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.
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.
The professional guides at Red River Adventures expose adventurous individuals to the rugged and untamed splendor of Utah's rocks, rivers, and canyons with trips designed for all skill levels. The Fisher Towers whitewater-rafting trips pair smaller, intimate groups of four to six paddlers (40 lbs. or more) with a licensed Utah river guide for a 14-mile adventure along Onion Creek, Professor Creek, Cloudburst, and Ida Gulch. Before provoking the Class III wrath of Poseidon, the guides will review safety procedures and outfit swashbucklers with U.S. Coast Guard–approved lifejackets. From the safety of the river-faring craft, paddlers absorb a soaring view of the Fisher Towers, as well as canyon walls that line the waterway and enable time-bending communication with ancient yodelers.
Castle Creek Winery rests on the Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge ranch, tucked between the rolling rapids of the Colorado River and high-rising red rock cliffs. The winery’s lush vineyards cut stark green rows through the rugged Western landscape that surrounds them. With the fruits of these vines, Castle Creek produces more than 30 wines—approximately 8,000 cases each year—all of which are filled, labeled, and kissed goodbye at the winery. Tour guides usher visitors throughout the production facility, elucidating the process by which grapes travel from vine to bottle. At the tasting room, wine experts pour complimentary sips while enlightening visitors on the notes, pairings, and complexities of each varietal. The facility opens up to a 4,000-square-foot hospitality area that adjoins a deck with views of the river.
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.