Tag Archives: Activities with kids in Maryland

Scenes from a Visit to the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring

 

If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, then you probably already know that we love the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring.  The aerial forest experience that has adventure-goers navigating ropes courses and ziplines in the trees is such a fun and thrilling challenge — and easily one of our favorite adventures in the DC area.

The Adventure Park opened in 2011 and has since become the largest manmade outdoor climbing park in the worldWe first experienced it not long after its launch, when Owen was just six years old, and we’ve visited at least once a year since then with the exception of the last Covid year, often as a special end of summer break outing, and with both kids since Sasha has been old enough to join.  A visit there is a bit of a splurge, so it’s not something we do frequently.

That first visit, Owen could only go on a couple of easier courses for 5-6 year olds, and he had to be accompanied by an adult (me).  As he got older he could tackle more — and on his own.  On a recent visit, he and his friends were making their way from tree to tree high, high up in the air, maneuvering across wooden planks, grabbing for dangling ropes, and whizzing down zip lines.

Sasha and I stayed on the intermediate trails, which are very fun and challenging, just not quite as intense or as high as the advanced black and double black routes.  It’s pretty awesome to see both of my kids conquer the courses and to think about how much they’ve grown — physically, mentally, and emotionally — since their first experiences on the beginner purples.  It’s like our visits to the Adventure Park are kind of a benchmark for their development.

So, as mentioned, it’s usually a tradition for us to go at the end of summer, but after this weird bummer of a Covid school year, I decided an early summer trip there was well deserved.  (And still planning to bring them before they head back to the classroom in August, too. )

In case it isn’t evident, I highly recommend experiencing the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, especially for active kids who love the outdoors and a good challenge!  Kids as young as 5 can go, but ages 5-6 can only do the easiest purple courses and must always be with an adult.  Ages 7-11 can climb all of the intermediate courses with an adult,  ages 12-13 can do the advanced black courses with an adult, and ages 14 and up can do everything solo.

Current pricing for a three-hour climb (prices are Mon-Thurs | Fri-Sun):
Adult (age 12+): $60 | 64
Junior (age 7-11): $50 | 54
Child (age 5-6): $16 | 20

Other special climbs:
Last Call that begins later in the day: $45/adult, $16/child
Glow in the Park evening climbs on certain dates: $56
Keep it Lit adults only on certain date: $49

Good things to know if you plan to go:
* You must reserve in advance. Admission is timed-entry and spots can fill up, especially on weekends.
* Wear comfortable clothes that you can move around in easily. I like to wear something with a pocket that zips or stays closed to hold my keys and phone.
* The park no longer provides gloves, but you can BYO or buy them there for $3, which I recommend.
* Closed-toed shoes are required.
* There is a short orientation on climbing (pay attention!) and a chance to practice using the gear before you get on the courses.
* Plan to leave belongings in your car or store in a small locker for $3. (I bring my phone and keys, but keep them in a secure pocket.)
* Concessions are available from the Munch Mobile food truck (and the fare is good) or you can BYO. There are picnic tables on the grounds outside of the climbing area for eating.
* Portable restrooms are outside the climbing area, and I recommend stopping at them before starting your climb — no one wants to be stuck in the trees with an urgent need to go.
* If you’re feeling really ambitious and want to do a double outing, the park is located right by the Underground Railroad Experience Trail

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring is located at 16701 Norwood Road in Sandy Spring, MD. It’s open every day through summer with varying hours, and mostly weekends in the fall and spring.

And since I brought my phone on my climb to snap pics, here are more scenes from our recent visit…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2021, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Spring, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

Nature Break on the Eastern Shore at Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area

 

I’ve mentioned before how, in the early days of Covid, I was apprehensive about posting write-ups of new places we visited.  Even though I felt it was good to get out of the house and enjoy a change of scenery, I wasn’t always sure what to encourage through KFDC and thought it best to err on the side of caution and save those posts for later.

Some of them, it turns out, I’ve been saving for a really long time. It was last Mother’s Day that we visited Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area in Queenstown, MD, about an hour and 15 minute drive from DC.  How did we end up there?   Well, it’s somewhat of a tradition for our family to go for crabs on Mother’s Day because it’s one of my favorite things.  We usually opt for an outdoor activity that takes advantage of what’s often great weather that time of year — hiking, paddling, beach time, or even pontoon boating — then enjoying a crab feast afterwards.

Like everything in 2020, last spring was a little different.  Because of Covid, we couldn’t go to any of our favorite crab places, but heading out to the Eastern Shore for a hike was still in line with our annual celebration.  Plus, we wanted to go someplace we could be pretty certain wouldn’t be crowded.  So, Levi checked the map, did some online research, and on Mother’s Day morning we headed to Wye Island.

About 15 minutes beyond the Bay Bridge, Wye Island NRMA is lovely to explore. The land was almost turned into a housing development in the 1970s, but the state purchased it with Program Open Space funds to preserve the natural environment. It’s 2400+ acres are located in the tidal recesses of the Chesapeake Bay between the Wye River and the Wye East River. There are about 12 miles of trails that edge fields of tall grass and ponds, wind through the woods, and run along the Wye River.  All of it is flat and easy for little ones to walk.

We started our hike on the Ferry Point Trail, which we caught near the parking lot, walked along through a field, then into the woods. It eventually led right to the beach. [Note: While it looks so tempting to jump in, swimming is not permitted.]

The area is known for birding — over 200 species have been reported there, and large waterfowl make it home during winter.  We saw lots of small birds and a great blue heron in the distance.  Keep an eye out for other wildlife, too — we got a close look at a skink on a tree by the water!

There is a variety of vegetation on Wye Island. Large open expanses meet verdant wooded areas studded with tall old growth trees, including a holly tree that is nearly 300 years old.  Green marsh plants blanket and brighten the ground.  The sandy shores are lined with long grass and woods, and tree branches jut out over the sand, making for great seating. Shells are scattered around the shore, which we used for a little beach art.

We returned a different way, which turned out to be the Schoolhouse Woods Trail.  From there we walked down the road we drove in on, about a quarter mile, back to our car. (View a trail map of Wye Island to help plan your hike.)

There is a restroom right off the small parking lot as well as a picnic table, but you can bring your lunch along the hike and enjoy an alfresco meal by the river.  We found a great spot by the water along the nice stretch of sand, where we stopped for snacks and just to hang out and take in the wonderful nature around us.

Even though we couldn’t go for our traditional crabs after — though we made up for it by ordering in a seafood feast from Chasin’ Tails back at home — I highly recommend stopping for them to enjoy Maryland’s best treat.

Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area is located in Queenstown, MD.  It’s open daily sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.  Good to know:  When you arrive on Wye Island, you’ll come to a very small parking lot first.  Drive past that one a couple of minutes to a second lot that is more convenient to the trails.

These two are always the best Mother’s Day gift.

 

 

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Filed under Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Weekdays, Weekend

Hike — & Après Hike — at Sugarloaf Mountain & The Comus Inn

Hanging out on the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain

 

Two kinds of outings many of us are seeking these days are activities outdoors with space to social distance and dining outside that’s family-friendly and heated.  And when you easily can combine both into one adventure, well, that’s like hitting the Covid day trip jackpot.

Enjoying the scenic surrounds of The Comus Inn

We experienced such luck a little while back the day after Thanksgiving.  I got the best tip from a friend about The Comus Inn, a newly renovated restaurant (and more) just down the street from Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD.  Her family had recently gone for a hike then stopped for a bite after, and she raved about the fantastic time they had there.

A view from the Sugarloaf summit

Hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain wasn’t new to us, but we usually paired it with a visit to the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, also a short drive down the road from the park.  We’re always up for something new, though, especially when it comes as a very enthusiastic recommendation.

Space to social distance

The start of the White trail

Sugarloaf Mountain, in Montgomery County about 10 miles south of Frederick, is a great place to go for a family hike.  If you’re with older kids or avid hikers, you can start at the base and opt for an seven-mile loop up and down the mountain.  With younger children, or if you just want a shorter, easier jaunt, you can drive farther up to the East View parking area, where several trails to hop on are nearby.  A couple of good ones are the white trail, which winds around and ascends gradually to the summit, and the orange trail that is a steeper, more direct climb up.  Drive a little further to the West View parking areas for more, similar options.  However you go, you’re guaranteed great views on the way and at the top.  

Group hike on the Orange

Scrambling up to the top

On this trip, we met up with friends and opted for the orange trail. While all of us parents followed the route, the kids went off-trail and scrambled up a hill and over rocks, but we all met at the summit.  It’s a large area, so you can enjoy the scenery and climb outer rocks.  There are no big drop offs, but it’s always a good idea to make sure kids aren’t doing anything precarious, of course.   You can also bring along a picnic and, if it’s not crowded, enjoy it on some of the large rocks along with sweeping views.  There are also picnic tables near the parking areas.  However, I highly recommend saving snack time for après hike…

 

A perfect setting for a post-hike meal

The Comus Inn is part of what made this whole adventure special.  The  family-friendly community recreation and entertainment destination (as they describe it) could be an outing in itself.  There is a lovely outdoor dining area with long wooden tables and smaller round ones, string lighting for added charm and ambiance, and more seating around a fountain and in the nearby expanse of grass. Tall heaters are placed throughout for warmth.  The menu has everything from snacks and starters to entrees with something for every palate, plus beer and wine and coffeehouse selections. The bonus: Fun games available to play — shuffleboard, corn hole, and ping pong.  And all of it is surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

Someone’s ready to eat

Ping pong to work up an appetite

Our large group walked right in and got seated, but I’m guessing that won’t be so easy as word gets out about The Comus Inn.  Unfortunately, they do not take reservations, but if there aren’t any tables readily available, it’s a pretty awesome place to have to wait.

Even more games to play… shuffleboard and corn hole

 

The Comus Inn is located at 23900 Old Hundred Road in Dickerson, MD. Hours are 7-11am and 4-8pm Thursday & Friday, and 7am – 8pm Saturday & Sunday.

Sugarloaf Mountain is located at 7901 Comus Road in Dickerson, MD, just over an hour drive from DC. Park ours are 8am – sunset.  Admission is a suggested donation of $5/vehicle.

 

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Filed under All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Free, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Patapsco Valley State Park

 

I have a long list of posts waiting to be written about some excellent adventures around the area. (So many great places, so little time…)  Patapsco Valley State Park has topped it for awhile, a local spot well overdue for a write-up here on the blog. I guess since it was included among the original recommendations for good Walks in the Woods with kids over 10 years ago, I just never made a full post a priority.  But these Covid times when everyone is looking for more outdoor activities, plus a couple of fantastic visits during the socially distanced months, have inspired me to get Patapsco crossed off that list.

Patapsco Valley State Park is located about 40 minutes from DC in Maryland, its 16,000+ acres sprawling through both Howard and Baltimore counties. It’s so big there are eight recreational areas, all of them offering different opportunities for outdoor recreation during all seasons.

The forested area is full of trails, many for hiking only, but some of them allow mountain biking and horseback riding, too.  Of course, the river for which the park is named has to be mentioned.  Over 32 miles of the Patapsco flow through the park, and visitors are welcome to swim in some areas during the warm months and paddle in others.

The trails vary, which keeps the hiking interesting. There are easy, flat routes along the river and rooty paths that wind through the woods, some leading to waterfalls or crossing over footbridges. We usually head in at the Avalon or Hilton entrances and hit the trails from there.  Both also offer the best access to swimming areas, and the Cascade Falls loop trails that leads to the pretty waterfall.  I recommend checking  the Patapsco website or Trails.com to find the right hike for your family and detailed info.

Where you go in the park may depend on what you want to do, as the various areas have different offerings.  There are the nice swim spots mentioned above.  Hilton and Pickall have playgrounds.  There’s paddling, tubing, and fishing in the Avalon/Glen Artney/Orange Grove areas. Disc golf and basketball are in the McKeldin area. And just about all of them have picnic spots and pavilions, so you can easily make a Patapsco day of it. You can find more specifics on the website.

The park is also well known among mountain bikers as a great place to ride.  Levi has been riding the trails for years, and Owen is getting in on the action now, too.  Both recommend it for older kids/riders with some experience; it’s not a place for newbie mountain bikers.  They start at the Patapsco Trail Head at Landing Road, parking nearby along the road, but there are plenty of other areas to ride — you can find some recommendations here.

Like most outdoor places, Patapsco became a much more popular weekend destination during Covid, with some of the areas reaching maximum capacity by 10am!  Both times we went, we tried the Avalon entrance first, then rerouted to Hilton when we learned our first try was full.  I recommend checking Maryland State Parks on Twitter — they usually post when parks/areas are full, so you can plan accordingly.

 

Winter may be around the corner, but don’t let the cold stop you from enjoying the outdoors at Patapsco (or anywhere, for that matter).  As they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!  Also, I read that Patapsco is a local destination for cross country skiing — a hobby we’re hoping to pick up this Covid winter.

Patapsco Valley State Park
Where: Howard & Baltimore Counties, Maryland
When: Open daily year-round, 9am – sunset
Admission:  April- October: Weekdays: $2/vehicle MD residents, $4/vehicle non-residents
Weekends/holidays: $3/person residents, $5/person non-residents
November – March: $2/vehicle residents, $4/vehicle non-residents

 

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Filed under 2020, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Social Distancing, Weekdays, Weekend