Summer is the perfect season for families to spend time together participating in outdoor programs. With an array of options available, you want to make sure you offer unique and engaging experiences.
The YMCA Trout Lodge and Camp Lakewood in Potosi, Missouri, offers multiple programs to get families active. “We like to say we help people disconnect so they can reconnect,” said Nicolle Hahn, the Y’s business and marketing director. “Where we are, we don’t have great cell service and there are no TVs in the rooms, so we encourage people to unplug and be outside with their family and friends.”
One of the most popular outdoor programs the Y offers is Adventure Activities, consisting of four different zip line structures. Described as a “large jungle gym,” their 60-foot Alpine Tower consists of three different ways to reach the top and a cable swing for those seeking a greater thrill.
To make programming more unique, a variety of themed zip lines are offered, adhering to the seasons and time of day. This is a great way to keep visitors engaged or entice returning attendees. Some of their options include a moonlight zip, gladiator zip, special agent zip and water blast zip in the summer, outfitted with water guns to stay cool. Putting in any type of twist, theme or added props can go a long way.
Another popular outdoor program to consider is archery. Similar to zip lines, this activity can be easily altered to fit a theme or be more intriguing to visitors by adding something as simple as balloons. “Our guests sign up for the activity and we run it two or three times a day, and in the summer, we run archery four times a day,” said Hahn. “It’s a fairly popular program, especially the balloon pop, because the kids get a kick out of being able to hit the balloons.”
If your facility allows, equestrian programs are another great way to engage members outside. Whether through trail rides, pony rides or camps teaching riding skills and horsemanship, all ages can find interest in this type of programming. “We actually run programs through a company called Road Scholar for active older adults,” said Hahn. “We’ve had some very successful horsemanship programs over the last six months and it’s been a great program.”
Maybe your facility can better benefit from a single event, rather than adding a whole new outdoor program. Holidays are a great time to host a community event that will get families active and outside. The YMCA of Lincoln, Nebraska, hosts a Youth Sports Adventure Run every Fourth of July as a way to get families outdoors.
Two miles of obstacle courses, running, a climbing wall, net crawls, a football toss, a water slide and a mud pit, the Adventure Run not only encourages families to be active, it also benefits a good cause. All benefits from registration go to the YMCA Annual Campaign-Strong Kids. This program provides youth and families in need the opportunity to take part in YMCA programs, including youth sports.
“The goal is to support exercise for the whole family — getting any and all involved,” said Troy Pekas, the Lincoln YMCA’s program director. “It’s all about getting them active that morning, then they can do whatever it is they do to celebrate the holiday that evening.”
Other than having the benefit of a family bonding experience, the Y also uses this event to network with local restaurants by having employees attend and hand out free coupons. Additionally, all participants receive a T-shirt at the run each year. “It’s nice to see returning families wearing old T-shirts and seeing the kids come back older each year,” said Pekas.
YMCA Trout Lodge and Camp Lakewood also takes advantage of holidays to host family events. “Over Labor Day weekend, our summer camp on the Camp Lakewood side property offers family camp — specifically for families to experience camp just like you would as a camper,” said Hahn.
Some of the activities highlighted during family camp are tours, any recreational activities, including the climbing towers and archery, as well as a large dining hall for families to eat around the table together.
Regardless of which programs and activities you currently offer, a simple solution to better your outdoor programs can be to survey or ask your members what activities they would prefer, or see which ones they already enjoy and want to keep doing.
“We are always trying to make sure every year we do something new or even do a twist on a family favorite,” said Hahn. “We also try to make sure there are enough activities for all different age ranges. We can’t please everyone, but at the same time, we have such a wide variety there is something pretty much for everyone.”