Diving > Channel Islands, Calif.
There’s no better place to explore the deep seas than California’s Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. Take Truth Aquatics’ multi-day dive excursions through the area, where the action begins long before you hit the water. Almost every morning, thousands of dolphins escort the 80-foot ship toward the five-island park. In the summer, the channel hosts roughly 10% of the world’s blue whale population, so divers have a chance to see the planet’s largest creature before getting their hair wet. And the view below the surface is no less dramatic: Snorkeling and diving visibility tops 100 feet, offering a clear view of 12-story kelp forests and more than 800 species of marine life.
Once a month owner Glen Fritzler captains the boat for an upscale Limited Load trip, where meals jump from good to great, including freshly speared yellowtail sashimi and filet mignon, and you’ll visit Wilson’s Rock to see anemone- covered pinnacles that peak within 25 feet of the water’s surface and drop steeply to more than 170 feet.
Three-day Limited Load trips cost $554; five-day trips are $906, truthaquatics.com.
Heli-Hiking > British Columbia, Canada
There is no chauffeur service in the Columbia Mountains of British Columbia, but there’s no way you’ll miss your Town Car when you’re cruising above the trees in a Bell 212 helicopter. Canadian Mountain Holidays owns six lodges in the Columbias; each one has access to 600 square miles of mountains, glaciers, and pine forests. Clients spend their time chopper-hopping from one spectacular hike to the next, covering distances that would take days on foot.
On the new Epicurean Adventure with CMH, guests stay in the 10-room Valemount Lodge, and each day after breakfast, the group splits up according to desire and ability and flies to the “Ninth Hole,” a golf-green patch of grass where, across the valley, boxcar-size chunks of ice frequently calve off North Canoe Glacier and fall more than 1,000 feet to the ocean floor. Not that this hike is a walk in the park—far from it, in fact. A mountain goat trail leads to a 9,000-foot false summit and the next heli pickup, where guests fly to the glacier for an unroped hike. Day hikes end just in time for a dinner of lobster, ahi tuna ceviche, and wild-mushroom risotto made by an award-winning chef.
Trips start at $3,475, canadian mountainholidays.com.
Mountain Biking > Northwest Arkansas
Our favorite place for fat-tire fun may be off the beaten path compared with popular mountain-biking destinations, but Arkansas is fast becoming one of the country’s greatest untapped mountain-bike meccas. Bentonville, Ark., is home to five miles of single-track and a new free-ride park. Trails of varying difficulty cut through the area’s forests, and within just an hour of town you’ll find more than 100 miles of sick single- track riding. Hot Springs, 250 miles southwest of Bentonville, is the gateway to the Ouachita National Forest, which has hundreds of miles of trails, including the 37-mile-long Womble, designated an International Mountain Biking Association “Epic Trail” for its 6,000 feet of climbing through dark forests and along bluffs with spectacular river views. Mountain View, 150 miles northeast of Hot Springs, emerged as a mountain-biking hot spot last year when the Syllamo Trail, a 50-mile “Epic Trail,” was finally completed. The bottom line: If you can’t find a trail you love here, you might as well trade in your bike.
For more information, visit ozarkoffroadcyclist.com.
[pagebreak] Basketball > Venice Beach Calif.; New York City
You can get a good run on most playgrounds around the country, but once you and your boys have taken every team in the neighborhood, you need to seek out some stiffer competition. Few guys know playground ball better than Bobbito Garcia, editor at large and co-founder of Bounce magazine.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere as scenic and as passionate about hoops as Venice Beach. “Its so serene on the courts with the beach and the ocean behind you. They’ve got the crazy Venice Beach crowd, all the eccentrics,” Garcia told us. “It’s just a good place to play ball for people of all skill levels.”
The outdoor courts along the Venice Beach boardwalk offer quality competition year- round, so bring your A-game. If you think you’ve got the skills, it’s worth a West Coast pilgrimage to see how you measure up against the best.
If it’s an East Coast run on the courts you’re looking for, go no farther than New York’s very own Rockefeller Park in the Battery Park City section of lower Manhattan. “They play some good half-court there,” Garcia told us. “It’s not always a high-level run, but it’s a good place for guys who want to play in a cool environment with cool people. It’s right on the river, so it’s gorgeous. You’ll play with all kinds of people—Wall Street types from the neighborhood, dudes from Brooklyn, kids from Harlem, out-of-towners. It’s a destination point, and it’s really picturesque with the Hudson River right there as you play.”
Kitesurfing > San Francisco Bay, Calif.
Nowhere are the summer wind conditions better for kitesurfing than in the San Francisco Bay, making this the country’s premier kiteboarding metropolis. “It’s clockwork,” says Jeff Ruoss, owner of Kite Wind Surf in Alameda. “Every day the wind is blowing.”
Kite Wind Surf offers lessons for surfers of all abilities in the area. Every other Thursday throughout the summer, the shop gives free trainer-kite lessons on land. When it’s time to get wet, instructors bring novices to spots where smooth water and consistent wind make
learning a breeze. Skilled riders can participate in the myriad of competitions the shop runs in the Bay.
Kite Wind Surf offers water lessons for $300, kitewindsurf.com.
Mini Golf > Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Forget the masters. “Myrtle Beach is the mini-golf capital of the world,” says Bob Detwiler, president of U.S. Pro Mini Golf. Best as we can tell, he’s right. Not only is Myrtle Beach home base for the Pro Mini Golf Tour, but the beach town also houses more than 50 mini-golf courses, including the undisputed best courses in the nation, Hawaiian Rumble and Hawaiian Village. Reading the greens and sinking a putt on a crazy course is tough enough, and at these venues you’ll find some serious obstacles, such as a 40-foot fire-and-smoke-spewing volcano.
But don’t break out your floral shirts just yet—mini golf is serious business in South Carolina. No wonder Hawaiian Village is home to the Mini Golf U.S. Open.
Learn more at prominigolf.com
Ziplines > Salida, Colo.
If what you’re after is an adrenaline charge that will leave your hands trembling for a week, then your average adventure probably isn’t going to cut it. The Lost Canyon Zipline Adventure Tours offers up a truly bragworthy experience. Fly through the air at up to 40 mph on specially designed cables surrounded by majestic views of the Rocky Mountains and the Arkansas River Valley. With six different cable lines, some suspended 150 feet above the ground, you’ll have up to 2,000 feet of thrill rides to experience.
Sign up and you’ll go through the course with a group of five to 12 people, hiking through the trees and stopping at various take off points as you go. Feeling especially gutsy? Try one of three advanced cables for the truly daring (or foolish).
Individual tours are $75 each, captainzipline.com.
Off-road Driving > East Haddam, Conn.
Overland experts driving school in East Haddam prides itself on teaching drivers how to take on any terrain that might come in front of an off-road vehicle. Founder and 4-by-4 driving master Bruce Elfstrom’s one-day driving schools will teach you the fundamentals of handling any 4WD vehicle. Start the day by heading out to OEX’s custom-designed driving course to get behind the wheel of one of the school’s Land Rovers. Once you’re buckled in, attempt to navigate the downhill slalom course, as you avoid boulders, crawl over log steps, and cross your vehicle through six feet of water.
One-day driving course is $750 for the first person and $200 for each additional person, overlandexperts.com.
Paintball > Jim Thorpe, PA.
The great thing about paintball is that it’s a game that favors strategy, skill, and physical dominance—so you can get all your loser buddies who have been kicking your ass at Halo off the couch and finally show them how your time at the gym has paid off.
Jim Thorpe isn’t much more than a rural town with a funny name in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, but that’s what makes it the perfect place to go to war. With more than 50 courses, Skirmish USA is hands down the best place in the country for paintball. Castles, villages, woods, airplane crash sites, and name it and Skirmish USA will take you there with your guns loaded. They’ll provide you with everything you need—just show up ready for battle, and be sure to make a reservation a couple of weeks in advance if you want guaranteed combat time.
Starting at $30, skirmish.com.
Caving > Vancouver Island, B.C.
Two hours into your five- hour “Scotch on the Rocks” tour at Horne Lake Caverns and Teepee Adventure Camp on Vancouver Island, you’ll find yourself three stories be- low the earth’s surface. There you’ll see a nine-story calcite crystal formed over thousands of years by water dissolving the limestone cavern drop by drop. This and other subterranean features, such as 75-foot waterfalls and 300-million-year-old fossils, compose the “Rocks” part of this award-winning trip. Just when you start feeling like a troglodyte, you emerge from the cave and head for the “Scotch” at the Crown Isle Resort, which stocks six types of cigars and 17 varieties of scotch in its Cigar & Cognac room. The lounge overlooks a Classic Car museum, so you and your buddies can debate the merits of a ’57 T-bird versus a ’57 Bel-Air while pulling on Cubans.
“Scotch on the Rocks” begins at $149, cavernhornelake.com.
Kayaking > Ontario, Canada; Summersville, W.Va.
Kayaking combines all the best aspects of summer into one highly addictive package. And while you might find some decent rapids near your house, you may want to travel a bit farther—especially if you love the sport as much as Eric Jackson does. He’s a four-time kayak world freestyle champion and the owner of Jackson Kayak, but he also holds an unoffi cial title: King of the Great American Road Trip. “Even though I have a brand-new house, I still look forward to getting in the RV,” says Jackson, 43, who has been road-tripping for the last 25 summers in search of the continent’s best whitewater.
This summer, Jackson and members of Team Jackson Kayak will cover some 15,000 miles back and forth across the U.S. on what he’s dubbed the Fun Tour. And you can take part. They’ll be offering clinics and demonstrations on some of North America’s most wicked rapids. In August, Jackson will teach beginner through expert skills on the Ottawa River in Ontario, and in September you can catch them at the Gauley River Festival in Summersville. The Gauley Fest is a huge party, with great paddling as well. “If you haven’t done it as a paddler,” says Jackson, “you’re missing out for sure.”
To find the Fun Tour schedule, log on to jacksonkayak.com