Some people appreciate the simplicity of a lazy, flip-and-flop-style, tropical Caribbean vacation. Somewhere easy, where the neon daiquiris flow freely from breakfast till well after dark. But some want a whole lot more out of their travels.
- Fire an automatic machine gun from a doors-off chopper
- Drive a world-class supercar
- Swim Australia’s crocodile-filled “Cage of Death”
- Channel your inner John McClane as a Hollywood stuntman
- Take an urban survival course
- Visit the “Gates of Hell” in Turkmenistan
- Strap yourself to the wing of a vintage biplane
- Be a supersonic Russian fighter pilot for a day
- Escape to space
- Skydive Mount Everest from a high-altitude helicopter
- Cheat death in a wingsuit
Instagram offers no shortage of adventure inspiration, but what if you crave something bigger, badder, bolder? No matter how much adrenaline you need to get out of bed in the morning, these 12 bucket-list-worthy experiences are guaranteed to do the trick. Just remember: Pics or it didn’t happen.
It’s one thing to pop off a few rounds at the local shooting range. It’s another matter entirely to strap into an open-door military helicopter and shoot up the Mojave Desert with a belt-fed M249 Saw light machine gun. The aptly named Gunship Helicopters is the only outfit in (Where else?) Las Vegas that promises guests this once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list-worthy experience. From the skies over their 71-acre compound outside the city, customers can practice aerial assaults on steel targets, wrecked airplanes, and even zombies. The range is also one of a select few to offer the legendary Barrett 50-cal sniper rifle with 800-plus-yard ground targets.
While you’re in Vegas, why not drive a world-class supercar? Located just 15 minutes off The Strip, Exotics Racing rents more than 60 of the most exotic street-legal racecars on the planet. The stable includes “ordinary” models from Mercedes-Benz and Nissan, exotics by Ferrari and Audi, a McLaren, and even a legit racecar. All are bookable by the lap, and multicar packages are available for those who can’t pick just one. If a few laps aren’t enough, the company also offers full-fledged, multi-day racing schools.
Australia is home to the majority of the world’s deadliest critters — the massive saltwater crocodile among them. As the world’s largest reptile, they can grow to more than 16 feet long. For reference, that’s almost the size of a 2022 Lincoln Navigator. Of course, the natural Aussie inclination is to figure out how to swim with them without dying. That’s how the Cage of Death experience at Crocosaurus Cove was born. The plexiglass enclosure lowers up to two swimmers into an active den of crocodiles where Cove handlers feed the beasts for up to 15 minutes at a time. Despite its hyperbolic name, the cage is completely safe. However, when the clear walls around you seem to disappear underwater, and there’s apparently nothing between you and a prehistoric, SUV-sized apex predator, we imagine the fear becomes very, very real.
Stuntmen do some of the most death-defying work in the world, so it’s no surprise the requisite training to qualify for the job is intense. What is a surprise is that, with the right discretionary income, average Joe’s can undertake that very same training. Australia’s Stunt Park offers a hands-on Professional Stunt Course Booking to train just about anyone in the fine art of stuntman’ing. For roughly two weeks, attendees are provided practical and theoretical training that includes abseiling, fire and human torches (yes, that means actually being set on fire), window penetrations, swordplay, wire work, stunt driving, motorcycling, and melee fight choreography. Sure, it’s a little kitschy, but how many of your friends have professionally shot video of themselves jumping out of a burning building with a baby in one hand and a full-auto machine gun in the other? Yippee ki-yay, mutherfu—
Maybe the Boy Scouts didn’t adequately prepare you for a serious survival situation, or you’ve been cubicle-bound for so long that you’ve gone “soft.” OnPoint Tactical offers hardcore urban survival and training courses designed to push even hardened men to their limits. The Urban Survival course, in particular, helps even novices survive a real-life, The Last of Us-style apocalypse scenario. Entrants are placed in a full-on concrete jungle where all semblance of society has collapsed. Food, water, and supplies are running low, and the natives are getting restless (read: violent). The comprehensive course provides instruction on evacuation strategies since it’s almost always best to get the hell out of dodge. If that’s not an option, urban sheltering, water purification, off-grid medical care, urban trapping, and home defense are also covered. Be warned: This is no weekend boy’s camp, and there are no merit badges. Be prepared to sweat, stress, and run for your life.
Few things make you appreciate your own mortality like the raw power of nature. While it’s difficult to plan a tour of a hurricane or a tidal wave, you can visit the (almost literal) Gates of Hell. The Darvaza crater in Turkmenistan is a massive natural gas field that collapsed into an underground cavern. To stop the spread of lethal levels of methane gas, geologists set it on fire 50 years ago, and it’s been burning ever since. Today, extreme travelers can visit the edge of the crater to stare into the flaming abyss and question their existence. A handful of local companies like Advantour coordinate day and overnight trips to the crater, just in case volcano camping isn’t disco enough for you.
Few things test your tolerance of high-g maneuvers like taking a ride in a vintage biplane. For some, however, that just isn’t enough life-threatening fun. Enter: wing walking. The “sport” (We’re using that term very liberally) has been around for nearly a century and involves flyers tethering themselves to the upper wing of a vintage biplane. Once strapped in, they’re taken on a 15-minute flight that includes intense aerial acrobatics, barrel rolls, and ground fly-bys. The grand finale is a 140-mph, death-defying dive, straight down. Diapers not included.
If you’d feel a bit safer inside the plane, perhaps playing fighter pilot for a day is more your speed. Russian outfitter MiGFlug offers a dozen options for wanna-be fighter pilots to test their skills. None, however, is as extreme or expensive as its MiG-29 experience. The company’s flagship journey takes budding dogfighters aboard a twin-turbine MiG-29 to brave 45 minutes of loops, rolls, Immelmann-turns, and tail slides. The Russian-built fighter pulls a maximum of 9Gs and breaks the sound barrier in the process. It culminates with a flight to “the edge of space,” an altitude of more than 13 miles up where passengers can see the curvature of the earth. The cost of admission? A cool €14,500 (roughly $16,000 USD).
If flying just to the edge of space isn’t enough, Virgin Galactic has you covered. For decades, the promise of mere mortals visiting space was the stuff of science fiction. Now, thanks to billionaire visionaries like Richard Branson and Elon Musk, we’re closer than ever to realizing that dream. Commercial space tourism isn’t here yet, but 2023 might be the year it will finally become a reality. To be fair, it will be a very expensive reality. Tickets aboard the first Virgin Galactic flights currently top $200,000 (peanuts and pretzels not included). But remember, flying from New York to London was once only for the uber-rich. As with any high-tech endeavor, that price will drop. Even if you can’t yet afford the stratospheric price tag, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add “Become a Spaceman” to your Pinterest vision board.
Skydiving is so safe these days that even your Nana probably has a cool story about “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.” To ratchet up the conversation at your next cocktail party, try skydiving Mount Everest. Everest Skydive takes jumpers via helicopter to an altitude of 23,000 feet, just below the summit of the world’s highest peak. The fall back to Earth, complete with supplemental oxygen, includes views of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet. Landings take place at one of the two highest dropzones in the world: Amadablam Base Camp (15,000 ft) or Syangboche (12,350 ft). Survivors join an elite group that includes few other human beings with the video footage to prove it. At more than $20,000, the once-in-a-lifetime solo experience costs almost as much as a Prius. But “skydiving motherf**king Mount Everest” sounds a whole lot more fun than driving a hybrid.
Wingsuit flying is among the craziest ideas man has ever concocted. Because the stakes are so high, students must complete a minimum of 200 skydives before they can even attempt their first wingsuit flight. Thereafter, Texas Wingsuit Academy offers a comprehensive course to dive (Get it?) into the sport. This includes ground training and a tandem first flight that focuses on safety. Students can expect a higher-than-normal launch from 5,000 feet, plus basic piloting and a few 90-degree turns on their first outing. The fun stuff — docking, extreme flying, and fancy maneuvers — is taught only after the school’s instructors are convinced you know what you’re doing.
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