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AAA World | Travel Inspiration
12 Adrenaline-Pumping Adventure Parks


The Redwood Zip Line at Mount Hermon Adventures. Photo courtesy of Mount Hermon Adventures
Adventure parks are first and foremost about fun—playgrounds where kids and adults can climb trees, cross rope bridges and whisk across zip lines. But with roots in the military and outdoor education programs, they’re also great places to work on self-improvement, including physical skills like balance and coordination along with teamwork, problem-solving and building the kind of self-confidence that comes from (gently) pushing beyond your comfort zone.

The activities “provide a great workout for your entire body,” says Bahman Azarm, CEO of Outdoor Ventures, a builder and operator of such parks. “You’ll use your arms, legs, core and balance muscles as you navigate the obstacles.” And, he adds, you’ll be physically—and mentally—challenged.

There are now hundreds of adventure parks in the US, from basic ropes courses to facilities that combine aerial trails with other activities like rock climbing and even whitewater rafting. Mostly located in natural outdoor settings, parks are being built in urban areas, too, with tower-like structures that deliver maximum thrills in minimal spaces.
Mount Hermon Adventures' course is set amid towering trees.Mount Hermon Adventures' course is set amid towering trees. Photo courtesy of Mount Hermon Adventure

Safety is paramount at adventure parks, which employ trained guides and use gear such as harnesses, ropes, cables and carabiners to prevent falls or other accidents. Increasingly, adventure parks have adopted netted courses that allow you to move safely through obstacles without such apparatus, offering more freedom of movement and opening the experience to a wider range of ages and ability levels.

If you’re looking to combine thrills and skills, check out some of our favorite adventure parks.


Bridgeport, Connecticut

Designed to accommodate guests of all ability levels, this outdoor adventure park in coastal Connecticut has 14 trails rated according to difficulty, from beginner to double black diamond. Kids as young as age 5 can navigate the easy courses with supervision. There’s plenty for everyone to explore with a total of 190 treetop challenges, 38 ziplines and—for a change of pace—three ax-throwing lanes. Plus, the Discovery Museum has hands-on science exhibits and a planetarium (for an additional fee).


Vernon, New Jersey

The Aerial Obstacle Course at this wooded adventure park has 10 courses with varying difficulty levels, and a ticket gives you 3 hours to explore as many as you can. The Black Creek Flyer canopy tour features more than 1,200 feet of zip lines at elevations of up to 50 feet above the forest floor. Celebrate afterward at Hef’s Hut, the on-site bar and restaurant whose name is a nod to the nearby location of the former Playboy Club in Great Gorge.
Climbing wall and at Blue Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of Blue Mountain ResortClimbing wall and at Blue Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of Blue Mountain Resort


Palmerton, Pennsylvania

This Pocono Mountains ski resort has a robust summer program that includes a high ropes course that puts the emphasis on “high.” It sits at the mountain summit and includes five courses and 53 challenging elements. Each ropes course ends with a zip line ride, but the park also has four longer zip lines, a climbing wall, an outdoor laser tag arena and an archery tag game played with foam “arrows.”
A sky-high swing at Terrapin Adventures. Photo courtesy of Terrapin AdventuresA sky-high swing at Terrapin Adventures. Photo courtesy of Terrapin Adventures


Savage, Maryland

Convenient to Washington, DC, and the Baltimore metro area, this pay-one-price adventure park allows you to experience all four of its attractions: a high ropes course with 19 obstacles, a 330-foot zip line, a three-story-high swing, and a climbing tower obstructed by logs and tires for an extra challenge.
Glow in the Park Virginia Beach ups the thrills with lighted nighttime climbs. Photo courtesy of The Adventure Park At Virginia AquariumGlow in the Park Virginia Beach ups the thrills with lighted nighttime climbs. Photo courtesy of The Adventure Park At Virginia Aquarium


Virginia Beach, Virginia

You can smell the salt air from the 17 treetop trails at this adventure park in Virginia’s most popular beach destination. The ropes course incorporates more than 250 leafy platforms and 33 zip lines under a canopy of trees, making it a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. The adjacent Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center features exhibits on sea creatures, including sharks, sea turtles and harbor seals. It also offers boat tours during which you may encounter bottlenose dolphins and other marine life.


Louisville, Kentucky

Within the confines of a massive former limestone quarry is the world’s only adventure park located entirely underground. The park is built inside a 100-acre manmade cave system that lurks up to 165 feet beneath a section of interstate highway and the Louisville Zoo. With more than 17 miles of passages, the Mega Cavern is large enough to accommodate six subterranean zip lines—including a pair of side-by-side racing zips—as well as two challenging bridges and an entire aerial ropes course with 76 elements. The experience is far from claustrophobic: The caves soar from 70 to 90 feet high. Unique among such parks, a 21/2-hour tram tour includes a narrator explaining the geology of the caves and how they were mined.  

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Columbus, Ohio

A scaled-down kids area just a few feet off the ground, with two trails suitable for 4- to 7-year-olds, is a highlight of this park, which also has a more challenging network of five aerial adventure courses with a total of 60 elements. A separate zip-line canopy tour, with five zip lines and four suspension bridges, is open day and night.


Noblesville, Indiana

Five challenge courses—two easy, two moderate and one difficult—climb up to 60 feet high in a lush forest on the outskirts of Indianapolis. Elements include ladders, bridges, climbing nets, tight ropes and zip lines.
Attractions at Go Ape in Kansas City include ax-throwing. Photo courtesy of Go Ape UsaAttractions at Go Ape in Kansas City include ax-throwing. Photo courtesy of Go Ape Usa


Kansas City, Missouri

Within Kansas City’s 1,800-acre Swope Park, Go Ape features a high ropes course with 45 elements up to 45 feet above the ground and a series of connecting zip lines, with the longest stretching 475 feet. The course also has several thrilling Tarzan-style rope swings in addition to the usual platforms, bridges and other tree-to-tree crossings. Other attractions include ax throwing and an outdoor “escape room” with six challenges to solve in an hour.
RIVERSPORT offers whitewater rafting in downtown Oklahoma City. Photo courtesy of RiversportRIVERSPORT offers whitewater rafting in downtown Oklahoma City. Photo courtesy of Riversport


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

This multifaceted adventure park in the Boathouse District along the Oklahoma River features the 80-foot-high SandRidge Sky Trail, the world’s tallest ropes course. Complete the climb to the top and then descend via your choice of a 72-foot slide, a zip line across the river or a controlled free fall. Other attractions in the park include whitewater rafting and kayaking, a skiing and snowboarding simulator, and a variety of climbing walls.


Keystone, South Dakota

Close to Mount Rushmore, Rush Mountain has both adult and kids challenge courses as well as a 630-foot zip line that will take you from the top of the mountain to the base, and then back up again. Unlike on most zip lines, guests are seated side by side and belted in, meaning anyone 42 inches tall or larger can ride. Other park attractions include a mountain coaster, gemstone mining and tours of historic Rushmore Cave.
Crossing a bridge in the treetops at Mount Hermon Adventures. Photo courtesy Of Mount Hermon AdventuresCrossing a bridge in the treetops at Mount Hermon Adventures. Photo courtesy Of Mount Hermon Adventures


Santa Cruz, California

Maybe you’ve climbed trees before. But not trees like these. Nestled in a grove of towering evergreens, the 40-element Sequoia Aerial Adventure course climbs up to 80 feet high, while Redwood Canopy Tours offers six zip lines that glide past the colossal trunks of these magnificent trees.


Whichever park you choose, pack your sense of adventure. Zip lines, ropes courses and other such challenges are a fun way to overcome your fears in a controlled environment while you also get some exercise and enjoy a great experience and—most importantly—a thrilling feeling of accomplishment.