Virginia Beach, Va. – Did you know you can fly, climb, and zipline – all just moments from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront?
Beginning May 31, 2014, you can do all those things – at The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium.
On Tuesday, I had the chance to take a crash course in ziplining - and it was a lot more challenging than I expected!
The Adventure Park consists of 13 different “ropes courses” through the trees, of varying challenge levels, from introductory to advanced. The way they are labeled is similar to the way the ski slopes are - green being the easiest, followed by blue being intermediate, and black diamond, advanced. (The Adventure Park also offers "purple" which are the easiest, easier than green. Children 5 and over are permitted to do them).
All climbers wear safety harnesses that employ “double-clipped-on” technology to help keep the climber continuously connected to a safety cable throughout their time in the trees. The courses are designed for ages five and older, with appropriate challenges suited for kids, teens and adults.
After receiving a safety briefing and harness, which I did - each climber selects a course at their comfort level and then proceeds to navigate its different “bridges” or “elements” moving from tree platform to tree platform. The courses include zip lines as well.
The self-guided courses do not require previous climbing experience, according to Aquarium officials. However, I found that those who have experience would be a lot less apprehensive. Some of the elements require you to "just do it" - you must trust the harness, even though it may be a bit scary looking down. For my first trail, I chose the Mountain Trail, a green level. It was easy until you get to the "fish" - you basically jump on the fish, then slide to the other side, which is a tree. You must trust the harness and just do it, or you won't get anywhere. It's ziplining!
Climbers proceed at their own pace and each course requires anywhere from approximately 15 – 30 minutes to complete. I found that to be true, about 30 minutes for the intermediate ones, less time for the green level. The elements are more challenging and seem to be spread further apart for the blues.
The most important thing about traveling through the trees? How to Tweezle. This goes back to that “double-clipped-on” technology. You Tweezle to the next element every time.
Tricks of the Trade
The best part about The Adventure Park? Ziplining "across the water" - which is actually the marsh, but there is nothing like flying across the water 30-45 feet in the air with just a harness!
Advice to new climbers - expect the unexpected. While doing a blue level trail, I came across a rope connected to just a small circle, which you must jump on and then swing yourself over to get to the other side. There is a net that will stop you from going too far - so you essentially catapult yourself into this net, then hope you ricochet over just right so that you land on the tree platform. You have to "just do it" and you can't hesitate. If you don't try, then you will never get across!
Five-year-olds and six-year-olds are permitted to climb on the Purple courses only and are each required to have an adult climbing with them. One adult per child. One climbing ticket entitles a visitor to unlimited climbs during a three-hour period. Park staff members are continually on-site and available for assistance or questions.
Special thanks to Kema Geroux and Joan Barns of The Virginia Aquarium
By Holly Henry, WTKR/WGNT Online Producer