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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.
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.
My kids are fairly dependent on wireless gadgets and DVR, and I’m almost ashamed to admit that they’re learning by example. Vacations bring the promise of curtailing these weak pursuits. But after our family swim, beach time, or other low-intensity outing, we’re unwilling to resist the hotel room TV that’s inevitably far bigger than the one in our living room.
And then there was the time last summer when I realized that my daughter and I had spent more than an hour in a hotel lobby completely absorbed by what was happening on our side-by-side computer monitors. You’d think that would have been the time to look away from my screen and tell my daughter that it was time to stop the madness. But it was too easy to keep doing what we were doing.
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
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