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While lounging around on a pool chair or on the beach with a drink in hand certainly has its place, if you’re hoping to get more out of your vacation, you’ve got lots of options. Not only are there all sorts of ways to get active, but there are many ways to have fun and learn a new skill, at outstanding destinations near and far. These are our top picks with everything from learning to bake French pastries in the Loire Valley to fly-fishing in Wyoming.
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How about learning Spanish and completely zenning out in between? In Costa Rica, you can actually bring home two new skills, a language and yoga, all while enjoying the spectacular scenery. Available through Not In The Guidebooks, the yoga classes include a variety of styles like hatha, bikram, vinyasa and ashtanga, are held in a variety of naturally beautiful outdoor settings, while the Spanish course is taught by highly qualified native Spanish speakers. There are also optional language labs focused on conversation and games with teachers that help reinforce what you learn in class.
Have you always wondered how they make those flower bouquets look so perfect? While you could just pick up a bouquet at your local grocery store to brighten a room, arranging them yourself makes it even more meaningful – and, it’s truly an art. In the city of Portland, Maine, Sawyer & Company offers classes that will help you learn how. Afterward, you can enjoy the gorgeous coastline for paddling, check out the lighthouses, and the many local breweries too.
A French dessert and pastry cooking holiday will teach you to master some of your favorites while enjoying a week in the Loire Valley of France. You’ll be able to learn all sorts of fabulous recipes, from eclairs and croissants to macaroons, and new cooking skills that will allow you to recreate them back home. It includes all meals and four-star accommodation. Of course, before or after your trip you can spend time in Paris enjoying all the iconic attractions there.
If you’re planning a trip to Disney World or the other theme parks in Orlando and have an interest in woodworking, you might want to combine the two. Woodcraft of Orlando offers to teach the basics of woodworking and more advanced classes for those who want to take their skills up a notch. There’s all-women beginner classes too where you’ll learn how to use tools like a table saw, jointer, miter saw, and router to make a cutting board.
Wyoming not only offers stunning mountain scenery but some of the world’s best fly fishing rivers. The town of Laramie is surrounded by picturesque landscapes that are ideal for all sorts of outdoor adventures like hiking that can be combined with the chance to stand in a peaceful river entranced with the movement of the line as it goes to and fro. There is a wide range of guided fishing excursions, but if this is your first time out, the best way to start is with a fly-tying class. Four Seasons Anglers provides a great introduction with both private sessions and classes available to the public. Free casting lessons are offered too.
The Four Corners area of Colorado is famous for its cliff dwellings that once housed the Ancestral Puebloans (also known as the Anasazis) and nearby at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center you can work alongside the experts, professional archaeologists who study these people and how they lived in the cliffside dwelling and rugged canyons in the southwest region of the state. A variety of programs are offered for novices to alumni of previous programs.
If you’ve always wanted to be the captain of your own ship, learn how in Mystic, Connecticut. This pretty coastal town tucked midway between New York City and Boston, is home to Mystic Seaport, once one of the region’s most important seaports. Its history has been very well preserved, much of which can be found in one of the country’s largest maritime museums. It displays 500 vessels, including the last remaining whaleship in the world. While visiting the seaport, you can choose from a full lineup of sailing programs, with something for kids, adults, or the entire family. Adults and teens can take the helm of a 62-foot 1932 schooner, while kids can sign up for a summer sailing camp, where each one will have access to his or her own nine-foot Dyer Dhow sailboat.
GoLearnTo will also teach you how to ride a horse in Morrocco. Enjoy the city of Essaouira, set along the Atlantic coastline – one of the most popular beach destinations in the country, and then spend a week enjoying the landscapes on horseback. You’ll get to ride across the beaches, dunes, through forests, charming fishing villages and more. The first couple of nights get to know your horse, then head out on a four-day trek, starting in Diabat and finishing in Sidi Kaouki where you’ll get to camp under the stars.
San Francisco is not only a beautiful city home to the iconic Golden Gate, but it’s known for its creativity. Even if you don’t aspire to be a full-time comedian performing in front of big crowds, you can take a three-hour intro workshop through Improv San Francisco to learn how to navigate a crowd, come out of your shell, and do a lot of laughing. It’s a skill that’s lots of fun to have and just about anyone can learn. In fact, there’s a workshop out there specifically for introverts too. Before and after you can enjoy all those magnificent sights and attractions this west coast city has to offer, from Golden Gate Park to Pier 49 and everything in between.
What better place to learn photography skills than Antarctica with its endless white landscapes and abundant wildlife, including penguins? Go expedition-style traveling aboard an authentic expedition ship for an in-depth encounter with all the continent’s wonders. Lindblad Expedition is a pioneer when it comes to exploring the Earth’s wildest regions. You’ll get close up looks at not only penguins but leopard seals and all sorts of marine life – possibly whales while seeing more of the legendary landscapes. Kayak among icebergs and learn how to take the very best possible photos too. Trips leave from Santiago, Chile, providing the chance to spend time enjoying some of the finest Chilean wines and much more.
If you’re a fan of Italian food, learn to cook it and enjoy it at home while taking a trip to the bucket list region of Tuscany. Sign up with Toscana Mia and you’ll get to live with an Italian family among the hills of Chianti’s vineyards and olive groves. It includes two days of hands-on cooking classes that cover traditional, home-style Tuscan and Italian recipes. You’ll cook your dishes in a stone farmhouse, using fresh, organic and natural ingredients. By the time you’re done, you’ll have learned how to make a multi-course meal – think gnocchi, pasta, pizza, roasted meats, tiramisu and gelato.
If you dream of speed, specifically the Speed Racer kind, the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving can help. They’ll teach you advanced street-driving skills using techniques refined through years out on the racetrack. A wide range of experience levels and cars are offered, with everything from a Tahoe Law Enforcement SUV to a Corvette Grand Sport. Or you can learn to train in open-wheeled racing. There are also special sessions designed to help teens learn how to drive as safely as possible too.
If you’re fascinated by how those gorgeous works of glass are created, what better way to learn than on the island most famous for it, Murano. Located just outside of Venice, it hosts the Abate Zanetti School of Glass, a glassworking school that offers a basic weekend course where you can learn how to create figurines, sculptures and jewelry. Or, take the furnace-based glassworking class where you can make your own glass bowl. Private lessons are available too. And, when you’re done, you can enjoy those picturesque canals.
What better place to learn to scuba dive than the Red Sea? This skill is guaranteed to open up a world of underwater wonders. While there’s a long list of destinations for learning the basics, the Red Sea is especially ideal. After your training is complete and you’ve mastered open water dives, you can sail off on a liveaboard vacation, immersing yourself in your new passion, among brilliant corals and all sorts of marine life.
There may be no better place to learn to tango than Buenos Aires. There are lots of private lessons and local dance classes available while you’re there. After a class or two, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the local scene and hit the dance floor. The passionate population is very devoted to fun, and enjoying it all night long.
Fascinated by samurais? Learn all about the basic techniques and etiquette of the sword-based martial art called kembu in a hands-on course in Tokyo. The program is more about training the mind through art and meditation than physical combat. It’s an ideal way to truly immerse yourself in the culture while exploring the country too.