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August 18, 2015 12:46 PM   Subscribe

What are the coolest experiences (packaged or otherwise) out there?

I was reminiscing this morning about attending space camp when I was in elementary school, and thought "how awesome would it be if they had that for adults?!" Preliminary googling shows a weekend option (kinda wish there were longer programs) but that got me thinking...What are some of the coolest experiences--open to adults--that I've never heard about?? I remember doing space camp and astro camp in elementary school, as well as staying on an old-timey ship called the pilgrim...those were all great! Kids can't have all the fun...

I'm looking for ones that are a bit longer--either full or multi-day--active, and learning...more like space camp and less like wine&painting. Both "activity focused" (dude ranches, wilderness camps) or "natural" (incan trail, camino de santiago?, torres del paine hike) suggestions welcome. If there's a location or company-specific experience, that's welcome, too.
posted by sprezzy to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 137 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's been years, but white-water rafting felt like a real-life roller coaster to me. You can get a range of experiences here, from full planned and packaged multi-day vacations with guides and people who cook food for you at the end of the day, to short trips down a section of river.

Also in the "packaged experience" style of adventure, there are guided hikes that include meals and canvas tents with cots, making the backpacking experience easier than if you were to pack it all, and you get tons of information from rangers.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:02 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Crew the tall ship Elissa. (Due to time commitment involved you'd probably have to live in Houston.)
posted by MsMolly at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]




Plenty of aviation related ones if that's your thing. Do you want to have a dogfight with other planes? Maybe take control of a vintage warbird? You could go see a vintage airshow (nothing newer than WWI!). Fly in a WWII Bomber.

If you want to do something a little more practical, you could just get your private pilot license in an intensive two-week course (there are many of these around, this is just an example).
posted by backseatpilot at 1:20 PM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Antarctica, in as small a boat/group and for as many days as you can afford.
posted by carmicha at 1:21 PM on August 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, and also since I was thinking about doing this one myself - RAGBRAI, a seven day bicycle ride across Iowa.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:21 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it fits in here but I remember the first time I ever snorkled an amazing reef. It was just mind blowing. One inch below that water was a this whole other surreal world.

New years in Iceland with northern lights.
posted by beccaj at 1:25 PM on August 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


White-water rafting is wonderful! I highly recommend a longish trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Definitely a great group bonding experience, and you could probably find versions that incorporate science and/or history.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center has a range of archaeology programs at their site and in other places .

Earthwatch runs expeditions where you can engage in scientific field research while learning about environmental sustainability.

National Geographic Expeditions include experts who provide a specific educational framework for each trip, from photography to culture to science. They partner with Lindblad Expeditions for their sea-based trips. If you're willing to spend substantial amounts of money, there is a whole world of adult adventure/educational travel that puts together focused trips to different destinations. These have a range of comfort and activity as well as different areas of emphasis.

In terms of outdoor stuff, REI has outdoor trips and courses. These range from skill-based mini-courses to more packaged trips. If you have a bit more time (and are interested in the skills-development in addition to the outdoor experience), you might look at Outward Bound and NOLS. While both are better known for their longer courses for younger people, they also have much shorter ones for adults. Learning how to be in the wilderness could be a great start to creating these sorts of mini-adventures for your family and friends.
posted by earth by april at 1:31 PM on August 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


You could still do space camp.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:49 PM on August 18, 2015


How about Zombie Survival Camp?

There's also astronomy camp, adult ensemble band camp, railroad reality week, circus sideshow school on Coney Island, improv immersion weeks at Second City, outdoor survival school and, of course, rock and roll fantasy camp.

GrownUpCamps has a whole bunch of similar listings, separated by category (sports, academic, outdoors, etc.).
posted by divined by radio at 2:00 PM on August 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Becoming An Outdoors-Woman (BOW) is a program designed to give women introductory experiences and instruction in various outdoor activities. Activities range from the shooting sports to outdoor recreation to nature crafts and skills." In Illinois, it's a weekend program. Jessamyn recently wrote about going to a similar one-day program. I've been to the Illinois one twice and I got to canoe, rappel, cook outdoors, etc., for the first time. They have similar programs around the country.
posted by bentley at 2:57 PM on August 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


Walking on the ocean floor in the Bay of Fundy (Atlantic) and then watching the worlds largest tide comes in very quickly. They sound an alarm when the tide turns so you have time to climb the tall stair case.
The Tidal Bore in St. John. (Canada) where the tide comes in on only one push, and watching a river turn direction and go backwards-(same town).
posted by donaken at 3:10 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Better than spacecamp, you can float inside an airplane during a zero-g flight.
posted by Sophont at 3:25 PM on August 18, 2015


Trekking in Nepal is amazing, for several reasons. First, if you do a trek like the Annapurna Circuit, you get to go from subtropical rhododendron forests all the way up to the Tibetan Plateau. Second, you are trekking through villages so you get to sleep in a bed every night and have hot cooked food. This also makes it a really unique cultural experience. Trekking in the next couple of years might be challenging as Nepal recovers from the earthquake, but next year you'd also probably have relative solitude as well.
posted by lunasol at 3:36 PM on August 18, 2015


I have never been a construction worker or related, so if I had time & money, I'd wouldn't mind trying Dig This.
posted by Seboshin at 3:51 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Two of the coolest things I've ever done:

Climbing a multi-pitch route on the Thaiwand Wall at Railay Beach in Thailand. From the top, if the light is right, you can see the sea turtles swimming in the bay below you.

Seeing the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

A thing most people can't do: I got a helicopter ride to visit Cape Flattery Lighthouse some years ago. (It's closed to the public, so that was particularly special for me.)
posted by suelac at 3:58 PM on August 18, 2015


The Behind The Lines tour of the National World War II Museum lets you touch artifacts -- a LOT of them -- from probably the most important event of the Twentieth Century. (Plus also, you are in New Orleans!) It was one of the most interesting days I have ever spent, and surprisingly emotional.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:00 PM on August 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. And read this article on Annie Dillard writing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
posted by aniola at 4:01 PM on August 18, 2015


If you're into the kind of music they're into, Roots on the Rails seems like an awesome experience.

And if you're into, well, Lego, I was very impressed with how much I enjoyed the Lego Inside Tour. Lots of families with kids, but enough grownups that we didn't feel terribly unusual.
posted by town of cats at 4:19 PM on August 18, 2015


Sydney Opera House has mass choir weekends in the Concert Hall one weekend a year. You practice for two days, and then perform that evening. It's a lot of work, but if you like singing, it's a total blast. (I'm guessing other places have this too, but it's the opera house, so extra cool)

If you speak french, you can go and help build a medieval castle.
posted by kjs4 at 4:26 PM on August 18, 2015




There are 'vacation-and-learn' packages offered through many sailing schools where you go to a pretty awesome location, stay in a nice hotel (or, in some cases and particularly for the more advanced courses, on a boat), and learn how to do fairly serious offshore "blue water" sailing.

It's not an especially cheap way to learn to sail, but it's certainly a nice way to do it. And if you don't own a boat or know someone who does, it's probably logistically one of the easiest.

This company is probably the most popular and has a bunch of locations in Florida and the BVI (and in the summer I think in the Chesepeake Bay as well). Although if I was going to do it today I might go with these guys, who are a bit cheaper (but still get you a recognized certification).

If you are into scuba diving, there are a ton of companies that do "liveaboard" diving, where you go out on a boat with a bunch of other people and pretty much do as much diving as you can handle for a few days, staying on the boat at night. I can't personally vouch for it but for people I know who are into diving it is apparently the Best Thing Ever, presumably because you go to places that are otherwise inaccessible by day boat.

Oh, also Burning Man.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:14 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can be your own Star in a Reasonably Priced Car at Fridays at the Track in Summit Point, WV. Bring your own car, get some instruction about how to handle it at high speed and in deep turns, and then go crazy bonkers on their track. This type of thing is probably available at most motorsports parks, but this is the one I can personally vouch for.
posted by apparently at 5:41 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


We loved staying on Turtle Island in Sabah. You get to watch turtle hatchlings being managed, and we even saved a couple of stray ones from the monitors and shepherd them into the sea. Also: being on a gorgeous tropical island doesn't hurt.
posted by pompomtom at 6:02 PM on August 18, 2015


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, hands down the best tour I've ever been on. And Dubai with all it's ridiculous excesses is only 1.5 hours away.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:01 PM on August 18, 2015


Fly a MiG fighter jet in Russia - do aerobatics, go to the edge of space, or do both!

Drive a race car! Skip Barber Racing School, Richard Petty Driving Experience, and Mario Andretti Racing Experience are just a few options.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:30 PM on August 18, 2015


1. Hot air ballooning at Göreme.

2. Small boat tour of the Galapagos. Snorkeling with turtles, penguins, seals, sharks, iguanas, cormorants plus amazing hiking and nature. This was the boat I was on.

3. Day tour of the radiological exclusion zone at Chernobyl.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 10:48 PM on August 18, 2015


Camp Winnarainbow is a circus and performing arts camp for all ages. Founded and run by Wavy Gravy, an entertainer, peace activist and former official clown of the Grateful Dead. Ben & Jerry named a flavor after him. The camp is in Northern California.
posted by Homer42 at 8:13 AM on August 19, 2015


Rafting trip down the grand canyon - the longer the trip the better. They have trips geared to families, trips geared for more hiking, less hiking, trips with music, trips with history, trips for photographers, etc. There are fancier and less fancy versions.

Learn to Kayak Surf in Belize
(or windsurf or parasail)

Dude Ranches are really fun too. Herding, cutting, separating cows is surprisingly fun, and cowboy poetry is beautiful!

Snorkel with Humbpack Whales in Tonga. Breathtaking, they really do swim right up to you and proceed to do ballet.

If you have the funds, trips with Wilderness Travel or Mountain Travel Sobek offer a great variety and are well managed (and you can go solo and meet a new group of friends).

(Links are to the companies I went with, there are lots of others).

Also something that I want to do but haven't gotten to yet, up in Utah/Wyoming/Etc., you can "volunteer" (I think you have to pay a fee still) to help them excavate dinosaur bones and other fossils.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:46 AM on August 19, 2015


Another vote for RAGBRAI. If you're on the east coast, Bon Ton Roulet is also very good.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp is the best hands-on brewery experience I've had. Unfortunately, it's very hard to get into.
posted by sixpack at 1:26 PM on August 19, 2015


Response by poster: These are all fantastic, and I hadn't heard of most of them! Thanks so much for all the great suggestions :)
posted by sprezzy at 2:15 PM on August 19, 2015


In addition to the Camino de Santiago, Wikipedia has a list of other pilgrimages (Mont St. Michel would be a one-day thing). There's also the Heart of England Way, and munro bagging in Scotland.
posted by Jane Austen at 10:47 AM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Grand Canyon. You can book a mule ride and stay overnigjt at phantom ranch at the bottom of the canyon. Or you can hike, which is what I did, but I was jealous of the people on the mules.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:18 AM on August 21, 2015


Walk across a country, from border to border or from coast to coast.

Last year I walked Alfred Wainwright's Coast to Coast route across Northern England. It was a remarkable 200 mile guided experience that took less than 2 weeks.

Walking holidays are wonderful, I am able to see a country at the speed of my own two feet. I am training for next fall's adventure, still deciding between walking around Mont Blanc, or taking the postal route between Kyoto and Tokyo.
posted by seawallrunner at 4:12 PM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ayahuasca.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:24 PM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


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