Monday, January 19, 2009

Ten Wild and Crazy Destinations for 2009

If you want to experience more than the usual vacation to Disney World, Hawaii or the Outer Banks, check out these ten offbeat and sometimes extreme escapes for 2009. Whether it's Zorbing, skijoring or just plain geocaching the new year has a lot to offer travelers looking for something different. Some of these destinations and activities may be a bit expensive or physically taxing. However, you need to remember, with a new year you have new opportunities for fitness, fun and what the heck, take the rest of your 401k before someone else does, and live a little.

1. Zorbing

Strap into a Zorb and start rolling head over heels. Recently depicted in a Toyota commercial, these large hamster balls roll effortlessly over the countryside. Developed in Auckland, New Zeland these giant air filed balls have also been seen on the Amazing race as contestants take a Zorb ride to fulfill a task. According to the developers, no one has ever been hurt in a Zorb or even threw up inside one. For an extra thrill throw in a bucket of water for the ride, just remember to remove the bucket. Locations include, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; Rotorua, New Zealand and throughout Europe.

2. Skijoring

Join the rich and famous in St. Moritz, Switzerland for the 103rd running of horses on white turf (read frozen lake). Included with the horse racing is skijoring. Competitors on skis are pulled around the track by thoroughbreds, in close proximity and at high speed. Races for 2009 are 8, 15, and 22 February 2009, but hurry, last year over 10,000 spectators attended this event. If you want to do more than observe the sport try Leadville, Colorado or four other states in the U.S. where competitions are held each year. This winter sport has evolved where participants navigate through a course of jumps and gates. Some places have replaced the horse with a large dog or snowmobile. Bundle up and have fun! By the way the sport originated centuries ago when travelers in Scandinavia attached reins to reindeer for a wild ride.

3. Geocaching

Here's a fun family activity, especially if you like high tech treasure hunts. Just replace the old pirate map where X marks the spot for a GPS (global positioning system). Enter the coordinates into your GPS and head out to find "caches" of trinkets, candy and other items that the sponsor or others have hidden. Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) and is growing in popularity. The official geocaching hunt site has over half a million participants with worldwide adventures and a community of adventurers. The game is a great way to explore new areas. At the Evergreen Lodge they offer two courses to help you explore the park. Following the coordinates you will be pointed to waterfalls, park vistas

4. Fly a MiG

The Mig-29 or newer MiG-31 Foxhound are ready for you to take control over the skies of Russia at over 1500 miles per hour. Jet flight only starts at $12,590, transportation and hotel accommodations in Russia are extra. While expensive where else can you fly this fast? Try Cape Town South Africa for a ride over 60,000 feet above the city in the English Electric Lightning jet. These prices include a multi day package around 18 grand.

5. Outer Space Anyone?

You have probably read about it and seen it on TV, now it's time to sign up for the ride of your life. If you thought flying a MiG over 1500 miles an hour was a rush try outer space with Virgin Galactic. Billionaire adventurer Sir Richard Branson, continues to fund Burt Rutan's technology that resulted in the first privately funded craft to reach outer space in 2004. With only a $20,000 dollar down payment, you can reserve a spot for your $200,000 adventure. There is no set date for the first commercial flight but testing continues and people are lining up to fly the first Spaceline in history. There is currently a plan for three days of preparation to enjoy the experience.

6. Meet the Emperors

Don't be put off with the few cruise ships that have had problems around the Antarctic, that can happen anywhere. Now is your chance to explore the most remote destination in the world and also a chance to meet up with the Emperor Penguin Colony. Several companies have various cruises and travel itineraries with various levels of participation. This is a chance to see glaciers and icebergs in their natural setting. Check out Luxury Tours for travel dates.

7. Bike Peru

Sacredrides, recognized by National Geographic Adventure magazine as one of the best adventure travel companies on earth, offers mountain biking in the Andes and near Inca ruins. Cox and Kings also offers a variety of custom and signature tours around the world. If you're a bike enthusiast how could you pass on the opportunity to take one of the best bike trips in Peru? The tour is a combination of defined paths and narrow trails that pass through the Sacred Valley's agricultural fields, architectural sites and villages. Don't worry about curses or bandits from ancient Incas, that only happens in the movies. On this trip you'll have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and to enjoy a day of excitement on the down-hills while stopping to enjoy the various ruins.

8. Covert Ops Adventure

An all inclusive weekend getaway, but don't plan on sipping margaritas by a pool. This three day intensive training by former military special operations personnel will have you learning evasive driving, shooting techniques, hostage retrieval (this is great if your child is late getting home, just plan a mission to "snatch" her from the party.) This Three-day programs begins on a Friday through Sunday, in Tuscon, Arizona: meals and ammunition included. The cost for this program is $3,795.

9. Skywalk to the Edge

In the United States, take a skywalk on the glass bridge at Grand Canyon West You'll be standing over a 1200 meter drop to the bottom of the canyon as you walk on the transparent bridge floor. The pricing structure is a bit complicated with an ala-carte style menu. Ticket price about 35 dollars per person then $20 per vehicle, $12 for a locker, and $40 for a photograph on the Skywalk. Interestingly photos and binoculars are not permitted on the skywalk, this may be to sell more photos. Going to the edge in Melbourne, Australia is less expensive but not as high, only 300 meters. Travel 88 stories in 40 seconds to Skydeck 88 and walk/crawl to "The Edge"- a glass cube that projects 3 meters out from the building suspended almost 300 meters above the ground! Tickets are only $12.00, a real bargain compared to some of the other adventures. There are other edge type experiences, like the new.

10. Ride the Singapore Flyer

This isn't your grandparent's Ferris wheel at the local amusement park or traveling circus. The Singapore Flyer is the world's largest observation wheel. At an equivalent 42 stories this 165m tall ride is not for those with vertigo. It is however, a great place to see the city and on a clear day you can see Malaysia and Indonesia. The ride has 28 gondolas that hold up to 28 people each. Get ready for great experience over the city by the bay.

You have read my picks for exciting travel next year tell us where you are headed in the New Year.

Giants and Dwarfs at Pennsylvania Farm Show

One of the largest farm shows in the United States is held in mid-January at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The huge indoor facility is large by almost any measure. It has two arenas where simultaneous rodeo competitions or livestock demonstrations are held, food halls, new farm equipment displays and much more. There are a number of connecting exhibit halls with over 6000 animals and birds and about 250 commercial exhibits. The Pennsylvania Farm Show is a tradition that began in 1917 and has free admission. The only charge, other than parking and what you purchase, is for the Circuit Rodeo Finals the last few days of the show.

On display in the farm animal competition area were the winners of the best rabbits, roosters, cows and chickens. This is where I first saw the Flemish Giant rabbit. This is a breed that grows up to 21 inches in length and weighs 15-18 pounds. There have been documented Flemish Giants up to 26 pounds. The Giant Chinchilla is another breed of large rabbit on display at the show. These rabbits are so huge they could frighten most small dogs. Adjacent to the giant rabbits were the dwarf rabbits, while smaller than the average garden variety rabbit, they weren't abnormally small.

Aside from the commercial exhibits, animal displays and competitions, the farm fair is known for its food courts. There is fresh trout from Pennsylvania streams, pulled pork, fried cheese, the famous Farm Show baked potatoes, potato donuts, fries, and of course kettle corn and cotton candy. Even if you are not a farmer or agriculture student, this is a fun place to visit. There were exhibits from the Pennsylvania Bee Keepers Association that had a room full of different types of honey, hard wood displays, celebrity cooking demonstrations and life size butter sculptures of a soldier a cow and three children.

Many of the associations that exhibit at the Farm Show use the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for research, scholarships and continuing education. Representatives from the different organizations include; the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, PA Mushroom Growers Cooperative, PA Maple Syrup Producers Council, PA Livestock Association, PA Cooperative Potato Growers, Pennsylvania Cattlemen's Association, and many more.

One of the overriding themes of the show is education. For kids, the organizers have a creative and fun way to learn and discover more about horses, swine, poultry, dogs, nuts and more. Sign up to be a Farm Show Detective and investigate where milk comes from, how chickens hatch, and how bees help vegetables to grow. Kids (or adults) will follow a map to the eighteen learning stations throughout the show. One of the cool awards (or cold awards) is a year of free ice cream from Turkey Hill.