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16 unexpected adventures you need to experience
Traveling the United States, one unique activity at a time
Some might call you a thrill-seeker. If you’ve climbed Half Dome in search of the perfect panorama or sped along the Continental Divide on two wheels, the rumors are definitely true. And if they aren’t, it’s time to fill your calendar with great adventure trips! We’ve climbed, kayaked, and skied all over the country in search of awesome and unfamiliar activities to do before you die.
Now that the dust has cleared and we’ve caught our breath, we’ve compiled a list of 16 uncommon adventures geared at getting your pulse racing and adrenaline flowing. The views are pretty spectacular, too.
1. Shark Diving in San Francisco, CA
Yes, this is a thing. Really. You may not have known until reading this that there’s a group of small islands within the San Francisco city limits. Well, that’s not even the half of it. From August through January, the Farallon Islands are right in the migration path of great white sharks. The folks at Great White Adventures offer day tours from San Francisco so you can observe Jaws’ next of kin from the boat or suit up and take a dip in a secure cage. Why not?
2. Flying over Atlanta, GA
There’s nothing quite like seeing the city lights and shining windows of Atlanta from the sky. Soar over Atlanta’s iconic Concourse at Landmark Center—aka King and Queen Towers—with an expert pilot from Prestige Helicopters. You’ll feel like royalty, too, as you get up close and personal with these unmistakable skyscrapers, designed by Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates. You’ve heard the old advice, “Don’t look down,” but that’s the point.
3. Ziplining Through the Trees in Nashville, TN
Music City isn’t all honkey tonks and steel guitars. There are gorgeous woodlands, too, and the obstacle courses at Treetop Adventure Park will send you swinging through the trees near J. Percy Priest Reservoir. With sky-high bridges, five rope courses, and 10 ziplines—including two that are more than 600 feet long—this adventure oasis will have your heart beating faster than the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
4. Driving a Tank in Kasota, MN
Let’s just get straight to the point. You can drive a tank without ever going to boot camp. The rural town of Kasota, Minnesota may be small, but big things happen there, from postcard-worthy sunsets to a closed and safe tank-driving course. Everyone needs an outlet for their audacious energy, and driving a tank over two cars (or through a house) might be yours. If you have a hankering to feel the crunch of steel beneath your treads, the team at succinctly named Drive a Tank has the adventure for you! You can even book a corporate package and bring your whole office crew. Because nothing builds team spirit like driving 60 tons over, well, anything.
5. Photographing Wild Bears in Kodiak Island, AK
If you’re considering swimming with sharks in California, then you won’t even blink at this idea. On the east coast of Kodiak Island, Adventure Kodiak will take you for a boat excursion to see Alaska’s wildlife in its natural habitat. Float by the majestic brown bears as they nap, swim, and fish. Bring your binoculars and camera to photo-document this unbelievable experience. A picture paints a thousand words, but prepare to be speechless.
6. Kayaking (with Bats!) in Austin, TX
You’ve probably been kayaking before. But have you ever been kayaking with bats? Near Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge, you’ll find the largest urban bat colony in the world. From a safe distance, you’ll see these winged creatures take flight as you slice through the surface of the Colorado River in a kayak from Live Love Paddle. Watch the sun set over Austin as thousands of bats take off for their nightly romp. When you’re back on land, a little romp of your own is in order, so join a live music crawl through the Live Music Capital of the World, stopping at hot spots like The Continental Club and The Saxon Pub.
7. Snowcat Skiing in Houghton, MI
Want to take skiing to a whole new level? Join a snowcat skiing group with the extreme skiing experts at Mount Bohemia and head for the secluded slopes of Voodoo Mountain in Houghton. How is this different from regular old dog-eat-dog skiing? Well, a cab that resembles a small tank more than a yellow taxi will pick you and your group up and transport you to remote slopes or a cross-country area. While you slide across soft powder, views of the pristine mountain range will work their magic.
8. Flyboarding in Denver, CO
Rappelling in the Rockies is all well and good, but Denver has way more going for it than ridiculously gorgeous mountains. Catch some air at Cherry Creek Reservoir, where the gravity-defying specialists at Invert Sports will teach you how to be the next Cara-Beth Burnside…but on the water. Twist and turn as stellar water pressure lifts you up, up, and away.
You don’t have to join a tour to see the sights in D.C.; take adventure into your own hands with a spin through the U.S. capital! Don’t worry about bringing your own bike from home. Just rent some wheels from Bike and Roll DC. Build your own itinerary of the District’s national treasures—from the White House to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial—and hit the road with a well maintained bike and all the gear you need to pedal presidentially.
10. Exploring Motor City in Detroit, MI
Detroit is an adventure in itself. With its storied past, from the automobile boom to present-day revitalization initiatives, the city is rich with things to explore. The local guides at Urban Adventures will show you around their hometown on the Rise, Fall & Renewal Tour, stopping by the Detroit Athletic Club, the GMRENCEN building, and Detroit’s Eastern Market, among other city icons. You’ll also wander past some sites of Detroit’s former glory, including the abandoned Wurlitzer Building, all infused with an insider perspective.
11. Spelunking in Bowling Green, KY
In a city known for fast cars and slow cooking, you might be surprised to find some spectacular spelunking. But don’t expect to be squeezing through close quarters the whole time. Lost River Cave is one of our favorites, because you get to explore each underground twist and turn in a boat or kayak and the river guides keep the cave’s Native American history alive. If you’re in for the long haul, join a tour of Mammoth Cave in nearby Park City. That name isn’t an exaggeration—Mammoth Cave is the longest in the world at 400 miles!
12. Stunt Driving in Dallas, TX
In the largest city in Texas, the ultimatum is set: Go big or go home. You will definitely choose the former when your need for speed starts revving its engine. Learn how to make the high-speed turns and quick reverse maneuvers that keep you on the edge of your seat during your favorite chase scenes. The experienced instructors at Wings & Slicks offer a half-day beginners course, covering all the basics from staying safe to creating the perfect skid marks.
13. Bridge Walking in Fayetteville, WV
In Fayetteville, West Virginia, daredevils are welcome. Join BridgeWalk to cross the New River Gorge Bridge. The misty scenery is downright stunning, whether you visit while the leaves are an array of autumnal gold and yellow, or deep green with the color of spring. Strap into a safety harness for the 3,030-foot journey suspended 851 feet above the New River. No big deal. Did we mention the catwalk is only 24 inches wide? You’ve got this.
14. Bioluminescence Kayaking in Orlando, FL
Who knew there were so many spellbinding ways to kayak in America? Well, here’s another one, thanks to the biological wonder known as the dinoflagellate. This glowing, single-celled organism lets you know when you’ve paddled right past it by flashing ever so briefly. Times that by millions, and you have one great light show on your hands. The warm Orlando nights are perfect for floating on the shimmering Banana Lake Lagoon.
15. Riverboarding in Missoula, MT
Suit up with safety gear and the courage of your conviction, because you’re about to be up the creek without a paddle…or a boat. In the whitewater of the Montana River, the adrenaline experts at Montana River Guides will help you careen through raging currents on your own individual board. Get ready—this river is a rager.
16. Dog Sledding in Ely, MN
Visiting northern Minnesota during the winter is an adventure in its own right, whether you spend your trip cross-country skiing, snuggled up in a lodge, or ice fishing on Shagawa Lake. That’s all pretty rugged, but what if we told you that you could lead a team of sled dogs through the Minnesota wilderness? Already practicing exclaiming “Mush!” with gusto? Check out the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and pack some milk bones.
Is your heart already racing? Then add these unique adventures to your bucket list and get out there! Which wild and wonderful escapades will you go on next?
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