If you’re strolling through the Greensboro Science Center’s zoo and hear a mechanical whirring sound followed by animated shrieks, your gut reaction might be to look around to see what animal has gotten loose from their cage. Instead, you should look up. Chances are you’re hearing the sound of a giddy visitor on a zipline, flying through the treetops like a bird, at the Science Center’s newest high-ropes adventure course: SKYWILD.
It’s one thing to go see your favorite animals — monkeys, tigers, penguins, and more — but it’s completely different to be them. That’s the mission of SKYWILD: to balance an educational, exploratory experience with an athletic one that patrons of all ages can enjoy to better understand the animal kingdom.
The Greensboro Science Center has seen every type of person on this course. Whether they are turning 8 or 80, coming alone or with a group of friends, feeling confident or tentative, each visitor is in for an exhilarating learning experience — about animals, and themselves.
There’s a common misconception that the Greensboro Science Center caters almost exclusively to young children and their families during its daytime hours. While the staff has tried to inform the community otherwise, they’ve also realized that counterbalancing that idea required the Science Center to add new exhibits and activities that specifically cater to adolescents and adults.
“Once students get to a certain age, you know, 12, 13, 16, they kind of step away from the Science Center,” Director of the Greensboro Science Center Glenn Dobrogosz says. “Or they don’t come back until they’re 30 with their own kids. So we wanted to bring that whole demographic back to the Science Center.”
Inspired by Brevard Zoo’s aerial park in Melbourne, Florida, SKYWILD is composed of beginner, intermediate, and advanced aerial challenge courses ranging from 12 to 45 feet above the ground. Purchase of a SKYWILD ticket includes access to all seven courses over a two-hour period and complimentary admission to the science center museum, zoo, and aquarium.
During construction, Dobrogosz often had visitors question if SKYWILD was an exhibit for orangutans. Now, two years later, people are less confused about who the course was built for, but they may still be unclear about what exactly the course offers.
“At first and still, it took a little bit to understand it,” SKYWILD Assistant Manager Lee Moser says. “When people first see this, they might think it’s a big playground,” Moser says. “People think, ‘Is this just a zipline?’ We do have ziplines, but it’s not the primary obstacle.”
Once in the air, guests quickly learn the course is composed of much more. But while the course is a ton of fun, it isn’t a walk in the park; there’s plenty of room on the zoo path below if you’re looking for a more low-pressure experience. Several of the challenges may look simple from the ground below, but your perspective is guaranteed to change when you only have your harness to hold onto.
In addition to ziplines, the course has suspension bridges, climbs, traverses, and other passageways that push participants to imitate animal behaviors as they leap, crawl, and walk precariously through each activity.
“You become the frog hopping across these lily pads,” Dobrogosz says. “Or you become the beaver working his way through that dam entrance, or whatever it happens to be. It’s 60 events in the trees that mimic animal behaviors but force you to think through, and physically handle, pretty challenging tasks.”
Even the ziplines, the most popular obstacles, aren’t all fun and games; some of them can be intimidating to adult and child visitors alike. If your fight-or-flight reaction hits as you look at the zipline ahead of you, the staff of SKYWILD is there to walk you through it — and your flight reaction starts to have a much more literal meaning when you take the plunge.
“A lot of our staff are usually there with people that are pretty nervous,” says Moser. “They’re good at walking you through the courses if needed, even just essentially holding your hand and taking you through.”
Most teenagers and adults coming to SKYWILD — whether they heard about it through word of mouth or an online travel review site — will come solely to participate on the course. And while it’s great that SKYWILD can stand alone as an attraction, Moser hopes all participants in the future will view the Science Center as a full-day activity.
“We want to encourage this to become a big, full-day event,” Moser.
The Greensboro Science Center has already created a space that melds science exhibits, aquatic and zoological life into one visit. With the addition of the adventure park, SKYWILD mixes education and exercise in a unique way that’s exciting for every member of the family ready to expand their knowledge and walk on the wild side of life.
So be as brave as a lion when you go to sign up, eager as a beaver once you’re on the course, and proud as a peacock when you reach the finish line — even if you’re tired as a dog.
SKYWILD at the Greensboro Science Center
4301 Lawndale Drive
Greensboro, NC 27455
Tickets range from $40 for members to $46 for non-members, however discounts are offered to groups, seniors, veterans, children, college students and city residents. Annual passes are also available for purchase.