Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, or anything else, visiting Washington DC should definitely be on your bucket list.
My daughter and I were in DC a few years ago and we did a lot of traditional touristy activities: toured the White House and the Library of Congress, saw the House of Representatives in action, and spent a lot of time in the Smithsonians (emphasis on the plural. When I visited DC as a teenager, I was surprised to learn that the Smithsonian was made up of more than a dozen separate museums). Our favorites were Air and Space, American History, and Natural History. Today, there are 19 museums plus a zoo, and admission is free to all of them.
This trip, we decided to focus on more adventurous activities. And the city delivered. We divided our adventures into two categories: Physically challenging and not-so-physically challenging. In this post, we’ll talk about the tougher ones.
THE THRILLS, DAY 1: SIX FLAGS AMERICA
We started our first full day in DC with the Homewood Suites by Hilton breakfast, which, like dinner the night before, was filling, delicious, and free. Zoe and I took an Uber from Homewood Suites by Hilton to Upper Marlboro, Maryland (about $30 each way) to visit Six Flags America. In a word, it was fantastic.
My daughter and I are roller coaster junkies, so the second we were through the gates, we got down to business.
The lines were surprisingly short, so we had a chance to do each of the thrill rides at least twice. With our feet dangling, Mind Eraser’s loops and drops reminded us a little of Kong at our local Six Flags (Discovery Kingdom). Joker’s Jinx was, as you might guess from the name, completely insane, starting from its zero-to-sixty-in-three-seconds launch and all the way through dozens of curves, turns, loops, and twists.
Apocalypse takes riders—standing up—through loops, drops, and corkscrews, and ads in some fun visual- (shooting flames) and audio effects.
On Batwing, we started off sitting down but before taking off, were lowered to a laying-down position, where we stayed throughout. It truly feels like flying—in a terrifying (but safe) kind of way. Then there was Superman Ride of Steel, which combines a 200-foot drop, amazing speeds (74 MPH), more than a mile of track, and tight spiral spins with amazing virtual reality effects to put you right in the middle of an epic supervillain vs. Superman battle.
But our nostalgia favorite ride was Roar, the identical twin of a ride by the same name that, sadly, closed down in our local park.
All in all, it was a thrilling, entertaining, and thoroughly exhausting, day. We got home (by which I mean Homewood Suites by Hilton) just in time for the Evening Social. After that, we bought a few snacks at the Suite Shop, borrowed a couple of DVDs from the front desk, and settled in for a dad-daughter movie night.
DAY 2: KINGS DOMINION
The next morning, after breakfast, we rented a car and drove nearly two hours due south to Kings Dominion, a theme park in the heart of Virginia with beautiful grounds and rides that we liked even better than those at Six Flags.
Anaconda is loaded with coils, loops, and drops. Drop Tower sent us free-falling 27 stories straight down, Flight of Fear catapulted us into near-total darkness, and Volcano shot us—like lava—150 feet straight up and through a series of spins and corkscrews. Dominator took us through five inversions on what’s billed as the longest floorless coaster in the world, Xtreme Skyflyer (extra fee required) gave us a taste of hang gliding and skydiving, and Intimidator 305 was absolutely amazing, with its 300-foot drop, blistering speeds, and whipping, high-speed turns (although it struck me as a little odd to name a roller coaster after a racecar driver, Dale Earnhardt, who died in a crash).
We also rode on some terrific family rides, including Avalanche, Ricochet, and a wooden coaster called Rebel Yell (remember, Virginia is in the South).
For a little down time between rides, we enjoyed a leisurely walk through Dinosaurs Alive!, a multi-acre forest filled with more than 30 life-sized, roaring, animatronic dinosaurs.
Exhausted and thoroughly satisfied, we made the 90-minute drive back to Homewood Suites by Hilton. Unfortunately, we missed the Evening Social, but still had enough energy for a snack, a movie, and to pour ourselves into bed for the night.
DAY 3: TERRAPIN ADVENTURES
We started our last morning at Homewood Suites by Hilton with breakfast, checked out, and took the Metro and a cab up to Terrapin Adventures (www.terrapinadventures.com), halfway between DC and Baltimore. When it comes to outdoors challenges—things like rock wall climbing and zip lines, my daughter and I are a little jaded, with miles of zip lines under our belt (plus, it was quite a schlep, especially with suitcases in tow). So our expectations were pretty low. But Terrapin Adventures turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.
We signed up for the Terrapin Challenge (about $75 per person), which includes five separate activities. It started a 330-foot zip line, which, for experienced zippers (we did several in Costa Rica that were more than half a mile long), won’t be much of a challenge. But it was still fun—and the beginners in our group had a blast. Next, we did the high ropes course, a 3-level course with 19 elements to cross, including a vine walk, hanging logs, cable bridges, rope bridges, cargo nets, floating platforms, and more. The higher up you go, the more challenging the elements.
Safety is a priority at Terrapin and their procedures, checks, and double-checks were great. After the ropes course, we did a 40-foot freefall/swing and then moved over to the climbing tower, which featured about 15 different ways to get to a platform about 30 feet up—and far fewer to get back down (including one that felt like being squeezed through a hose). Zoe and I climbed up three times, each attempt more ninja-like than the last. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and nothing short of spectacular. For anyone who’s afraid of heights or claustrophobic, this will push you to your limits. But safety procedures and the supportive staff, including our guide Brett, make it easy (easier) to push through those fears.
Speaking of supportive, with all the climbing, wiggling, wriggling, sliding, squirming, and shimmying, I would have expected to spend quite a bit of time adjusting my underwear. But I was wearing boxer briefs from Pair of Thieves, and it wasn’t until we were halfway home that I realized how incredibly comfortable I’d been for the whole day. As far as I’m concerned, Pair of Thieves underwear is must-have equipment, whether for indoors or out, sitting or active.