Last weekend I took my entire fam to the US National Whitewater Center to try out some different outdoor fun for my little adventure enthusiasts. The kids were thrilled with all of the activities to choose from and we had an afternoon packed with fun and boy did they sleep well that night!
We had day passes that worked well for our family. We started our day by registering for our 30-minute rock-climbing session since those fill up quickly and we mapped our day around that. Keep in mind with lines on a weekend, that it may take you 30-45 minutes to complete a course, so plan accordingly. Next we trekked up to the Climb 2 Zip and my kids had a blast doing that. Your child has to be 45 lbs to climb on this, so my 4 1/2-year-old boys were not too happy that they missed the cut by 4 lbs. But I was pleasantly surprised that they had just as much fun watching their sisters complete the course and fly down the zip. You start this course by climbing up a rope ladder to the tall platform and then you get hooked up to the gear and jump off! My girls did not hesitate for a second, but I saw plenty of other kids and adults who had second thoughts! Next we did the Adventure Course right next to Climb 2 Zip. You also have to be 45 lbs to complete this course but I would also recommend that you check out the course first before you set your child off on this one. It’s a little tricky and once you start, it’s hard to turn around. You actually have to be “rescued” by the guides at certain points in the course if you want out. One of my girls changed her mind halfway through, it was not a problem at all. I just had to coach her through it and reassured her that everything would be fine, even if she let go completely. There are plenty of sturdy hooks to keep you safe.
Next, we went to the rock-climbing wall. All of my kids really got into this! You get one half-hour session and that is plenty. It gets hard after 20 minutes of climbing! There are a few easy treks and you can try some harder routes.
For the true thrill-seekers, you can check out the Mega Zip or the Mega Jump. The Mega Zip is that huge zip line that goes all the way across the rapids. I have done this in the past, loved it, but I have to admit, it’s a little scary because you have to pay attention at the end or you could ricochet off. My landing was fine and I laughed the entire way! You have to be 90 lbs, so none of my kids can do that yet. I’m guessing that 11 or 12 is the magic age for 90 lbs. FYI, the Mega Zip is currently under annual maintenance, but should reopen soon, check website before you go! You only have to be 45 lbs to do the Mega Jump and my girls loved it too. Super fun!
Here are some Smarty tips to have a successful day at the USNWC:
1) Plan your trip in advance. For our family, we didn’t ALL need a pass to do the activities because mom & dad were basically watching the kids do all the fun stuff. So for a family like mine with 2 adults, 2 kids who meet the 45-lb requirement and 2 who don’t, purchasing (2) Cool Sport Passes and (2) Quick Sport Passes worked for us. The Cool Sport Pass (for my 9 and 7-year-olds) costs $29 per child (or adult too if we really wanted to partake in the activities) and gives you UNLIMITED access to biking, climbing, eco-trekking, flatwater kayaking, Mega Zip, Mega Jump, Climb 2 Zip and the Adventure Course. Our kids are still too young to do the family rafting, minimum age is 8. The Quick Sport Pass costs $15 and gives you a one-time session on any sport – this is perfect for my 4-year-olds to do the rock-climbing. Just make sure you check out the Day Pass section on the website and map it out for your family.
2) Check out the Whitewater events schedule. We just stumbled upon the Whitewater River Jam Finale when we went and what a treat that was! We stayed until 9:30pm and not one child had a single melt-down. In fact, I don’t recall anyone whining or complaining for the entire day. That’s impressive for our fam!
3) Based on our experience, you can fully enjoy almost all of the activities if your kids are 8 years old and up. The only thing they can’t do at age 8 is the Mega Zip since they have to be 90 lbs. Family rafting will be such a treat when all of mine are 8! But don’t worry if your kids aren’t 8, there is still SO much fun to be had, especially if your kids hit the 45-lb mark. Once they are 45 lbs, they are in like flynn! Like I said though, my boys were just fine watching their big sisters, which was pretty remarkable. I also saw tons of families with new babies, and they just strapped them in the baby carrier or stroller and enjoyed the hiking and watching the kayakers and rafters. So, this is a facility that is unique and appeals to all ages. We will definitely be back and often!
4) Check out the “What to Bring” section once you decide your activities. It is very thorough and gives you great tips based on the activity you choose.
4) The River’s Edge Bar & Grill is the perfect relaxation spot after a day of play at the center. The outdoor seating has the best views of the USNWC’s whitewater course and an unbelievable sunset over the Catawba River. Kids can enjoy family-friendly meals while moms & dads can unwind with a cocktail! There is also a walk-up “Grab and Go” shop located next to the restaurant and offers beverages and high energy snacks for those on-the-go. Make sure you check the hours as they are subject to seasonal changes.
So after soccer season winds down and we still have this incredible Carolina Blue weather, get outside and play in our backyard at the US National Whitewater Center, you won’t be disappointed! Our kids are begging to go back!