Sometimes you don’t get the big picture until you run your fingers along the surface, gauging the temperature and checking in on how it makes your body feel. Rigid and rough or velvety soft? Your sense of touch is a powerful tool that intensifies your experiences.
We surveyed 1,111 U.S. travelers and discovered that when it comes to your favorite hands-on travel experiences, there was a three-way tie between animal encounters, interactive exhibits, and aquatic adventures.
With that knowledge, we picked the best places to experience the sense of touch in the country—hands down.
At Iowa Farm Sanctuary, take a private tour of the rescued animals. You’ll feel the warm exhale of their breath and the fur on their chins tickle your palm as they gently chomp down on your veggie offerings. Stroke the cows’ coarse fur and pat the fluffy, pillow-y curls of the sheep’s coat.
During a Utah Mountain Adventures climbing clinic, your knees knock together as you eye the rock wall at Big Cottonwood Canyon. With a burst of bravery, your chalk-caked hands tighten the fuzzy rope knots attached to your harness and trace the quartzite surface for a good first hold.
Hands-on experiences are the name of the game at Please Touch Museum. Your kiddos will crank metal knobs that operate bulldozers and river dams, build masterpieces with bendy foam pieces, and climb aboard the smooth surfaces of the whimsical carousel animals.
The cave walls brush against your shoulders and belly as you shimmy on your elbows through 11×19-inch passageways. With the Off-Terrain Experience, you’ll reach for uneven rocks in the dark, scramble over boulders, and feel the grit of dirt and dust beneath you.
At iFLY, take a leap of faith—the wind swooshes through your hair and your adrenaline rush peaks. Your legs hook onto the metal bar, your eager hands grasp your instructor’s wrists, and you feel the tug of weight as you both soar through the air, connected to the trapeze jungle gym.
Pressing your foot against the pedal and gripping the steering wheel, you’re eager to feel the supercar’s potential. The engine gently rumbles, vibrating your seat, while the exotic car effortlessly glides down the track. With Grandsport Speedway’s Racing Adventure, you’re in the driver’s seat.
So light and polite, butterflies gently land on your skin and flap their mosaic wings at the Butterfly Pavilion. Venture through the exhibits, and you’ll feel Rosie’s hairy tarantula legs scutter across your hands and the wet, slick shell of a horseshoe crab.
Orr’s Farm Market is ripe for the picking. Leaves graze your arms, as you pinch and twist off firm strawberries and pop plump blueberries off the bush. Dodge the thorns and reach for a furry raspberry or pluck cherries from the low-hanging branches.
On a Sea Leveler Sport Fishing Charter, a cool ocean spray splashes you, as a hardy snapper yanks on your line. The strength of the fish makes it heavy as you reel in your catch with all your might. Slippery and scaly, your prize flops in your tired arms for a photo opp.
The deep stretch of your Downward Dog is intensified by the pitter-patter of hooves on your back. At Jenness Farm’s Goat Yoga, the stout farm animals eagerly nudge your elbow during Cow pose, and a warm, furry body nestles into your lap throughout guided meditation.
Step into the grape-filled wooden basin and mash the berries into purple mush and liquid libations. As you stomp and mash, the squishy grapes make a satisfying pop under your bare feet. Grgich Hills Estate is the only Napa winery that offers the deliciously tactile experience of grape stomping.
Antelope Flats, Idaho
You bob side to side to the rhythm of the horse’s trot. Your legs rest on his sturdy sides as you guide him with weathered leather reins in your hands. On a Granite Creek Ranch trail ride, mosey along Aspen Canyon, while combing your fingers through the horse’s thick mane.
At Glen Ivy Hot Springs, slather on clumps of moist mud and wait for it to harden on your skin, or submerge into the warm, soothing mineral baths. For an energy surge, plunge into the frigid 60 to 65-degree waters, followed by a slow dip into the 101-degree bath—embrace the prickly, tingling sensations.
Snow crunches under your boots and wind nips your ears as your finger catches a droplet of sap, trickling from the maple tap. At Hawthorn Hollow’s Maple Sugarin’ Class, feel the warm steam rising from the boiling sap in the sugaring house, and craft your own sugaring spile by hand.