What kind of adrenaline-filled experience can I get as a gift?
February 16, 2011 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Looking for places in the US where you can race a car, sail a boat or do some other adrenaline-filled activity for a weekend. This is for a birthday gift in April.

My husband is turning 40 soon and I want to get him an experience rather than a tangible gift. We're in the midwest, but I'm OK with travelling if the total cost is below $1000. It has to be in the US since he doesn't have a passport.

He loves to drive and has expressed interest in racing rally cars. He would love some sort of dangerous driving school or whatever they're called.

He's an experienced sea kayaker and wants to own a sailboat. He's sailed before, so a beginner's class would be boring, but it's been awhile so a more advanced class might be too much.

He loves the outdoors and would be comfortable spending a few days in the middle of nowhere. He's often expressed interest in "Bigfoot hunting" (but not real hunting, he won't kill anything). He's not in the best shape, so a 30 mile hike might not be a good idea.

He will NOT be interested in skydiving, rockclimbing, base jumping or anything else involving heights, including planes and helicopters. He'd also not be interested in firing real guns (paintball, maybe).

Open to any creative ideas!
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You may wish to check out BMW's Performance Driving School in M√ľnchen Greer, South Carolina.

Audi does something similar in Sonoma, California.
posted by birdherder at 6:00 PM on February 16, 2011

In NY, there's Monticello Motor Club for driving fast.
posted by Corvid at 6:26 PM on February 16, 2011

It's not Rockclimbing, how about Snow School?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:33 PM on February 16, 2011

Zamboni driving school
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:35 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Navigation school at sea
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:36 PM on February 16, 2011

Maid of the Mist
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:37 PM on February 16, 2011

It's possible to sign up as crew for some multiday sailing races even without being a super-experienced sailor.
posted by hattifattener at 6:40 PM on February 16, 2011

DM me if sailing in San Francisco (and ocean) is of interest. I have close connections with a charter business here in the city with a brand new, modern boat and decent rates. All of the charters are private, so he could do as he pleased under the supervision of the captain/owner, who is also a certified instructor. $1k would probably buy a full day's sail out to the Farallones, which can be very exciting.
posted by cior at 6:58 PM on February 16, 2011

The Richard Petty Driving Experience has several different "experiences" to choose from. A Ride-Along is the most affordable, but if your husband wants to do the driving himself, the Rookie Experience is within your price range ($449-549) and it's available at tracks in the midwest (Chicago, Indianapolis, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan).
posted by amyms at 7:11 PM on February 16, 2011

There are stunt driving schools like Bobby Ore's (not the hockey player) or Rick Seaman's that teach non-professionals to do skids and turns and sometimes even more extreme tricks like putting the car up on two wheels.

There are also racing or performance driving schools the operate independently of any particular manufacturer. Skip Barber is a pretty well-known name in the business. I think Bondourant is as well.

There are also places that teach off-road and desert style driving. I'm less familiar with these places but you might try something like this or perhaps the Land Rover one if you want a manufacturer-sponsored experience.
posted by sardonyx at 7:28 PM on February 16, 2011

There are various rally driving schools on the east coast. O'Neil in NH, or Ivor Wigham in FL for a start.
posted by Joh at 9:14 PM on February 16, 2011

The Porsche Driving Experience is held at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL.
posted by workerant at 6:48 AM on February 17, 2011

Yeah, some good ideas here. I don't have any specific recommendations but perhaps some parameters to help you narrow down value for money. If it's rallying, I'll not be much help but maybe contacting a local rally club and asking them for their suggestions would be worthwhile - a lot of these schools concentrate on the 'experience' side of things which basically (to anyone that can actually drive and wants to be challenged) means you get to sit in a car, drive it relatively slowly and are expected to be OMFG I AM IN A RALLY CAR. Weeding the ones out that actually teach you something (and which usually means you get to do some worthwhile driving) is something that people more in the know in terms of specifics needs to answer. There are likely to be a fair few local rallying organisations and they will doubtless know some forest or desert based schools that they'd want to go to for a bit of fun. Emphasis that you want something that is run competently in terms of safety, but you do want to be challenged, rather than just have a bit of fun.

Race schools are much the same - the single day and/or legislative aware ones are very much skimming over the surface and for my interpretation of someone who 'wants to be scared a bit' then it may prove disappointing. I got a free day on one a long while back - I was 18 at the time, and even then had average to high expectations - and I was bored out of my face following people around.

Defensive driving schools (in which you mean like chauffeur training to do J-turns and ram cars off the road?) would be worth considering. Again, you need to find a class rather than an 'experience'.

To allow you to filter:
'Experience' means you get to kind of maybe play at driving something in as little a representative style as they think they can get away with to minimise risk and wear and tear on the car. Just enough to wet a n00bs appetite, but for anyone with any sort of existing awareness, they can be disappointing.

Look for schools that have a generally respected race or rally heritage. Ones run in conjunction with their own team, perhaps, or race series. Especially large, multi-format ones run by circuits as they often have young racing drivers trying to make a buck working as instructors. Young racing drivers can make good teachers, but they also make excellent malleable coaches if you show them you have skills - they are much more likely to let you push your limits a little than a staid has-been instructor.

So for track based activities, steer clear of single day, wide scope programmes. You'll just end up doing a little of lots of things and nothing proper exciting. Get recommendations from a Rally club for Rally ones. Skip Barber 3 day courses are actually pretty good (the ones that aim to get you a license, for example) but they can get pricey. The more time you have at a track based school, though, the more chance of you getting to go proper fast.
posted by Brockles at 7:33 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

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