You know you’ve hit parent gold when your teen is willing to get up before dawn to go on an excursion with his parents. We found quite a few worthy teen adventures in our travels throughout the Southeast and Colorado. Here are five of our favorite adventures fit for a teen.
Six Heart Stopping Teen Adventures
The boys had sweatshirt hoods pulled up, heads down. They were on their phones, but not to snapchat the latest selfie. The phones were used to light the way down the sidewalk toward our destination. It was a dark, cold January morning. Not the type of day you’d expect for a swim, but that is what we were on our way to do, swim, and afterwards, the teens said they’d do it all again.
So began our morning swimming with manatee in Crystal River near Tampa, Florida. This was one of six great family adventures that impressed even our teens. Here are five six adventures my boys are still talking about.
Swimming with Manatee, Crystal River, FL: In winter months, manatees, the gentle giants of the sea, migrate from the cold oceans into the warmer springs of Florida. And Crystal River, near Tampa, is the only place in the world where you can actually swim with such a large concentration of the creatures. Our adventure began at The Plantation on Crystal River, a very Southern looking hotel with several old school amenities including a Tiki Bar and hot tub which are a must after a chilly morning in the water. Our group forgot all about the chill when we were face-to-face with the manatees who are as curious about you as you are about them. Our guide took us to prime areas where one person in our group was even given a huge manatee hug. Pro Tip: Try to be the first group out in the morning. This is a popular thing to do and the more people, the less the manatees interact.
Ride the Screaming Eagle at Historic Banning Mills, Whitesburg, GA: There are zip line adventures, and then there is Historic Banning Mills, home to several entries into the Guinness Book of World Records. This adventure park about an hour outside of Atlanta is for the true adrenaline junkie. Teens, who normally want to be driven to the front door (heaven forbid they have to walk!) will gladly climb the equivalent of a 30-story building then just step off down the half mile Screaming Eagle zip, the longest in the world. If that isn’t enough, try the ropes course that hangs 80 feet in the air. Still not impressed? How about stepping off a 10-story building? There are lots of lodging options at Banning Mills, from camping to yurts to cabins, and if you don’t like all that high adventure, they also have kayaking and horseback riding.
Hang Gliding off Lookout Mountain, GA: This adventure just outside Chattanooga, TN isn’t as scary as it sounds. Guests start off on the ground and a plane pulls you up for a tandem gliding experience. Still, it’s not something you do everyday and definitely gives teens and interesting story for school, as well as a share worthy selfie high in the sky from a camera mounted on the wing.
Hiking the McCollough Gulch Trail, Breckenridge, CO: We spent the month of July in Breckenridge, Co one summer. It was a glorious experience and we were able to hike some fantastic trails. The all around favorite for my boys was the McCollough Gulch Trail in Breckenridge. It’s a little over a mile up to the top of the trail, where you are rewarded with breath taking views, as well as a mountain top waterfall and glacial lake, along the way watch out for picas and marmots hiding between the rocks.
Caving in Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn, GA: While the rest of the family is taking a touristy cave tour of nearby Ruby Falls, teens can get down and dirty with the Georgia Girl Guides cave tours. In addition to Cloudland Canyon, G3 also offers tours of other caves in the Chattanooga area. Wear old clothes, you’ll end up throwing them out afterwards, but it’s a good kind of dirty, one where you feel accomplished because you’ve conquered your fear of the dark, or bats, or cold underground rivers, or all three.
Flying in a Personal Aircraft, Nationwide: There were times when my teen said his heart was in his throat, but for the most part, the take off and landing in the small two-seater airplane that our host had rebuilt himself was smooth. My son took this flight as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program. The program invites kids 8-17 to learn about aviation and go flying in a personal plane. Best part, it’s totally free.