A natural doorway to the past, Polar Caves gives families an underground adventure through a network of caves and passageways formed by a retreating glacier during an age when woolly mammoths still roamed the earth. Encompassing a stretch near Hawk's Cliff, the highlight of Polar Caves Park is the caves themselves, which wind underground through the rock, twisting and turning before reemerging at the surface. Self-educating explorers can guide themselves through the subterranean walkways, where escaped slaves, Prohibition-era rumrunners, and angry teenage saber-toothed tigers found safety. Previous occupants have left behind evidence of their hidden lives, including a wood-burning stove and cider press. Along the trails, both above ground and underground, educational opportunities abound, with signs proclaiming local history and distinguishing local flora and fauna. Diminutive Dr. Dolittles enjoy practicing their deer whispering at the petting zoo, and landlocked fans flock to the birds at the waterfowl display.
Visitors to Mel's Funway Park can try their hand at two 18-hole mini-golf courses before speeding and swinging their way through the go-kart track and batting cages, which feature a replica of Fenway's Green Monster and slow- and fast-pitch machines that can reach speeds of up to 85 mph. Inside, a laser plex hosts games of laser tag, while other visitors attempt the laser maze, a web of 36 lasers that participants must avoid to keep from triggering the alarm and receive their cat-burglar certification. Funway Park has also partnered with Woodman's Restaurant to recharge empty body batteries with fare from a renowned and award-winning eatery.
Adventurers glide past pine and deciduous trees, navigating branches at 200 feet above the ground. As they reach a treetop platform, guides wave them along onto a bridge that swings high above the forest floor. This nerve-racking scene is the norm at Alpine Adventures, where professionals have led guests soaring through the woodlands of New Hampshire's White Mountains since 2006. Today, in addition to leading guests on three distinct canopy tours, each testing adventurers' courage with swinging bridges and fast speeds, they captain off-road adventures in six-wheeled Swiss Pinzgauers. Up to 11 passengers sit protected by seat harnesses and an overhead roll cage as guides narrate and charge through fall foliage, winter flurries, or summer volleyball games. An aerial park invites thrill seekers to explore cargo nets, rope ladders, ziplines, a treehouse, a climbing tower, and many other elevated obstacles.
At The BIG Adventure, summer campers, families, and even large group functions such as birthday parties spend quality time conquering myriad activities. While patrons can take their try at laser tag and indoor rock-climbing year-round, they as well can navigate the greens of the mini-golf course from spring until fall, or hurtle down water slides from mid-June through Labor Day. Visitors can also test their mettle against virtual villains in the arcade, which is flush games such as Ms. Pac Man and air hockey. In winter months, The BIG Adventure offers nearby off-mountain fun after a day on Bethel's ski slopes.
Located in the woods, Liquid Planet Water Park forms an oasis of thrilling water slides, pools, and watery play zones. Water attractions include high-speed vertical-drop slides, spiraling water runs that stretch upward of 250 feet, and brisk splash pools. Forming a relaxing buffer at the side of the park are 2,000 square feet of sandy beach that, like marshmallow swim trunks, offer cushy respite from the ubiquitous concrete-pool surroundings. The beach also borders spring-fed Crater Lake, which attracts swimmers and cannonballers with traditional watering-hole charms.
Divided between two locations in Manchester and Nashua, Vertical Dreams' 15,000 square feet of simulated mountainside are packed with obstacles and tough sections to challenge climbers of all skill levels. At the Manchester gym, gutted elevator shafts lined with hand grips extend four stories upward, creating 70-foot vertical surfaces. The Nashua location boasts 10,000 square feet of wall space, with textured surfaces that respond realistically to climber's hands and feet and fill their nostrils with simulated rock smells.
Vertical Dreams' staff of veteran climbers teaches students one-on-one or in groups. In beginner lesson packages, instructors show aspiring climbers the figurative and literal ropes involved in belaying, climbing, and knot tying, and the teachers in advanced top-roping and sport-climbing classes push their students' abilities to climb solo or in a lead position.
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