big part of what makes it so great!

There's a water tank where you can hydrate, but I'd bring a bottle with me next time.
So, next, you head to the giant set of stairs and you lock in. When you get to the top, there's a staffperson who can help you select a course. You have to work up (so you must climb a yellow before a green and a green before a blue, etc). We started with two yellows and then two greens in our time there. The courses are relatively short, but they take concentration, balance, and skill to get through, so they take time. We didn't really notice how long it took and were amazed each time we finished that it'd taken us about 40 minutes. Oh- huge hint: PEE FIRST! Nothing worse than being halfway through and hearing "Um, mom?"
In conclusion, despite the fact that I was scared because, again, I am a big pansy, I would totally do this again. Our son had a great time (although at the very end of Fern Gully, his 2nd green, he was exhausted and couldn't reach up to get his tweezle and a very nice staff person had to come help him down. Note: Parents should go FIRST so they can help unsnap shorter kids. For whatever reason it seemed easier for them to get situated at the beginning of an element than to get unhooked at the end. Ideally, have one parent go before and one go after. I was taking pictures on their second green.) My husband LOVED it and said he'd love to try one of their night climbs with friends. If I can work the pricing out, I'd bring our cub scouts back up to do this again, it really was that fun.

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School
Pros: Challenging, outdoor adventure. Fresh air, uses your brain and your muscles, totally different experience than you'll have almost anywhere else. This is expensive ($38-$48 depending on age), but look for deals on places like Certifikid, and, think of it like an amusement park but more physically demanding and it doesn't seem so bad. Zip-line sliding is way cooler than a roller coaster anyway :)

Cons: I think our son would have benefited greatly from being 2 inches taller :) and younger kids are limited in which courses they can do, but that doesn't prevent them from having PLENTY to do. There is nothing for kids younger than 7.

Caution: Bring your bug spray and be prepared to pep-talk your kid through their first course if they've never done anything like this before. Bring a water bottle, and have a great time!

Recommended: For kids ages 7 and up, especially 7 year olds that tend to be taller than their peers! This is totally worth both the drive and the price and we can't wait to go again next year!!

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