Blame it on our evolutionary ancestors, but the simple fact is: kids love to run, climb and swing. An obstacle challenge, a ropes course—toss in some parkour—and what do you have? The ideal workout for your favorite little primates. Get vertical at one of these indoor or outdoor obstacle or rope courses where kids as young as 4 can get in on the action. Scroll on for where to let your little monkeys swing from trees and poles near Washington, DC.

photo: The St. James

The St. James
This Springfield-based gym has a health club with fitness classes, racquetball courts, indoor sports fields and courts, ice rinks, an Olympic-size pool, a water park – and so on. But this is focusing on obstacle courses, so we’ll put on blinders here and head straight for the 30,000-square-foot area that has trampolines, a Nerf battle zone, a ropes course, colorful climbing structures and, of course, a Ninja Warrior Course. The biggest challenge may be tearing yourself away.

Cost: $17/one hour for nonmembers, $32/two hours
Where: 6805 Industrial Rd., Springfield, VA

photo: Summit Ropes

Summit Ropes
The largest indoor ropes course in the United States boasts 16,550 square feet of courses split into a Kids Course for ages 4-9 and the Main Course for ages 7 & up. Guests wear a full-body harness and use a smart belay system so climbers can go it alone or with a partner. The course uses via ferrata, a steel cable that runs along the route and is attached to the rock every 3.3-32.8 feet.

Cost: Weekend – $49/2 hours on the Main course, $29/2 hours on the Kids course
Weekday – $35/2 hours on the Main course, $20/2 hours on the Kids course
Where: 44810 Old Ox Rd., Sterling, VA


photo: SkyZone

Children and adults can test their skills on a variety of equipment, such as the Ninja Warrior Course (open to ages 6 and up), which tests balance, strength and speed; rock walls, warp walls of varying height and difficulty; trampolines (open to anyone who can walk); and dodgeball. A main attraction is the Ropes Course (for anyone 48 inches and taller), which is suspended above the facility’s floor and requires a harness to use. Check the website for special events like Glow ($25/person ages 6 and up) on Friday and Saturday from 8-11 p.m. and Toddler Time ($10/child 5 and younger) on Tuesday-Thursday, 9:30-11 a.m.

Cost: Prices vary by location
Where: 21070 Southbank St. Sterling, VA; 5325 Port Royal Rd., Springfield, VA; 7807 Sudley Rd., Manassas, VA; 15813 Gaither Dr., Gaithersburg, MD

photo: ZavaZone

With three adventure zones to choose from, there’s something for every goal, whether it’s scaling a warp wall, reaching new heights on a giant trampoline, winning a balance battle or swinging through the challenges of the high ropes course set about 20 feet off the floor. And if you’re tired from all that obstacle-crushing, take the 40-foot zip line from one high platform to another. The height requirement for the high ropes course and zip line is 52 inches, and the overall age recommendation is at least 5 years.

Cost: $19.50/one-hour ticket to $54/four-hour ticket
Where: 40 Southlawn Ct., Rockville, MD; 45685 Oakbrook Ct., Sterling, VA

photo: NOVA Ninja via Yelp

NOVA Ninja
Situated at CrossFit Loudoun, which is owned by a former “American Ninja Warrior” contestant, this gym has classes and drop-ins to suit every schedule. New is a weekly Family Ninja Night on Saturdays from 6:15-7:15 p.m. ($20/family). Youth programs are available for children as young as 5. The Ninja 101 class takes kids through seven obstacles, including rope swings, balance tanks and a ring row.

Cost: Contact for pricing
Where: 21531 Blackwood Ct., Sterling, VA

Urban Evolution
This parkour studio teaches the sport of moving quickly through obstacles. Kids’ classes are PicoPK for children ages 4-5, NanoPK for those 6-8, Kids Parkour for ages 9-11 (an intro class is required first) and Youth Parkour for the 12-14 set (who also have to do the intro). For the littlest ninjas, the class is play- and story-based with the goal of teaching self-regulation. The NanoPK group will do conditioning in the form of games and creative physical activities in addition to learning the fundamentals of parkour, such as jumping, rolling, vaulting and climbing.

Cost: Contact for pricing
Where: 5505 Cherokee Ave., Alexandria, VA

photo: Brian R. via Yelp

American Parkour Academy
Kids’ classes come in three flavors: Kids Parkour, Saturday classes during which students train with an American Parkour-certified trainer and Young Kids Parkour, which is for children ages 4-6. Kid Parkour is available in eight-week courses with a maximum of eight children per class, but open enrollment classes are available Monday-Thursday and Saturday. They are capped at 15 students per two instructors.

Cost: $140/Younger Kids Parkour, $20/class for Kids Parkour, $140/eight-week course
Where: 219 M St., NW, Washington, DC

photo: Go Ape!

Go Ape!
When the kids start bouncing off the walls, it may be time to take to the trees. These obstacle courses in Springfield and Rockville take climbers to new heights. The Go Ape Treetop Journey is a good way to whet your appetite for high-ropes courses. During the hourlong trek, you’ll conquer 20 obstacles and two zip lines. For the more daring – and slightly older set – try Go Ape Treetop Adventure, which takes two-three hours to complete and sits higher in the tree canopy. The minimum height for either is 4 feet 7 inches. Note that these are open seasonally. Both locations reopen March 28.

Cost: $49.95/ages 10-16; $59.95/16 & up
Where: 7550 Reservation Dr., Springfield, VA; 6129 Needwood Lake Dr., Derwood, VA

Terrapin Adventures
With several options to choose from, it’s pretty tough to not find something challenging – in a good way. The ultimate is the Terrapin Challenge (open to kiddos 8 & up who are at least 4 feet tall and 70 pounds). It covers all 34 obstacles, including the Zip Line, Giant Swing, 43-foot Climbing Tower, Terrapin Flier and High Ropes Challenge Course. Or tackle just one or two of those. The 450-foot Zip Line starts 30 feet above ground and riders can reach speeds of 20 mph as they sail down. Take a ride on the Giant Swing – after you scale a 4-foot-high scaffolding. The company’s patented winch system pulls guests back and up almost 40 feet in the air before they release the swing and enjoy 2 G’s of force as they swing back and forth. The Climbing Tower – a rock wall – has 12 routes to the top with varying degrees of difficulty. Ever want to free fall 40 feet? You can here – safely. And no obstacle course would be complete without a high ropes course. This one has 18 challenges and reaches 40 feet into the treetops.

Cost: $75/person for the Terrapin Challenge; $55/person for the High Ropes Course and Giant Swing; $47/person for the Climbing Tower and Zip Line; $15/person for the Giant Swing, Terrapin Flyer and Zip Line
Where: 8600 Foundry St., Savage, MD

photo: Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School via Yelp

Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School
Open to ages 5 & up, this location offers 13 aerial forest trails of varying difficulty. Each has a zip line but they primarily have bridges between tree platforms made of rope, cable and wood. It’s possible to create 190 unique challenges, although there are restrictions on which trails the youngest climbers can tackle. *Note that the park is closed for the winter and will reopen mid-March.

Cost: $56/ages 12-adult, $47/ages 7-11, $12/ages 5-6
Where: 16701 Norwood Rd., Sandy Spring, MD

—Meghan Yudes Meyers and Stephanie Kanowitz

featured photo: Camelback Lodge and Indoor Water Park via Yelp


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