Take Travel to New Heights with Helicopters, Hot Air Balloons, and More

By BT Editor
October 6, 2023
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A vintage plane tour over Southern California - courtesy of J/PR

Owning a private jet or mountaintop villa may be out of the budget for most—but there are other ways to experience the epic views of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Beyond the typical hiking trails and skyline drives, those looking for the ultimate birds-eye views will want to check out the experiences below that feature rides in vintage planes and hot air balloons, train tours, rock climbing experiences, and more.

Tour Southern California in an open-cockpit biplane

Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, California has partnered with San Diego Sky Tours to offer aerial tours and—most unique of all—air combat experiences. Guests will be able to glide over the Pacific Ocean to see all of San Diego in one hour or less or enjoy a romantic sunset ride. For those looking for a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip, visitors can also book a thrill-seeking adventure in a vintage open-cockpit biplane with a military-trained pilot. While these kind of aviation experiences understandably come with a price tag (rates for experiences start at $400), budgeting around this unique activity can easily be done thanks to relatively cheap domestic airfare into California and plenty of other affordable accommodations and dining options to round out the rest of a trip in the area.

Enjoy New England's fall colors from a hot air balloon

Hot air balloons over Massachusetts - courtesy of J/PR

For experiential ways to take in the New England foliage hop aboard a Hoosac Valley Train Ride and embark on a scenic train route through the Berkshires, take in the autumn allure from above with a Worthington Ballooning Hot Air Balloon ride or drive out to Western Massachusetts and wind along the famed foliage streets of the Massachusetts stretch of U.S. Route 7, Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway and Mount Greylock Scenic Byway.

Scale Boynton Canyon's red rocks in Arizona

The Trail House at Enchantment Resort - courtesy of J/PR

With access to more than 400 miles of scenic and iconic hiking and biking trails, Enchantment Resort serves as the ideal base camp for exploration and uncovering trails throughout the destination’s soaring sandstone cliffs, striking canyons and pinyon-juniper forests. Guests are encouraged to connect to Sedona’s surrounding landscape through the property’s new Trail House, an adventure hub where expert guides help guests uncover which nearby trails, whether on foot or through world-class mountain biking equipment, are ideal for them based on skill level, terrain, scenery and elevation gains. The property recently partnered up with Arizona Climbing Guides to take guests to an epic rock climbing location at The Granite Dells, just ten minutes outside the city of Prescott, and offer outstanding rock climbing opportunities for all abilities (details here).

View Virginia's wine country by helicopter

Vineyard at The Nicewonder Farm - courtesy of J/PR

The Inn at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, Virginia invites guests to take in the views with the new The Wine Flight Package, where majestic mountain terrain and lush forest greenery are paired beautifully with the property’s award-winning, homegrown wines. The package offers guests a private helicopter tour of Bristol’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and a private wine tasting and picnic on property, in addition to luxury accommodations, amenities, and daily breakfast.

Cross the Continental Divide by train

An unforgettable journey, travelers can take in the breathtaking sights from a luxury train with Rocky Mountaineer as they ride from Denver, Colorado to Moab, Utah on the “Rockies To The Red Rocks” route, filled with highlights best seen by train, including Ruby Canyon, Mount Garfield and crossing the Continental Divide.

Once in Utah, complete your adventure with full day or multi-day rafting trips through some of the most legendary whitewater rivers, camping overnight under bright stars, next to stunning red rock formations and remote sandy beaches. Guide services such as Adrift Adventures, Mild to Wild Rafting and Jeep Tours or Sheri Griffith Expeditions can lead even new rafters through an incredible adventure, organizing everything from meals to bathroom stops. In addition to rafting, visitors can also take in much of Utah's scenery not accessible to cars and RVs. There are thousands of miles of trails open to off-highway vehicles, making off-roading one of Utah's most popular pastimes. Trails include Arapeen OHV Trail, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Paiute ATV Trail and many more.

    See San Francisco's landmarks by seaplane

    Views of San Francisco bay area and the Golden Gate Bridge - courtesy of J/PR

    Cavallo Point in Sausalito, California sits on more than 350 acres complete with trails for running, hiking, and biking, but also offers unique and once in a lifetime tours of San Francisco. See the Bay Area from every angle from sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge to getting a bird’s-eye view of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks in a seaplane or private helicopter.

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    Best Under-the-Radar Art Destinations in the US

    Cities like Miami, New York and Los Angeles are go-to destinations for art enthusiasts, however, there are tons of other hidden gem cities around the U.S. that people don’t commonly associate with world-class art. Grand Rapids, MI The Jim Henson Exhibition - Courtesy of the GRAM While Detroit typically gets all the street cred for art in Michigan, Grand Rapids boasts some of the coolest museums for art lovers, including the Grand Rapids Art Museum, with 6,000 permanent objects including work from Andy Warhol and Picasso, and the picturesque Frederik Meier Gardens & Sculpture Park. Plus, the hotels in the city’s Hotel District boast over-the-top collections as well, like the historic Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton, which was named in Historic Hotels of America’s top 25 most magnificent art collections list for 2022 for its “America at Work” collection by artist Paul Collins. The city also hosts the annual ArtPrize, an independent international art competition that celebrates artists working in all mediums from across the world, every fall (the next one is Sept.14-Oct. 1). Fort Worth, TX Cufflink Art Gallery While Fort Worth’s Cultural District is home to world-renowned art museums like The Modern, The Kimbell and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, this Texas city also has a burgeoning underground art scene, with cool new galleries showcasing local artists and powerful street art, like that in the Foundry District's Inspiration Alley. In Polytechnic, a predominately Black and Latinx neighborhood, Sedrick and Letitia Huckaby recently opened Kinfolk House, a collaborative art space that serves to uplift the diverse community’s beauty, talent and culture through collaborative exhibitions, events and educational opportunities. Hotels like Hotel Dryce put guests within walking distance of the Cultural District and boast some local art of their own—Hotel Dryce has a partnership with local art gallery Art Tooth for its art in the rooms and public spaces. St. Petersburg, FL The dalí museum While Miami is known as Florida’s art-centric city for hosting Art Basel Miami every December, St. Pete has an under-the-radar yet thriving art scene with a vibe much different than Florida’s more frenetic east coast art city, from renowned museums like The Dali and the Chihuly Collection to the walkable galleries and vibrant murals splashed around downtown. For those looking to stay in the heart of it all, The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is within walking distance to the city’s top art spots, and its Navigator can coordinate the perfect creative itinerary. Plus, the hotel is an artistic masterpiece in itself, with a photogenic pink exterior and Mediterranean Revival design from the 1920s.


    Get Lost in These Unique Corn Mazes this Fall

    Add a unique challenge to your typical fall weekend activities at these five farms, where wandering through a corn maze involves a whole new level of skill, strategy, and adventure. From country music stars to dinosaur chases, these mazes have all kinds of highly detailed and creative designs. Don't worry, though—even the most directionally-challenged can get a little help with "emergency exit trails" and tips along the way. Sykes Family Farms (Elkton, Florida) Well-loved by the local community of Elkton, Florida is the annual Sykes Family Farms Crop Maze. This year, from October 7th to 29th, kids and adults are invited to flock to Sykes Farm to participate in their uniquely themed maze. This year's design features Reba McEntire! The maze is nine acres total, which consists of four phases. At the entrance of the maze visitors have the option of fill out a “passport”—a ten questions form that will help guide you through the maze. All four phases take around 45-60 minutes to navigate, with Phase 1 being slightly shorter for the directionally challenged. General admission prices are $16.99, with discounts available. Admission to the farm also includes access to hayrides, playgrounds, a cow milking station, duck races, farm animals, barn yard ball zone, pedal karts, and more. Richardson Adventure Farm (Spring Grove, Illinois) A path cuts through a corn field by Mark Holloway - Unsplash Touted as the "world's largest," most intricate corn maze, the Richardson Adventure Farm corn maze in Illinois features an incredible Jurassic Park themed design for 2023. Explore a labyrinth of corn stalks in shapes of familiar scenes from the movies, including a giant T-Rex chase. The design features more than 9 miles of trail winding through 28 acres of live corn; created out of 4 smaller mazes, each with its own dedicated in and out path. There are multiple checkpoints throughout the maze as well as three bridges that will help visitors find their bearings while looking at the map. While the trail is intricate, there is a perimeter path surrounding the entire maze and there are no dead ends in this maze—making it easy to exit and grab a donut or hot chocolate. This Spring Grove attraction also features a pumpkin patch, sunflower field, corn maze games, wagon rides, and many other family friendly activities to make for a fun-filled fall day. The Great Vermont Corn Maze (Danville, Vermont) The largest corn maze in New England takes approximately 2+ hours to hike and covers 24 acres. Miles of dirt trails at the Great Vermont Corn Maze's "Big Maze" are lined with 10' tall walls of corn and even feature 32 feet of underground tunnel and 100 feet of bridges. A helpful "Emergency Exit trail" also covers most of the maze giving visitors a chance to take a break, grab a snack, or use the restrooms without having to start over from the beginning. In addition to the "Big Maze," this farm also features a "Scenic Maze." The Scenic Maze is approximately a 45 minute walk using directions and special trails found along the way. This option allows visitors to see the unique things that are also in the Big Maze, but without the hours of frustration. Treworgy Family Orchards (Levant, Maine) A sunflower and a corn field by darlene - Unsplash The corn maze at Treworgy Family Orchards is the longest continually-running corn maze in the state of Maine. This year, the design celebrates farming with a tractor design. The maze includes a special map with riddles to figure out as people visit “stations” inside the maze. Complete the puzzle to receive a free kiddie vanilla, chocolate, or twist soft-serve ice cream cone. Visitors that make it to the center of the maze can also sign their name on the Hall of Fame Board. For an extra-fun adventure, try the maze during one of their special "Night Maze" evenings. The Night Maze is family-friendly, so there is nothing scary or “haunted,” just good old-fashioned fun. Visitors should bring their own flashlights. Guests can collect treats as they wander through the maze; or, head to the cafe for hot cider, hot chocolate, and donuts. Additionally, there are lighted hayrides and a campfire for warming. Liberty Mills Farm (Somerset, Virginia) The corn maze at Liberty Mills Farm in Virginia is actually made up of four different trails: a Story Maze, Trivia Maze, Hole Punch Maze, and Mystery Maze. The Story Maze takes only about 30 minutes to complete all the "story stations," while the medium-difficulty Trivia Maze can take 45-60 minutes and features trivia questions along the way. The Hole Punch maze is the longest; it can take anywhere from 2-3 hours to find all 21 stations, but those that find their way out are also rewarded with ice cream. Finally, there's the Mystery Maze. With no maps or guidance, visitors are on their own with your sense of adventure; the farm recommends leaving a minimum of an hour for this final maze.


    Book a Cozy Family Getaway in the Adirondacks

    Experience the magic of fall in Tupper Lake, New York, a perfect destination for a family vacation. Nestled in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, Tupper Lake is an ideal spot for travelers to experience the beauty of fall, enjoy nature and the outdoors, and spend quality time together. Get a bird's eye view from the top of the forest Treehouse at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake - courtesy fo Shaun Ondak / ROOST ADK The Wild Center is a premier natural history museum offering an immersive journey into the beauty of the Adirondacks across 81-acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits. The Wild Center has also been named “#2 science museum in the country” by readers of USA Today. One of the most memorable parts of the museum is the famous Wild Walk, which takes visitors up a trail of bridges to the treetops of the Adirondack forest. The Wild Walk experience includes a four-story twig tree house, swinging bridges, a spider’s web where people can hang out, and a life-size bald eagle’s nest at the highest point where visitors can perch and watch the life of the forest from a whole new point of view. Add in the vibrant colors of fall, and you have an unforgettable experience. Embark on a family-friendly hiking challenge Coney Mountain fall hike in Tupper Lake, New York - courtesy of ROOST ADK The Tupper Lake Triad hiking challenge consists of three family-friendly mountains boasting outstanding views of the surrounding mountains, lakes, and forests, which are reached via well-maintained and well-marked trails. With just three mountains needed to complete the Tupper Lake Triad, you can work on this one over a weekend or wrap it up in the morning and have lunch in town in the afternoon. The Triad is the perfect starter challenge for those just getting into hiking or for hikers looking to expand their patch and sticker collection. Pedal down historic rail lines for the best fall foliage views A family pedals down the rail lines in Tupper Lake - courtesy of ROOST ADK Witness fall foliage from a different perspective as you pedal through tunnels, over bridges, and past serene lakes with a rail bike adventure. The forest surrounds as you traverse historic rail lines for a 7-mile round-trip journey, offering a fun and eco-friendly experience for the whole family. Head to this local spot to satisfy even the pickiest eaters After a day of exploration and outdoor fun, it might be hard to satisfy everyone's dining wishes with multiple hungry and tired family members. Try Raquette River Brewing for indecisive or picky eaters. This welcoming brewery offers a diverse lineup of food trucks, each offering delectable options to suit everyone’s taste. From artisanal pizzas to mouth-watering Mexican food, and vegetarian delights, you’ll find a diverse selection that will please even the pickiest eaters. It’s a culinary adventure that complements your fall escape perfectly.


    4 Quirky Art Events to Catch This Fall

    The leaves aren't the only thing to look at this fall; across the country, towns are celebrating local art and artisans with unique festivals and events. From scarecrow decor to fine art photography, there's something for everyone. Get in the fall spirit with a trip to one of these fun art showcases. See the craftiest scarecrows around (Granville, Tennessee) During the month of October in The Scarecrow & Artisans Festival takes place in historic Granville, Tennessee. It features unique fall creations lining the streets, colorful displays for photos, artisan demonstrations and a scarecrow decorating contest. From October 4th to 28th, the scarecrows may actually outnumber the residents. In addition to a scarecrow decorating contest, there will also be a hay bale decorating contest, with both featuring entries from individuals, clubs, and businesses. A perfect family-friendly getaway, the festival will be sure to have lots of great photo ops. A $7.00 Daily Town Tour Ticket will include admission to all Granville museums, historic sites, scarecrow displays, as well as access to artisans in Pioneer Village. Catch a beachside art show (Daytona Beach, Florida) Seaside wind chimes in Daytona Beach, Florida by Sean Nufer - Unsplash Why visit a stuffy museum for art when you can just go to the beach? Set in historic downtown Daytona Beach on the scenic Halifax River, the 61st Annual Halifax Art Festival on November 5th and 6th is a two-day professionally juried and judged art show that attracts more than 200 artists from throughout the United States. It also features music, food, entertainment and special activities for children. Best of all, admission is free to the public with plenty of free parking for artful shoppers and artists. Glimpse photos of American icons (Scottsdale, Arizona) The artist becomes the subject in a new exhibit in the Southwest. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West gives a glimpse of some never-before-seen photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright and Georgia O’Keeffe, in its “American Icons: Wright and O’Keeffe” exhibition, opening October 20th. The photos were taken by Michael A. “Tony” Vaccaro while on assignment for LOOK Magazine from 1957 to 1960 and are displayed in pairs to show its visual symmetry and provide insight on the relationship between the two legends. Both Wright and O'Keefe were born in Wisconsin, and found their way to the American Southwest; they admired each other's art and the two also exchanged letters and ideas for years. Attend the most elaborate costume party (Columbus, Ohio) A frightening Halloween costume by LexScope - Unsplash Highball Halloween is the nation's most elaborate costume party, happening this year on October 28th. This annual event bridges runway style with the culture of the North Arts district. In addition to a public costume contest, talented designers compete for to win the couture fashion show and events are scheduled through the evening.