I’m on my own and 30 feet up a tree in a forest, it’s dark and past bedtime and I couldn’t feel further from civilization. This is my time to clear my lungs and let out an once-in-a-lifetime Tarzan cry.

I take a breath and get ready to scream but just before I do the unmistakable sound of Cool and the Gang wafts across the canopy and ruins the moment. I’m not in the jungle, I am in Adventure Park Sandy Spring in Maryland.

A section of forest has been converted into a playground for people who like climbing trees, braving ziplines and negotiating high-wire obstacles. And the fun does not stop when the sun goes down the thousands of lights illuminate the canopy like a downtown Ewok city.

There are 13 courses ranging in difficulty, the Double Black Diamond level is 65 feet up and would make a chimp think twice, and once the all important safety instructions are done with you can roam free.

I had a great few hours at Adventure Park channeling my inner-Caesar from Planet of the Apes and though my Tarzan moment was ruined by cheesy 1970s disco being played at a wedding across the nearby lake it was one of the most impressive outdoor pursuits centre I’ve ever been to.

USA’s Capital Region, which consists of Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC, is known across the world for American’s seat of power and the giant Chesapeake Bay but recently has become a top destination for those who enjoy the Great Outdoors.

The James River and the Potomac create the perfect topography for cycling, rafting, rambling, paddleboarding, rockclimbing and any other outdoor pursuit you can think of.

A manmade wonder is also being used to attract nature lovers – the 297km Chesapeake and Ohio Canal – and is the most serene place I’ve cycled.

Opened in 1828 and quickly eclipsed by the railroad the canal closed in 1924 and thankfully far-sighted civic leaders protected and turned it into a national park where nature has reclaimed the human imposition.

We cycled the stretch of canal at Great Falls Park where the Potomac River snakes alongside the C&O. With the still beauty of the canal under a green canopy to my right and the roaring power of the Potomac to my left the tow path must be one of the best cycle routes in the world. Wildlife is everywhere, I saw herons, dragonflies, turtles and thankfully few lycrastretchus (humans).

The breathtaking power and size of the falls which the park is named after rival the world’s greatest waterfalls and no photo can ever do it justice.

Halesowen News:

Maryland was one of the 13 colonies which formed the United States and as such has plenty of history to discover, it is one of the smallest states in the Union and is known as the Free State as it was set up to give persecuted Catholics a safe haven.

One thing that isn’t safe in Maryland is crabs, the state is crab mad and whether they are smashed up on the dinner table or beaten to a pulp for cakes, crabs are on every menu in the state.

The Old Anglers Inn near Great Falls Park has a history which includes bootleggers and political intrigue and amid a sprinkling of Irish classics on the menu serves a crab meat cocktail and Angler’s Crab Cake, served with cherry tomatoes, corn, feta cheese and mustard cream, which locals and tourists tuck into with delight.

Rockville is a historic Maryland city which has seen massive redevelopment, a few blocks of downtown has been rebuilt to cater what looks like 100,000 people who have not moved there yet. There are bars, restaurants, shops and a stylish multiplex. There are plenty of chain restaurants and bars, the pick of is Gordon Biersch which has a mouthwatering selection of the Capital Region’s many craft beers, to have safe and secure fun in.

The headquarters of the Cambria Hotels group is in downtown Rockville and it picked the plum site for its brand new Cambria Suites. The rooms are very spacious and have more USB ports than a teenage geek’s bedroom. The ground floor’s lobby, reception and restaurant have the brand spanking new feel of a two day old art exhibition.

The staff are incredibly helpful, as you would expect from employees whose bosses’ headquarters is across the road, and the amount of questions during breakfast can attest. Two days on the trot I started the day with the hotel’s epic version of steak and eggs which would grace any rambler, cyclist, rafter’s plate before an action packed morning.

Despite being geographically the most similar peoples on the earth there is a bit of needle between Maryland and Virginia. Needless to say Virginians love crabs too. Both states love the same crabs, those who live on the bottom of Chesapeake Bay but they even argue what state the crabs are from. This crustacean frustration even made its way to Government with one politicians declaring because the crabs are conceived downstream they are from his state.

After hearing what a crabby lot the Virginians would be I was pleased they seemed no different to Marylanders when we got to Virginia. In fact as with most places in America, the locals were golden.

All the talk in Virginia was the difference between the north and south of the state, due to the capital’s influence the north was more metropolitan whereas the south was more like, err, The South, which Virginia is the most northern state of.

The Civil War, the running sore of American history, is round every corner in Virginia if you look for it. Battlefields, houses where heroes were born, lived or died. Stumps where speeches were made, including the one about Liberty or Death and Graveyards, Confederate and Yankee, and locations of films about the Civil War. The Civil War Museum of America is also in Richmond and is well worth a visit, I had a fascinating few hours wandering around the exhibits.

Richmond is the capital of Virginia and was the old capital of the Confederacy and has the White House of the Confederacy which is the state legislature and governor’s house. The world’s finest cyclists descended on the city this September for the World Cycling Championships, the first time it had been held in America for 30 years.

Richmond was named by settlers who noticed a bend in the James River was reminiscent of Richmond-Upon-Thames. Those hardy settlers who had to live on rations would be in paradise in modern Richmond, one of the best foodie cities in America boasting a brilliant array of restaurants, diners and cafes.

Church Hill is one of the city’s oldest districts and has been reinvigorated due to its restaurants. We ate at Metzger. The counter was a vegan’s nightmare, cuts of meat, big, small, thin and wide. Beef, bacon, lamb, pork, venison, veal and duck all were represented in this hipster meat heaven.

The menu ensured food envy would happen whatever I picked so I was delighted we were given a selection of starters. Oysters, crab (obviously), incredible pork belly, fois gras. And then the main of duck was great but could never live up to the starter, thankfully the desert menu went down the sharing route and both the strawberry cheesecake and chocolate ice cream was all given a chance to taste.

Downtown at Perly’s Diner, the classic American breakfast diner is still alive and well in Richmond in this world of fruit nutrabullets for breakfast. This kosher diner had a queue outside at 8am of local workmen which is always a good sign, they were also joined by Eastern European cycling team members who were amazed at the size of the dishes and the sheer amount of questions one order of breakfast can generate.

The brand new Quirk Hotel was opened to coincide with the UCI and thanks to a law which gives tax breaks to companies which redevelop old buildings had given Destination Hotels the chance to create a gem.

From carpets picked because a boffin reckons the pattern makes people fall in love, Virginia artist Tina Frey designed pink ice buckets, telephones and locally made Marpac pink noise machine which filters sound, probably to drown out all the people making the noise of sweet love after staring at the carpet on the way back to the room.

The hotel’s restaurant Maple and Pine is one of the best in the state and was the place to be seen after the cycling finished and the town’s politicians celebrated the success of staging the world championships which attracted over 670,000 spectators.

The James River cuts through Richmond and has the only urban white-water rapids in the country. Riverside Outfitters offer paddle-boarding and kayaking and both are a wonderful way to see the city from a different angle. For another serene getaway Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens take some beating, 50 acres of flora and forna with lakes, streams and a butterfly house which houses some of the rarest species in the world.

There are now 38km of public cycling routes in Richmond, 25 of those were because of UCI, and they link up with a state-wide cycling track which means you can cycle all the way to Washington DC if desired.

The capital of the United States is a lesson in power. The whole place drips with history, money and the power only a superpower like America can produce. Helicopters criss-cross the sky and I was lucky enough to see the Presidential helicopter, which is always accompanied by two helicopters.

The popularity of The House of Cards has led to more tourists flocking to DC and the wider Capital Region and there are tailored tours for fans of the hit series.

I’ve been to DC three times and the best way to see all the monuments and historic places is by segway. The sidewalks are so wide and unlike New York and London where it would be impossible due to the sheer number of pedestrians Washington seems to be built to cater for so many more people than actually live there.

We took Bike and Roll’s Monuments by Night tour on the motorised two wheel segway, they were easy to get the hang on and it was great fun setting off with my fellow British travellers into the night. Our guide was a 20-something woman who was a wealth of information and jokes, when the moonlight caught her at a certain angle she had a look of a Kennedy, but being a gentleman I didn’t ask if her mum was JFK’s lovechild.

Zipping around the city on two wheels stopping off at the White House, Capital Building, The Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument and the Vietnam Memorial was a wonderfully relaxing and none knackering exercise in sight-seeing. For a review of DC go here.

Halesowen News: The Lincoln Memorial

Another none-tiring way to see Washington DC is by paddle-boarding the Potomac River. Less strenuous than kayaking paddle-boarding is like surfing in slow motion, I was the only one of the group who fell in the drink, but that liberated me to try and go faster.

The sprawling Watergate Building, which spawned the biggest political scandal in US history and led to any other scandal having “gate” stuck on the end of it, was great to see from the river and was a short paddle from Boating in DC, which hires paddleboards and kayaks. It also has a Kayak Force One which rumour has it is always available if Mr Obama fancies getting away from it all.

Another place where the President could forget his workload is at the baseball. The Nationals play in Washington and their stadium is purpose built for sporting entertainment. Seeing a ball game is something I’d always wanted to do and it did not disappoint. The sporting action between the Nationals and Miami Marlins was interesting but the whole whoopla which goes with it is brilliant when you are used to watching Aston Villa get beat in the cold holding a Bovril.

The music kept on pumping out the speakers and the commentator kept on calling plays and then huge President mascots would race around the track as the fans went barmy. The sheer variety of beers, burgers, hotdogs and other food available puts any sports ground in UK to shame.

DC has a thriving food scene, as you would expect from a international destination. We ate at Impala which was one of the best Mexican meals I’ve ever had. As you would expect from a capital city there are all different types of hotels. We stayed at Destination's Embassy Row Hotel which was decked out in modern art and gadgets. 

Georgetown is the historic district of DC which every up and coming politician wants to live – just as JFK did. We went on a food tour taking in several restaurants whilst hearing the history of the place as we went.

I dipped off for a wee dram at Martin’s Tavern where the Kennedys drank the night away, I was chuffed to sit in the seat where Sam Rayburn and LBJ plotted for decades, hid at the back with perfect view of anyone coming the booth has been left just as it was when the two great men cooked up so many plans that helped change America forever.

There are so many museums to visit, you would need a week just to take in all the Smithsonian Museums. From the Air and Space museum at the airport which includes Apollos and the Enola Gay to the Smithsonian Art Galleries they contain some of the Western World’s most important artifacts, and they are all free.

We spent an afternoon wandering around the Smithsonian Museum of American History which contained everything from the Star Spangled Banner to the original Kermit the Frog, the museum has also just announced Walter White and Breaking Bad artefacts will now be added to the collection. One cultural icon I could not find though was Johnny Weissmuller, which is just as well as I might have had a flash back to being stuck up a tree and failing to do a decent Tarzan roar.


Purely Capital Region USA offers a seven day holiday to the Capital Region USA from £1068 per person including direct return flights with British Airways into IAD from London Heathrow, 7 days Economy 4 door car hire inc all taxes, all insurances, breakdown cover and unlimited mileage, and six nights’ accommodation (2 Nights at the Cambria Suites, Rockville, Maryland on a room only board basis, 2 Nights at the Embassy Row, Washington, DC on a room only board basis, and 2 Nights at the Marriott Downtown, Richmond, Virginia on a room only board basis). Price based on two adults sharing.

To book please visit, www.PurelyCapitalRegionUSA.co.uk, call 0844 80 444 80 or email reservations@purelytravelgroup.co.uk