Denver A 400-foot section of white water built five years ago in the Denver metro area, Clear Creek White Water Park got to be so crowded that it had to be doubled in length two years later, extending it to seven city blocks with 13 Class II--IV rapids. It's one of the few rivers in the country where you can also rent a riverboard, essentially a thick Boogie Board with handles. Ripboard does half-day rentals for $45, with a quick one-on-one tutorial to get you oriented. 866/311-2627, ripboard.com.
Fort Worth At Trinity River Whitewater Park, a series of three limestone barriers installed in 2002 create half-mile "chutes" of Class I--III rapids inside Fort Worth's Trinity Park. Guides from Kayak Instruction will meet you at the river with the necessary gear for a full-day lesson. $90, 214/629-4794, kayakinstruct.com.
Reno Two white-water routes, separated by an island, can be found in a half-mile stretch of the Truckee River, containing close to a dozen Class II--III rapids. Tackle the river in a raft, a kayak, or even a tube--all within two blocks of the casino district. Wild Sierra Adventures rents inflatable kayaks for $15 an hour; Plexiglas ones cost $4 an hour more. 866/323-8928, wildsierra.com.
Richmond And then there are the only natural urban rapids in the U.S. The James River runs through downtown Richmond, Va., and has Class I--V rapids. Kayak for free from public access points in the city's park system or take a guided four-hour raft trip with Richmond Raft Company. 800/222-7238, richmondraft.com, from $54.
Cruise Cachet: Intimate dining experiences
Specialty restaurants are a welcome option for cruise passengers ready for a break from cavernous dining rooms and assigned seating. Pay a small surcharge and you get a private table, white-glove service, and dishes that aren't available in the main dining room. Reservations are required and should be made upon boarding (because these restaurants fill up quickly). The best of the bunch...
Carnival Cruise Lines:NouveauSupper Club On all Spirit- and Conquest-class ships, $25.
Celebrity Cruises:Normandie On the Summit. The Millennium, Infinity, and Constellation have similar dining rooms, named for other ocean liners. $30.
Disney Cruise Line:Palo On Magic and Wonder, $10, adults only.
Holland America Line:Pinnacle Grill All ships, $20 ($10 on first night at sea).
Norwegian Cruise Line:Le Bistro On all ships except the Pride of America and Pride of Aloha, $15.
Princess Cruises:Sabatini's Trattoria On all Grand-class ships and the Coral Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, and Tahitian Princess, $20.
Royal Caribbean: Chops Grille On all Radiance-class ships, Mariner of the Seas, and Navigator of the Seas, from $20, adults only.
Books you'll never read!
But so what? Something has to stop your coffee table from floating away.
A Beautiful Catastrophe Bruce Gilden has been wandering the streets of New York City since 1981, capturing the weird and wonderful characters you see on every corner. $40, PowerHouse Books.
Bordeaux Chateaux A History of the Grands Crus Classés 1855--2005 A peek inside the top winemaking estates in the Bordeaux region of France. $60, Flammarion.
Earthsong Unbelievable aerial photographs by Bernhard Edmaier. We've recommended it before, but you still didn't buy it. Don't make us say it again. $60, Phaidon.
Hollywood Life The fabulous homes and questionable taste of Old Hollywood--Cecil B. DeMille, Edith Head, and Steve McQueen, among others--as documented by Life photographer Eliot Elisofon in 1969. (It bears noting that the cover is velour.) $65, Greybull Press.
The Most Beautiful Gardens in the World: Who are we to argue? Just take a look at the luscious Japanese Garden at Huntington Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, Calif. $60, Abrams.
Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, the River Kwai & Ayutthaya with Angkor Wat & Phuket Island optional extensions. Fully escorted land tour, including airfare, fuel surcharges, airline taxes and fees, hotels, transfers, many meals, touring & more.
It's the most wonderful guide of the year! Whether you're shopping for foodies, shutterbugs, beach lovers, or that friend who loves to travel with her pup, we've got something for everyone. Here's your go-to list of perfect presents for travelers.