18 One-of-a-Kind Adventures to Add to Your Bucket List
From high-flying balloon rides to walking with elephants, you’ll want to experience these unique adventures
Take photos where Ansel Adams once did
For photography fans, there’s nothing better than learning from the legends who inspired your hobby. Hotel Jackson in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offers an immersive option that lets you receive private instruction from a local photographer, all while exploring the famous scenes once captured by Ansel Adams, David Brookover, Williams Henry Jackson, and other great photographers. Read about 19 top hotel bucket-list experiences around the world.
Tour an underwater museum
You’ve been to plenty of museums—but have you ever toured through one … under the water? Now you can at America’s first fully underwater permanent sculpture exhibit, the Underwater Museum of Art, in South Walton, Florida. Learn more about the world’s strangest museums.
Help baby sea turtles make it to the sea
The Fort Lauderdale area in Florida has one of the most diverse landscapes and ecosystems in the country, giving you ample opportunity to have one-of-a-kind experiences with wildlife. From March to October during sea turtle nesting season, you can help many of the conservancy programs assist these tiny reptiles as they try to make their way safely to sea.
Walk with and bathe elephants
Though you’ll likely see plenty of Instagrammers taking an elephant ride, activists throughout the world ask that you not get atop these gentle giants but, rather, walk beside them or wash them instead. Because these animals have to be beaten to be tame enough to have passengers, it’s a better experience to help them adjust back to life after captivity through sanctuaries. One of the most recommended experiences is the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where you can walk with, feed, and wash elephants for a full day or even a weekend.
Drive like a race-car driver
Zoom, zoom—go! For those who can’t get enough of life in the fast lane, you can take your chances behind the wheel of a race car. At the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you can get behind the wheel of a 2017 Corvette Stingray Z51 for laps around a 3.15-mile road course. Included in the experience is classroom and in-car instruction, 20 minutes of driving, lunch, and more. Check out 15 of the world’s most luxurious train rides.
Take an Alaskan cruise
Even if you’ve been all along the Caribbean, there’s nothing quite as eye-opening or beautiful as a cruise through the colder climate of Alaska. On a Princess Cruise Lines sailing, you’ll tour the Great Land’s glaciers, wildlife, national parks, and more. Just make sure you pack a solid camera—you’re not going to want to forget this!
Go air gliding over wine country
Not sure what air gliding is? This form of flight doesn’t use an engine; instead it relies on the dynamic reaction of the air against the wings lifting the surface. This makes for a quiet, peaceful … and beautiful bird’s-eye view of an area. One option offering vistas of serene lakes and wine country is available via the Finger Lakes Soaring Club in New York, where you’ll reach a mile above sea level.
Go ice skating at the world’s largest “rink”
You don’t have to be Olympic level to test your chops at the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spanning 202 kilometers (that’s 126 miles) from Kingston to the St. Lawrence River, this skateway claims the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest naturally frozen ice-skating rink, fitting 90 Olympic-sized rinks in its diameter. Each year, more than one million visitors skate their way here to be part of the history.
Go swimming with whale sharks
When you stay at Marquis Los Cabos, an all-inclusive luxury resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, time it right so you can test your swimming skills … alongside sharks! From September to May, the property partners with Cabo Adventures to give travelers the experience of a lifetime as they see what underwater life is like next to the largest fish in the sea. After coming face-to-face with 20 to 30 of the gentle giants, you might also catch a glimpse of dolphins, stingrays, and other sea creatures, before recovering from the swim with Baja-style lunch. Check out these 11 amazing bucket-list beach vacations.
Go on a safari
Although there are plenty of ways to experience wildlife in South Africa, consider staying at a game lodge and take a guided tour from locals at the expansive and renowned Kruger National Park. You’ll embark on a sunrise-through-sunset safari that offers glimpses of various species, including zebras, giraffes, and elephants, as they stop by watering holes or go on walks. For a luxury experience, Leopard Hills Lodge is a popular choice, with lodging options ranging from tents to suites.
Visit one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, there is only one still standing: the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. The royal tombs and the nearby Great Sphinx will amaze you with their beauty and history; it’s impossible not to appreciate the magnitude of time as you stand next to these ancient treasures. Because Egypt is a tumultuous place to visit, it is a smart idea to go with a tour group, like Contiki, that will get you from point A to point B seamlessly. Explore these 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites everyone should visit at least once.
Spend the night in the desert
When you fall asleep under the desert sky, you’ll lose count of the endless stars that dot every corner of the sky—that’s why spending a night in the sands of the Middle East should be a bucket-list item for every traveler. For a luxe experience, book a night at Qasr Al Sarab, 90 minutes outside of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Kayak with belugas
Whale watching is one thing, but rowing alongside hundreds of whales with young calves nudging at your oar is a different experience entirely. Because the mammals are curious and vocal, you’ll hear them as they guide you along the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. Read about 50 things to do before you turn 50.
See a new wonder of the world
This adventure takes you from Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, to Iguazu Falls, an expansive waterfall that borders three countries: Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. While on this trek, you’ll experience these jaw-dropping sights and spend time in Buenos Aires. What’s not to love?
Have the Sistine Chapel all to yourself
As with any world-renowned monument, lines at the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City are usually hours-long, even when you have prepurchased tickets. This is especially true during peak travel seasons, so why not rent the place just for yourself? Via City Wonders, you can book a very small tour group that allows you to enter 30 minutes before other tour operators join, and 90 minutes before the general public is allowed inside. This gives you the opportunity to witness Michelangelo’s handiwork without being nudged in every corner. Check out these 10 forbidden places no one will be allowed to visit.
Meet, pet, and feed wolves
Usually, the very idea of having a wolf encounter would be enough to make you run for the hills—literally. But when you visit this Wolf Education Center in Divide, Colorado, you have the opportunity to get to know these animals in a safe, protected environment. After taking a tour of the mountain area, you’ll get 25 minutes of feeding, petting, and even “kissing” wolves as a photographer captures the experience. Pick up a bucket-list idea for every state.
Explore the Amazon
The largest tropical rain forest in the world showcases an incomparable biodiversity, with captivating plants and animals you won’t find anywhere else on the planet. At the center of the Amazon is Manaus, Brazil, where the second-longest river in the world, containing one fifth of the earth’s fresh water, runs through. When you take a river cruise here, you’ll see the wonders of the jungle up close, giving you an experience you’ll surely write home about for decades (or at least post about on Facebook).
Take a hot-air balloon ride
Every September, you can take in the Snowmass Balloon Festival, one of the highest-altitude hot-air balloon events in the country in Aspen, Colorado. Over the span of three days, 30 pilots compete in challenges, like a distance race that covers the entire Roaring Fork Valley. When you stay at Hotel Jerome, you’ll get an up-close-and-personal view of the spectacle, and that venue can help you book a ride yourself. Read on for 11 bucket-list destinations that won’t break the bank.