Zip Lines & Tree Tops & Tightropes, Oh MY! KOAA reviews Aerial Adventures at Bristol Mountain!
Ziplines and Tree Tops and Tightropes, Oh MY!
KidsOutAndAbout Reviews Aerial Adventures at Bristol Mountain
by Helena Robin
I truly believe that my family makes the perfect guinea pigs when it comes to reviewing things. My kids vary in ages from elementary through high school, we have differing levels of bravery, and wildly different interests. So, when I’m able to say that every single member of my family had a blast at Bristol Mountain’s Aerial Adventures, you can bet that your family will too!
So, What IS Aerial Adventures?
Basically, Aerial Adventures is a super cool set of seven individual obstacle courses located in the tree tops on the summit of Bristol Mountain. It reminded me of recess for the Swiss Family Robinsons or, if you’re an Empire Strikes Back fan, the best Ewok Playground EVER! In addition, there is a separate Kids Course which is in the shrub tops as opposed to tree tops.
Each regular course has about 10 challenge elements of differing difficulty to complete. There are two yellow courses, two green, two blue and one black course with varying degrees of difficulty. The yellows are considered easy, and the black is the most challenging. In order to access a blue course, you must successfully complete a yellow course. This is the rule for advancing to any of the next levels.
The elements are different on each course but, you’ll all enjoy zip lines, wobbly bridges, tight ropes, wiggly things linked together to create bridges and tunnels. You’ll also find these cool standing-up zip line element where you stand on skate boards or snowboards suspended from ropes! Most of the time, there are things you can hold on to, besides your harness, for a sense of security and to help with balancing. The younger, smaller participants might need to rely solely on their harnesses for much of the time, but this didn’t bother my kids a bit.
How does it work?
When you arrive, staff members guide you through the process of donning your safety harnesses. Everybody gets a pair of flexible suede work gloves to wear. My 7-year-old has tiny hands, and we found a pair that fit her, well, like a glove. If the idea of sharing community gloves worries you, you can bring your own. Keep in mind that the gloves need to be able to stand up to gripping rough material without slipping or sticking and be thin enough to allow for complete hand control. Winter/Ski gloves and mittens are not acceptable.
Once you are properly attired, you’ll head over to the practice course where you’ll be given an orientation on safety, the use of your equipment, and the general rules. A huge emphasis is placed on safety. Our orientation included a group of super excited boy scouts who couldn’t stop messing around with their equipment. They weren’t terrible kids, they just loved their gear! Our instructor was not wishy-washy about the need for all of us to Respect Our Equipment. After all, it could save our lives! Therefore, she explained that after two warnings regarding equipment tom-foolery, you will be ejected from the course. We all got the message, and the adults in the group were happy to see that Bristol Mountain runs a tight ship.
The practice course has examples of the various bits and pieces of the courses: pulley lines, life lines, a bridge and short zip line. The practice course is perfect for getting your kids used to the workings of their equipment and gives you an idea of their confidence levels. It was on the practice course that we learned our youngest was terrified of crashing into trees at the end of the zip line. So, we spent a little extra time there helping her feel more comfortable and confident.
What is the Kids Course All About?
The Kids Course is specifically for kids under 7, although there is wiggle room with this. I think Aerial Adventure has this designation because there is a less-expensive ticket option for kids under 7, not because the course isn’t sturdy enough for bigger kids or adults. There were some slightly older kids on the course (my 10-year-old went through it a few times) and one or two parents who were on hand to help their very small kids.
The Kids Course is identical in spirit to the regular courses. The most obvious difference is the significantly lower height. The course begins pretty low and then gradually increases until it’s about 6 feet off the ground. And, like some of the regular courses, the dismount is accomplished by traveling to the ground on a zip line.
The dedicated Kids Course ticket comes with a special harness. Well, the harness is actually exactly the same, but instead of having two smart belays, it has a single line with a Trolley clamp. The smart belays require folks to constantly clip and unclip the lobster claws to the life lines, whereas the Trolley slides on the lifeline at the start of the course and then slides off once the kids have completed the zipline dismount. My youngest daughter used both systems and had much more independence and fun with the Trolley. Unfortunately, this system is not compatible with the regular courses.
As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone in my family had a great time! My 7-year-old decided that she did not want to go on the regular course, so she happily spent 3 hours on the Kids Course. Since we had a full-priced ticket for her, I was unaware of the special kids harness. My daughter is small for her age and operating the smart belays, and even reaching the life lines was quite difficult for her. The staff member who was minding the Kids Course is the one who suggested we switch harnesses, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
My 10-year-old isn’t a thrill seeker by any stretch of the imagination, but she is always up for trying new activities. She loved her first yellow course, but needed to take a break with me and my youngest at the Kids Course while her aching hands recovered. She went on to a second yellow course and got halfway through before encountering an element that she just couldn’t conquer. So, she experienced a tree top assist! You see, once you begin a course you must either finish it or be extracted by the staff. While we were there, many people needed to be assisted from various courses and for various reasons. My husband alerted the staff member on site who quickly grabbed a partner and a ladder. One staff member anchored the ladder from the bottom while the second worker climbed up and anchored the ladder from the top. My daughter attached her smart belays and climbed down. No big deal! The most traumatic part for her was the fact that my husband referred to her as his “little girl” while requesting the assist.
My oldest child and husband climbed through the courses like spider monkeys. They had fun challenging themselves, plenty of trash talk, and facing down some nerve-wracking elements.
- Make the trip extra special and ride the Ski Lift to the summit .
- Make reservations.
- Arrive about 15 minutes before your reservation time.
- Wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots. My son’s feet were sore from walking on the tightropes.
- Wear bug spray and/or sunscreen. The course is pretty shady, but some folks are more sensitive than others.
- Dress for the weather and avoid bulky pants or shorts.
- Don’t bring a water bottle because there is water located throughout the park.
- Remind your kids that their names are not Spiderman or Batman and explain the consequences of tom foolery.
- There are paths and benches throughout the course for non-climbers to enjoy and so they can follow the progress of their friends and family. Leave the strollers at home.
- Be Flexible! There’s no way to predict how your kids will react to the different challenges and be prepared to shift gears if necessary.
- Remind your kids and other family members that requiring an assist is No Big Deal! It happens a lot.
- Pack a picnic – there are some lovely views on the summit!
At the End of the Day
Have I mentioned that we had a great time at Aerial Adventures?? Clearly, the attraction itself was super fun, but a significant part of our positive experience certainly is because of the fantastic staff. We had a small glitch regarding our reservation, but thanks to the efficient and friendly staff, the problem was solved quickly and apologetically. Each and every member of the staff that we encountered was kind, knowledgeable, filled with encouraging words, and fun to be around.
Even if your family has a couple of members who aren’t fans of heights, you’ll all still have a great time!
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© 2014, KidsOutAndAbout.com
Helena Robin is President and CEO of the Robin family. She coordinates and executes all family operations including (but not limited to) communications, transportation, management, catering, maintenance, troubleshooting, and cultural development. Her Executive Team comprises a Husband/Creator of Chaos and three unpaid interns.