by Francis McGovern
One of the biggest challenges throughout the year is getting the kids off the TV and video games and out into the great Outdoors. It’s fine if they are reading or doing something constructive but sometimes you can sound like one of those old-fashioned parents saying things like, “when I was a kid, we left the house at the crack of dawn and came back when the street lights went on.” That’s sort of true when it was semi safe to ride your bike out into the neighborhood and kids would look after the other kids but now that’s a little harder to do with the older kids not looking up from their phones.
This can be especially hard in the middle of each season, when the thrill has worn off like holiday vacation or late summer. Kids even get bored in the summer when they have a break from camp. Parents want to have something to do that’s fun and challenging and can compete with TV. Because on TV kids can watch the Rock (as in 172 million Instagram fans can’t be wrong) live out their wildest adventures in movies like Jumanji or The Fast and The Furious or Mysterious Island. Everybody loves the Rock but he makes it a little bit hard for parents to compete.
So where do you go if you want then to swing from a vine or carreen across a ravine? Can you find a place that is outside and full of challenges then turn towards Vermont any time of year. Living in the Boston area we were looking for a great outdoor adventure that could be both fun and epic. We looked around the surrounding states in New England and Vermont is widely known as a fiercely independent state, think Green Mountain Boys, Robert Frost and Bernie Sanders. It’s a place many people associate with outdoor adventure in the winter. But many of the places where you can experience the joys of winter you can have a great one-of-a-kind experience in the summer and fall that’s perfect for families as well.
I wanted the kids to experience that wild freedom and feel what it is like to swing on a rope or the leap into the water or the climb a mountain just like they might see in a movie or read in an adventure story. Adventure to me, means that you are challenging yourself and you are doing something you are a little afraid of but also discovering something or someplace both new and unique and we found it in Vermont.
We planned a weekend to visit adventure parks / ski resorts during the summer. The first of the adventure spots we visited was Bromley. The road to Bromley was a scenic drive taking the long road up from Massachusetts on Route 100.
Bromley has a strong offering for summer adventure. There are lot of things there to make families happy and keep kids busy. First off they have a great ropes course with varying degrees of difficulty, just behind the lodge they have almost like a little boardwalk of amusements and games. This is a nice place to bring little ones and introduce them to the mountain (they have some activities perfect for young children,) but the older kids, loved it as well. And we had a wide range of kids with us, from college to middle school. There were a lot of activities here, disc golf, mini golf, a great zipline and an alpine slide, basically the adventure course at Bromley was good for all ages and the kids even stopped fighting.
Here’s what they loved about the ropes course, the fact that you move from each level on the course, it was fun to do it together, and they could challenge each other and get a little competitive. There were four lines they could do everything together and then zip line to the next level.
The kids ranged in age from 19 to 16 to 11, They all like the fact that the Adventure Park was set in the woods, which made them look closely into the trees to see most of it, they couldn’t really tell what was ahead. They worked their way from one level to the next very often ziplining from here to there so that you might come out of the trees on a zip-line which gave them a the cool feeling of coming out of the trees.
My older twin daughters Hayley and Taylor split up from the boys, Ryan and Wesley and they did a simple course with me but the boys went on from blue up to black and Wesley my younger 11 year old got stuck on the zipline in-between.
They liked the fact that there were some amusements right there at the park like miniature golf, and disc golf. The disc golf looked fun but I wasn’t really sure how to play it. There was a long zip line at the top of the chairlift at the very top of the mountain. When you reach the top you have your choice between the Alpine Slide and a zipline, but not a traditional zipline where you step off, it was where you are seated down in one of four seats each attached to a zipline. You get strapped in and there’s a gate that they let go of and you start to move down the mountain when I did it I spun around a little bit and it slowed me down but I got on course and it was fast and very adventurous I’m not afraid of heights per se but I am when it comes to doing anything high up in the sky without a net.
The kids absolutely loved it there and there was a nice little lodge and we had a healthy lunch there After the ziplining, there still more to do like bungee jumping, and then they also had an upside-down bicycle that they rode it was definitely plenty to keep them busy for 3 to 4 hours which is not easy for my kids.
The Adventure Park at Bromley opened for summer operations In 1976, with only the Alpine Slide. Two years later, they added two more tracks to the Alpine Slide. Over the years, they’ve been adding more and more family adventures for all ages. This past July they opened an 18-hole, lift-served disc golf course for beginners and experts alike. And this August, they added their newest attraction – The Ropes Quest. Children can crawl, climb and explore through 6 levels of the net system before sliding down a 30ft inflatable slide.
Just a little bit up the road from Bromley is Stratton Mountain. Stratton is a great base of operations for exploring Vermont where they have a beautiful mountain village with unique shops and services, events along with a fitness center and a pool and a mountain golf course. There are many events of the summer at Stratton including the wanderlust festival which combines yoga and music.
They older kids liked Stratton and it really has everything you might want. There are number of complexes to stay and relax in. We stayed at the Black Bear Lodge which was just outside of the main area of Stratton. I had been to Stratton before to attend the Wanderlust festival and this was different for me because it was a nice quiet time to visit the park we were there midweek during the summer and there were no concerts or festivals going on.
Mountain golf is a great way to experience the course, see the real beauty of Stratton. Pearl Buck had a house on this course. Close to the course there is a fitness center, that includes a gym and pool. If you have the chance to ride their e-bikes you should take it. An e-bike is a motorized bike that gives you extra pedaling power and it feels like you are riding a mini-motorcycle on the trails of the mountn. With all of the things to do it’s easy to forget that a hike has real power to lift your spirits and give you a workout. We took a break and packed a lunch and plenty of water and climbed up Stratton for a beautiful view. We had to watch out for the bee’s and everywhere we looked there were yellow and orange butterflies.The air was so fresh and clean it was a perfect picture with a mountain stream running down across the mountain.
Stratton was self contained outdoor adventure along with the village shops where you can plan go out to dinner and do some shopping.
Heading farther up north in Vermont we stopped at Okemo, which has a fabulous lodge and restaurant and accommodations. Okemo was also another self contained place for the kids and for mom and dad full of adventure. At Okemo they call it Adventure Zone which has a Zipline, Obstacle Course, Segway® Personal Transporters.
The Segway® Personal Transporters were super cool once you got the hang of them. They are a unique mode of transportation and a great way to see Vermont! They use a gyroscope to balance. They are eco-friendly, easy to use, and hardly make a noise.
We took a tour through a mountain obstacle course after we had a demonstration and safety orientation. Then we checked outed the Sawyer’s Sweep Zipline Tour. This is located on the mountain behind the Jackson Gore Inn, and features seven zipline segments that rise 40 to 50 feet above the ground. The tours are about two hours long and split into small groups with guides. Each guest has a tight fitting harness and gets the right amount of safety instructions for riding the ziplines. You are brought up by van to the moutain and start at the first of seven ziplines that are connected by treetop platforms, two bridges and three rappels. The longest of the lines is 900 feet, and riders can soar at speeds up to 30 mph as they descend nearly 300 vertical feet from start to finish. Also Okemo summit is a great hike in the summertime. And don’t miss the farm to table experience there all the food is delicious and just like the other resorts there are great festivals and events throughout the year.
Out last stop was Killington Mountain Adventure Center.
Now as you may know Killington is a pretty big mountain and it’s actually a few mountains combined. And so we got there and got right to work the first thing the kids wanted to do was a ninja course where you can download an app and test yourself against the best time, just like the American Ninja shows or in the parents case, Wipeout.
They did this a few times through and really loved it and at the end you climb through ropes and swing into a big cushion now this was me until mom tried to do it later in the day and fell through the net and hit her knee. So I was smart and did not do the course because I have nothing to prove. And I’m already a very masculine literary Traveler.
The difference with Killington is they have a zipline that’s fast and free-standing you climb a platform and it’s I’d say about a half-mile long it was pretty long and you jump out and hang from the zipline in your feet kind of dangle this was a little bit of an issue for my son as he dropped his shoes because he’s 16 and cool and likes to have his shoes loose so then we had to go and paddle them out of the water but he still loved it.
There is also a bungee cord ride, where you get pulled backwards and then sprung forward and that was really fast and meet you can even ride the chairlift and go mountain biking. They have a real intense mountain biking set up and if you are into that then Killington is the place for you.
Just like the other mountains you can just ride the chairlift to see the top of the mountain now keep in mind during the summer sometimes the gondolas are down for repairs and that’s a great way to get the view and just go right up from the bottom.
Their ropes course ranges from easy to super intense and instead of being down in the trees it’s a little bit higher up the size of a three story building and so this has its challenges because if you are afraid of heights or you don’t like to look down it adds that extra element of Adventure. So taking their ninja warrior course, and the mountain the coaster is a perfect alternative for the younger kids that might have hard a time with any age or height limits for the zipline. It was a great way to spend a few days in Vermont soaking up the outdoors and pushing ourselves doing things we never thought we could do, which is what adventure is all about!
Francis McGovern is the co-founder and founding editor and publisher at Literary Traveler. He has run the site for over 20 years. He was at Walking Magazine and then spent three years at Lycos.com where he served as a product manager for their suite of personalization products including My Fidelity and My Lycos.
Francis has also run a search engine consulting practice as well as serve as Vice President of Operations for the reviewed.com network. He has helped to lead and develop many literary tours and cruises and loves to discuss books and ideas with a group of travelers as they discover new places.