The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring is a playground in the trees for seven and up. But, the new Monkey Grove area makes Adventure Park accessible to children much younger. Monkey Grove does not offer the variety of activities available in the rest of the park, but it does allow young visitors the experience of climbing up to the treetops and flying through the air to reach the ground.
In Monkey Grove, several trees are fitted with climbing holds similar to those found on climbing walls. Climbers are fitted with secure harnesses then attached to a rope. Some trees lean in such a way that climbers feel as though they are hugging the tree while climbing while other trees pose the additional challenge of navigating twists and turns.
Children (and willing adults) climb as high as they dare then literally jump off the tree to glide down to the ground. The higher you go, the more fun the decent.
Climbing slots for Monkey Grove are for timed one-hour slots and reservations are required. An additional ten minutes is added on to your one hour of climbing time to allow you to register, complete paperwork, and get fitted with a harness so there is no need to arrive early. So, if you register for a 2:00 time slot, you have from 2:00-2:10 to register and get fitted and you can climb from 2:10-3:10. Since there is only one activity in Monkey Grove an hour is sufficient climbing time.
My family recently visited with two of our children, ages 3 and 5.5. My three year old needed a lot of assistance to climb since the climbing holds were positioned too far apart to allow her to climb independently. This meant that a parent had to be with her at all times and that she could only go as high as we could reach.
Nevertheless, she still had fun jumping from the tree and floating down. My five year old was able to climb independently, but he needed a lot of encouragement and reassurance from me while climbing since he never before been so high. He did try a couple of different trees and climbed higher once he found one on which he was comfortable. He loved the experience of jumping off the tree and frequently shouted “Turtle Power!” (from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as he soared through the air.
The kids had fun, but the need for heavy parent involvement meant that my husband and I only climbed a couple of times each. Unless you are certain that your child will be able to climb completely on his or her own, it is probably not worth the investment for the parent to climb. There was an almost seven year old climbing at the same time as us.
He was able to zip up and down trees with no need for assistance or reassurance. His mother was climbing as well, usually on a nearby tree, so it is possible to climb at the same time as your child. If you do not want to climb, or are bringing along a sibling who cannot climb, there are several picnic tables in the middle of the grove where you can sit and watch.
If you go, be aware that Monkey Grove is right next to another attraction, the Labyrinth, which is typically available only to groups. My kids and I both thought when we arrived that the Labyrinth was a part of Monkey Grove and there was some disappointment when we learned that it was not. We recommend explaining to your children ahead of time what exactly Monkey Grove consists of. We also recommend wearing sturdy shoes and clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty as it is not uncommon to land on the ground after jumping out of a tree.
Water is freely available in Monkey Grove for those who need it and port-a-potties are nearby. There is no minimum age for climbing at Monkey Grove, but there is a 30 pound minimum weight requirement. However, keep in mind that children who meet the weight requirement may still be too short to climb without assistance. The cost to climb is $19.00 per climber. Those not climbing do not need to pay.
See you in the trees and happy climbing!
Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.