My wife and I love outdoor activities with a little extra adventure built in. We zip line, we hike, we rock climb, and we love adventure parks. But since we’ve had kids, we don’t get the opportunity to nurture our love of adventure nearly as often. With a four-year-old and a two-year-old, we’re lucky if we make it to the grocery store and back with our sanity intact.
When we found out that ZipZone Outdoor Adventures was opening a brand new adventure park with a section for kids ages 4-7, we couldn’t wait to get our son, Xavier, into a harness and into the trees. I visited the Kids Park with Xavier on August 11, 2017, the day before the public grand opening. He loved the entire experience.
With physical challenges just right for little kids combined with a sense of responsibility and connectedness with nature, I highly recommend the new Kids Park for anyone looking for a new way to have fun outdoors and challenge your kids ages 4-7. (My wife and I did the Adventure Course on opening day. Stay tuned for those details at the end!)
Kids Course – What To Expect
Upon arrival, you’ll check in at the front desk and then take a quick walk to get your child’s gear, a harness and a set of carabiners. Xavier was so proud to be wearing his gear that he couldn’t stop smiling. Putting on something that seemed so adult to him made him excited for the fun ahead.
After a two-minute walk through the woods and a cheerful safety talk that includes child-friendly instructions, your child will have two courses to choose from, both of which are labeled Purple. Since your entrance ticket provides about two hours of time in the park, your child will have plenty of time to complete each course a couple of times.
Each obstacle course is comprised of several elements that all remain two- to three-feet off the ground. As a parent tagging along, you’ll follow your child around the Kids Park as they progress through rope bridges, logs, nets, and zip lines. That means parents don’t get to participate in the Kids Park. At the Kids Park, you’re the extra set of eyes for safety, not an adventurer.
Depending on your child’s comfort and ability, each course could take anywhere from 15- to 25-minutes. If your kid is anything like Xavier, your child will quickly get comfortable with the gear and the elements and want to finish as many courses as possible.
Xavier loved the Kids Park so much that he completed the courses seven times. I’m certain he would’ve kept going until his fingers fell off, but he met the two-hour time limit. He couldn’t stop raving about the park on the ride home. In fact, the next day he woke up and asked, “Are we going to the Adventure Park today?” I’d say the ZipZone Kids Park gets our family’s seal of approval.
Why We Loved It
I’ll admit, I was skeptical that a four-year-old would be able to handle all of the equipment and safety required at an adventure park obstacle course. However, after a clip-in or two, Xavier was adept enough to do the rest of the afternoon on his own. I love the personal responsibility he had while controlling his own safety. To watch him paying attention, diligent and careful, was a proud parenting moment, a moment that made Xavier seem more grown-up than I expected.
My son needed a few reminders to unclip one carabiner at a time instead of two, but he did great otherwise. I’m glad I was following him, watching from the ground, to ensure his safety. Yes, a fall from a platform or an element would only be a two-foot fall into a soft mound of mulch, but I liked being able to ask him about his safety, to have him double-check on his own and realize when he made a mistake. To see my son take such pride in his safety and following the instructions was, again, a moment of parenting pride.
One hidden benefit to following along on the ground rather than participating is that the parents get to have fun talking to each other along the trail. To swap parenting stories, talk about school, and just get to have some adult chit-chat made the experience that much better.
A handful of the obstacles were a little tough at first. Xavier wanted to give up on a couple of them and have me support him to the end. Instead of helping, I said, “Xavier, you’ll be so proud of yourself when you finish it on your own!” I used a positive tone and kept cheering him on. “I’m doing it, I’m doing it, I’m doing it!” he’d say as he approached the end of a difficult obstacle. Xavier felt so accomplished and proud each time he reached the end of a difficult element on his own. Xavier’s newfound sense of self-worth and confidence is worth the price of admission.
A Few Tips
To streamline your check-in process, complete your liability waiver online before you arrive at ZipZone. That way, you can skip the first step and head straight to the counter to check-in.
If anyone in your family is wearing shorts, you might want to use a little bug spray on your legs and ankles. I didn’t use any the day I visited the Kids Park with my son, and I was fine. But if anyone in your family is one of those people bugs love to find, a little bug spray won’t hurt.
You don’t really need any sunblock because the course is built beneath the trees. The shade keeps things nice and cool, too. Even on a hot day, you’ll be comfortable at the Kids Park.
ZipZone provides fingerless gloves to help keep hands safe from wood elements and the metal support lines and carabiners. For my four-year-old, even the smallest gloves were a little big for his hands. He had trouble with the carabiners and a few obstacles with the gloves on his hands. He just took them off and had fun without them. Without gloves, he didn’t complain once about the course, either.
Lastly, make sure everyone goes potty before putting on a harness. The trek back to the bathroom and the subsequent unbuckling and re-buckling of the harness will use valuable time that everyone could be adventuring instead.
The Adventure Course
While I didn’t complete the Adventure Course with Xavier, I did come back with my wife, Megan, on August 12, 2017, the official Grand Opening for ZipZone. As I said at the beginning, Megan and I love outdoor adventures just like the ZipZone Adventure Park. In fact, we used to live in Maryland about ten minutes away from the biggest adventure course in the country, the Sandy Spring Adventure Park. We visit Sandy Spring several times while living in Maryland, so we were extra excited to visit the new ZipZone Adventure Park.
The ZipZone Adventure Park is built for anyone age seven and up, so if you have older kids and teenagers, I can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours out in nature. If ZipZone offered a season pass, I’d buy one today.
The Adventure Park has four (soon-to-be five) courses in the trees. Just like the Kids Park, each person in the Adventure Park is responsible for his or her own safety. Luckily, the carabiner-and-lock mechanism is easy to use. When you’re on the course, you’re always locked to a safety line. That’s one reason Megan and I love these types of adventures–we’re always safe.
Over the course of two-and-a-half hours, Megan and I completed all four available courses. We progressed from easiest to most-difficult. The easiest Yellow course and both moderate Green courses were fun and straightforward. With enough experience under our belts, we never felt pushed too far physically.
However, the Adventure Park is not just about the physical challenges. More often than not, you’ll be fighting your brain, not your body. Just like the Kids Park, you’ll have to tell yourself how proud you’ll be when you overcome a difficult or scary obstacle. As I said above, the real benefit to participating in an adventure course is overcoming your mental hurdles and accomplishing something you thought you couldn’t.
The Blue course, though, is a significant step-up in physical challenge. The elements are longer, shakier, higher off the ground, and just all-around more difficult. Plus, the Blue course ends not with a zip line to the ground but something completely different and challenging. I’ll leave it to you to finish the course and discover what waits for you at the end.
Megan and I loved our morning spent at the Adventure Park. The experience is great fun from start to finish. And with the most difficult course still to open–the Black Diamond–we’ll be adventuring with ZipZone again soon.
Need One More Reason?
Lori Pingle, one of the co-owners, is a Columbus, Ohio, native, and she could not be a nicer, more welcoming person. I met her when I visited the Kids Park with Xavier. Lori could not contain her sheer joy and excitement for the young adventurers visiting her new park. With true warmth and a beaming smile, Lori made us feel like old friends. When my wife and I visited again the next day, Lori welcomed us in just the same way, perhaps with even more enthusiasm.
My family moved to Columbus just over a year ago. We love the community support for each other and for local businesses. Lori and her husband, Jerrod, are two Columbus business owners worthy of supporting. They have created a fun, challenging, and eco-friendly way to enjoy the outdoors and their hometown.
If you’re ready to get back to nature, to push yourself, and to have fun all the while, then head to the new Adventure Park at ZipZone Outdoor Adventures now.