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Giggles are muffled and eyebrows are raised when anyone mentions traveling to Amsterdam. After some perfunctory chit chat about the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, a pregnant pause typically lingers until someone asks the question: “Did you smoke marijuana?” Since the 1970s, tourists have flocked to Amsterdam to legally get high. Now, however, the laws have changed and, come May 1, coffee shops in the southern half of the country will cater only to Dutch residents who are registered members and possess a “weed pass.”
Of course, lawyers for the coffee shops are fighting the ban on tourists and hope to prevent the law from going national come January 1, 2013. However, I think it’s high time that other cities followed the Dutch and made local customs available only to residents. Here are just a few treasured traditions that locals deserve to enjoy without having to share with tourists.
The Ultimate Nextpedition: How One Writer Signed Up For a Mystery Trip . . . and Found Herself Dangling From a Pacific Island Zipline
Tucked inside the parcel was my Nextpedition trip console – and an envelope that would reveal my first Farbarian-meets-Adrenalista-match-made-in-travel-heaven destination: Kauai!
Three days later, my husband and I were bound for the not-so-Farbarian town of Newark, N.J., to catch an 11-hour flight to Honolulu, where we’d hop a 30-minute flight to Lihue, Kauai.
If you have yet to experience Costa Rica, the Central American country that’s one of the most world’s most enviable outdoor adventure playgrounds, here’s a can’t-miss deal to consider: a four-day, three-night package that includes hotel, transport within the country, most meals, and adrenaline-packed activities such as canyoneering, zip lining, rafting and horseback riding – all for just $599 (based on double occupancy).
That stellar price represents a savings of 33 percent offered by the outfitter, Tropical Adventures, along with its re-launch. The nonprofit organization, which was founded by Scott Pralinsky, an American adventure travel enthusiast who’s called Costa Rica his home since 2004, also has received plenty of praise for its authentic, volunteer-based programs, including a nod from National Geographic Adventure magazine as a Top 100 Volunteer Vacation in 2009.
We covered New York Zipline Adventures when it opened its first two courses at Hunter Mountain last fall, but we haven’t returned since the company launched its third and most ambitious project yet: The Skyrider Tour, North America’s highest and fastest ziplining course, and the second-largest of its kind in the world.
Naturally, I felt compelled to investigate, so last weekend I drove to Hunter (about 130 miles north of New York City, in the Catskills) to try out the course, which consists of five, side-by-side lines (allowing you to race the person next to you).
My verdict: The first line, an intimidating 3,200-foot crossing swaying 600 feet above the valley floor, is the scariest part of the three-hour adventure. After that, you’re just flying high – and traveling as fast as 50mph.
Ready to test it out yourself? I have a few key survival tips. Zip away!
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.
Gone are the days you had to set off to some obscure Central American rainforest to get your ziplining fix. Happily for adventurous American travelers, numerous ziplining operations have been cropping up across the country, with one of the newest – and the largest – of the bunch perfectly poised for leaf-peepers looking for a little extra kick with their fall rite of passage. New York Zipline Adventure Tours (www.ziplinenewyork.com) rolled out the first two phases of its three-prong operation at New York’s Hunter Mountain Ski Resort in the Catskills (one of our Top 10 Fall Foliage Travel Destinations), in early June, with the last – and most anticipated – of its courses scheduled to roll out by late December. Read more
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