Nostalgia Ballooning puts heads in the clouds, accompanied by licensed pilots soaring giant, kaleidoscopically colored hot air balloons. Packages include private and group voyages over mountainous landscapes and include memorable touches such as champagne toasts. For those left enthralled with the skies, Nostalgia Ballooning also offers introductory piloting lessons, prepping the airborne for a life amid the birds.
The small South African town of Prince Albert may seem like an unlikely member of the culinary vanguard, but its arid farmland—known as the Great Karoo—supports an unusually vast array of plant species that flavor the local fare. The owners of Bergwater Vineyards, the region's only winery, prepare palates with a vino tasting before a gourmet picnic lunch. Visits to the Weltevrede Fig Farm and Prince Albert Olives teach tasters how to make jam, press oil, and create authentic crop circles. Between jaunts, the African Relish houses sojourners in luxurious quarters amid a fully functional cooking school, where aspiring cooks learn to spin regional specialties such as Karoo lamb and venison dishes.
Before taking lessons in a one-room schoolhouse, a visitor hops aboard a stagecoach, interviews a worker at a uranium mine, examines authentic adobe pottery, and heads inside a saloon. Such is the scene at Museum of the West, one of the three campuses of the Museum of Western Colorado where curators eschew the notion of “look, but don’t touch.” From the interactive labs at the Dinosaur Journey Museum to the live demonstrations of early 20th-century life at the Cross Orchards Historic Site—whose buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places—the staff encourages its guests to get up close and personal with the region’s past.
Housed in a historic coal-fired power plant on the banks of the Animas River, the Durango Discovery Museum sparks scientific curiosity with a cavalcade of interactive and educational exhibits. A family day pass activates the inner Einsteins of groups including toddlers, cousins, grandparents, or imaginary uncles. Visitors examine the intricacies of Durango Discovery Museum’s heliostat-fueled solar mirrors, craft movie magic at the Animation Station, or introduce wee ones to scientific principles in the Discovery Kids Zone. With new exhibits such as the Mensch Spark Shop coming soon and a rotating roster of journeymen scientists showcasing robotics, photosynthesis, and in-depth examinations of brain freeze, Durango Discovery Museum blends childlike wonderment with grown-up learning better than bedtime stories about the periodic table.
More than 130 years after its construction, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad still pulls its cars with the same coal-fired, steam-powered locomotives that commuted miners to the gold and silver lodes in the San Juan Mountains. The precious ore was exhausted midway through the construction of the Colossus of Rutherford B. Hayes, but what's left are the San Juan National Forest's true treasure?pristine vistas of vertiginous canyons, waterfalls, and mountain peaks.
On select rides, a guide shares stories about the railroad's conception and construction, as well as the science behind the old-fashioned techniques that are still used to maintain the train today. Cars range from photo-friendly open-air gondolas to private coaches outfitted with Victorian furnishings. For an even more authentic experience, the railroad offers cab rides. And during the holiday season's Polar Express, the train's chefs, conductor, and North Pole denizens bring Chris Van Allsburg's classic children's book to meticulously detailed life.
The licensed trailblazers at Adrift Adventures have safely guided adventurers on boat, horseback, and jeep tours of Canyonlands National Park and the surrounding areas for 33 years. The half-day river excursion draws paddlers down the Colorado River through an august landscape along rapids suitable for rookies and swashbucklers alike. Two daily departure times afford rafters different takes on the area's natural beauty. Birds and fish rub sleep from their eyes and amid river and canyon panoramas as morning excursionists cast off at 8:30 a.m., returning about four hours later. The afternoon ride provides rays for sun-fueled eye feasting and lunch for carb-fueled mouth feasting, embarking at 11:15 a.m. and returning about five hours later to a planet of sentient apes.