Sunday, July 20, 2014

River & Trail Outfitters, Knoxville, MD

River and Trail outfitters is a really wonderful company that offers tubing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing,
camping, biking, team building, and specialty tours. The main office is located in Knoxville, Maryland,
and the staff there is friendly and knowledgeable. Once all of the registration is taken care of, and the
liability waiver is signed, it is just a short 10 minute drive down the road to the Millville, WV riverfront, where you can get situated with the staff. They bus you up river where you will be put on the river to float.

Depending on the type of trip that you take, you may be in the Shenandoah River, the Potomac River,
Antietam Creek, and other locations as well. While we were there, we did the Mellow Tubing trip down the Shenandoah River, which was about one hour long. They provide you with a life vest and an inner tube, and are the only tubing group that offers parking at the river take out.

The greatest thing about River and Trail is that once you’ve paid for your tubing, you can keep taking the bus back up river and getting back in, so if you wanted to take the day and keep floating down the river, they are happy to oblige. Most places are not as generous. The bus drivers are also wonderful about answering any questions that you may have on the way up to the river put in.

The great thing about the Mellow Tubing trip is that you can go as an individual or with friends. They also have an option to tie two inner tubes together, so that groups can move at the same pace. The water is also not that deep, so you can get out of your tube and wade through the water. This trip is ideal for younger children. I would say that most kids ages 5 and up would really enjoy this activity, and that it was equally enjoyable for adults.

Once we completed the Mellow Tubing trip, we also had the opportunity to try the kayaking at an
additional cost. The kayaking experience is more of a workout than the tubing, but allows you to feel as
though you are floating on the water. The kayaks that they provide are very light, so, much like a sports
car, you can really feel the handling of the boat based on your movements.

Working with the staff at River and Trail for both the tubing and the kayaking was really enjoyable, and I look forward to making this an annual trip! 

Pricing varies depending on the trip, so please see the website for details.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Water Country USA, Williamsburg, VA

Williamsburg used to be known solely for its impact on the American Revolution. Now it has another claim to fame, Water Country USA! While most amusement parks are just roller coasters, or a mix of roller coasters and water rides, there are very few places on the east coast that offer a water park that is the size of a whole amusement park. Additionally, because it is located a few blocks from Busch Gardens, patrons can spend a few days in the Williamsburg area doing a variety of different activities.

Water Country USA offers water lovers the opportunity to ride on ten different water slides, a wave pool, lazy river, diving show, and three areas that are designated just for really little children. Unlike any other water park that I have been at before, the park was spotless. There was not a piece of trash on the floor anywhere, and all of the rides seemed well maintained.

The most impressive part of this water park was that while most parks restrict little kids from riding on the bigger attractions, there were only two rides that kids under 48 inches could not go on. All of the other rides allow kids fewer than 48 inches to ride with an adult, as long as they are wearing a life vest (which the park provides).  It appears that Water Country USA targets families with children that are 3-14 years of age. Due to targeting this demographic, there were a lot less rowdy teens running around, which made it a very pleasant atmosphere for families.

However, just because the park is incredibly accessible to younger children does not mean that they do not have any thrill rides. The two most exciting rides in the park are Vanish Point and the newly opened Colossal Curl! Opening Colossal Curl as another thrill ride shows that the park is making an effort to widen their demographic as well.  Vanish point, however, is far and away the most thrilling ride in the park. Once at the top of the platform, riders are confronted with the choice between entering into a pod whose floor drops out from under the rider, or a 300 foot slide that drops almost 90 degrees the second you push off.  Both options give riders the feeling of zero gravity!

Overall this is a really fun water park that is fun independently for a day trip, but can also be coupled with Busch Gardens, Colonial Williamsburg, and other attractions in the area to make a great short vacation as well. I will definitely be taking my kids back here next summer! 

Water Country USA Single-Day Ticket
Adults 10+: $50.00 per person
Ages 3-9: $43.00 per person

Water Country USA Fun Card (Unlimited visits to Water Country USA through Sept. 1)
Ages 3+: $50.00 per person

Busch Gardens + Water Country USA 2-Park Fun Card (Unlimited visits to Water Country USA and Busch Gardens through Sept. 1)
Ages 3+: $97.00 per person

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, MD


Whenever I take my family out for an activity, the three main things that I look for are that the place is safe, fun, and has a friendly and helpful staff.  The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring fulfills all of these requirements and more! While most ropes courses have guides tagging along with you, or have a group of people taking turns while allowing one person to climb at a time, the technology at the Adventure Park allows for many climbers to be moving through the courses safely and effectively without feeling attached to a group. The ability to go with friends, but to also have freedom, make this park unique and exciting!

Upon arrival, you are greeted by a large number of friendly staff members. You can fill out the safety waivers online in advance, or sign up on their tablets at the front desk. Once you’ve paid, participants can go over to the harnessing area, get harnessed, and pick up a set of gloves (or you can bring your own gloves). Once they walk you through their training session, which is well run and efficient, you then have the opportunity to climb the main platform to the starting point for 13 different courses. There are 6 different levels of obstacle course which are color coded like a ski slope. The most basic levels (purple) allow kids as young as 5 years old to climb (with an adult), and each course offers different types of obstacles, ranging in difficulty, and including climbing, balancing, and zip lining challenges. They also range in height from 10 feet to 65 feet up in the air, so there are options for novices as well as for the more extreme daredevil type. In addition to the many options to attempt in the Aerial Forest during the day, they also offer several special events during the summer such as Glow in the Park, which is a night time climbing opportunity on the ropes course for a discounted price. The forest is well shaded during the day, and absolutely stunning when lit up at night. 

In addition to the Aerial Forest, this park also features the Labyrinth which is a separate structure designed specifically for groups, parties, and corporate events, as well as a newer area called Monkey Grove. Monkey Grove allows kids to climb 10 different trees that are covered with rock climbing wall grips. Climbers can tackle trees of varying levels of difficulty, and are given an hour of climbing time. The special equipment used, make it safe and fun to harness in, and climb to the top as many times as you would like during the hour.  Participants must weigh at least 35lbs to climb, and my 5 and 7 year old boys were able to make it to the top of several of the trees during our time there. I cannot say enough about how well trained, happy, and encouraging the staff was. At the end my boys were begging to come back again, and this is definitely a place that we will try to visit again!

Aerial Forest Adventure Park Tickets
3 hours of climbing + 30 min initial orientation period. Max weight limit 265 lbs)
  • Age 12 & older: $49
  • Ages 10–11: $44
  • Ages 7–9: $39
  • Ages 5 – 6: FREE (Each child must be accompanied on course by an adult age 18+. One adult per child, not available online)
Twilight Ticket Hours
On sale 3 hours prior to closing, all ages 7+. Valid for remaining time that day-typically max 2.5 hrs. Not available for advanced reservation.
  •  All Ages:  $29   (Monday – Thursday/summer only)
  •  All Ages:  $36  (Friday-Sunday & Holidays)
*Please note that our hardest courses (blues and blacks) close first. During Twilight Ticket hours harder courses may not be available to climb. 
Labyrinth General Admission Individual Tickets
2 hour climbing ticket + 30min orientation; weight limit max 265lb
The Labyrinth is typically available by group reservation only–however on Friday & Saturday afternoons, families have the chance to challenge themselves on this unique climbing structure! Max 24 seats per session–due to the limited space available, it is recommended to book online, in advance.
  • All Ages:  $29
Monkey Grove Climbing Tickets
1 hour climbing ticket; min 30lbs/max 265lbs )
  • All Ages:  $19