The crisscrossed emerald landscape south of Cleveland slips silently beneath up to eight passengers in a balloon’s large basket. A skilled pilot adds or releases pressure to the vessel, punctuating the otherwise still air over the stunning panoramas and placid scenes of sprawling greenery. Guests can also opt to charter private flights, allowing them to experience romantic moments or ask embarrassing questions about where clouds come from. All of HiLife Ballooning’s flights take off in the early morning or evening when winds are at their gentlest, allowing the captain to set the balloons down gently.
Keepers of the Wild founder Jonathan Kraft has always loved animals. As a child in Holland, he rehabilitated and released injured birds every winter. When he became a magician performing grand spectacles in Vegas, his affinity for animals led him to raise two baby tigers to integrate into his act, then eventually acquire and train more big cats. At first Kraft didn’t see the connection between his chosen career and the prevalence of animal mistreatment, but gradually he began to realize how cramped, stressed, and unhealthy his peers’ animals tended to be. His first steps toward rescue weren’t ideal—he didn’t have the space to give each animal the sprawling habitat it craved. So the next step was Keepers of the Wild a place designed to rescue exotic creatures from inhumane conditions and let them roam both safely and freely.
The center, located on historic route 66, now hosts more than 175 animals that include lions, tigers, leopards, and monkeys. Walking and hiking trails lead to enclosures where cougars lie in the sun or wolves trot between bushes. Plenty of lookouts offer photo ops or a chance to spy on capuchin monkeys’ poker games. Visitors can explore the grounds on their own or hop on a guided tour, where they’re shuttled to various habitats and can watch the predators feed.
The experienced air chauffeurs of Heli USA Airways—an FAA-certified air carrier—chaperone adventurers into the sky aboard luxurious Agusta 119 jet helicopters. Daily departures from the Las Vegas Atlantic Air terminal put each pilot's 10,000 hours of flight experience to use with tours of the Grand Canyon and the Las Vegas strip, during which the captain’s narration illuminates famous landmarks, such as stunning ancient rock formations and the elegant Trump Hotel’s crowning toupee. Overnight and weekend getaway packages grant guests unobstructed views of Vegas’s sprawling luminescence as choppers hover toward the historic Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, a 165-square-mile ranch outfitted with custom-built log cabins, dining facilities, and old-fashioned western entertainments, such as lassoing televisions. Tours are available in several languages, including English, French, Japanese, and Spanish.