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25 Great American Adventures

25 Great American Adventures

Valerie Velazquez

Alaska Cruising

The Trip: Small-boat cruising through Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound.

Why: When you board the small-scale boats and sail past this gorgeous landscape, the Dall’s porpoises, Steller’s sea lions, bald eagles, and other wildlife come close, and the local humpback whales are nearly half the size of the ships. Try sea kayaking amid icebergs and hiking on glaciers.

Don’t Miss: Photographing orcas cavorting off the bow.

For more information: Glacier Bay cruises from $3,995, Wilderness Travel. Prince William Sound cruises from $3,650, Geographic Expeditions.

25 Great American Adventures

Copyright Jonathan Bird

North Carolina Diving

The Trip: Diving with sand tiger sharks and gathering scientific data on them.

Why: These protected fish grow to a length of nine feet and are found hovering above the ocean floor. Beginning this summer, those with Advanced Open Water certification can become the first handful of Sandtiger Specialty Divers—a designation that will allow them to help with hands-on tasks like photographing tagged sharks.

Don’t Miss: The many wrecked ships that serve as a shark habitat.

For more information: Shark Research Institute; from $250 per day.

25 Great American Adventures

Courtesy of Frank Hawley’s NHRA Drag Racing School

Florida Drag Racing

The Trip: A course in drag racing.

Why: You’ll go a quarter-mile in eight seconds—and hit 150 mph. After two days of instruction, you’ll be wearing a fireproof suit behind the wheel of a big-block Chevy dragster. And it’s more than just fantasy camp: good students can get an NHRA license and begin racing for real.

Don’t Miss: Frank Hawley’s Alcohol Course, where you can ignite a 200-plus-mph, alcohol-burning funny car.

For more information: Frank Hawley’s NHRA Drag Racing School; courses from $495.

25 Great American Adventures

Courtesy of Backroads

California Biking

The Trip: Biking through the wine country in Napa and Sonoma.

Why: You can explore Napa at your own pace.

Don’t Miss: Discovering a new favorite wine, exploring culinary masterpieces in Yountville, and picnicking among the redwoods.

For more information: Trek Travel; $2,475 per person for six days. Backroads; six-day trip from $2,198 per person.

25 Great American Adventures

Courtesy of Thrill Seekers Unlimited

Nevada Stunt Team Training

The Trip: Training with a professional Hollywood stunt team.

Why: Thrillseekers Unlimited, the stunt team behind MTV’s Road Rules, and magician Criss Angel puts together one- to five-day “Extreme Getaways” from its Las Vegas location. These build-your-own adventures are designed for large groups, so grab your friends and family and do stunts like paragliding, fire walking, racing hovercrafts, mountain-boarding, skydiving, or any of 40 other forms of madness.

Don’t Miss: Throwing yourself into a wind tunnel for indoor skydiving.

For more information: Thrillseekers Unlimited; trips are custom designed, so call for prices.

25 Great American Adventures

Courtesy of RipBoard

Colorado River Boarding

The Trip: River-boarding the rapids of Colorado’s Clear Creek.

Why: You’ll swim through rapids (in fins, a life jacket, and a wet suit) on a torso-length boogie board-type contraption, popping through or ducking under waves. The boards look skimpy but in fact provide riders with good control and maneuverability.

Don’t Miss: Golden, Colorado’s Clear Creek Whitewater Park, one of the sport’s epicenters. RipBoard Inc. offers beginner lessons daily there from May through September.

For more information: RipBoard Inc.; equipment rental and four-hour lesson: $55-$65.

25 Great American Adventures

Courtesy of English Mountain Llama Treks

North Carolina Hiking

The Trip: A hike through the Pisgah National Forest.

Why: You can choose a one- to three-day Smoky Mountain trek (or longer, you can customize the trip): the company provides camping gear and llamas—smart, agile, calm animals—to haul it. Scale the walls of Panthertown Valley; rock-climbing instructors will meet you there.

Don’t Miss: Standing on top of 4,629-foot Max Patch Bald for a 360-degree view of the Smokies.

For more information: English Mountain Llama Treks; from $75 for a day trip, $65 for children 12 and under; $280 per person for one night and $100 each additional night, children start at $250 for the first night.

25 Great American Adventures

Courtesy of Cedar Creek Treehouse

Washington Treehouse Hotel

The Trip: Cabin living above it all at Cedar Creek Treehouse.

Why: Treehouse hotels are becoming more and more popular. Here, after a day’s hike in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, you’ll stargaze from your bed through the skylights of a wooden cabin 50 feet up a 200-year-old rain-forest cedar, or contemplate Mount Rainier from on high.

Don’t Miss: Crossing the vertiginous Rainbow Bridge to the glass-encased Treehouse Observatory, a smaller lookout 100 feet up a nearby forest giant.

For more information: Cedar Creek Treehouse; doubles from $300.

25 Great American Adventures

2004 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program/Donald Gensler/Photo by Jack Ramsdale

Pennsylvania Biking

The Trip: Bike through Philadelphia with local hero Jane Golden, whose city art program has been turning desolate gray corners into rainbow dreamscapes for 20 years.

Why: One hundred indoor and outdoor murals were created in 2004, bringing the total to 2,800 citywide (with 100 to 150 added each year). Among those unveiled: a multistory tribute to African American poetry; “Healing Walls,” a series by prison inmates and victims of crime; and “Passing Through,” a postmodern treasure hunt composed of 20 satellite murals.

Don’t Miss: Lunch with Golden—a tiny tornado of inspiration and energy.

For more information: Mural Arts Program; Golden’s bike tours happen just once a year in June ($38), but you can tour the murals by trolley ($25) or rent bikes from Trophy Bikes and tour on your own.

25 Great American Adventures

Jason Klein

New York Flying

The Trip: Mastering the art of the flying trapeze in New York City.

Why: Trapeze School New York, founded in 2002, has two locations dedicated to the art of flying—one an indoor one, and the other on Pier 40. Gravity-defiers can convene for two-hour classes year-round under a big top tent, or along the Hudson River May-October.

Don’t Miss: Upside-down, mid-air city and Hudson River views.

For more information: Trapeze School New York; sessions from $47.

See the slideshow: 25 Great American Adventures

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