What if I told you that there’s a magical place, where swimmers and non-swimmers can both have the time of their lives in complete, equal harmony? What if I told…
What if I told you that there’s a magical place, where swimmers and non-swimmers can both have the time of their lives in complete, equal harmony?
What if I told you that it’s only roughly five hours away from Philly? I tell you what, five hours or not, you better find a way to get here.
As part of another adventure weekend with my nieces, we made an absurd promise that if they survive a four or five hour car ride from Philly to Connecticut, their wildest water park dreams will come true. We based this promise off of Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park’s OK website, which contain OK-quality-but-extreme-enough action videos. Zip lines? Into water? Giant slides? LIFE JACKETS REQUIRED? We couldn’t pack our swim suits fast enough.
Brownstone E & D Park is an abandoned rock-quarry turned adventure land. Once a construction resource in the 1690’s, its grounds now boast a variety of activities to please your average outdoorsman, and tucker out your average seven-year-old. We’re talking, as mentioned, zip lines across the giant body of water, a 100-foot slide, inflatable obstacle courses for both kids and adults, wakeboarding, cliff jumping, and of course, the non-water or less-extreme sports we didn’t observe that day, like kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking and rock wall climbing.
For a pittance of $22, you can get an all-day “DIY activities” pass, for swimming, hiking, biking, snorkeling and kayaking, plus a pretty beaten-up, tattered life jacket; I’d suggest BYO for comfort. For $10 more, you can access the basics, plus the extreme activities, like inflatable obstacle courses, zip lines, and life jacket, as well. The girls insisted on the extreme pass to which we, the spoilers of weekend, agreed. And thank goodness, because they had a blast on the squishy log-spinner, and obstacle courses, which ended with jumping off of a squishy, non-threatening cliff, and into the dark quarry water, seaweed tangling their ankles.
Michael and I were happy to watch the girls together for two hours, but switched off an hour each for separate adult time. Michael had taken one of the girls to the 100-foot water slide. It was around noon, with about a 20-minute wait in line. Before I knew it, my little niece was flying down the slide from a cliff, shooting out at the end like a little bullet. She bobbed up effortlessly in her life jacket.
For my own adult activity, I wanted to take the zip line without harnesses, so I could drop myself in the water, mid-line. The wait time was miserable at that point (maybe 30-45 minute wait, around 2 PM?) so I eyeballed the shortest line: the cliff jump.
Being such a weak swimmer, I’ve never done anything of this sort. But I figured with the life jacket, why not? A note about the park, important to mention: there is no height, weight, or age restriction for any activity. You sign a waiver and plunge at your own risk.
Thus, I, the adult, should have no problem, right? I skipped the smaller cliff, assuming it was for children, and chose the 25-foot cliff.
I stood at the edge and immediately regretted it. I needed an adult. I needed my nieces. Either of them. It looked so scary. What if there was a rock no one saw? What if I fell on a kid? What if —
“C’mon, lady!” a kid whined. Lady? It was my birthday weekend. Lady, already? This sort of bravado and peer pressure was not unusual at Brownstone, I learned. Despite the mandatory life jackets, more experienced swimmers were inclined to be more impatient, obnoxious (pushy and pushing, for a good laugh), and less sensitive to those, ahem, who needed a little more time.
I jumped before I was ready, hands crossing my life jacket and legs straight, like the park employee instructed.
It felt like forever. My friend told me afterwards that paratroopers train to jump from heights at 33 feet high, because mentally, 33 feet ignites the same fear you feel at 10,000 feet. Well, I was scared. In a little less than a militant way.
I hit the water and immediately felt my left butt cheek bruise. That was nothing compared to the next pain I felt, which can only be described as the most extreme wedgie I’ve ever experienced, or ever will experience, until my next cliff jump. I screamed underwater until I bobbed back up for air. Swimming back to the pier, I avoided eye contact, convinced that everyone knew what I just went through.
We spent almost four hours there. I think if it were only just us adults, we’d have spent a whole day, plus rented out one of their private pier picnic areas. Otherwise, we had to secure a spot underneath some trees on our beach towels, close to other families who smartly brought their own food. I paid an arm and a leg for a veggie burger and chicken nuggets. Never mind the Dip n’ Dots, was exactly what I said to my nieces. They pouted but complied. Can’t complain much, though, free parking!
The day was perfect. The ladies agreed that the car ride was completely worth it, and that it exceeded their expectations (even though one of the girls seemed a little bored towards the end and just wanted ice cream. Sorry, girly.) An A++ from the kids, and an A+++ from this adult. We’ll definitely be back next summer!
Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park: 161 Brownstone Avenue, Portland, CT 06480