I am a frequent visitor to Tripadvisor for info. and for writing reviews. I know that details are important, so this review may be long. First off, let me say that USNWC is a fantastic place to go with your family, especially if your kids are at least, say, 7, and don't tire easily. Kids younger than that and dogs (really, I love my pets, but why in the world would you bring your dog with you for the entire day?) do not need to go there, because there is nothing for them to do. We went early June, before schools were out, on a Friday, hoping that it wouldn't be too crowded. And it really wasn't. But the first thing right off the bat that I noticed was staffing, or rather, the lack of it. There was a "now hiring" sign displayed, and colleges were out for summer, but obviously management waited too long to hire, or nobody wants the jobs. It takes approximately 10 minutes to get checked in, depending on your group size. There were only 2 windows open: one for advance purchased tickets, and one for walk-ups. So the first problem was....not enough staff to check you in, and then no line for group sales. There were a couple of groups in front of us with about 15 or more people in them, and we had 5 in ours. Group sales should be done separately! The check-in line was not extremely long, but we waited for about 45 minutes before we got to the window. Group sales should be done separately!
I said that only 2 lines were open....when we were checked in, we went down the stairs to the locker area, and lo and behold, there is another place down there to check in. Who knew? Certainly there was no sign up top directing people there, and of course no staff to let you know. Poor management! We proceeded to enjoy all of the activities. And they were all wonderful and fun! But again, very little staffing. Basically, only 1 or 2 staff members at each venue. Considering that only the staff can buckle and unbuckle you from everything you do, this makes the wait extremely and unnecessarily long. The rock climbing guy was rushing around trying to get to everybody as fast as he could. And understand that they have to give each new group a safety speech before anything can be hooked up! Obstacle courses were a blast and super challenging! But again, only 1 person to buckle and unbuckle, and on some obstacles the same person had to keep saying " wait just a minute while I run over here and unbuckle/buckle this person". Need more staff!
When it was time for lunch, we had PLENTY of time for rest, because there is only 1 restaurant in the park. And guess what? Understaffed! There is a little market where you can pick up pre-made sandwiches/salads, but there may have been 10 sandwiches total in there, and fewer salads. I noticed that inside the market there was a little area for grilled items made to order, but it was closed. I wonder why???? Oh, and let me make a suggestion for management....Put clocks in prominent places around the park! Most people aren't wearing watches due to them getting wet, or carrying their cell phones. When you arrive you are given a time for the Whitewater Rafting, so we had no way of knowing what time it was. When we went to eat, we were told that we would be paged on our cell phone when a table was ready, but we didn't have them with us, so we had to keep going inside and asking if our table was ready. There were speakers all over the place...why not have a paging system over the intercom? But at least, have clocks displayed!
After lunch we hit all of the obstacle courses. This area is a good little hike up the hill and in the woods. A wonderful part of the park! They are currently in the process of building bathrooms and water fountains up there, but for this year, there is nothing available to you without hiking back down the hill, probably about a quarter of a mile. Management needs to have water available up there for the customers at all times! A water hose if nothing else! It was in the upper 80's when we went, and doing those obstacles you get dehydrated very quickly! There was a little water pump beside a supply house that was locked, and I begged a staff member to unlock it so we could get some water. They did, thank goodness, but locked it right back. Also a suggestion to management....come up with a system where you can put your debit/credit card on temporary file for the day that can be accessed at all areas where they sell food/drinks/supplies. This would be extremely convenient for the customer, since they may not be carrying around money or wallets. It would also boost sales for the park. I'm telling you, I probably would have paid $20 for a bottle of water when I was on that obstacle course! I was that thirsty!
Overall we had a fun day, and left exhausted! We were too tired to get to all of the activities. Now that we know the area better, we will plan our day better next time. Oh, and another suggestion for management....You need to mark the activities better! Those maps that are handed out are not extremely helpful. It took us a while to find the entrance point to the obstacles.
Some suggestions for the first-timer...1. You do not need to bring much inside the park. We found that a comfortable bathing suit (with shorts for the girls) and a pair of water/tennis shoes is really all you need. Not even a towel. There are lockers available for rent. $2.00 for a one-time use tiny one that will hold your phone, keys, money and maybe a bottle of sunscreen, or $10 for a bin that will hold about 4-5 backpacks, good for the entire day. ( I'm not sure about that one-time use locker, though. I saw many lockers around the bathrooms that had keys in them for the taking, and it looked like you could carry the keys around your neck all day and use them as often as you wanted.) 2. Take a cooler with lunch and leave it in your car. The parking lot is not that far to walk back to, and it will be quicker and cheaper, leaving you with more time to do activities. Our lunch at the restaurant was really great! We all had burgers (they were about a third of a pound!) that came with a choice of sides, but it cost us $66.00 for five of us, and we waited for over an hour! 3. Plan all of your water activities in the middle of the day. The hours for the water area are 10:00-6:00, and they take a while to do. Everything else is open from dawn to dusk (per the website). 4. Avoid the week-ends if possible.
Overall I would say that it's a fantastic place to go for a full day of fun! Even though it was extremely understaffed, the employees were all super nice and friendly, and very helpful and patient with questions. The management could do a lot of things to make this place top notch! I am going to send a copy of this review to their website.
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