After years, I finally got my wonderful husband to write a post. (Thanks, sweetie!) So, here's his report on his favorite Dads' Night Out spot.
What it is: Triangle Rock Club (TRC) is an indoor rock-climbing gym. All around the edges of the warehouse-like room, the 26' walls have been converted into artificial rock faces, complete with lumps, bumps, cracks, and overhangs. They're studded with colorful plastic holds, similar to the ones you see at some playgrounds. TRC staff organize them into color-coded routes of varying difficulty, from 5.5 (easy beginner) to 5.12 (impossible). At any given time, there are probably 50+ routes set up, and every week some old ones come down and new ones go up in their place. Most routes require a buddy on the floor to hold the other end of the rope (belay), but there are 3-4 "auto-belay" stations where you can climb without needing a partner. In the center of the room is a 14' high, donut-shaped "boulder" which you can also practice on without needing to tie in to a rope.
If you've climbed before or have a friend to teach you, you can just show up and start climbing. (You'll need to pass their belaying test before you can belay, though.) Harnesses, shoes, and belay devices are all available to rent. If you've never climbed before, TRC offers classes that promise to get you up to speed in about 2 hours. There are also sometimes Meet-Ups that show up at TRC.
We have a group that climbs for Dads' Night Out, but you could also make it a family affair if you have some energetic little monkeys. My five-year-old actually loves leaping off the walls and letting the auto-belay lower him to the ground. It's probably better for somewhat older kids, though. TRC does offer birthdays parties along with summer and track-out camps.
What we liked: TRC is the nicest indoor rock gym I've ever seen, and they're in the middle of an expansion (an add-on in Morrisville and a new location in north Raleigh). The staff is surfer-dude-laid-back but generally helpful. And the routes are always changing, so it's hard to get bored even if you go regularly.
What we would change: It's a bit pricey, though a 10-visit pass can help. And around 8pm on weekdays (when we go) it's often quite crowded, though the crowd thins considerably as the night goes on.
Website and other important information:
Locations in Morrisville and north Raleigh; see website for hours and addresses.
Beginner classes are $50 (includes all gear).
Otherwise, admission is $17, harness is $3, shoes are $4, belay device is $2. (Shoes are optional but really help.) Admission drops to $14 if you pre-pay for a 10-visit pass (good indefinitely), and monthly membership is available if you get hooked. Admission is only $10 for kids 11 & under.