ALL POSTS IN [Outdoors and Adventure]

With some of the highest peaks east of the Rocky Mountains, Beech Mountain Resort has long been one of North Carolina’s most popular places to go skiing. It’s now carving out an identity as a year-round sports destination with a new program that allows mountain bikers to hook their bikes to a high-speed quad chairlift and ride to the top of the mountain’s 5,506-foot summit. From there it’s an adrenaline-pumping ride down a series of trails with rock gardens, jumps, berms and wooded sections. Don’t have a mountain bike? A full line of rentals will be available. The new trails will be open every weekend from June 7 until Sept. 29. After your ride, grab a cold drink and a bite to eat (pizza, burgers, sandwiches, etc.) at the resort’s Beech Tree Bar and Grill.

Elsewhere in tiny Beech Mountain (population: 320), you’ll find the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park. This 8-mile network of single track ranges in elevation from 4,700 to 5,400 feet and provides unparalleled mountain vistas and overlooks. The park’s second and third phases are scheduled to open in 2014 and will encompass more than 25 miles of trails. Cycle 4 Life Bike Shop in nearby Banner Elk offers rentals and guided bike trips of the park.

After a day on the trails, reward yourself with some delicious grub at Alpen Restaurant and Bar, which features an open stone fireplace and an outdoor patio and deck where you can enjoy menu items such as burgers, sandwiches, grilled salmon, steaks and pasta dishes. For more casual fare, there’s Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, which also has wings, sandwiches and salads. Also be sure to stop by Fred’s General Mercantile, an old-school country store that’s famous for having a little of everything, from clothes to outdoor gear, toys, tools, beer and wine. Fred’s also has downstairs deli that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bed down for the night at The Beech Alpen Inn, which has 24 hotel rooms, some of which have fireplaces and private balconies. Archer’s Mountain Inn has 15 lodge guest rooms that feature panoramic views, rustic décor and wood-burning fireplaces. There’s also Pinnacle Inn Resort, which features one- and two-bedroom condos, as well as an indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, arcade, sauna and pool table.

- Sam Boykin

On the season finale of Trip Flip, Bret surprises Californians David and Mike with the ultimate, all-expenses-paid dream vacation to the Windy City of Chicago.

In this amazing, tailor-made guys’ getaway, David and Mike see a side of Chicago that most people will never have the opportunity to experience. Bert kicks the trip off with an introduction to the latest craze in water sports: Flyboarding on Lake Michigan. After propelling themselves 20 feet into the air using high-powered water jet streams, it’s on to the edgier side of Chicago to see the gangster hotspots of the ‘20s and ‘30s on a mobster tour. And that’s just the first part of day 1!

To find out what other exciting adventures David and Mike were lucky enough to experience, tune in for an all-new episode, tonight at 8|7c.

Plus, don’t miss these exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from our Chicago Trip Flip.

Few things in life are free, particularly when it comes to leisure. But this summer travelers interested in outdoors and adventure can enjoy one of the most popular outdoor activities while taking part in a weeklong celebration of a fun sport free of charge.

This coming weekend marks the start of National Fishing & Boating Week (NFBW). Across the country, state agencies will roll out free fishing days in which no license is required to fish in area lakes, streams and rivers. Also on tap will be special events such as fishing derbies and boating shows, and plenty of kid-focused events.

And with 90% of Americans living within an hour of navigable water, enjoying these events and fishing in general is easy and accessible. It is also affordable, with the average-annual license going for around $15. Best of all, these funds go toward conservation and sustainability efforts such as fish stocking and habitat management.

As we hit the lull between Memorial Day and July 4, this is an ideal way to enjoy summer weather and perhaps do something different. Folks can visit TakeMeFishing.org to plan their NFBW adventure, as well as access how-to-fish and where-to-fish information.

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Chattahoochee River

Rush hour is about to take on a whole new meaning in Columbus, GA, as city officials demolish 2 old dams and release a 2.5-mile section of the mighty Chattahoochee River. Deemed River City Rush, the world’s longest urban whitewater course will open May 25 and will roar through the heart of downtown Columbus, creating a hub for outdoor adventure. The “Hooch” is open to kayakers and canoeists year round, but the biggest thrills are to be had during the summer.

As folks in Atlanta (located about 2 hours to the north) crank up their air conditioners, the 430-mile Chattahoochee, which is controlled by hydroelectric dams, will intensify from a Class II-III base flow to intense Class V rapids, says Sutton Bacon, CEO of Nantahala Outdoor Center, which will be the exclusive outfitter at the whitewater course. Bacon says NOC plans to build a full adventure center at the river, offering everything from rafting, kayak instruction, standup paddleboarding and mountain bike rentals.

After a day of paddling, hike or bike (Trek and Specialized bike rentals are available at Ride on Bikes) along Riverwalk, a 20-mile linear park that hugs the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Or, explore an 11-mile pathway that follows former rail lines that weave through Columbus past several city parks.

Other great downtown destinations include the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, where you can catch a Broadway show or concert. Or, explore the National Civil War Naval Museum, which features 19th-century military vessels, uniforms, equipment and weapons. Located across the street from the Naval Museum is International Market Place, where you’ll find everything from classic cars and antiques to kitchenware. It’s most famously home to the Lunchbox Museum, a must-see destination for lovers of kitsch and pop culture that houses one of the country’s largest collections of lunchboxes, many dating back to the early 1950s.

When your stomach starts to rumble, refuel with some authentic Southern fare at Country’s Barbecue. This family-owned restaurant opened in 1975 and is legendary for its ribs, made-from-scratch Brunswick stew, lemon pie, and, of course, barbecue, which is cooked fresh over hickory and oak. There are 3 Columbus locations, including one in a former downtown bus station. Also not to be missed are the famous chilidogs at Dinglewood Pharmacy, located in the historic district along the southern edge of downtown. Established in 1918, it’s the city’s oldest eating establishment. Or, grab a seat at the copper-topped bar and enjoy delicious pizza and locally brewed beer at Cannon Brewpub, a popular hangout among locals that is filled with funky wood and metal sculptures.

For convenient accommodations during your stay, the 177-room Columbus Marriott, built around a restored 1861 cotton mill, is in the heart of downtown Columbus within walking distance to River City Rush as well as museums and performing art centers. For something more intimate, the Rothschild-Pound House is a cozy bed and breakfast 2 blocks from the river. Its suites and cottages feature Jacuzzi tubs, antiques, fireplaces and beautiful hardwood floors.

- Sam Boykin

Photography by Clint Johnston

The Philippines is home to over 7,000 islands with picturesque beaches and turquoise seas, which is why the rice terraces of Batad — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — are often forgotten. The terraces are a stunning scene to behold, sculpted like giant staircases from the mountains of Ifugao. Sadly, they have begun to deteriorate due to climate and abandonment. So make the trek now to Batad before the world loses another wonder. I chose to travel there by Jeepney, the local transportation found all over the islands.

My Jeepney was an old military vehicle, leftover in the Philippines by the US army during World War II. The hulking beast had been converted into a passenger bus —  like thousands of others — each jeep uniquely festooned in a colorful and loud fashion. I climbed to the roof of the vehicle when I realized there was no room down below. I gripped firmly on a support bar and swung my legs over the side where they dangled freely.

The road to Batad begins in Manila with a 9-hour overnight bus to Banaue. While Batad is not a long journey from Banaue, it can be a difficult one. Washed out bridges, landslides and neglected roads are just the beginning. Riding on the roof of  a Jeepney may be common practice for a local, but it is a thrilling experience for a foreigner.

Upon reaching the entrance to the village of Batad, a 45-minute descent winds to the center of town. There are no roads that lead to the quiet village of 1,500 people, which means that walking is the only mode of transportation. There are limited guesthouses in Batad, however many villagers will welcome you into their home, cook for you, and share a glass of traditional rice wine.

Trekking around Batad is a challenge worthy of any traveler. The 2,000-year-old terraces require careful navigation and balance. With paths only wide enough for one person  and steep drops of 10 or more feet in some places, I needed to watch my step. But there is no greater reward than reaching the promontory overlooking the magnificent terraces carved from the mountains of Ifugao.

Don’t overlook the road to Batad. The journey from Manila is long but the 8th wonder of the world awaits. The homestays, people, and culture will embrace you. Make the trek so you can call the rice terraces your home, if only for a few days.

Photography by Clint Johnston

Is your bike collecting more dust than dirt these days? Now is the perfect time to take it for a spin since it’s National Bike Month. From the best cities for cycling to bike-friendly hotels, here are ways to get your wheels rolling this month.

See a City By Bike

Avid cyclist and adventure traveler Ryan Van Duzer shares with us his top 10 US cities for cycling, from Boulder, CO, to Austin, TX.  With 300 days of sunshine and a picturesque mountain backdrop, biking in Boulder is at the top of Van Duzer’s list. You won’t be able to tell if that Rocky Mountain high is from the altitude or the endorphin rush after a ride here. Quirky Austin makes Van Duzer’s list for its unique Bike Zoo, where you can see a pedal-powered 80-foot rattlesnake, and the 6-mile-long Lance Armstrong bikeway, which opened in 2009 and runs through this Texas capital city. (You can see the rest of his picks here.)

Stay at a Bike-Friendly Hotel

Kimpton Hotels is celebrating National Bike Month with its national “Bike Like a Local” program. Travelers staying in Kimpton Hotels in cities like Chicago, San Francisco or New York can take advantage of complimentary bike rentals and bike promotions during May.

If you’re a cycling history buff, pedal back into Alexandria, Virginia’s history with the Civil War Bike Tour package at Monaco Alexandria. This Kimpton Hotel is offering complimentary bikes for guests to explore the Alexandria Civil War Defenses of Washington Bike Trail. Take in the history while getting a workout stopping at historic sites throughout Alexandria like Fort Ward and Alexandria National Cemetery.

At the Hotel Palomar in Phoenix, guests can explore Downtown Phoenix’s must-see spots on the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Guests can also pick up the hotel’s pocket-sized maps of Phoenix, themed for “foodies, artsy types, style lovers and mental flossers.” Each themed map highlights the best spots in the city to eat and drink and what to see and do  — all with a bike rack conveniently nearby.

Borrow a Bike for Few Hours

Don’t have a bike? That’s no excuse! Bike-sharing programs are popping up all over the county — from Washington, DC to Long Beach, CA. The much-anticipated bike share program in NYC opened for registration just last month, and had over 5,000 people sign up within 30 hours. On Memorial Day, the NYC bike share program officially opens, making it country’s largest bike share program with over 6,000 bikes and 330 stations. Another popular bike share program is Washington DC’s Capital Bikeshare, which has over 1,800 bikes at over 200 stations across the metropolitan area. Whether you are a tourist or a local, borrowing a bike in these bustling cities helps you avoid traffic frustrations and parking meltdowns … and burn calories while you’re at it.

 

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Bert heads to Costa Mesa, CA, in an attempt to find one couple crazy enough to let him take the reigns on their vacation and flip their trip into an all-expenses-paid adventure to the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Jennifer and Paul happen to be that lucky couple, and without knowing what’s in store, they’re in for the surprise of a lifetime. Have you ever been to an indoor/outdoor extreme sports training center? Well, if you’ve never been to Copper Mountain, CO, then your answer is no. That’s because Jen and Paul are going to Woodward at Copper, the world’s only facility of that nature, to do some indoor skiing.

From paragliding off Lookout Mountain and soaring high above Golden, CO, to working out at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Bert has planned quite an amazing trip for our Rocky Mountain adrenaline junkies.

To find about more about Jennifer and Paul’s amazing trip to Colorado, tune in for an all-new episode, tonight at 8|7c.

Plus, check out these exclusive, sneak peek, behind-the-scenes photos from tonight’s episode.

All aboard! Next stop … the sunny shores of South Beach. By saying “yes” to Trip Flip host Bert Kreischer, Austin, TX, locals Nathan and Shannon have agreed to let him take the lead on an all-expenses-paid trip to Miami, with no idea of what’s in store for them. They certainly will not be disappointed.

How would you like to be given a tour of the city by one of the most successful music producers of all time — and husband of famed singer Gloria Estefan — 19-time Grammy award winner, Emilio Estefan? What about partaking in a drag race and drift at the Countyline Dragway, skimboarding in crystal-clear waters or getting turned into sand mermaids by sculpture artist, Victor Leong?

An amazing trip so far, right?

The third day of Shannon and Nathan’s Miami adventure starts at dawn, when Bert gets ready to reveal his biggest surprise of the season. Bert takes the couple to the Port of Miami by speedboat, where he informs them that they’ll also be going on an amazing, 6-day Carnival cruise to the Bahamas.

Bert and the lucky couple aren’t the only ones who got to enjoy the amenities of the Carnival cruise. Trip Flip’s senior producer John tells Travel Channel, “Our crew — who has traveled quite a bit and seen a few things — were so impressed with our VIP treatment, especially getting on and off the ship.  We felt like royalty.”

“Sometimes Trip Flip can be very spontaneous,” John adds. “The ship’s staff, crew and guests couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating.”

Nate and Shannon are quick to take full advantage of all the onboard amenities, such as the top-level sky challenge course, and the on-ship water park, Waterworks. After riding the 300-foot corkscrew slide, it’s finally time to relax, so Bert arranges an appointment at the ship’s spa for an intimate couple’s massage.  And that’s just day 1 of their cruise!

Bert enjoys himself quite a bit, as well, with senior producer John telling us, “Whenever Bert shows up poolside, the party seems to arrive with him.”

To find out more about Nate and Shannon’s amazing Miami trip and personalized Carnival cruise, tune in tonight at 8|7c.

Plus, don’t forget to check out these exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from this amazing Miami Trip Flip.

Want to take your own Carnival Breeze adventure? Go to Carnival.com to start planning your next vacation!

Jordan: Mark? What the hell are you doing here?

Mark: Buying some toys. What are you doing?

Jordan: I’m buying some toys.

Mark: Snooze, you lose, sucker! (maniacal laugh)

Jordan is in for the fight of his life as he travels to Florida and California looking for amazing, vintage toy gold to sell at Comic Con in the Emerald City of Seattle. With Jordan already falling behind his nemesis, Mark, it’s clear that he has some ground to make up — and he plans to do just that.

With a goal of selling his inventory of toys for at least $15,000, will Jordan be able to pull off this amazing feat or will he be stuck with his toys, defeated by his nemesis? Find out on an all-new episode of Toy Hunter, tonight @ 9|8c.

Plus, don’t forget to check out these exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from Jordan’s Battle for Seattle.

Move over Men At Workthere’s a new group singing a tune about the Land Down Under, and they go by the name of Tom and Robin. Trip Flip host Bert Kreischer was dancing up and down the streets of Los Angeles when he came across the very lucky, adventurous couple. Little did they know, they would be given an amazing, all-expenses-paid trip to Sydney.

After taking to the sky in style (first class on a double-decker, Qantas A380 with 5-star cuisine, endless champagne and top-of-the-line amenities) Bert and our 2 lucky vacationers hit the road, heading west towards the Blue Mountains to go canyoning through waterfalls. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

To find out more about Tom and Robin’s amazing adventure to the Land Down Under, tune in for an all-new episode, tonight at 8|7c.

And if that’s not enough, check out these exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from Trip Flip: Sydney.

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