Try floating untethered in a balloon over Huntington and expect to be found adrift somewhere in the Atlantic. Yeah, exactly. Long Island’s narrow, ocean-locked landmass is not conducive to floating uncontrollably about the sky (despite the spectacular views). The Island also lacks the peaks and tree-canopied slopes fit for zip-line adventures. And while there are plenty of nooks and crannies for excellent kayaking (see our primer on page 112) there’s nothing around here that compares to the raw, frothing energy of the whitewater channelling out of upstate mountains. But take heart. Some of best places to capture these adventures are just an hour or two away.
Hot Air Ballooning
We know: You’ve always wanted to go ballooning. Your brother did it in Africa. Your parents did it for their anniversary. That guy in HR with the bad breath did it in Napa last year. This is your summer to do it. Imaging floating swiftly, gracefully and absolutely silently while taking in endless views in every direction. You can’t do it on Long Island, but you can get there from here.
Most tour companies have several launch sites in open countryside, allowing for weather variations—landing coordinates are never exact, just educated guesses based on weather and wind speeds. Heights also vary from a few hundred feet to a few thousand and the experience can last up to four hours. Don’t worry, there are ground crews tracking the balloons to ferry riders back to the start. Helping pack the balloon and gear is sometimes part of the experience, for which riders are traditionally rewarded with a post-flight champagne toast.
Experience breathtaking views of the Farmington River Valley, Connecticut River Valley, Long Island Sound and mountain ranges in New York and Massachusetts. After the post-flight bubbly, hit up world-renowned Ted’s Restaurant in Meriden or Cromwell to experience the juicy, melted perfection of steamed cheeseburgers, a Connecticut specialty. Rides start around sunrise. $275/person, up to 5 per balloon. ctballooning.com
New Jersey Festival of Ballooning
Readington, New Jersey
This annual spectacle celebrates all the whimsy, fun and grandeur of these expertly manned and crafted billowing pillows of hot air. Grab a ride, watch them soar or go for the tunes—the festival’s headliners are America, 3 Doors Down and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. balloonfestival.com
Orange County, New York
Situated at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains, this trip showcases dramatic views of both the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains. On clear days, spy the NYC skyline as the ride passes over rolling hills, racehorse farms and the Wallkill River. This is a quaint, historic region, make it a weekend of hiking, antiquing and exploring. The owners of The Sleepy Valley Inn, just 25 minutes south, are a master pastry chef and the proprietor of a locally revered pub restaurant. Flights are $225/person, includes a champagne picnic created by a Culinary Institute graduate. wanderingwindshotairballoons.com
Wouldn’t it be nice if, for just one day, the rush of the waves filled your head instead of the rush of the LIRR or whatever static is part of your morning rush hour? The Adirondacks boasts rafting options most of the year on the untamed Sacanadaga, the backcountry Moose and the picturesque Black rivers. And, winding over 300 miles from Mount Marcy’s Lake Tear of the Clouds all the way into metro NYC, the historic Hudson River is famous for its exhilarating array of river-riding experiences. This calls for a full weekend excursion but is well worth it—the Hudson River has been named one of the top-10 whitewater rafting trips in the US. For the full immersion, hop a train ride to soak in the scenery or detour on a scenic byway—Central Adirondack Trail offers a snapshot of the wild waterscapes about to be experienced. With the springtime snowmelt, put that life vest to the test on Class IV and V rapids; by mid-summer, the river has mellowed to Class II and III, which are a bit more family friendly.
Adirondac Rafting Company
Indian Lake, New York
The company is located right where trips launch and a beautiful rustic lodge accommodates the site for relaxation post rapids and recounting mid-trip rock jumping. A much-appreciated full changing facility is also onsite. This family-owned outfitter was selected by National Geographic as a Hudson River’s Quality Outfitter. $85/person, $79/person in groups of 6 or more. lakeplacidrafting.com
Adirondack River Outfitters
Old Forge, New York
In operation for more than 30 years, this was the first New York outfitter to tour the Moose River and they discovered and pioneered the whitewater on the Black River. They are one of the founding members of the Hudson River Professional Rafting Association and run various trips and vacations in and around the waters of Northern New York and eastern Lake Ontario reigon. Rafting prices run between $30-$100, depending on season and experience level. aroadventures.com
Suspended on steel cables 60 to 600 feet up, a nylon harness and some carabineers are all that keep riders aloft as they soar over gullies, through leaves and across canyons at up to 50mph. The thrill of riding metal-roped courses started as an ecotourism activity in Costa Rica almost two decades ago and has since gained popularity worldwide. Most tours last 2-3 hours and often include additional outdoor adventure components like suspension bridges and rappelling. This isn’t heart-pounding adrenaline-junky stuff the whole time, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. Consider it an afternoon spent outdoors, connecting every part of the body with nature and all her elements. Beats the hell out of the step machine.
NY Zipline Canopy Tours
Hunter Mountain, New York
Steel yourself for a jolt because the first step off the SkyRider Tour’s Catskills scaffold is a doozy—it’s the fastest, longest and highest zipline in North America, and the second largest in the world (around $120/person). For families or nature buffs the Mid-Mountain Tour is choice; along with the ziplines, four ropes bridges and rappel, the nine tree platforms are like mini-museums, each one showcasing an aspect of the area’s history, flora and fauna ($89/person). There is also a 60-feet-tall, ropes course Adventure Tower, $19/person. ziplinenewyork.com
Mountain Creek, New Jersey
Ok, this one is for the adrenaline junkies: The cable ride thrills by zipping over a lake, offering unique views, and the trip includes a refreshing climb. Pack hiking shoes and don active-wear for this one. Situated 1040-feet up atop Mountain Creek, this adventure includes a two-hour guided trek through pristine woodland settings and a ride in a customized, canopied, off-roading Mog. $60/adults, $200/family pass.zoomziplines.com