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Vacation 2016: plan now for summer adventures

Written By | Jan 12, 2016

FORT WORTH, Texas, Jan. 12, 2016 — Happy New Year one and all! It is time for new beginnings and the chance to try new things.

January may seem a bit early to think about a holiday trip, but it’s never too early to start planning for it, especially if you need to save for the adventure. If you’re looking for something other than Disney again or another equally average excursion, this list is for you. Don’t get me wrong, Disney is lovely and wonderful, but there is a whole lot more of the world to explore while you’re still in it.

The Internet is chock-full of offbeat expeditions and activities. First is a list of unusual things to try. Some of them may require travel while others do not. The second one is a roster of places to explore away from home.

Things to do:
1. Water Jet Pack — Remember when James Bond flew with the use of a jet pack? Now you can try one too. Not the heat-jet kind but the water-jet kind. Venues include Lake Havasu, Arizona, and there are several in Florida. Jet Lev Southwest includes Newport Beach, California, and Honolulu.
2. Zero Gravity Flights — Did you ever watch astronauts floating around and wonder what that would be like? Here’s your chance: Zero G and Incredible Adventures offer this opportunity. Incredible Adventures also offers a number of other “once in a lifetime” experiences, such as a submarine adventure and a firefighting adventure.
3. Be A Movie Extra — Until a friend of mine did this I didn’t know it was possible outside of Hollywood. Look in the general help section of your local newspaper under “TV/Movie Extras” or go to: TV/Film, or
4. Be A NASCAR Driver — NASCAR offers the average person a chance to drive an actual racecar on a NASCAR track. The NASCAR racing experience is a must for any die-hard fan. There are 11 tracks around the country to choose from.

5. Fly a Fighter Jet — Here’s your chance to fly in an L-39 military jet; offers the unique experience of going up with an experienced fighter pilot in Texas, New York, Florida or California.
6. Meet Your Favorite Celebrity — Elite Adventure Tours offers a variety of experiences in Los Angeles, including time with your favorite VIP. With the help from top Hollywood agents, this group could arrange a tour of Los Angeles for you with your favorite star.

See the sights of San Francisco in this computer-guided car Photo: Marko Kudjersky/Flickr

See the sights of San Francisco in this computer-guided car (Photo: Marko Kudjersky/Flickr)

Places to go:
1. San Francisco Electric Car/Bike Tour — Go Car Tours offers an open air, computer-guided, story-telling car in which to explore the historic city, courtesy of 21st century technology. For the more daring traveler, one can cross the Golden Gate Bridge on an electric bike or Segway via the Electric Tour Co.
2. Crater of Diamonds State Park — Treasure hunt at the only diamond mine in the world that is open to the public. The site states, “Any diamonds, semi-precious stones, rocks, or minerals you unearth are yours to keep, regardless of their value.” In June 2015 Bobbie Oskarson of Colorado unearthed an 8.52 carat diamond. Who knows what you’ll find? It’s in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.
3. Rent an Island (worldwide) — It is not as expensive as it seems. Split the cost among friends and the price isn’t necessarily any more expensive than a hotel – and you get the whole island to yourself. Private Islands Online and Rent My are good places to start.
3. New York City via the Algonquin Hotel —Literary giants Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber and several others gathered here every day for 10 years at the famous “Round Table” of this luxurious hotel. The motley group literally shaped 20th-century literature. A renovation for the Algonquin concluded in 2012 bringing it into the 21st century, but still retains its historic charm. It is also close to Times Square and 42nd Street. Book a room now for next New Year’s Eve, perhaps?
4. Navy Pier — This Chicago landmark is celebrating its centennial in 2016 and is chock full of celebratory activites; check the website for details. The 3,300-foot promenade encompasses the Chicago Children’s Museum, live entertainment, restaurants and dinner cruises,, shoreline sightseeing, water taxis, shopping, an IMAX theater and special event spaces. You can even sail a masted ship as in days of yore.
5. Niagara Falls — Once a top honeymoon destination, the falls are still a sight to behold. Niagara Falls State Park, N.Y., is America’s oldest state park and is where you can get closer to the falls than anywhere else. Also, according to Trip Advisor, there are lots of other activities in the region as well.
6. Fort Donelson, Tennessee — The first decisive Union victory of the Civil War was the capture of Fort Donelson. It was not the bloodiest engagement, but it was one of the most important battles of the war. See actual cabins that the soldiers lived in, visit Fort Donelson National Cemetery, see battle re-enactments and other nearby attractions. A perfect get-away for the Civil War enthusiast or parents taking the kids to actually see the places they learn about in school.
7. Forestiere Underground Gardens — Sicilian Immigrant Baldassare Forestiere created and lived in an underground Mediterranean oasis in Fresno, California. The three levels, modeled after timeworn catacombs, resemble architecture like that of ancient Rome. The temperature below is also 10-30 degrees cooler where fruit bearing trees, shrubs and vines grow.

Looking at Navy Pier and downtown Chicago from Lake Michigan Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Looking at Navy Pier and downtown Chicago from Lake Michigan (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

If you are in the mood to try something different for vacation this year, this list is a good start. Click on the links provided for more in-depth information about each place and activity.
No matter the place, budget, season, likes or dislikes, there is adventure waiting for anyone who looks for it. Step out of the ordinary in 2016 and gather experiences of a lifetime. It’s a big world full of activities you never thought of before. Go have fun. As Walt Whitman said in his poem “Untold Want”:

The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

Read more of Claire’s work at Feed the Mind, Nourish the Soul in the Communities Digital News and Greater Fort Worth Writers.
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Claire Hickey

Claire Hickey was born the last year of the Baby Boom and spent the first half of childhood in Chicago. She has always loved to write but wanted to create pieces worth reading. Her curiosity and love of research lead her to create her column based on the “garbage in garbage out” theory to provide interesting and thought-provoking pieces that enrich her readers. She also believes life is a banquet and loves to learn new things. Her professional pedigree includes Cosmetology, Surgical Technology, and the Culinary Arts. When not working she loves to spend time with family and friends. She lives in Fort Worth.