Originally a TWA aircraft, the Southern Cross Douglas C-47 was adopted by the Army Air Corps to shuttle troops to the front. The twin-propeller plane survived World War II and in the ensuing years underwent a series of makeovers. Its career includes years spent as a reliable set of wings for Delta Air Lines, a troupe of skydiving enthusiasts, and at least one head of state. The C-47 is now meticulously restored to its original WWII-era condition and in the dutiful care of Greatest Generation Aircraft, a nonprofit organization that introduces 21st-century crowds to the C-47 during rides and aerial shows. Flying out of Fort Worth's Meacham International Airport, the C-47 also shares a hangar with an A26 Counter Invader and other veteran planes.
Named a Best Bargain Family Adventure by Southern Living magazine, Cascade Caverns encircles visitors in 64-degree corridors where they can see and feel millions of years of terrestrial history. The old and wizened cave was the first of the six major Texas cave attractions to be discovered, and the only one with an interior waterfall, which, at over 90 feet, has inspired awe in throngs of visitors over the years and slowly driven up Batman's rent. Visitors witness millions of water droplets reflecting brilliantly on the Diamond Ceiling, and watch slender stalactite and stalagmite formations slowly work toward their dreams of becoming corinthian columns. While moving from corridor to corridor, spelunkers may spot such unusual animals as cliff and leopard frogs, eastern pipistrelle bats, and Cascade Cavern salamanders.
Every evening from March to September, just before sunset, as many as 12 million Mexican free-tailed bats erupt from Frio Cave in search of dinner. The bat colony is the second largest in the world and the largest that's open to the public. Tour guides lead a caravan of visitors driving their own cars two miles from the ranch gates to Frio Cave, then guests are taken to the top of a hill to witness the winged spectacle. With the sun low in the sky and the bat signal shining, the cloud of bats bursts forth alongside cave swallows and rock wrens, seeking insects to eat while evading birds of prey such as kestrels and peregrine falcons. After spending the spring and summer mating in Frio Cave, the bats resume their migration to Mexico and the college students return to their dorms.
More than 30 wineries dot the idyllic Texas Hill Country, the historically rich backdrop for ARC’s Wine Plus’s tours. The company’s signature excursion, the wine tour, makes stops at three or more wineries, where guests can swig samples as guides share facts about wines, specifically those born in Texas. Brew tours, on the other hand, showcase Texan beer and its history. During tours of local breweries, groups can soak up the guide’s exhaustive knowledge with their brain sponges while sampling local suds.
On durable, all-terrain Segway x2 Personal Transporters, nature-seekers can spot wildlife or sample an off-road experience during two-hour tours at the Central Florida Zoo. Informed by tour-guide narration conveyed via wireless heads, zoo tours encounter a menagerie of animalian personalities such as Gus the camel, Elmo the macaw, and a skulking pair of rare Amur leopards, with riders briefly veering off onto unpaved landscape. Off-roading tours venture entirely upon forested paths, eschewing animal exhibits and braving the surrounding woodland landscape with the two-wheeled spirit of Davy Crockett’s penny-farthing. Both tours begin with a safety video and orientation, and stride-free sightseers are encouraged to bring a camera or photographic memory to remember the experience.
From 1927 until 2009, the Piper Aircraft company produced 144,000 airplanes. Of those, 90,000 are still flying. One is a 1978 single-engine Saratoga that can often be seen soaring over the hills and lakes of the Texas landscape.
Inside that Saratoga, the Air Tours Texas pilots lead up to five passengers on scenic tours and adventures, sharing scenic aerial views of Lake Travis, Canyon Lake, Austin, San Antonio, and Enchanted Rock with their awestruck human cargo. The group of pilots also offers sunset flights, stunningly romantic marriage-proposal flights, and copilot experiences that introduce aspiring pilots to flight basics.
In 1910, Louis Bush led his first tour of Washington, DC, loading passengers into the refurbished chassis of a Mack truck that he had painted blue and gray. From this humble beginning, Louis expanded his Gray Line tours throughout the United States and abroad. The company currently hosts tours in more than 700 destinations across six continents and all three moons. However, Gray Line's expansive international scope isn't nearly as important as its commitment to a narrow, regional focus. Each tour aims to introduce visitors to some distinctive facet of the city's identity, from the ghosts of Savannah, Georgia’s, historic district to the towering redwoods of San Francisco’s Muir Woods. During the chauffeured sojourns, guides dole out intriguing tidbits of local knowledge, giving the groups some invaluable insight into the areas’ histories and cultures.