Try something new with your family this summer
BY MANDY HOWARD
At the beginning of last summer, my family was going through a tough season. A middle schooler and two high schoolers meant we were in for a year’s worth of academic stress—amplified by ongoing issues surrounding COVID, combined with life’s everyday anxieties and frustrations. Add a job change for Mom and some not uncommon middle-age life issues … I’m not ashamed to say, there were days we were seriously riding the struggle bus.
After one too many sleepless nights of useless worry, I looked into something I knew my kids wanted to try that had also been on my bucket list for a long time: surfing. I had written stories in the past featuring WB Surf Camp in Wrightsville Beach. I knew in addition to camps, they offered a myriad of lessons and training options, so I researched that first. Before I knew it—and after the easiest sign-up ever—my three kids and I were scheduled.
During the entire two-hour drive there we listened to the Beach Boys—a musical education I realized I had neglected to share with my children. It’s amazing how stepping out of your routine helps you remember the things that bring you joy. Just moments into the trip, anxieties that had been weighing on us felt miles away. Instead, we debated whether we thought the word “surf” or “girl” was more frequent in the lexicon of Beach Boys lyrics. (While we were unable to factually settle that debate, I bet someone, somewhere has.)
We pulled into Wrightsville Beach with crystal-clear instructions. From parking to paddling, WB Surf Camp made the entire experience amazing. All three kids, while never attempting anything like this before, were able to get up and catch waves. Each of them actually surfed! Their smiles and sense of accomplishment gave me chills. My feet planted on the board once. I knew what to do, but my body disagreed that I should do it. It’s OK. I have other gifts. I learned a lot and had fun.
Lack of balance and all, that day will go down as one of my all-time favorites. And somehow, a chapter flipped the moment we chose to break away. We had a choice. We could have wallowed in our stress; we could have tried to talk about it more; we could have stuck to our routine. Or, we could do something completely different to get our adrenaline pumping. We chose the latter. As much as I’m an advocate for family dinners and game nights, sometimes it’s healthier to not talk about it—whatever your current “it” may be. Instead, go do something different. Challenge yourself and create beautiful memories.
Not sure where to start? Fortunately, you live in a state where adventure abounds. Check out some of these activities and let adventure be the tie that binds your family this summer.
ABOVE TOP: Photo by SPYRAKOT – stock.adobe.com. BELOW, LEFT AND MIDDLE: Photos courtesy of Beth Shugg. BELOW, LEFT: Photo courtesy of Treerunner Adventure Park.
Warrior Tech OCR
220 Dominion Drive, Suite G, Morrisville
Warrior Tech Raleigh
6451 Triangle Plantation Drive, Suite 107, Raleigh
If you love NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” this may be the adventure for you. As Warrior Tech states on its website, this is not a gym, nor an entertainment center. This is a training facility that pushes limits, increases strength and allows for participants to work hard for a sense of accomplishment. Warrior Tech’s Morrisville and Raleigh locations offer a variety of classes and camps, along with birthday parties, team building and group activities. (Talk about the best family reunion with the cousins ever!)
Rock Solid Warrior
6109 N.C. 55, Suite 125, Fuquay-Varina
2131 E. Williams Street, Apex
If you live in Western Wake County, Rock Solid Warrior is the perfect place to slip into ninja warrior mode. In addition to ninja rigs and obstacles, you’ll also discover rock climbing challenges, competitions, camps, birthday party facilities and more. The Apex location offers 14,000 square feet of fun while the Fuquay-Varina location covers 8,000 square feet.
REACH THE SUMMIT
Triangle Rock Club
6022 Duraleigh Road, Raleigh
102 Pheasant Wood Court, Morrisville
1010 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Suite 400, Durham
It’s good for kids to see their parents struggle, work hard and, possibly, take defeat with grace. If you’re anything like me, this defines a trip to Triangle Rock Club. Thousands of square feet of Eldorado climbing walls throughout Triangle Rock Club’s three Triangle locations allow for climbers of all experience levels to give rock climbing a go. Climbing experts guide you, keep you safe and help you reach your goals. Discounted group rates and dedicated belayers are available for parties of 6–20.
CATCH A WAVE
WB Surf Camp
222 Causeway Drive, Wrightsville Beach
For our lesson, two instructors were assigned to the four of us. Surfboards and rashguards were provided, each perfectly sized based on information we provided during registration. Instruction began on the beach with, literally, the basic building blocks, and ended in the water where all three of my children, ages 12–16, actually got up and surfed. We all had an absolute blast.
WALK-OR ZIP-FROM TREE TO TREE
TreeRunner Adventure Park
12804 Norwood Road, Raleigh
If you don’t have time to travel far but want to experience a day the whole family will remember, visit TreeRunner Adventure Park.
You’ll find eight aerial courses and two ground courses split among five difficulty levels. The courses feature more than 90 obstacles, including zip lines. What makes this bonding opportunity so unique is you can choose your own adventure and go at your own pace. So there is time and opportunity to cheer one another on—no matter what skill level you are comfortable with.
My favorite part? When my teens would try difficult courses, fail, then get right back up and try them again. This allowed for us all to practice encouragement and grit—something parents definitely can’t do for their kids! The Junior Park is for climbers from 4–7 years old with trails and obstacles that are 2–3 feet off the ground.
Reservations are required, and parents must complete a waiver for guests under age 18. The staff offers a safety briefing at registration.
Museum of Life and Science
433 W. Murray Avenue, Durham
The Museum of Life and Science’s popular “Hideaway Woods” exhibit—a 2-acre nature discovery environment featuring eight handcrafted treehouses, a flowing freshwater stream guests can wade through, and age-appropriate play zones—is perfect for younger adventurers. Children up to age 6 can traverse a scaled set of mini treehouses, while older kids can scramble across cargo nets and climb ladders to treehouses offering views up to 20 feet off the ground. Access to “Hideaway Woods” is included in the museum’s admission fee, which ranges from $18–$23 per person (ages 2 and younger are admitted for free).
Canopy Ridge Farm
7115 U.S. 64/74A, Lake Lure
While I don’t have personal experiences with every attraction on this list, I do with Canopy Ridge Farm. This 60-acre zip line park is a few minute’s drive from beautiful Lake Lure (of “Dirty Dancing” fame). It’s consistently rated a top zip line destination in North Carolina—and the country—and provides incredible peace of mind with robust safety instructions and protocols, while providing unforgettable adventure and fun.
533 Carvers Falls Road, Fayetteville
If you’d like to soar across the treetops a little closer to home, ZipQuest is less than an hour away in Fayetteville and offers two adventures. The waterfall expedition ($89/person) features eight tree-to-tree zip lines, three suspension bridges, three spiral staircases and a spectacular view of Carver’s Falls. The treetop excursion ($59/person) is shorter but still packed with fun. It includes five tree-to-tree ziplines, one suspension bridge and two spiral staircases.
ABOVE, TOP: Photo courtesy of Blue Heron Whitewater. ABOVE, BOTTOM LEFT: Fantasy Lake by Brian Mullins. BOTTOM RIGHT: Photo by Seth K. Hughes/Getty Images.
NAVIGATE THE WHITECAPS
Blue Heron Whitewater
35 Little Pine Road, Marshall
Offering half- and full-day trips on class I–IV whitewater rapids, Blue Heron Whitewater is just 22 miles from downtown Asheville and calls the French Broad River its rafting home. The company is locally owned by three guides who have more than 75 combined years of rafting experience. Whether you have teens hoping to battle waves or a kindergartner just getting his or her adventure-loving feet wet, Blue Heron is a perfect choice for an unforgettable day on the water.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte
An all-access activity pass to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte costs $75–$250 and gives visitors access to 30-plus outdoor recreation experiences, including whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking/stand-up paddle boarding, flatwater kayaking/stand-up paddle boarding, climbing, mountain biking, a ropes course, zip lines, the “world’s first deep water solo climbing complex” and ice skating. Single activity passes range from $27–$55 and allow guests to choose from whitewater rafting or kayaking/stand-up paddle boarding, flatwater kayaking/stand-up paddle boarding, climbing, mountain biking, deep water solo climbing, and ice skating.
PADDLE A LAKE
Crosswinds Boating Center
565 Farrington Road, Apex
Give kayaking or paddleboarding a go on a quieter part of Jordon Lake in Chatham County, and experience the lake’s beauty from a new vantage point. Guests can rent single and tandem kayaks at the Crosswinds Boating Center marina. Rent a stand-up paddleboard for one, two or three hours for $20, $40 or $55, respectively. Those rates also apply to 12-foot tandem kayak rentals. A 10-foot single kayak costs $15 for one hour, $40 for two hours and $40 for three hours. Life jackets are included and there is a weight limit of 250 pounds for single kayaks and 500 pounds for tandem kayaks.
FEEL THE THRILL
Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Parkway S., Concord
North Carolina is no stranger to speedway action, and thanks to Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Feel the Thrill Speedway Tour ($15/person), you can experience it for yourself in a comfortable van ride offering the full-tilt force of the speedway’s 24-degree banking. Take the fun up a notch with a Fast Pass Tour ($50/vehicle), which puts you behind the wheel of your own vehicle.
HIKE TO THE FALLS
Linville Falls Visitor Center
Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost
You don’t need to go to Hawaii or Costa Rica for lush green landscapes or waterfall hikes. North Carolina’s got ’em—no reservations necessary. We saved this adventure for last because it’s a reminder that when you’ve got the ocean and mountains nearby, there are plenty of places to build a family-bonding adventure, free of charge. If you’re new to hiking, check out Linville Falls just southwest of Boone and Blowing Rock. From milepost 316, you’ll turn into the entrance and travel about 1.5 miles to the parking lot and visitor’s center. From there, you can choose the moderate 1.6 mile Erwins View Trail, or the strenuous Linville Gorge Trail. Believe the ratings for the courses—Linville Gorge Trail requires some steep hiking and high knees to climb up rocks. But no matter what route you choose, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views, a sense of accomplishment and wonderful family memories.
ABOVE: Fantasy Lake. Photo by Brian Mullins.
TRY IT ALL
Choose your challenge at an adventure park
The Triangle is home to a great variety of adventure parks that offer little bit of everything.
Fantasy Lake Adventure Park at 3601 Quarry Road in Wake Forest combines water adventures—from an inflatable water park and scuba diving, to kayaking and paddle boarding. Half-day and all-day passes are available for the water park. Learn more at gofantasylake.com.
Urban Air Adventure Park at 7810 Poyner Pond Circle in Raleigh combines 17 adventures for all ages under one roof. Discover a ropes course, drop zone, warrior course, tumble track, climbing walls, bumper cars and more. Learn more at urbanair.com/north-carolina-raleigh.
OC Aerial in Durham at 3463 Coates Industrial Boulevard, Suite 200, offers a chance to navigate a ninja course, ropes course, zip line, warped wall, cargo net, top rope and boulders. Climb across monkey bars or a pegboard. You can even conquer your fears with a 22-foot belayed free fall off the
Leap of Faith. Learn more at oc-aerial.com.