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The Most Unique Outdoor Experience In the Midwest Is 1 Hour From Columbus

Hocking Hills Sandbox is now permanently closed.

The Hocking Hills Sandbox is located down in Laurelville, OH. No matter which way you go from Columbus, it’s around an hour’s drive away.

via Google Maps

The Sandbox celebrated its grand opening on May 5 and is the newest tourist attraction to come to the Hocking Hills.

Co-owners Kevin Martínez and Andy Matyac started looking for a place to put a giant adult playground over two years ago. But it wasn’t an easy task.

“We couldn’t find a location. You’ve got to be sensitive to your neighbors, you need to have some flat ground, and it is Hocking County!” said Matyac with a laugh.

Luckily, Matyac and Martínez came across the property that had been a sawmill called Dale W. Riddle Forest Products. So far, the town of Laurelville has been very receptive and supportive of the Sandbox. Not only is it bringing in tourists to the town and boosting the local economy, the construction equipment isn’t nearly as loud as a sawmill.

After watching a short instructional video, you can put on a hard hat, a vest, and grab a walkie talkie before heading out to the field.

The instructional videos inside the visitor center will teach you the basic controls of the machinery you’re going to operate. At the Hocking Hills Sandbox, you can test your skills out in an excavator, track loader, bull dozer, and a high lift.

While you’re out operating the machinery, an instructor will be giving you pointers and telling you what to do over your walkie talkie.

Instructors not only guide participants through the obstacles of each section of the Sandbox, but they’ve got also a kill-switch if things start to go haywire.

“They have a remote shut-off. We’ve never had to use them,” explained Matyac. “But in case they do get in trouble out there, we think they’re getting out of control, one click of the button and quicker than you can blink your eye–the machine’s done.”

Each piece of equipment comes with a set of obstacles and puzzles you must solve.

The excavator: To start, you’ll dig a big ol’ hole to make sure you’ve got the hang of all the controls. Then you’ve got to drive over the mound of dirt you’ve just created. Next, you’ll disassemble, move, and reassemble some railroad ties like they’re giant Lincoln Logs. One-up Lebron James by dunking a basketball into a trashcan with the excavator. Last but not least, you’ll try to “thread the needle” by slipping large tire over a 9-foot pole.

The track loader: You’ll have to weave your way through an obstacle course on the track loader. But the tricky part comes when you’ve got to maneuver through the course while holding a 12-foot-long log. You’ll have to move the lift up and down, so you don’t knock over any barricades and the log can go through the notches.

The high lift: There’s really no obstacle for the high lift other than overcoming a fear of heights. Enjoy the view from 50 to 60 feet in the air and snap a few pictures for your social media accounts. All of your friends are going to need to see it.

The bull dozer: The bulldozer is probably the easiest of the vehicles to drive. Obstacles include pushing dirt, driving up and down a couple of hills, and shoving around an old, beat up van that has seen much, much better days.

“I think that that’s one of the favorites, and I think it’s just due to the van,” said Maytac about the bull dozer activity. “It doesn’t even resemble a van anymore!”

It might sound easy, but it can take a while to get used to all the levers, buttons, pedals and switches. Take your time on each obstacle and have patience.

“I’m telling you, the women tend to do a lot better at this, because they pay more attention,” said Maytac with a shrug of his shoulders. “They’re more in tune to easing into the controls. The guys, they just see the machinery, and they’re a lot more rough on the controls.”

Click here book your time slot if you’re thinking, “I’ve GOT to give this a try!” Packages start at $99, and there are great deals for groups.

Participants must pass a breathalyzer test and be at least 14-years-old.

The Hocking Hills Sandbox is hosting a Heavy Equipment Rodeo on September 9.

The Heavey Equipment Rodeo will be just like a regular rodeo, except people will be racing to complete the obstacles in the least amount of time. There are two different divisions: Skid Steer and Excavator. First place will win $300, second place gets $200, and third place will receive $100.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Those interested in competing in the rodeo must be 18-years-old and above, and it’s $75 to enter.

For more information about the rodeo and to sign up, click here.

Let’s be honest. You’re dying to see the equipment in action, aren’t you? Well, check out the video below!

The Hocking Hills Sandbox is located at 16412 Thompson Ridge Rd, Laurelville, OH 43135. Their hours are Wednesday–Sunday 10 a.m.–7 p.m., and the Sandbox is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Special thanks to Kim Kallimanis for filming me while I tested out the equipment!

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Hocking Hills? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter!