Nothing to do around here outdoors?
Seriously? Snap out of it. This region is one big adventure park.
If endless summers on the beaches, sailing on the bay, hiking along the glorious trails that ribbon our area, or visiting the world’s finest museums – all just within an hour’s drive – are not enough, well, OK, there’s plenty more you can do. Surprisingly, there are enough outdoor action-packed, hair-raising activities to make an action movie superstar emerald with envy.
The Entertainment's reporters rappelled through dozens of activities, dodging tree limbs and deadlines, to come up with a “for starters” bucket list.
To quote Bette Davis: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” Read on – and head out for some fun outdoor excitement. (Plus, we added a few indoor activities for those rainy days.)
For thrills, chills and spills a roller coaster barely mimics, try white water rafting. There’s a raft of companies in the region offering guided wet ‘n' wild rides. Here’s three of them.
River City Rafting LLC, based at 100 Stockton St. in Richmond, Va., does its rafting adventures from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. There is a group minimum of four people and rafters must be at least 12 years old. Scenic, spectacular, fast-moving trips take place either on the upper James River or on the lower James, which takes rafters through downtown Richmond.
The trips are $55 per rafter on weekdays, $65 on weekends. The $70 trip includes pulling over for a catered lunch on the shores of the James River Park System. The company also offers guided tubing options.
Trips must be booked in advance. For information, visit http://rivercityraft.com or call 804-232-7238.
Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet up in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Since 1987, River Riders Inc., at 408 Alstadts Hill Road, has offered rides – and gorgeous vistas – on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. The company, an adventure center, also offers tubing, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding and fishing adventures on the rivers, plus zip line canopy tours, mountain biking and its Aerial Adventure Park.
Last year, says marketing director Andrea Tracewell, the park had 65,000 visitors.
Two- to three-hour white-water rafting tours are offered daily, March through November. Multiple packages are available. Basic packages include a weekday 10 a.m. departure with a picnic meal for $64; a departure at 2 p.m. with no meal is $55. Prices are slightly higher on weekends.
For more information, visit www.riverriders.com or call 1-800-326-7238.
Ace Adventure Resort, 1 Concho Road in Minden, W.Va., boasts its rafting rides on the New or Gauley rivers in West Virginia as “Americas Best Whitewater.” Ace, which bills itself as North America's largest adventure resort, has a plethora of outdoor adventures in one area, plus rustic to deluxe lodging. And, if running through woods and water all day doesn’t tucker you out, Ace offers an active dining and nightlife scene.
Ace has multiple white water rafting and kayaking packages. Pricing for New River rafting ranges from a half-day trip on the lower New River for $109, eight miles over 22 roller-coaster rapids, for $109, $99 for youth under 17. Also, to a twp-day riverside overnight trip on the upper and lower portions of the New River, with an overnight stay at a private camp, plus meals both days, for $304 (youth under 17, $254).
A two-day, action-filled, 23-mile “marathon” ride on the Gauley, over more than 70 rapids, is $399. Prices are slightly higher during peak periods
For information, visit www.aceraft.com or call 800-787-3982.
Many folks head to the Assateague Island National Seashore to watch the annual pony swim from Assateague Island across the Assateague Channel. But, if you don’t need to hang with more than 40,000 visitors for several hours to watch the three-minute swim, plan on visiting the area any day this summer - except July 24, the date of this year’s Chincoteague Wild Pony Swim.
At Assateague Explorer, 7512 East Side Road, Chincoteague Island, Va., you can take a 90- to 120-minute Pony Express Nature Cruise past the island and see the wild ponies grazing or galloping along the shoreline. There also are bird watching and sunset wildlife cruises, all at $43. Kayak tours are available for half-day at $55, sunset $45 or full day $95. Individual and tandem kayaks also can be rented.
For information or reservations, visit www.assateagueisland.com or call 757-336-5956.
Race around curves
It’s not legal to drive like a maniac on most roads, but unleash your inner speed demon at the Crofton Go-Kart Raceway, 1050 Route 3 South (1050 Crain Highway) in Gambrills. Pretend you’re the next Danica Patrick as you sit behind the wheel of a downsized Formula 1 race car at this curvilinear outdoor half-mile asphalt racetrack with 27 curves. Rev up your 5.5-horsepower engine and go!
Weather permitting, the track is open Monday through Thursday, 3 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 3 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Single kart tickets are $2.75 for one loop around the track. One to 24 tickets are $2.75 each; 25 to 49 tickets are $2.50; and 25 tickets cost $62.50. You must be eight years old and 54 inches tall to drive a single kart; double karts available.
For information, visit www.croftongokartraceway.com or call 410-721-2900.
Over the rainbow
Get up! up! And away in a hot air balloon!
Isn’t this on your bucket list? Take a champagne flight at sunrise or in the late afternoon, two hours before sunset, in a colorful balloon. Sail above the clouds over scenic Howard and Carroll counties. A 45-minute to one-hour flight for one person is $280; for two people, the price is $270 each.
The Friendship Hot Air Balloon Co. is in Howard County at 12465 Barnard Way, West Friendship. For information, visit www.ballooningusa.com or call 410-442-5566.
Swing like Cheetah!
Terrapin Adventures is just 30 minutes from Annapolis.
Matt Baker, Terrapin Adventures owner and chief adventure officer, said he was inspired to create the outdoor adventure spot in 2005 during a family trip to Costa Rica, which has more than 70 adventure parks.
“I came back and worked on the idea for a few years, until it became a reality in 2009,” he said. “It takes four hours to do all the adventures on site. If someone purchases a package for $79.95, they can do multiple things like using the swing four times versus going a la carte, which would be $109. We’re starting out fifth year and over 67,000 people have visited us.”
“When I started Terrapin Adventures, there were only a few adventure parks in the States," he said. "Now, almost every state has some.”
Terrapin Adventures, at 8600 Foundry St., Savage, isopen from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Terrapin offers all kinds of fun: a treetop zip line, a giant swing, kayak tours, geo-caching, river tubing, reel fishing, sailing, horseback riding, windsurfing, outdoor and indoor rock climbing. All equipment and safety gear is provided.
The zip line is a 330-feet long cable. Participants pay $15 per zip line thrill glide. For $10, you can retrace your glide – backwards! Participants must be eight years old, at least 48-inches tall and weigh between 60 and 275 pounds.
The park has a 43-foot climbing tower with a dozen different routes, each with auto belaying systems for the users’ safety. The cost for two hours climbing time is $35.
For additional climbing thrills and chills, Terrapin Adventures has a partnership with Earth Treks’ Climbing Center in Columbia (www.earthtreksclimbing.com), 7125-C Columbia Gateway Drive, which has 44-foot high walls and 20,000 square feet of climbing surface. Earth Treks offers trips to outdoor climbing spots like Carderock and Seneca Rock.
The company provides tube rentals for self-guided floating tours down 1.8 miles of the Patapsco River in the Elkridge section of Patapsco Valley State Park. A security deposit of $35 per tube is required and rental, for up to eight hours, is $20.
Details for these and other outdoor adventures are online at www.terrapinadventures.com or by calling 301-725-1313.
The treetop adventure course in Go Ape! in Rockville’s Rock Creek Park at 6129 Needwood Lake Drive features six zip lines, including the USA’s first skateboard zipline. Go Ape! also has numerous rope ladders and obstacles, 44 crossings, and a zip line that crosses over a roadway.
The course, which takes two to three hours to complete, is composed of six individual sections, each higher up in the trees than the one before. The adventure course, the first of four in the U.S., is built around Rock Creek Regional Park’s Lake Needwood.
“Over 80,000 people have gone ape in the USA at our courses,” said marketing and sale representative Carolyn Tunney. In addition to the zip lines, she said the Rockville facility also has a “giant Tarzan swing which features a free fall before swinging into a giant cargo net. The Tarzan swing is probably the most popular obstacle on our course because it gives participants a real adrenaline rush.”
Participants must be 10 or older and are equipped with harnesses, pulleys and carabiners. Participants under 18 must be supervised by a participating adult. Maximum weight limit is 285 pounds. All participants are given a 30-minute safety briefing. Various pricing packages are available. The basic prices are $55 for those 18 and over or $35 for those under 18.
For information and reservations, visit http://goape.com or call 800-971-8271.
Looking for some fun at an outdoor water park, but don’t want to drive too far?
Chesapeake Beach Water Park, at 4079 Gordon Stinnett Blvd. in Chesapeake Beach, is less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Annapolis. Weather permitting, the park is open everyday during the summer season, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
It opens on weekends starting May 25, and goes to a daily schedule from June 12 through Aug. 16. Later in the season, it is open weekends only until its final day, Sept. 2.
Under the watchful eyes of lifeguards, splash, swim and relax among eight water slides, a lagoon, a plethora of fountains and waterfalls and an activity pool just for kids. From June 28 through Aug. 2, the park has night slides. Parking is free; lockers and locks are available for a daily rental of $4.50. No outside food or drink may be brought into the water park.
Admission for out-of-county residents is $18 or $59 for the season; for senior citizens and those under 4-feet tall, the rate is $16 daily and $59 for the season.
For information, visit http://www.chesapeakebeachwaterpark.com or call 410-257-1404.
Sift through pre-history
Let Hollywood have its Jurassic Park - Laurel has the 41-acre Dinosaur Park, a veritable graveyard of dino fossils from the Cretaceous period. Lasting from 145 to 66 million years, it came after the Jurassic period. Dinosaur Park is in the 13200 block of Mid-Atlantic Blvd. in Laurel.
On the first and third Saturdays of each month (weather permitting), you can join paleontologists and volunteers at the site from noon to 4 p.m. to help unearth Prince George’s County’s prehistoric past.
Though they’ll have the thrill of discovery, visitors cannot keep any fossil finds – they belong to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and may be donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Already uncovered are fossilized bones of several kinds of dinosaurs and early mammals, including the Maryland State dino, the Astrodon Johnstoni, and fossilized trees and early flowering plants.
Expect to get dirty during the 90- to 150-minute program. Wear closed toe shoes and appropriate clothing. For reservations and information, visit history.pgparks.com/sites_and_museums/Dinosaur_Park.htm or call 301-627-1286.
Tag – You’re it!
Laser tag. You run around in semi-darkness shooting a laser gun. Hopefully, you are the last one un-lased. You scream your head off, have a blast, and tell your parents it was OK. Uh huh.
Castle Laser Tag, 14201 Woodcliff Court in Bowie, is open most Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is also available for overnight “lock-in” parties.
During business hours, fees are $6.50 per player, per game. There is a minimum of two games per player for groups 12 or larger. Players will play laser games with other parties and public players. For information, visit www.castlelasertag.com or call 301-352-8413.
Shadowland Adventures, 9179 Red Branch Road in Columbia, is open Mondays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturdays 10 a.m. to midnight, and Sundays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
It also offers overnight lock-ins. For one to fove players, one adventure is $7.75 each. Two adventures is $14.75. Party rates also are available. The Columbia location is part of a chain of five Shadowland laser tag sites in the Maryland-Virginia area.
For information, visit www.shadowlandadventures.com or call 410-740-9100.
Wendi Winters is a freelance writer based on the Broadneck Peninsula.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun