GREENVILLE, Wis. (WFRV) – Travelers around the country were subject to delays this holiday season, and I was not immune to them. Everything was fine on my trip back home to Pennsylvania, we all arrived on time, but it was getting back to Wisconsin when my flight was delayed.
When it was announced the plane would be delayed people were stressed it might snowball from there. The terminal next to mine was overflowing into our because of delays.
I wasn’t alone, thousands of other passengers were stranded across the country, including many at Ronald Reagan International in Washington D.C.
Bridgid sterling had it worse, with her delays ruining her holiday.
She was sitting on the floor of the backed-up D.C. airport when she said, “I really wanted to hang out with my family, but I’m here. Delta has one flight, $2100, from here to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Seattle, Seattle to Eugene, tomorrow at midnight.”
Airlines canceled nearly four thousand flights over the weekend due to Covid staff shortages and Appleton passengers felt the pressure.
Lauren Fallu, an Appleton Airport Passenger said, “It was delayed about 30 minutes then it was delayed about 20 more minutes because our plane wasn’t at the gate. Two planes back the crew didn’t show up.”
And while there was tension in some terminals across the Detroit airport, passengers getting off the delayed Appleton flight were generally in good spirits because many were expecting the delays.
Not only do experience gifts save you valuable space, but experiences can result in longer-lasting happiness than material possessions. Here are some ideas.
‘Tis the season for gift-giving, but that’s easier said than done. There are plenty of people who would rather skip the “stuff” in exchange for experiences to give as gifts. Not only do experience gifts save you valuable space, but experiences can result in longer-lasting happiness than material possessions.
Here are 10 ideas for experience gifts to consider giving your loved one this holiday season.
— A personalized celebrity video.
— An annual pass to national parks.
— A meal subscription box.
— An adventure eGift card.
— A museum membership.
— A virtual travel experience.
— A gift card for a vacation rental.
— Book a day pass to a hotel or resort.
— A subscription to an online course platform.
— Tickets to a family-friendly live show.
A Personalized Celebrity Video
You can send a loved one a personal video message from their favorite celebrity or social media influencer. Celebrities set their price and have the final say over user requests. Prices vary, with some as low as $1 up to $15,000, depending on the celebrity. A personal message from an admired celebrity or childhood hero can give a family member or friend an experience they can keep and cherish forever.
The America the Beautiful — The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is the perfect experience gift for any nature lover. The pass allows visitors to enjoy more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national forests and grasslands, lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Each pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day-use fees for personal vehicles.
The standard annual pass costs $80 and can be purchased at a federal recreation site, online or by phone from the United States Geological Survey.
A Meal Subscription Box
Planning, shopping and prepping meals each night can be hard work. The right meal kit can make nightly meal prep a fun experience gift. Each meal kit subscription may differ from one another but they all deliver fresh ingredients and a recipe right to your front door.
Meal kits have steadily grown in popularity over the years, allowing you to choose a service based on different dietary needs and restrictions, portion size, menu variety and budget. The cost for some is around $10 per serving plus shipping.
An Adventure Gift Card
You can find a wide range of adventure experiences to give as gifts that encourage the receiver to try something new. Experience gift companies offer thousands of adventures and activities across the U.S. at various price points.
You can also pick the adventure or activity based on age appropriateness, physical aptitude, comfort level and personal interest. Not sure how brave they are? Let the recipient choose and give them a memory they’ll never forget.
An annual museum membership allows visitors to go as many times as they want during the year without feeling like they have to squeeze the museum experience into a single day. Museum passes may also come with other advantages, such as member discounts at gift shops and reciprocal benefits at other museums.
A Virtual Travel Experience
The pandemic has made many people rethink how they travel. Luckily, anyone can travel right from their living room and all you need is a smartphone, laptop or VR headset for a virtual travel experience. Virtual travelers can enjoy a guided tour of museums, historical sites and cities around the globe, view wildlife in their natural habitat, visit mountaintops or even take virtual cooking classes. With so many options, you can find appropriate virtual travel experience gifts for almost anyone.
A Gift Card for a Vacation Rental
For those who don’t prefer to be an armchair traveler, you can help make a trip even more memorable by giving a gift card for a vacation rental. There are several online vacation rental platforms for travelers to pick and choose from thousands of locations around the world. You can purchase a gift card online through a servicer’s website and let the recipient pick the location and the dates.
Book a Day Pass to a Hotel or Resort
You don’t need to book a night at a fancy hotel or resort to gain access to their amenities. There are websites that sell day passes to popular resorts for about $30 and up per person, allowing guests to sit by the pool or on the beach, access the fitness center and showers or enjoy the pool bar and grill. Services and prices vary by location, and some may only include pool or spa passes whereas others may include family activities.
Tip: Make sure you read the fine print before purchasing a day pass as an experience gift so that you know exactly what the gift recipient will be getting.
Give the gift that keeps on giving — a new skill through an online class taught by some of the world’s best. With classes available in design, fitness, music, cooking, business and much more, they’re bound to find something that piques their interest.
Tickets to a Family-Friendly Live Show
Tickets to a live performance, such as a play, musical, ice show or a live touring show, can be a great gift for someone with young children. Check to see what’s coming to their area, make sure it’s age-appropriate and plan in advance so that they can be sure that they can go.
Experiences to give as gifts are not only unique, but research from the University of Toronto shows that experience gifts are more effective than physical gifts at improving relationships from the recipient’s perspective. Plus, you won’t have to worry about it being packed away in a closet and forgotten.
Class is 1st to work in virtual reality storytelling platform; ASU president, Dreamscape CEO take it for test drive
A class of Arizona State University students, who were the first to use the new Dreamscape Learn virtual reality platform, unveiled their time-traveling climate-change scenario on Friday.
The 35 students in the “Designing for Dreamscape” course presented their 15-minute final project to their peers and to visitors, including Walter Parkes, the Hollywood producer who is now CEO of Dreamscape Immersive.
Parkes, who was the producer of blockbuster movies including “Gladiator” and “Twister” before moving on to virtual reality, praised ASU for embracing the new media.
“We look at Dreamscape as a set of tools,” he told the students. “The fact that this class could happen this quickly and we could put these tools in your hands is not just important for the university, and hopefully interesting and important for you, it’s also very important for us.”
LiKamWa said the students ranged from second-year undergraduates to PhD students and came from a range of disciplines: computer science, digital culture, architecture, design, electrical engineering and others.
They were divided into four teams: narrative storytelling, art, sound and pod integration.
Over the 13-week semester, they collaborated to create timelines, develop characters and animation, record and edit sound, and then put it all together. They worked in the Unity game-development platform to produce the project, called “Theta Labs.”
“Designing for Dreamscape” students (from left) Adin Dorf, Mason Manetta and Alireza Bahremand study a computer monitor to make sure everything is set before Walter Parkes and Michael Crow experience the new “Theta Labs” virtual reality program in the Dreamscape Learn lab in Creativity Commons on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Dreamscape Immersive was created in 2016, when computer scientists combined the motion-capture techniques used in movies with computer programming in a platform that can track people in real time to create avatars in a virtual world.
In 2020, ASU partnered with the company to form Dreamscape Learn to create fully immersive virtual reality learning systems for the ASU community and beyond.
At Friday’s presentation, ASU President Michael Crow told the students that virtual reality is an important way to teach.
“As things have become more complicated, like global climate change, scientists keep teaching in ways that a few people really master, a few people understand, and most people don’t,” he said.
“That creates massive levels of science illiteracy. You can imagine that there could be a thing like a pandemic that some people don’t even believe in.”
Teaching through storytelling is one way to change that, Finn said.
“Science itself is a vast system of storytelling,” he said.
Dreamscape can take an abstract concept like climate change and make it real.
“And most importantly, we can make a hopeful story,” Finn said.
“Because the biggest challenge we have right now is that too few people feel empowered to act. The technical solutions are there, but what we lack is the collective will and decision-making to take action.”
Crow and Parkes were the first to experience “Theta Labs.” In the Creativity Commons on the Tempe campus, they donned the virtual reality headsets, backpacks and hand and foot trackers and went into one of the two Dreamscape pods, a room-size “black box” that amplifies the VR experience with haptic sensations like a shaking floor and blowing wind. Two additional pods are being built on the first floor of the Creativity Commons for biology students, who will use Dreamscape Learn for their labs. Each of those new pods will accommodate 12 learners.
In “Theta Labs,” an animated koala bear tells the participants that they’re summer interns and must go on a mission either into the future or the past to fight the effects of climate change.
After the demonstration, Crow said the visualization was very powerful.
“You’ve got this fantastic intellectual construct where you can create time travel as a way to address the complexities of climate change,” he said.
“It allows you to visualize something you can only think through.”
Walter Parkes, former Hollywood movie producer and now the CEO of Dreamscape Immersive, gave the students feedback after experiencing their project “Theta Labs” in the Dreamscape Learn Lab on the Tempe campus. At left in the background are the headsets and backpacks used in the Dreamscape Pods. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Parkes sat down with the students to give constructive feedback on their project, telling them that they had the technology down and could refine their storytelling.
“We’ve learned that less is way more when it comes to dialogue and narration,” he said of Dreamscape Immersive. “You’re inviting me into this extraordinary environment that is, even in this form, a mind-blowing reality. And I just don’t want to hear a lot of stuff.”
The mission is set in an imaginary city, and Parkes suggested the team could have used Phoenix.
“Strangely enough, the way to be universal is to be very specific because when you generalize, it’s less engaging.”
He said their environmental sound design is good but that they should add music.
“You don’t have what movies have. You don’t have a frame. You don’t have cutting. You have to use other tools — lighting, sound design, music,” Parkes said. “Moments of revelation have to be supported musically.”
Noemy Esparza-Isaacson, a master’s of fine arts student in digital technology, was on the pod integration team and said Parkes’ feedback was great considering that Friday’s presentation was the first walk-through.
“To have been able to put together this experience and demo it in such a short period of time was like watching magic happen before my eyes,” she said, noting that a typical virtual reality experience takes years for the Dreamscape team to create.
“We were trying to engage the audience above and beyond what they already hear — ‘recycle’ or ‘don’t drive your car.’
“By having the koala and this way of traveling back and forth, we were hoping to plant that seed, ‘How am I going to do that out in the world?’ ”
Assistant Professor Robert LiKamWa (left), who co-taught the “Designing for Dreamscape” class, chats with ASU President Michael Crow before the students’ presentation Friday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Frank Liu, a graduate student in computer engineering, was on the narrative storytelling team and said the project started with a lot of strong opinions.
“We wanted something that was for everyone. We had some crazy ideas — a ‘Mad Max’ apocalypse world, maybe,” he said.
“We worked with the professors to hone the story down and put together something that we had creativity and agency on.”
Liu is one of LiKamWa’s PhD students, researching virtual reality.
“I work on developing haptics, but I wanted to expand my story-writing skills to not just be pigeonholed into technical things,” he said.
LiKamWa said that “Theta Labs” is not the final product.
“The product you’re going to see today is actually the students,” he said.
“This is the product of the university and the class engaging these students to work with each other, both inside their teams and across teams, at this intersection of the skills of the future.
“In my eyes, this is the creative workforce of the future.”
Top photo: Walter Parkes (left), CEO of Dreamscape Immersive, and ASU President Michael Crow experience the student-created virtual reality project “Theta Labs” in one of the Dreamscape pods in the Creativity Commons on Dec. 3. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News
Like many of the world’s famous wine regions — Bordeaux in France and Italy’s Piedmont region, for example — Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula is on the 45th parallel, making it an excellent area for producing fantastic wine.
North of Traverse City, the Leelanau Peninsula is one of Michigan’s five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). An AVA defines a grape-growing region with specific geographic and climate qualities. Lake Michigan’s “lake effect” environment supports growing classic vinifera grape varieties, including riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet franc. These grapes are hearty enough to withstand the sometimes harsh Michigan winters.
Leelanau Peninsula has three loops to explore: the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Peninsula Loop, and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. This article describes all seven of the fantastic wineries in the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. I’ve listed these wineries in the order that I visited them.
1. Black Star Farms, Suttons Bay
Situated on a 160-acre estate about 13 miles from downtown Traverse City, Black Star Farms features a bed and breakfast-style destination inn, making it the perfect place to establish a weekend base for exploring the other area wineries.
It isn’t easy to choose a favorite wine at this winery because it has a wide variety to try — red, white, dessert, sparkling, rose, and fruit. Michigan is known for its cherries and apples, and I enjoyed the cherry wine. The semi-dry wine created entirely from Northern Michigan cherries offers a delightful combination of flavors: tart and sweet cherry with a hint of spice. In addition to wine, it has a distillery that produces a variety of products.
If you’re visiting between May and October, plan to go around mealtime, as the Hearth and Vine Café offers farm-to-table dining highlighting its wine and spirits. You’ll find dishes like the cold mixed berry soup that showcases its 2017 pinot gris. In addition, Black Star transformed its red grape skins into flour used to make the dough for its wood-fired pizza. Try the potato bacon pizza topped with a combination of aged Gruyére and fromage blancfrom Leelanau Cheese.
Pro Tip: In addition to wine tastings, Black Star Farms offers three miles of hiking and biking trails and an equestrian facility with an indoor and outdoor riding arena. In winter, you can rent snowshoes to explore the area. So while Traverse City has lots of action, you’ll find plenty to do to keep you busy for an entire weekend without leaving the venue.
2. Shady Lane Cellars, Suttons Bay
Situated on the Leelanau TART Trail, Shady Lane Cellars makes the perfect stop for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board to fuel your continued bike ride. It uses 100 percent estate-grown grapes to create its wine.
I enjoyed the Late Harvest Riesling in the fieldstone tasting room, a dessert wine that makes the perfect finish to a meal. Shady Lane Cellars harvests these grapes in December’s cold weather to concentrate the dessert wine’s sweetness. In addition, the wine has bright notes of candied citrus and pear.
During the summer months, you’ll enjoy the attractive outdoor bar and seating area. In the Adirondack chairs, at the top of the hill is a fun place to sip a glass and appreciate the vineyard view.
Shady Lane Cellars is one of two SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certified wineries outside California. During my time at Shady Lane Cellars, I learned some characteristics of this certification, including dry farming and not mowing every row to retain the beneficial bugs. The vineyard also has a few wildflower plots to bring in those beneficial bugs.
Pro Tip: I recommend that you make reservations as the tasting room has limited indoor seating space.
3. Brengman Brothers, Traverse City
Brengman Brothers is a micro-winery that creates wine from estate-grown grapes. I visited the 25-acre Crain Hill Vineyard, where it grows the gewurztraminer, a popular Michigan grape that grows well in the climate. It’s a complex grape that inspires different sweet and floral notes.
One of my favorite wines at Brengman Brothers is its blanc de blancs extra brut, playfully named DaGudScht. This top-of-the-line Leelanau bubbly has a depth of flavor and body.
The micro-winery features a pleasant outdoor area with fire pits that chase off the chill of Michigan’s crisp fall weather so that you can comfortably enjoy a glass outside and watch the sunset over the vineyard. The indoor tasting room has a modern vibe, with art on the walls lending pops of color to the bright and airy space.
Pro Tip: The winery will waive the tasting fee when you purchase two bottles of wine.
4. Two K Farms, Suttons Bay
Ten minutes north of Traverse City, Two K Farms’ tasting room features an outdoor patio with a stunning view of the West Grand Traverse Bay. Inside the tasting room, you’ll find exposed beams and chandeliers that create a rustic setting.
Two K Farms takes its name from the two brothers, George and Max Koskela, who manage it. Two K Farms produces hard cider in addition to making wine. Exemplifying the farm-to-glass philosophy, it creates all the wine and hard ciders onsite north of the tasting room. As a result, you’ll find various American, French, English, sangria, hopped, and barrel-aged style ciders on tap.
One of my favorite drinks from Two K Farms is the Leelanau Radler, a blend of estate riesling and heirloom apple juice. It incorporates two Michigan fruit crops, apples, and grapes, into one refreshing drink. You’ll find hints of spice, fresh apples, and lemon. Radler is German for cyclists, and it’s also a popular drink in Austria and Germany, where it’s made traditionally with beer and fruit juice or soda.
Pro Tip: On their website, you’ll find recipes for food pairings, along with some cocktail and mocktail recipes.
5. Mawby, Suttons Bay
In 1976, Larry Mawby planted the 14-acre Elm Valley estate vineyard. Today the original vignoles vines still produce grapes. Mawby is one of Michigan’s oldest commercial vineyards. In addition to Elm Valley, it also grows grapes on the 8-acre Sylt Road and the smaller Norvick Road property. It also utilizes fruit from other Michigan growers and growers and producers from California and Washington State.
Mawby specializes in sparkling wine, where it ferments each sparkling wine twice using either the traditional method (fermenting in the bottle) or the cuve close method (fermenting in one of its pressure tanks). The bottle-fermented wines age from 1 to 7 years. The winery immediately chills, filters, and bottles the tank-fermented wines.
One of my favorites at Mawby is Blanc, made using the traditional method, blanc de blanc from Peninsula Chardonnay, and riesling, and it has apple aromas and citrus flavors. It pairs well with seafood and plates of light pasta.
Pro Tip: For a seated tasting experience, make a reservation. This venue features two different tasting rooms with two separate reservations. Be sure you are reserving the tasting room you prefer.
6. Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, Suttons Bay
Located off Michigan 22 at the top of Hilltop Road in the Leelanau Peninsula, Ciccone Vineyard & Winery features award-winning 100 percent estate-grown wines. The winery produces reds and whites, in addition to cider. My favorite sip at Ciccone Winery was the Dolcetto that featured the grape’s typical astringent tannins, bright acidity, dark berry notes, and a dry finish.
Ciccone’s tasting room doesn’t require reservations, and seating is on a first come, first served basis. On Sunday and Thursday evenings during the summer, you’ll find live music. The rest of the year, check its calendar of events for more fun activities at the winery.
Pro Tip: In its pergola overlooking the vineyard, Ciccone hosts Live from the Hilltop each Sunday and Thursday summer evening, an event that features local musicians. It’s a great way to enjoy some music with your glass of wine.
7. Rove Estate, Traverse City
At 1,165 feet, Rove Estate’s tasting room sits on Leelanau County’s highest point. It’s the perfect place to drink a glass of wine while watching the sunset. You can see Sugar Loaf, Empire, and the highest point in Grand Traverse County from its deck.
Creighton Gallagher, a fifth-generation farmer, and his wife McKenzie welcome your family to the winery, even the kiddos. They have outdoor games to keep busy, fire pits, dance areas, and a trail loop where you can snowshoe or hike.
They grow nine varietals of vinifera grapes, including three reds. The Gallaghers use these to create small-batch artisan wines and use only estate-grown grapes. The elevation makes the perfect conditions for grapes — southern exposed slopes with abundant sunlight and cool-air drainage with protection from the frost.
One of my favorite wines at Rove Estate is the riesling that offers the aroma of fresh nectarines and citrus. It has a flavor of pear, peach, and a bit of candied ginger.
Pro Tip: Take time to explore the Rove Point Trail, an easy 10-minute walk to Leelanau Peninsula’s highest point.
If you’d like to explore another Michigan wine region, or visit more state sites, check out:
As a child I spent summers and weekends in Monument Valley, between the Arizona and Utah border. Etched in my head are memories of eating fresh Navajo mutton stew while listening to stories from my elders, splitting sagebrush ’till the oils spilled onto my hands, playing with the wet vermillion dirt outside during a thunderstorm, and staring at the wall of stars at twilight, free of light pollution.
It’s not a surprise that we’re attracted to vivid scenery, ecological wonders, and fields teeming with wildlife, or that we understand our relationship with the natural world through interaction. It makes sense why many travelers flock to national parks and monuments. A recommendation? Next time you plan a trip to the great outdoors, make it an Indigenous-led excursion.
With Indigenous tourism, you’re guided across the wilderness by tribes who know the lands best, with centuries of passed-down knowledge. Going with Indigenous guides also provides a chance to direct your dollars towards a community long-exploited for their homelands. Plus, hearing the stories and traditions of these places also provides a chance to connect with tribal communities and instill a duty to protect the fragile environment of our world.
Here are just some of the Indigenous-led adventures across the US where you’ll surely be more engaged with your surroundings than ever before.
Have you ever wandered along a beach and been disappointed by a dead end? Around the corner lies a secret beach with rock pools, caves, and blowholes. But you can’t get there without getting wet, as a small patch of the ocean lies between you and this great adventure playground.
Enter “coasteering,” a new activity where participants explore the intertidal zone where the sea meets the land. The term coasteering merges the words “coast” and “mountaineering,” but there’s a lot more scrambling on your butt rather than intrepid climbing.
The idea is to move horizontally from point A to B in any way possible. Participants scramble over boulders, jump into the water off rocks, swim short distances, ride the swells, and frolic in the waves — under the watchful eyes of a guide who knows the terrain and can keep you safe.
Coasteering In The UK
The concept, if not the name coasteering, dates back to the 1980s. Surfers in Pembrokeshire, Wales, scrambled around cliffs on The Jurassic Coast, one of the most enchanting coastlines in the world. They aimed to reach the best surf spots. We don’t have to match their athleticism! Or carry surfboards.
Andy Middleton, director of TYF Adventure in Pembrokeshire, started the first organized coasteering activity in the UK in 1986. Since then, the company has taken more than 200,000 people to play on the wondrous wild coasts of St. Davids in Wales.
Pro Tip: Choose operators registered with the NCC (National Coasteering Charter), an organization promoting safe coasteering.
UK expats took the activity across the English Channel. Coasteering is now available where the Brits holiday, including the South of France, Spain, and Portugal. The southwestern peninsula of the Algarve between Sagres and Lagos is popular as there are plenty of limestone headlands with hidden coves and secret beaches. Coasteering has also started to proliferate in the Mediterranean and has even sprung up in Nordic countries, despite the chill factor.
Pro Tip: Here is a map and more information showing coasteering around the world. Do your research and make sure providers are adhering to the industry standards applicable to their region.
Coasteering In Australia
The Atlantic Ocean is a tad chilly. But in Australia, you can sample coasteering in the Indian Ocean — the warmest ocean in the world!
Margaret River is a stunning tourist area 2.5-hours drive southwest from Perth. The incredible coastline is much loved by surfers and holiday-makers. As a bonus, the climate is similar to the French wine-growing region of Bordeaux, making the area famous for its wines.
I spoke to Dr. Cam O’Beirne, owner of Margaret River Adventure Co., about his coasteering offering. Cam has worked in the wine industry, has three degrees in sports science, and has 30 years of experience in aquatic rescue and ocean safety.
“I stumbled across coasteering in Cornwall, UK,” Cam told me. “I thought this would be an amazing activity in our beautiful coastal region of Margaret River, with our lagoons, granite cliffs, and waves. I started the business in 2014 as a semi-retirement plan.”
Cam offers clients personal challenges and resilience-building adventures. His tours have proved so successful that in 2021, he won Airbnb’s award for the “Most Magical Experience” in Australia.
Speaking to Cam, I was trying to fathom whether it was something I would try, so I asked about the age of the participants. “The oldest person to come through to date was Maria, a Canadian woman aged 71,” he said.
Maria was a solo traveler from Canada who had only recently learned to swim. “She was determined to set herself new challenges,” Cam said. “She began by swimming further in the pool each time and was now trying new water-based activities including coasteering.”
“Maria gripped my hand tightly when we began entering the water from the rocks. But we started easily by sliding down, leading up to a small jump. Then the jumps were from higher places. Sometimes we achieve our goals when we stop over-thinking and live in the moment.”.
Cam takes groups to Canal Rocks, an area I visited when I was last in Margaret River. It’s a spectacular sight. Folds of granite rocks jut into the ocean, creating a natural canal hollowed out by the force of the sea. There are boardwalks, or you can scramble over the rocks. Depending on the season, you may see whales offshore or sea lions basking on the rocks. The ocean surges through the canals like the actions of a washing machine. I thought what fun it would be to be in there amid the ocean sprays and pummeling.
According to Cam, Maria didn’t want to leave the water at the end of the two-hour session.
He suggested I try coasteering next time I’m in Margaret River. Well, if Maria can do it. So can I!
Who Else Can Do It?
Coasteering is accessible to a wider range of people than you might imagine: families enjoying the activity for the first time, older people who enjoy physical challenges, and veteran adrenaline junkies who may opt for a more adventurous group.
How Fit Do You Have To Be?
You don’t have to be an athlete. It will help if you can leverage your bodyweight out of the water as you might on the side of a swimming pool. You should feel confident walking on uneven ground such as rocks. Some tours require only a doggy-paddle level of swimming ability, as life jackets keep you buoyant. Others require participants to swim short distances.
Pro Tip: Check what is required when booking. Note some groups are for beginners; others are for experienced adventure seekers who want the adrenalin rush of ziplining between cliffs and even jumping off them. You might not have fun if you were in the wrong group.
They Won’t Make Me Jump, Will They?
Google “coasteering,” and you’ll find heaps of photos of people jumping off cliffs. But don’t be alarmed. Cliff jumping is an optional adrenaline kick available for experienced participants and not where you start with this fun activity.
If you don’t wish to jump from a rock into the water, a guide will suggest alternative ways down.
Many providers work with school and youth groups and, like Cam in Margaret River, pride themselves in helping people accomplish their personal challenges.
Pro Tip: Never say never. You may surprise yourself with what you can do. But don’t let the friends or family in your party pressure you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with. Do what’s right for you.
The Right Equipment Is Vital
A well-fitting buoyancy aid and a helmet are non-negotiable safety aids. The helmet keeps your head safe from any accidental knocks, and the buoyancy aid ensures you float. Both give you that added level of safety, letting you focus on the fun factor.
Wearing a pair of old trainers helps protect your feet and helps you to grip the rocks. Wetsuit boots and soft beach shoes don’t offer enough protection.
Most companies provide a wetsuit essential for coasteering in cold climes like the UK.
They may ask you to wear shorts over wetsuits to prevent wetsuit damage should you be sliding over rocks.
Pro Tip: Before signing up, ensure your activity center has all the wetsuit sizes needed for your party.
As with most activities, taking you outside your comfort zone is an element of risk. Anyone can embark on a coasteering adventure, but it is safer on an organized tour because local guides can read the tides, waves, and currents. They choose a patch of coastline where it’s safe to explore the caves, scramble around cliffs and jump into the beautiful waters. Guides also have first-aid and water safety qualifications.
Nature’s Aquatic Playground
Leaving the best till last. Coasteering is about appreciating nature as you explore the coastline at close quarters, with all the recesses and caves hidden from sight from those above. Your guide can explain the area’s geology and identify creatures you find in rock pools, such as crabs, sponges, seaweeds, and starfish. You may even see peregrine falcons or swim with seals. Some companies in the UK offer “eco-coasteering” tours focused on showcasing the wide variety of flora and fauna that inhabit the coasts of the British Isles.
No wonder coasteering is proving so popular. Look out for this must-try activity on your next trip abroad.
Consider these other outdoor adventures for your next vacation:
My wife and I visit Kansas City a lot. It’s about a 3-hour drive from Omaha, so it makes for a fun and accessible getaway. It can also create challenging ways to view a city we’ve come to know well over the years. My brother-in-law once joked (I think) that I know my way around the KC area better than he does.
We enjoy exploring Kansas City’s neighborhoods, dining scene, and history, among other fun attractions. As my wife, Lisa, and I plan our visits to the City of Fountains, we strive to find something new or unique to try. So, signing up for guided tours offers an opportunity to see Kansas City through someone else’s eyes. From a gangster tour to local coffee shops, city tours are an excellent way to see something new and learn new things about an area’s history.
Here’s a look at a baker’s dozen of tours to help you explore Kansas City.
1. Urban Hikes KC
Whether you’re an art fan or history buff, Urban Hikes KC combines Kansas City attractions with a little exercise. Each hike covers 3 to 4 miles while including stops such as Crossroad Art District’s galleries, museums, and alley murals, or the history of Kansas City (Kansas), the ethnic groups calling the famous Strawberry Hill area home, and its beautiful historic murals. With 11 urban hikes available, there’s much to explore, including making your own pottery.
2. KC Fun Tours
Hop aboard a historic trolley for a 75-minute cruise through Kansas City’s history. Sit back and relax and learn about some of the city’s impressive history while enjoying its beautiful architecture during your adventure with KC Fun Tours. Among the history you can expect to learn about includes Union Station and City Market, Kansas City’s year-round farmer’s market. KC Fun Tours is perfect for seasonal celebrations, such as Country Club Plaza’s holiday lights. The Crazy Little Women Tour offers a two-hour look at some of the great women who have influenced the city’s history.
ProTip: Open seasonally March-December, the tour starts and ends at the historic Union Station.
3. KC Barbecue Tours
Of course, Kansas City has a barbecue tour. With more than 100 barbecue joints, KC Barbecue Tours takes you beyond the well-known eateries, offering a look at — and taste of — some of the off-the-beaten path barbecue restaurants in the metropolitan area. Tours typically visit four spots, with each providing delicious samples and water. Adult beverages can always be purchased during stops. The family-friendly tour includes transportation to each restaurant. KC Barbecue Tours also offers private tours.
Pro Tip: If you have dietary restrictions, let KC Barbecue Tours know in advance, so it can do its best to accommodate them. Vegetarian and vegan options will be limited.
4. The Roasterie Coffee Company
The historic DC-3 airplane outside The Roasterie Coffee Company’s main location hints that you’re in for a unique visit. Before sampling a delicious cup of coffee made with freshly roasted beans, enjoy a fun and informative tour of the warehouse and roasting process. An hour-long tour, which is free, takes you through a brief history of the creation of coffee — you can thank an ancient goat herder — as well as the roasting process. You’ll be salivating for a cup of brew by the end of the tour. You’ll also appreciate the work that goes into making the tasty coffee, espresso, or latte — with a cute heart or other artwork the barista adds — at The Roasterie.
Pro Tip: The Roasterie has four other locations in the area, as well as providing coffee packages in stores, restaurants, and hotels.
5. KC Segway Tours
Explore Kansas City’s history and art while riding a Segway. Featuring stops at some of the city’s sites, such as Nelson Atkins Museum, Country Club Plaza, and the historic Westport neighborhood, the museum, pranks, and history is one of the fun tours offered by KC Segway Tours. Art enthusiasts enjoy touring the public art at the Nelson Atkins Museum’s sculpture garden, as well as the fountains and sculptures at Country Club Plaza. History tours include looks into the city’s train and covered wagon trails, including stops at the Liberty Memorial and 18th and Vine District. Bicycle tours are also offered, featuring tours of Kansas City’s barbecue and beer scene.
6. Boulevard Brewing Company
Learn the story behind Kansas City’s popular brewery as you traverse the Boulevard Brewing Company’s campus, watching the brew-making process. Learn about the beer’s history and what makes it so popular, not just in Kansas City, but across the country. You’ll see artifacts and memorabilia, such as ads, bottles, and bottlecaps. Each tour’s conclusion includes a sample drink. While you must be at least 21 to drink, tours are open for people seven years old and older.
Pro Tip: The majority of the brewery tour is accessible, but a few spots are stairs-only.
7. KC Walking Tours
Explore Kansas City architecture, history, art, and even its food scene, close-up with KC Walking Tours. Lasting from 1 to 2 hours, adventures cover half-a-mile to 1.5 miles. Explore the historic River Market area, including City Market and the neighborhood’s architecture. Downtown walking tours showcase the city’s beautiful architecture and historical anecdotes. A food tour explores cuisine in the River Market, while a brewery tour covers beer joints. You can also enjoy a hop on and off streetcar tour. Each tour is led by a guide knowledgeable of city history and fun facts.
Pro Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes for the tour. KC Walking Tours will do its best to accommodate wheelchairs and walking frames on tours. Pets are not allowed on the tour.
8. Taste of KC Food Tours
Everyone knows Kansas City is home to great barbecue, but its culinary scene is so much more than great ribs, brisket, and burnt ends. Taste of KC Food Tours takes you on a 3-hour tour of unique local eateries in the River Market and Crossroads Art districts. Bring your appetite, as you’ll be sampling local dining spots featuring pizza, hoagies, and even international fare. Check out the Prohibition Tour, taking you to speakeasies and brothels that once thumbed their noses to the ban on alcohol and fun. You’ll also enjoy a private tour of a distillery in the 3.5-hour tour. Of course, there will be cocktails.
Pro Tip: As you travel by bus between restaurants, your guide will share fun historical facts about the area.
9. First Fridays
First Fridays celebrate Kansas City art, as galleries, studios, and museums in the Crossroads Art District open their doors, staying open late on the first Friday of the month. Enjoy a self-guided walk through the area, taking in the eclectic art scene, celebrating local artists, as well as nationally known creators. Stop in at any of the unique shops and boutiques in the district. Don’t forget to enjoy dinner at a local eatery or a drink at a bar or tasting room.
10. Gangster Tours
From the Kansas City “Massacre” and mobster boss Tom Pendergast’s rule, the city has seen its share of organized crime. The KC Gangster Tour starts at Union Station, site of a major shootout in 1933, when Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd and others attacked law enforcement officers escorting a colleague to jail. You can still see a bullet hole outside the renovated train depot. Learn about Kansas City’s seedy history on your 90-minute guided tour.
Pro Tip: Tours are offered each Saturday.
11. Pioneer Trails Adventures
See where President Harry S. Truman worked as a youth, the jail where outlaw brothers Jesse and Frank James were held, and first lady Bess Truman’s birthplace among the historical sites on tours offered by Pioneer Trails Adventures in Independence. Horse-drawn covered wagons take you on 20–30-minute tours of Truman’s hometown. Taking off from the National Frontier Trails Museum, Pioneer Trails Adventures also offers an hour-long city tour, holiday lights outing, and ghost tours.
Originating in Kansas City in 2011, Caffeine Crawl has become popular around the country. But, maintaining its roots, Caffeine Crawl traverses the city highlighting unique local coffeehouses and tea shops. Crawlers select a tour route and meet their guide at the participating locations, where they learn about the coffee shop’s history and bean roasting before sampling drinks specially created for the tour. With five to six stops, a Caffeine Crawl lasts up to five hours.
Pro Tip: You may want to bring a bottle of water along on the tour to hydrate between stops.
13. Self-Guided Tours
Create your own tour of Kansas City with a self-guided tour. From exploring downtown architecture, Crossroads art, and the city’s water fountains, Kansas City is your blank canvas. How about creating your own Kansas City film tour? The neat thing about a self-guided tour is that you can mix and match attractions, such as exploring Union Station and the World War I Memorial along with the historic Crown Center and Hallmark.
If you plan to come to New Zealand, you already know it’s mile after mile of stunning scenery. As a smaller island nation — there are just over five million people living in the entire country — transportation is not as industrialized as you’ll find in some larger countries. There are only three main train lines. You can travel between Auckland and Wellington on the north island. On the south island, you can travel north and south between Picton (where you catch the ferry to or from the north island) and Christchurch, and east to west between Christchurch and Greymouth.
One of the highlights of my time here was my ride on the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth. If you can fit this into your itinerary, I highly recommend it as a must-do activity.
If you’re traveling into New Zealand from an international destination, it will be easier for you to fly into Christchurch and board the train there. The airport in Greymouth is domestic, so you can’t fly directly there, making it easier to travel east to west. Here are some of the reasons I recommend this train journey if you come to New Zealand. It’s an experience you won’t forget or regret.
A Perfect Introduction To New Zealand Landscape
So much of New Zealand is nature in every direction; from mountain ranges to bodies of water, and various plants and trees that combine to create majestic beauty. This train ride is the perfect way to immerse yourself in all the natural wonders of New Zealand in one trip. If you’re short on time, it’s the perfect overview of why everyone says this country is so beautiful.
I’ve been awed at how such a small country has so much diversity between its east and west coasts. This train takes you through valleys, mountains, and the middle of nowhere. You’ll journey from a modern city into the depths of natural wonders without a hint of humans living anywhere nearby. You’ll see some of the most stunning views you can imagine. Trust me, your jaw will hang open most of the ride. You’ll want to keep your camera out the whole time.
Combining Beauty With Knowledge
Every seat inside the train has its own headset. If you choose to plug it in and listen, you’ll be treated to an audio tour with a wealth of information along the way. You’ll learn that some of the plants and trees you see are unique to one side of the south island. It’s as much a lesson in fauna and flora as it is about New Zealand facts.
I’ve taken this and the Picton line three times now, and make sure to use my headset for at least part of the journey. When you listen to the audio guide, it makes the experience three-dimensional. Historical anecdotes bring you through time while you’re traveling through space and seeing everything with curious eyes.
Focus On Views That Will Leave You Spellbound
This is perhaps the main reason to take this trip. If you drive, you have to focus on the road. One irony in New Zealand is drivers are not patient! Don’t plan on being able to drive slowly and take in all the landscape and jump out for photos. Instead, take the train. You can stare out the window the entire time. What awaits you are mountains, gorges, rivers, and spectacular trees and land.
The entire ride you’ll repeatedly lose your breath gasping at the views. It seems impossible that there can be so much beauty in a relatively short train ride. Prepare yourself — if you fall asleep you’ll miss some of the best views in New Zealand. Seriously, try not to fall asleep because even a cat nap means missing out on something you might never see again.
Outdoor Open-Air Views
Each train car has such high glass windows, you won’t miss a thing if you stay in your seat the whole time. If that’s not enough encouragement, there’s one more bonus and it’s worth the ride just for this — there’s an open-air car on every train. If you want the best photos, this is where to be.
Frankly, there’s no place more stunning to stand, even with other people around, than in the open-air car. It’s magical to see the scenery passing by with the wind wrapping itself around you, creating a sensory experience that truly brings the scene to life. Before New Zealand, I’d never experienced train travel like this, and it’s the 51st country I’ve visited in my life.
Pro tip: If the weather is beautiful, the open-air car can get crowded. Everyone will take up all the best spaces by the windows on one side to get the best photos as the train chugs along a crevice or valley you’ll want to gaze at all afternoon. If you can’t find a good photo op behind the crowd, remember to turn around, and look out the other side, the one that nobody is on. A lot of the time, there’s another great view, or, one coming, and you’ll set yourself up with the perfect spot when it does!
Choose A Luxury Experience
Even the “normal” class seats are comfortable and spacious. It’s easy to recline, or sit up and eat at your assigned seat. However, if you prefer luxury, upgrade your ticket to Scenic Class. It’s being updated for 2022 and looks like it will include all new food service. Sign me up!
If you take the train all the way from Christchurch to Greymouth, the ride is roughly 5 hours long. You’ll definitely want some food at some point. You can either bring your own, or, visit the cafe car which offers a good selection of breakfast and lunch snacks, meals, and sandwiches, as well as coffee and tea. You won’t go hungry! If you’re worried about falling asleep, this is where to get your coffee to help you avoid that travesty.
Gateway To The West Coast
When you get off the train in Greymouth, you’re at the perfect spot to explore the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. Greymouth has a history as a gold-mining town. Nearby, you can explore the Shantytown recreated to give you context about the history of the area. You can even pan for your own gold searching while you’re there.
Two of my favorite New Zealand towns are close to Greymouth — Hokitika and Punakaiki. Hokitika is known for its Pounamu stone, and a great place to buy some if that’s in your plans. They also have a much lesser known, and rarer stone, called Aotea (not to be confused with Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand). It’s a blend of three minerals found in only one place in the world, the Makaawhio River, south of Hokitika. It’s known as a healing stone, and changes color, depending on the person who wears it. You’ll have to buy one to experience its magic.
Punakaiki is known for its pancake rocks, as well as being a wonderfully relaxing place to spend a day or two. There’s one cafe and one bar, and nothing else but water and hiking. It’s truly the perfect spot to chill out and forget anything that may be stressful in your life. From Punakaiki, you can head up to Nelson and get to Abel Tasman and beyond, all via the Great Coast Road rated one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world.
Arrive early for your TranzAlpine journey. You’ll want time to check in and bring your luggage to the storage car prior to boarding the train. This train trip is a popular tourist activity, and it allows you the option to get off, and spend time at Arthur’s Pass and Moana, and stay overnight. Lodging is expensive, and there’s not much of it. Book as early as possible, especially for the accommodation, or you’ll be out of luck.
From Greymouth, you can rent a car or take the Intercity south to Hokitika, or north to Punakaiki. Make sure to research bus schedules in advance since they’re not frequent. Day trips aren’t cheap, especially if you’re traveling with kids. You should research whether it’s less expensive to rent a car or to use the Intercity bus network and tour companies in Greymouth and Hokitika.
Pro Tips: The train operates all year. Remember, if you’re coming from the U.S., seasons in New Zealand are reversed — summer is from December–February, and winter is June–August.
Other intriguing things to discover about New Zealand:
Many of Delta Air Lines’ domestic passengers soon will have the option to traverse the airport using a “digital identity:” a combination of their SkyMiles member number, passport number and Known Traveler Number.
Delta’s new facial-recognition-powered path in Atlanta, developed in partnership with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, includes a dedicated bag-drop area away from the general check-in area, on the lower level of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport near the rideshare drop-off area. There, self-serve kiosks confirm passengers’ identity with a facial scan and print out bag tags, which passengers can attach to their bags, then load them onto a conveyer belt.
From there, passengers can pass through the security checkpoint that has a second camera to perform the facial scan. A third piece of equipment at the gate conducts another facial scan to let the passenger through, without the need to show identifications or boarding passes at any point.
To participate, travelers must be members of both Delta’s SkyMiles program and the TSA’s PreCheck program. About a quarter of Delta’s Atlanta-based flyers currently are members of both, Delta managing director of airport experience Greg Forbes said. Those passengers will have the choice to opt in when checking in through the Delta app, an option that will reappear each trip from Atlanta.
Throughout the airport journey, those passengers will have the option to follow whichever path they like, Forbes said. If they are members of Clear, which uses biometric identifiers like fingerprint and iris scans, they still can use that line, for example. Staff is on hand throughout all aspects of the process in case there’s a snag with the technology.
Ultimately, however, TSA sees facial recognition as a much more effective method of security than standard ID checks, Forbes said. “It’s much harder to fool facial recognition than it is to counterfeit a driver’s license,” he said.
Delta has been working on its biometric technology for several years, including its similar program in Detroit that soon will have its own dedicated bag-drop area as well, and is working on expanding to more of its hubs. Delta VP of brand experience design Byron Merritt said facial recognition was a “fundamental capability,” similar to Wi-Fi on an aircraft, that will open up other passenger experience opportunities in the future, such as lounge access.
“Having the ability for a customer to move more seamlessly through the airport is going to unlock a better way to being able to serve you more broadly,” Merritt said.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The pandemic has put an immense amount of pressure on the healthcare system over the past year and a half. Because of this, many nurses are left overwhelmed and burned out.
“Nurses are humans too and we have feelings that need to be validated just as much as our patients,” said Lacey Bolden. “I feel like people tend to forget. Nurses take care of people but who’s taking care of us?”
A year and a half into a pandemic and many of them are feeling defeated. Lacey Bolden was a staffing nurse at a hospital in Alabama before becoming a travel nurse.
“Coming from a situation where you’re understaffed, you’re overworked, everyone’s exhausted,” she said. “We’ve seen the worst of the worst. It’ll drive you to a point where you need a change. And that’s kinda where I was. I just was in a bad mental place where I needed a change and so that’s what I did for myself and honestly, it’s the best decision that I ever made.”
Bolden is now working in Florida under a contract, where she says she could do the same job while feeling more appreciated and earning more money.
Bolden graduated from nursing school in 2019. Just months later, COVID-19 hit the United States. Basically, she started her career in a pandemic. Bolden said she was living in what they learn about in school.
She says seeing so many pass away so quickly has caused a huge mental toll.
“You tend to take home a lot of the emotional part that comes with nursing and that is the hard part,” said Bolden. It’s also part of the reason many nurses are either pursuing travel nursing or quitting healthcare altogether.
News 19 asked Bolden what the solution is, to keep nurses at local hospitals.
“Honestly right now I feel like there’s not,” she said. “Unless these hospitals are willing to pay their staff nurses more for… the amount of work it is, physically, emotionally. Everything that it takes to wake up a do your job.”
That job remains on the frontline of a pandemic, that’s not yet over.
“Trust and believe we are doing the best we can under the circumstances,” said Bolden. “We’re all just trying to fight this fight together.”