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For the ultimate whitewater rafting on the East Coast, head to the New River Gorge, where ACE Adventure Resort hosts mind-blowing paddles down class III to class V rapids. This is not a sit-back-and-let-your-guide-paddle kind of river—everyone needs to paddle through the tougher rapids, and teamwork is the name of the game when you hit a hurling cascade of water in the heart of a steep ravine. The extreme whitewater in both the mighty Gauley River and New River provide challenging conditions that attract rafting enthusiasts from around the world. Besides rafting, the New River Gorge offers several lively activities on dry land, like zip lining, mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding and kayaking. Stay overnight in one of ACE’s bunkhouses, cozy cabins or tents. –RS
Prices range depending on day and season. One-day 12-mile whitewater trips with lunch on the Gauley are $150-$219.
Like to go fast? Really, really fast? People with the need for speed will find the exhilaration they crave with a NASCAR driving package offered at Dover International Speedway. This is not a simulation; drivers race in a real NASCAR race car on the Monster Mile track, famous for its 24-degree banked curves. The Monster Mile offers a variety of racing experiences at regularly scheduled sessions run by name-brand teams (including Rusty Wallace and Richard Petty), typically in the summer. Fans seeking ultimate thrills can sign up to drive themselves (after a training session), or they can ride alongside a professional driver for invigorating insider views of straightaways and banked turns driven at full speed. For convenient accommodations (and some fun at the slots) stay at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. –RS
OGO balls mountain adventures
“There are only three destinations in the country where you can ride inside an 11-foot OGO Ball,” says Lutricia Eberly, sales manager at Roundtop Mountain. Though they look frightening, OGO Balls are just plain fun. One to three riders climb through a narrow passageway into what feels like a rubber baby pool filled with chilly mountain water (fresh water is replaced after each ride). As the ball rolls down a turf track, you remain suspended in the middle and upright. OGO balls are part of Roundtop Mountain Resort’s Mountain Adventures package that includes negotiating your way through a 4,800-square-foot Cedar Maze, dramatic climbing features, splashy bumper boats and scenic chairlift rides to the summit of Roundtop Mountain. Find deluxe accommodations at the nearby Carlisle House B&B. –RS
$39 day pass for ages 11-64; $29 day pass for ages 5-10 and 65 or older.
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virginia hang gliding
“Everyday people tell me tandem hang gliding was the best thing they’ve ever done in their lives,” says owner Bill McCarter. His team includes Don Guynn, one of the few tandem pilots qualified to take passengers to extreme heights. At Virginia Hang Gliding, with minimal training, your piloted glider reaches elevations that exceed 1,000 feet, pulled by a Dragonfly, an airplane designed to tow gliders at 30 mph—“the perfect speed to reach serenity and excitement,” notes McCarter. While airborne, a passenger can chose to engage in acrobatics or just float peacefully. Head to McCarter’s 25-acre farm in Painter, about an hour south of Chincoteague, then spend an unforgettable day flying above pastoral fields and marshlands, often with aerial views of Tangier Island and the Bay Bridge Tunnel. –RS
Prices for a day of flying range in time and flight height, $149-$400
lake phoenix scuba park and family campground
While you can’t learn to dive at Lake Phoenix, this abandoned granite quarry is an optimal place to accomplish PADI certification. Come with your dive buddy or join the local dive shop for events held at Lake Phoenix. Then, prepare to be amazed. The clear, fresh water is home to a multitude of human-fed fish that enjoy interacting with divers. In fact, according to owner Robert Grose: “They’re almost like pets. They’re a nuisance sometimes.” At the bottom of the quarry, divers can scuba through one of the many attractions sunk beneath the surface including a Blackhawk helicopter, a twin-engine airplane, a huge bus and even a submerged basketball court. The park is dedicated to divers on weekends, but on weekdays, visitors may go kayaking, swimming, snorkeling or camping. For astronomers, it’s an ideal site to witness a dark sky. –RS
$109 per day for a complete package including all scuba equipment and oxygen tanks; $7 admission per day for swimmers and visitors; free for children under 6. Camping is $10 per night.
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primland resorts off-road adventures
More than a dozen adventurous activities are offered at the luxurious Primland Resort, but one of the most popular is off-road driving in the resort’s Recreational Terrain Vehicles. Guides at Primland lead their guests on isolated trails that span the resort’s 12,000 acres, a property as large as Bermuda. While roaming the beautiful Blue Ridge Plateau, you’ll pass through lush forests and reach cliffs with astonishing views. The required safety gear protects drivers and passengers as they bounce over rocky outcrops, traverse streambeds, duck under branches, climb hills and pass through thick underbrush. After this awe-inspiring ride on the Primland estate, retire to your elegant quarters in the lodge or private accommodations in either pinnacles or fairways cottages, or savor the majestic views from Primland’s tree houses and mountain homes. –RS
Prices for the RTV rides are $180 for one to two people for a two-and-a-half-hour drive.