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The Tour de France, the top cycling event of the year, recently rolled over the finish line, and the collective reaction from viewers elicited barely more than a ho-hum. Even so, it’s hard to deny the draw of the saddle while you’re watching riders cruise through enchanting French towns and flower-filled countryside.
To that end, here are several bike-centric getaways for travelers who prefer sightseeing on two wheels, whether your desired exertion level is straight up a ski resort in Utah or a simple cruise through the rolling hills of New England.
My parents didn’t explicitly forbid me from riding a motorcycle. There was never a “Not while you’re living under my roof!” response to pleas for my very own Harley Davidson, because, well, I never asked. That’s because I knew what the answer would be before I tried (my father’s rants about how motor bikes were so dangerous, difficult to see at night, and unsteady at high speeds were big hints).
Now, it’s time for my confession: I still have dreams of two-wheeled cruising down the open road, hair blowing back in the wind as I road-trip through the less-traveled routes in the heartlands. Best part is, it’s possible for me and for other adventure travelers who fantasize about a stint as a hard-core biker to make that dream a reality. Here’s a round-up of three all-inclusive, guided tour companies that provide a sampler of life on the road – but you’ll have to take care of the leather jacket and tough tattoos on your own.
For a brief few months each year, warm weather, long days, and generous vacation time conspire to open up a world of travel possibilities. From climbing the top of remote mountains to exploring breathtaking river gorges to biking quiet back-country roads, Smart Luxury Travel has selected 10 spectacular outdoor adventures. And to make sure there’s a trip to suit every taste, we’ve included a splurge option (for those who absolutely must have the most exotic and/or pampered voyage) as well as a great value (for those who don’t mind roughing it). Read on to discover our top picks – think kayaking through arctic waters, horseback riding in the Rockies, and catching waves in Costa Rica.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Callaway Gardens, a resort about 60 miles south of Atlanta, markets itself as a place where families can enjoy quality time together while getting back to nature. That’s all good, but its wholesome reputation had me slightly skeptical that the property’s new TreeTop Adventure, a combination ropes course and zip line nestled high in the trees that opened in mid-May, would be, well, bland enough for Mom, Dad, Junior, and maybe even Grandma.
So, just a few minutes into the experience, my inner adventure snob is more than impressed. Guides call these 24 aerial challenges, some of which are about 30 feet high, “games” – but then, so would Jason Bourne. For mere mortals, they’re no joke: suspended logs, bridges, and even a series of more than a dozen narrow swings to navigate, one by one, the latter of which was so tricky for me I prayed mightily for the security of my safety clips and harness.
The itineraries listed on the website of BikeSherpa (www.bikesherpa.com), a newly launched bike tour company run by an American expat in Germany, are enough to make any adventure traveler grab their passport and hop on a bike, whether they’re a newbie or have logged hours in the saddle.
There are comfortable rides through Germany’s Black Forest, showcasing the country’s gourmet cuisine and wineries; there’s a challenging trek through Italy, Austria, and Slovenia for intermediate-level riders; and there’s plenty in between, including a river cruise and cycling trip from Amsterdam to Bruges.
Just as enticing as the trips themselves: The fact that you can go for free.
Forget about spa days or breakfast in bed. Today’s moms are adventurous, bold, and sexy. So this Mother’s Day, we’ve unearthed packages that will have moms throwing axes, rappelling off cliffs, sitting for their own portrait painting, and going to a Rock n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. Celebrate with mom by taking her on one of these thrilling escapades that will make her feel great, embrace life, and celebrate the ways she inspires her family every day.
Ax Throwing, Hauling Lobster, Riding Harleys: The New England Inns & Resorts Association offers over 20 action-packed “bucket list” packages, from zip-lining in Vermont to rock climbing in New Hampshire. There are also activities like hauling lobster in Maine and ax-throwing in New Hampshire – for moms who want to channel their inner lumberjack (or jill). The full selection gives moms plenty of new ways to explore New England. Overnight rates start at $139; Mother’s Day weekend overnight rates from $152.
Mother’s Day is only two weeks away but that perfect gift is still available. Show mom some real appreciation with a stay at the 4.5-star Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate with prices starting at $119 per night! This special is valid from May 6 through May 9, and includes deluxe room accommodations, a Mother’s Day brunch for two, as well as 30 percent off at the on-site European-style spa. Additionally, mom can enjoy private poolside cabanas, 36 surrounding holes of golf, five restaurants, and complimentary shuttles to theme parks, if she’s so inclined.
THE VALUE: This package knocks $40 off standard room rates and the brunch is valued at $48 per person!
THE CATCH: A two-night minimum stay is required.
THE DETAILS: To book this special, visit www.omniorlandoresort.com or call 407-390-6664 or 1-800-The-Omni. Rooms are subject to availability.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Don’t live in Orlando? Find great low rates on flights using our Travel Search price comparison tool.
Take a look at our Orlando Travel Guide and see all that’s offered outside the theme parks.
As any sustainability savvy traveler knows, satisfying wanderlust comes at a steep price to the planet. Unless it’s the kind done on two wheels or two feet, travel – especially via airplane – means a heavy carbon footprint, as well as disruption to ecosystems, habitats, and indigenous communities.
So in honor of Earth Day (and Earth Month) 2011, here are three adventure-travel companies that are truly setting a green example by helping protect the places (and people) they visit – and inspiring fellow travelers to do their part, too.
Considering all the brands of extra-soft, ultra-cushioned toilet paper on supermarket shelves and junk mail stuffed in mailboxes these days, and it’s no surprise the world’s forests are shrinking at alarming rates. Every year, according to the United Nations, the world loses 13 million hectares of forest. So, in order to raise awareness on sustainable management and conservation of these leafy (and pine-y and jungle-y) paradises – which are beloved destinations for adventure travelers – the UN has designated 2011 as International Year of the Forest.
And with spring in full bloom and Earth Day 2011 (Friday, April 22) on the horizon, this is an ideal time to visit one of the world’s most majestic forests. Even if you arrive by car or plane, try to explore them with minimal impact by walking, hiking, or biking.
Spring is officially here, and if you’re not getting in one or two last runs on the slopes, you’re likely dusting off the tent and hauling the hiking boots out of the closet. While you’re at it, why not update your smart phone with the latest and greatest adventure travel apps? There are literally thousands targeting the adventure-minded traveler (which is why I’m tackling the topic in two posts) – so, just like with a backpack, you’ll need to choose wisely to make the best use of storage space.
Keep in mind that it’s not unusual for price to suddenly change (like after a bunch of positive reviews come out) or a special promotional free day to pop up. Here, my first five picks – get clicking!
Until earlier this week, I knew the term “Red Rooster” only as a punch served at a holiday party years ago, so potent it induced a days-long hangover. But, oh, what you can discover on a random Google search. Seems Red Rooster is also the name of a well-run B&B organization in an area of Italy called South Tyrol, which borders Austria and has a fairytale landscape of forests, farmlands and vineyards, all intertwined with walking and biking paths.
Tourism in this autonomous province, which is also a mountain biking haven, centers on agriculture and sustainability. In fact, typical Tyrolean accommodations are farm stays, with more than 1,450 properties developed and overseen by Red Rooster (www.redrooster.it). Doubles usually cost around $70, typically including a breakfast of locally grown cuisine, use of a pool and free Wi-Fi.
Affordable prices, endless mountain biking and hiking options, cozy accommodations on farms and vineyards – anybody else ready to start planning an adventure in South Tyrol?
I just spent a long weekend in Amsterdam, and as an enthusiastic, if not avid, cyclist, exploring this enchanting city – known as the bike capital of the world – on two wheels was an unforgettable experience.
And an adventurous one, too, even though I consider myself a moderate-level rider. The city’s infrastructure includes 249 miles of bike lanes, which constantly flow with the traffic of thousands of fellow riders. Add in trams, scooters, oblivious tourists, and a no-helmet philosophy, and intimidation can easily set in.
But here are a few tips to ensure your Amsterdam cycling experience is a smooth one, which you should definitely celebrate with a few beers in a canal-side cafe. Happy riding!
Don’t get distracted. You’ll be surrounded by Amsterdammers who, while pedaling, can talk on cell phones, weave through traffic, run red lights, transport one or two additional human passengers, and balance multiple bags and groceries – sometimes all at once – with virtually no effort. Don’t even think about trying to match up; just focus on getting to your destination safely. And your fellow cyclists are just part of the landscape: Be careful not to over-ogle the enchanting views of canals, bridges, and houseboats (photo above at left courtesy of Flickr/Andrea Schaffer). Instead, park your bike and wander on foot to really let it all sink in.
A new year – and, for that matter, a new decade – is almost here, and with it the requisite resolutions blasted at us from almost every direction. Not here, though. I’m using my last column of 2010 to share my adventure travel wish list for the new year.
I also want to wish you a 2011 full of excitement and adventure, wherever your journeys may take you, and encourage you to share your own wish list trips in the comments section below. Happy New Year!
Learning to rock climb. Interestingly enough, my interest in this emerging sport was piqued in the Caribbean, where peaks like the 3,232-foot Mt. Nevis and St. Christoffel in Curaçao provide an ideal way for a beginner to discover how much this sport, pardon the pun, absolutely rocks. Climbing offers not only a hard-core workout, but an addictive shot of adrenaline – not to mention some brag-worthy travel photos. Read more
Apologies ahead of time that you’ll have to act fast to take advantage of this week’s post (living on the West Coast is a plus, too), but it was just too good a deal to pass up. If you’re still reading, here it is: Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes, California, has a deal called the Three-Way Challenge, which for $99 gets you an unlimited lift pass (from 7:30am to 2pm); a shuttle ride to the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park (9am to 5pm), which officially opens June 25; and nine holes of golf on the Sierra Star Golf Course (after 1pm), which at 8,000 feet above sea level is the highest golf course in California. It runs through July 5, when the ski resort officially closes. Read more
In 2007, Paris launched a program that’s changing transport in some major metropolises: Velib. The remarkable public bike rental system, whose name is a combination of the French words for bike and freedom, has been a rolling success, with Parisians and tourists racking up millions of trips every year, less car traffic and exhaust fumes – not to mention an increased harmony between cyclists and motorists. Velib has worked so well that it’s being used as a model for cities across the globe – many of them in Europe, with its ingrained cycling culture. But American cities are starting to roll out programs of their own: San Francisco, Houston, Portland and Boulder have all been named as cities that are considering such programs or are in active negotiations. See how Velib works after the jump
Here, our picks for cosmopolitan spots – Stateside and beyond – where you can swipe your card, grab a bike, and get pedaling:
Denver: Visitors in the Mile High City can start logging their own miles via bike, thanks to the newly announced B-Cycle program. Like Paris’s Velib, B-Cycle will operate via solar-powered, self-contained stations. The program kicks off with 500 bikes but only runs through November. Annual memberships run at $65 ($40 for students) or pay per use with credit cards right at the station.
Lyon, France: The company behind Velib created another bike lover’s paradise in this scenic French city with Velo’v. Commuters can rent comfy, sturdy bikes from 340 stations all over the city, which are equipped with kiosks that accept all international bank cards.
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