10 Top Adventure Parks: The Ultimate Outdoor Classroom
These adventure parks encourage students to develop teambuilding skills and physical fitness.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced educators to consider new and creative ways to energize and deepen their lesson plans. Traditionally, an off-site field trip that could reinforce classroom lessons was the ideal way to students to learn in a practical environment and discover attractions in their local community. However, most classrooms are proceeding with a learn-at-home approach, meaning most field trips are relegated to a virtual environment. With students itching to escape their living room and teachers seeking a new way to develop exciting outings, a new kind of attraction has filled the gap: outdoor adventure parks.
Usually located in a forest, quarry or field, these elaborate parks consist of climbing walls, zip lines and obstacle courses that integrate into the natural environment. Visitors are encouraged to swing between massive trees, climb rock walls and perfect their balance on harnessed rope bridges. Instead of traditional classroom subjects such as biology or history, students instead learn crucial lessons in teambuilding and collaboration—skills that are more crucial than ever in our virus-fractured society.
“While engaging in educational opportunities at the park, students learn to build trust with classmates while encouraging communication and bonding, building a classroom culture of collaboration, and mitigating conflict between students,” says Jeremie Bacon, co-founder of The Forge: Lemont Quarries.
Across 300 variations of climbing and ropes obstacles, students learn to trust their peers and encourage each other in an outdoor environment that is safer and accommodating to COVID protocol than an indoor museum. ”The outdoors, especially getting active in the outdoors, does offer a multitude of health benefits, but we are also adhering to the following evidence-based strategies to keep our guests healthy while visiting the park” says Bacon.
These outdoor parks aren’t just limited to team-building activities. The combination of natural environments and exercise ensures these attractions can be integrated into a physics, environmental science or physical education curriculum.
The following parks are just a sampling of these ingenious and student-friendly attractions:
THE FORGE: LEMONT QUARRIES – Lemont, IL
Recently featured in Forbes, this park in Lemont, Illinois has quickly become the biggest adventure park in North America. With eight obstacle towers, each with up to 10 obstacles, two children’s towers, rock climbing and zip lines over 1,000 feet long, this adventure park has enough for the whole family. They also offer paddle sports, mountain biking and hiking trails, laser tag and augmented reality escape rooms (outside).
TREE RUNNER ADVENTURE PARK – Locations in Michigan and North Carolina
With locations in Michigan and North Carolina, Tree Runner Adventure Park is a unique outdoor adventure experience. This aerial obstacle course involves rope courses that take you through the forest in addition to adult and child ropes courses and ziplines to take you through the trees. Whether you’re looking for a great teambuilding opportunity or just some fun for your family, Tree Runner Adventure Park is for you!
THE RANCH AT ROCK CREEK – Philipsburg, MT
This all-inclusive ranch experience offers amazing activities and benefits. The Ranch at Rock Creek offers guests the opportunity for horseback riding, fly fishing, sport shooting, archery and ropes courses. Not only this, but they have great spa and dining options. All of this with the opportunity to stay in an authentic ranch cabin lodge.
HOCKING HILLS CABINS – Rockbridge, OH
Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway or a teambuilding adventure, Hocking Hills Cabins offers adventurous activities all year round and for all ages. Guests are able to immerse themselves in the experience with the Hocking Hills petting zoo, salt cave and glass blowing studio. They are also able to spend their day doing some of the most exciting activities, such as ziplining, rock climbing, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and even ax throwing.
TREEHOUSES – Cave Junction, OR
What’s one thing that could make a zip line obstacle course even better? Treehouses! Gather your friends and family and take a day trip to zip through the forest, ride horses and go hiking. And don’t forget to stay till the evening to see all the treehouses lit up!
THE ADVENTURE PARK AT SANDY SPRING – Sandy Spring, MD
If you find yourself in Maryland needing an adventure, the Sandy Spring Adventure Park is for you! The largest outdoor obstacle course in Maryland, this aerial adventure park has over 14 obstacle courses, 200 climbing and ziplining elements, adult- and children-specific courses and lit-up night climbing. And be sure to check out their calendar to see their special once-a-month events!
OUTDOOR ADVENTURES – Gaylord, MI
This outdoor adventure park has fun activities for the whole family all while operating from a family-owned business. Guests can experience go-karting, mini golf, fishing, kayaking, paddle boating and more. They also offer themed weeks for guests to come dressed up and experience seasonal adventures.
ADVENTUREWORKS – Locations in Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas
With locations in Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas, Adventureworks aims to provide families and groups the opportunity to zipline through the wetlands, forests and hot springs. Spanning over different terrains, guests are able to zipline through the park and go through various obstacle courses. Some locations even offer seasonal events!
NORTHEAST MOUNTAINEERING – Glen, NH
While not the typical “adventure park,” Northeast Mountaineering offers great opportunities for guests to experience outdoor adventures. Not only do they offer climbing school classes year-round, they offer daily experiences with mountaineering, hiking, ice climbing, rock climbing and skiing. They even offer cliff and waterfall repelling!
TANDEM BASE JUMPING – Twin Falls, ID
Also while not a typical “adventure park,” Tandem Base Jumping will certainly give you the adventure and the experience of a lifetime. With the guidance and help from professional BASE jumpers, guests are able to experience jumping off of the Perrine Bridge in Idaho.
By Miles Dobis & Dove Rebmann