K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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With the ability to travel taken away for far too long, many started thinking about all of the experiences they’d been putting off. Now that travel is back, bucket-list experiences are frequently the focus, whether closer to home or in an exotic locale thousands of miles away. From watching whales leap out of the water in the wild to jet-skiing with a backdrop of some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, consider planning your next trip around one of these adventures.
The Roman Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill are three of the top attractions in Rome, providing a good glimpse at life during ancient Roman times. Of course, they also attract big crowds and tend to have long lines. With this tour, you’ll get to skip the lines and access the underground chambers of the Colosseum, which are typically off-limits to the public. You won’t be lost among a large group of people either, as it’s limited to just six participants, which means you’ll easily be able to ask questions of your knowledgeable guide to get more out of the experience.
A cruise through Amsterdam’s famous canals is one of those experiences that everyone should enjoy at least once. While there are multiple ways to see it, this cruise in an open boat provides an excellent overview of many of the city landmarks, and it has a bar so you can sip while enjoying the sights. A luxurious boat with an electric engine for a more tranquil ride, you’ll travel in comfort, departing from the Anne Frank House. Some of the highlights along the way include multiple museums and churches, historic bridges, the statue of Anne Frank, Leiden Square, famous bars, and numerous other canals, with live commentary provided.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon measures at an average width of ten miles, a depth of one mile, and a length of 277 miles. As something so vast, in order to grasp the canyon’s immensity and striking beauty, it’s best seen from above. While you’re in Las Vegas, take a break from the hustle and bustle with a helicopter tour that will not only provide a bird’s-eye view but you’ll get to touch down, heading deep into the canyon for a Champagne toast. You’ll also fly over the Las Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead.
Phuket is known for its breathtaking white sandy beaches, emerald waters, and vibrant nightlife, but foodies who appreciate Thai cuisine won’t want to miss the chance to take a cooking class here with the menu adapted to your preferences and dietary needs. If you can, book the morning class as you’ll get to tour the local market while ingredients are gathered for the class and enjoy a fruit tasting too. Your English-speaking instructor will tell you all about the ingredients, and you’ll get to do all the chopping and cooking yourself before sitting down to enjoy the meal.
Just visiting Dubrovnik is a bucket-list experience, with its walled medieval old city absolutely breathtaking (and featured in “Game of Thrones” as fictional Kings Landing). A stroll along its marble-paved streets lined with Renaissance and Baroque architecture is a must, but you should also see it from the perspective of the water. This sea kayaking tour is led by an expert guide and will bring you past the imposing city walls for a unique look, and you’ll enjoy time for swimming or snorkeling in the clear blue waters from a secluded beach near a remote cave along the coast too.
Ubud is one of the top tourist destinations in Bali, far removed from Kuta’s bustling nightlife scene. It’s located in the lush, mountainous central part of the island, known as the center of arts and crafts in Bali. Experience the best of its many wonders on a full-day private tour that will bring you to sacred temples, rice terraces, and a coffee plantation. The highlight is arguably the famous jungle swing that allows you to soar through the trees before enjoying a refreshing dip beneath Tegenungan waterfall.
Molokini Crater is one of the best destinations for snorkeling in Hawaii. It lies three miles off the coast of Maui and can only be accessed by boat on a snorkeling tour. It’s home to over 250 different species of fish and is renowned for its incredible 100-foot visibility with strikingly clear blue waters. This half-day excursion will bring you there to snorkel at your leisure before continuing to Turtle Cove. Turtle Cove is an ideal place for spotting green sea turtles and you can even swim right alongside them. Snorkeling gear, lunch, snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks are all included.
If you’ve always wanted to see whales in the wild, the nutrient-rich waters that attract countless humpbacks to Saginaw Channel and Favorite Channel in Juneau are one of the world’s best places to do it. This journey departs from the Alaskan capital and starts with a visit to Mendenhall Glacier, which stretches over 13 miles. You’ll get to marvel at it up close from walkways and viewing platforms before hopping into a boat for a thrilling whale-watching cruise. Travel along the coast, where dozens of humpbacks can be spotted during the summer months along with other wildlife like sea lions and bald eagles.
Many bucket-list experiences can be enjoyed on this day trip from Dublin. You’ll get to take it all in while letting someone else do the driving with your first stop in Belfast for a classic black cab tour. Then journey to the Northern Coast for a visit to its top attraction, Giant’s Causeway, a geological marvel. Walk across the famous Carrick-a-Rede bridge to take in the incredible views while watching for dolphins and marvel at the stunning headlands frequently features in the hit series “Game of Thrones” too.
The Statue of Liberty is an iconic American landmark, welcoming people to New York Harbor since 1886. It’s one of the first things immigrants arriving at Ellis Island saw and has long been a symbol of freedom, something that everyone should see in person at least once. This tour will bring you to marvel at the monument and learn the stories of those who passed through Ellis Island, with round-trip ferry tickets and museum admission included. You’ll meet your guide at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, the old fortress that once was a theater and immigration center, before enjoying a guided tour of Liberty Island, the Ellis Island grounds, and access to the new Statue of Liberty Museum. As your tour ends at the museum, you can stay as long as you’d like, walking in the footsteps of millions of immigrants and perhaps even taking advantage of the opportunity to trace the history of your own immigrant ancestors too.
Dubai is known for its over-the-top luxury as well as being the home of some of the world’s tallest buildings, like Burj Khalifa, which includes the highest viewing platform in the world. But it also has a magnificent waterfront with white sandy beaches and sparkling aquamarine water. You can see the sites from the water on a jet-ski tour, including a stop in front of Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, the Dubai Marina, Atlantis, and more. It’s suitable for beginners and includes your equipment, instruction, and a safety briefing before heading out with your certified guide.
Chicago is a mecca of magnificent architecture with everything from historic homes and ornate churches to soaring skyscrapers. One of the best ways to take in the spectacular city skyline is on a river cruise. Enjoy commentary from the onboard guide while cruising three branches of the Chicago River. You’ll see over 40 notable buildings, many of which were designed by famous architects like Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Highlights include the Wrigley and John Hancock buildings, the Navy Pier, the East Bank Club, the old Post Office building and Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower).
The night-time manta ray adventure in Kona is truly a magical experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. It all began when people noticed that the light coming from the Kona Sheraton Hotel on the Big Island would attract the graceful creatures every evening to feed on plankton. Today, the town welcomes many to enjoy an incredible close encounter for what can be an experience of a lifetime. This tour kicks off by watching a glorious sunset before getting into the water and snorkeling among them. All of your snorkeling equipment is included along with snacks and drinks.
New Orleans has long been a food-obsessed city with its famous cuisine, including everything from crawfish boils and gumbo to delectable beignets. To sample some of the best, join this food walking tour through the French Quarter with an expert guide. You’ll delve into the city’s food culture by visiting some of the most famous restaurants in the neighborhood and sampling dishes like Creole brisket and seafood gumbo while learning more about the scene and the history of fine cooking in New Orleans from your guide.
Antelope Canyon is on many travelers’ bucket lists; located in the heart of Navajo Country just outside of Page, Arizona. The bright red sandstone rocks are surreal and even more dramatic when sunlight beams through. Joining a tour is required in order to visit with a variety of options to consider. This one is rated moderate, starting with a 1.1-mile trek into the Lower Canyon, descending 74 steps to the bottom before hiking at a gradual incline with ladders and small steps into each of the canyon’s chambers. Your tour guide will provide photo tips and commentary on the slot canyons to help you make the most of the experience. The second part of the tour is a visit to Horseshoe Bend, which requires less than a half-mile walk to the overlook revealing the dramatic horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River.
The Turquoise Coast is just as spectacular as the name suggests, with the color that frames it in brilliant shades of blues and greens. What better way to take it all in than from above? You can do just that in the resort village of Ölüdeniz in Turkey, which is known for its blue lagoon and wide, white Belcekız Beach. It’s overlooked by Babadağ mountain, where paragliders like to launch. You’ll get a whole new perspective of the landscape below, including the turquoise water, sandy beach, and the forested mountains on this tandem paragliding experience.
New Zealand is all about adventure, and this activity has been rated among the world’s top adventure experiences by TripAdvisor. Located in Rotorua, known for its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers, and natural hot springs, you’ll soar across ziplines, take a cliff walk over 160 feet above the forest floor, stroll swing bridges, and more. Plus, part of the proceeds goes toward local conservation work.
Key West, located at the southern tip of the Florida Keys, is known for its Caribbean-like appeal and its glorious sunsets, best seen from the perspective of the water. A sunset sail aboard a 65-foot schooner is sure to be one of the highlights of your time here. This one takes advantage of the calm sea in the late afternoon and includes a wine or beer tasting, with up to eight different wines and/or five different beers. A gourmet cheese buffet and other appetizers such as water crackers with brie, summer sausages, and green apples with a honey drizzle are included.
There are few better ways to experience a city than through the eyes of a local and this tour will allow you to do just that. Discover Jodhpur, the “Blue City,” with your private local guide, including its 15th-century fort that sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the walled city where many of the buildings have been painted in its iconic shade of blue. You’ll see Umaid Bhawan Palace and Jaswant Thada, an example of India’s architectural brilliance, along with other sights while enjoying stops along the way to sample some local bites.
With endless rolling hills, some 60,000 acres of vineyards, and a mild climate, Sonoma Valley is ideal for a hot-air balloon experience. You’ll drift high into the bright blue skies for an aerial view of the vineyard-covered hills and surrounding mountains from above. After touching back down, you’ll toast to your memorable flight with a complimentary glass of champagne while your pilot reveals the history of ballooning. Plan on a three-hour adventure that includes about an hour of time floating above the incredible landscapes.