Know Before You Go: Adventure Parks

Go above and beyond the playground with an adventure park visit.

Adventure park - Ropes course
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When you take basic play structures and amp the excitement way up, you get adventure parks. These destinations are springing up around the U.S., and in tourist destinations around the world. They give your family the chance to experience challenges like ropes courses and zip lines together. You'll often find them at zoos, scenic areas, museums, and ski resorts. They're in wooded areas (using trees for height), open spaces (using poles or man-made structures), and even indoors or on cruise ships.

You might also hear them called high ropes courses or aerial adventure courses, and what you're doing there referred to as "aerial" or "treetop" trekking.

These adventure parks are not necessarily for those who are faint of heart (or afraid of heights), but after all, adventure is right there in the name. And parents who want to stay on the ground can usually do so, while watching their adventurous kids scamper in the treetops. Either way, it's a great way to spend time with older kids while everyone gets in some healthy physical activity.

Adventure Parks - Elements and Attractions

Every park is different, but most have a series of what they call courses or trails, at varying heights and levels of difficulty. You may have to complete some lower-level courses in order to advance to more challenging ones. Some of the cool features (also called "challenges" or even "games") you might experience include:

  • Ziplines: Clip into a harness and slide along a sturdy line, platform to platform, at speeds that can approach 50 miles per hour
  • Ropes: Make your way from one element to another via single rope lines, cargo nets, loop series, and more
  • Obstacles: Cross swinging bridges and balance beams; climb towers, ladders, and walls
  • Swings and trapezes: Fly through the air balanced on hands, feet, or knees, right-side up or upside-down

Adventure Parks - Safety Features

Most parks have strict safety standards that you can find out about before you visit. Commonly, they use a belaying system in which participants wear a harness that is secured to a system of safety cables. Before using a course, participants have to be carefully fitted with a harness and instructed on safety.

These safety systems often dictate the age, height, and weight requirements found at adventure parks. Weight limits between 250 and 300 pounds are common, and children below a certain height will have to stick with kid-friendly trails. Some trails are also set up so that kids can participate in tandem with an adult. 

Before You Go to an Adventure Park

You can find an adventure park near you (or your vacation destination) just by searching online for parks in the area. Do a little research on the park's website so you know what to expect. You'll want to be sure you know:

  • Costs: If the park is at a museum or zoo, do you need to pay admission for both?
  • Hours of operation: If you'll be going near the end of the day, be aware that you might not be able to begin a trail in the last 30 to 60 minutes that the park is open. You can also find out here about how long it takes to complete a course or trail. 
  • Age requirements: Spell out for your kids what's allowed for them, so they won't be disappointed by what they can't do when they get to the park.
  • Fitness requirements: The park should alert you in advance how fit you'll need to be to participate (there's usually something for everyone!).
  • Height and weight restrictions, again so you know what to expect when you arrive and whether some trails or courses will be off-limits
  • What to wear: Most parks require closed-toe shoes (no flip-flops or sandals) and recommend long pants instead of shorts. They are more comfortable with the safety harness you'll be wearing. Don't forget the sunscreen if you'll be outside!

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