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Review: The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School

April 6, 2012

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We all know kids love to climb — but who knew there was a place so close they could climb for hours in the trees? Well, at The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School they can do just that!

My kids and I had a fantastic time spending the day on their VERY kid-friendly ropes course. I love to do new things, but admittedly I am not a good planner — so I didn’t know much about this place before we went. I just knew they had a ropes course — and I could take my 6- and 7-year on it. My children had some previous experience on a small indoor ropes course and zip line before — so I thought this would be right up their alley. I was simply AMAZED though at the size of the park — it was HUGE! Per their Web site the park is located on 5 wooded acres of the 140 belonging to the Sandy Spring Friends School. Each of the 10 courses has zip lines but primarily consist of “bridges” between tree platforms made of rope, cable and wood configurations creating over 150 unique challenges. There was no way my finicky-this-is-boring-what-are-we-going-to-do-next kids could not have fun! The site also says 7 and up, but I was informed it was for ages 6 and up. It is always wise to call beforehand to double check though.

My first worry was “is this safe?” A resounding yes! Each participant wears a harness with 2 carabineers (or big clips) attached to them. You literally cannot be on a course, structure, zip line or bridge without being attached. There is no risk of a child unlatching themselves because of a unique system where if one is unlocked or taken off the guide wire, the other one won’t open. It is a little difficult to explain and admittedly I was even unsure during my safety briefing. But — the staff makes you practice before you can go on any of the courses. My six-year-old, who is not a great listener and easily frustrated got the knack of it within minutes.

My second worry was “what happens if we get up there and my kid freezes?” Well — that did happen and more than once. But — you simply yell “Assistance” and they come help guide the child or adult through the challenge or help them down. I was anticipating them being annoyed as they must do this often and get tired of the rescues — but they were so kind, patience and encouraging. They didn’t make my child feel bad — but praised him on how brave he was for getting as far as he did. The staff’s positive attitude and know-how really made positive difference to our day.

So, we get there, sign our waivers, have a safety briefing, practice the safety latch system and head for the trees. The park is a lot like a ski lift — you go to one central platform (like a large deck) and from there have the option of taking a bunch of different courses. The courses are named and associated with colors like that of ski trails. The colors help identify the difficulty level of a course. Most of the courses there is 1 person per challenge — but on the parent/child course you can climb with your child so you are on the challenge with them to offer physical and moral support. But — after about 10-minutes my six-year-old asked me to stop trying to help and let him go independently. Where was my 7-year old? Well — since she had previous experience and wanted more of a challenge she set off for a different, harder course with a fellow mom — as there are certain parent/child ratios you need to maintain based on the age for safety.

So, I climbed with my son for over 3 hours and caught glimpses of my daughter here and there. I always knew what course she was on — but I tell you this to illustrate that the Park caters to the needs of the young, hesitant climber like my son and to the dare-devil, thrill-seeking climber like my daughter. There were all ages of families there — even grandparents! I didn’t feel that the courses I went on were physically difficult — but I certainly felt exhausted driving home. But — it was a welcomed exhaustion after spending a beautiful Spring day in the trees making memories with my kids.

I’d HIGHLY recommend Sandy Spring Adventure Park to anyone. As a testimony to our good time, my daughter made me promise to bring her back on her birthday! Even cuter — when we got home, she checked the calendar to see what day her birthday fell on so she could ensure Daddy would join us!

Sandy Spring Adventure Park is located at 16701 Norwood Road, Sandy Spring, MD 20860 (right near Rockville, MD). You can reach them at (240) 389-4FUN (4386) or here. They re-opened March 31st and are open weekends and select holidays until summer. From June until August they will be open 7-days a week. Their normal hours of operation are 9am until dark with the last ticket sale an hour and a half before dark.

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