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9 Out-of-the-Box Vacation Activities

  • Corey Rich

    Shoot the Rapids

    Wilderness buffs say you can't truly appreciate the Grand Canyon until you've descended the Colorado River. It takes up to 18 days to raft and camp the whole thing, but you can savor a memorable slice in one day.

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  • Janelle Lugge

    Commune With Coral

    Australia's Great Barrier Reef — a kaleidoscope of fish, coral and other marine beings — is a natural treasure. Yet its vast area is shrinking fast, threatened by a changing ecosystem. Snorkel it while you can.

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  • Robert M. Vera/Alamy

    Find Your Inner Pilgrim

    The California Missions Trail, a nearly 800-mile route from San Diego to Sonoma, connects the state's 21 Spanish missionary outposts, built between 1769 and 1823. Hike for a day, for a week — or more.

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  • Layne Kennedy

    Soak Up the Midnight Sun

    The summer sun doesn't set for long in Iceland, inspiring both insomnia and a giddy awe in visitors. All season long, you can enjoy geothermal baths, pony rides and glacier climbs well into the evening.

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  • AARP Offer: Explore Your World

    Explore Travel with our newsletter filled with tips and ideas to plan the ultimate getaway.
    Join AARP today for savings on airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises.

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  • Ron Watts/First Light/Corbis

    Follow in Darwin's Footsteps

    The Galápagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, inspired history's greatest naturalist; their stunning array of wildlife will inspire you, too. The most eco-friendly way to tour is by sleep-aboard boat.

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  • Tim Pannell

    Sharpen Your Palate

    Some cooking schools offer multiday boot camps. A few to consider: the Culinary Institute of America (with campuses in New York, California and Texas); Three Shepherds Farm in Warren, Vermont; and CasaLana Gourmet Retreats in Calistoga, California.

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  • Jupiterimages

    Hone Your Moves

    Immerse yourself in dance instruction at — to name two options — Brigham Young University's Adult Ballroom Dance Camp in Provo, Utah, or the Ballroom Vermont camp in Warwick, Rhode Island.

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  • Edward Simons / Alamy

    Get Paid to Travel

    Coolworks.com lists opportunities for seasonal workers at national parks; Idealist.org posts service job openings in exotic spots in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

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  • Paul Burns

    Spread Good Karma

    A few volunteering options: The American Conservation Experience (help with plantings and trail maintenance at national parks); Kidsave places adoptable children with host families for summer fun; and AARP's Create the Good lets you search for opportunities that suit your schedule and interests.

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