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20 Adult Camps for the Young At Heart

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When a presidential candidate says adults in America are suffering from a "fun deficit," you know it's time to take the issue seriously. The following 20 camps are alternative ways to spend your allotted vacation time. 

1. LEARN HOW TO RIDE A BULL AT SANKEY RODEO SCHOOL

This isn’t the mechanical bull at your local cowboy-themed bar. Sankey Rodeo School provides beginners and more advanced participants with the real bull riding, rodeo experience. With locations around the country and multiple sessions run throughout the year, the schools employ qualified professionals to guide you through every step of the way and teach you everything you need to know about the proper bull riding technique. Prices start at $415.

2. STAR IN A PROCEDURAL AT HOLLYWOOD TV STAR FANTASY CAMP

For those who’ve dreamt of walking the red carpet or posing for a magazine cover, Hollywood TV Star Fantasy Camp is the ideal retreat. The week-long (five night) experience includes the opportunity to act in two or three scenes of a crime procedural, have a photoshoot, be interviewed by "the press," have the chance to hobnob with industry professionals, and much more. Plus you can take home a DVD of your performance. Price is available upon request.

3. BECOME A KNIGHT AT ALLIANCE: LIVE ACTION ROLE PLAY

Leave your business suit at home and channel your inner medieval knight with Alliance: Live Action Role Play, the oldest LARP community in the country. Prepare an original character, wield medieval weaponry, journey through an ever-changing plot, and be a part of a diverse community of enthusiasts. Beginners are welcomed with open arms and events are held all over the country by different chapters throughout the year. There are both one day events as well as weekend long adventures. Membership prices vary and weekends start at around $60.

4. LIVE LIKE AN ASTRONAUT AT ADULT SPACE ACADEMY

You’re never too old for Space Camp thanks to the Adult Space Academy. This weekend-long, highly interactive program gives adults a chance to get a sense of the life of an astronaut. Train on simulators like the one-sixth gravity chair, build and launch a model rocket, and learn all about the history of space exploration. Prices start at $499.  

5. DIG DEEPER AT THE ARCHAEOLOGY RESEARCH PROGRAM

Join archaeologists excavating sites of the early Pueblo Indians (500-1280 C.E.) in the Mesa Verde region in Colorado at the Archaeology Research Program. Take a guided tour through Mesa Verde National Park, attend talks by archaeologists and scholars, study proper excavation techniques, and examine artifacts. The program is a week long and the price for nonmembers is $1720. Meals and housing are included.

6. BREAK INTO SONG AT BROADWAY FANTASY CAMP

Can you dance? Can you sing? Can you act? No? It doesn’t matter! As long as you love to, Broadway Fantasy Camp in New York City wants you to be on stage. Sessions last from one to five days and celebrate the magic of the Great White Way. During the five-day session, you learn music and choreography from classic shows like Phantom of the Opera and Cats, talk with theater professionals, get lessons in stage makeup, tour a Broadway theater, put on a show, and toast your success at Sardi’s! Prices range from $595 to $4995. Housing, most meals, and transportation to and from the program are not included.

7. Get in the kitchen at Upper Crust

Need to up your bake sale game? Tired of having to pass off your store-bought desserts as your own? Upper Crust at Paws Up Resort invites you to spend a long weekend in beautiful Montana and attend pie, cookie, and pastry workshops taught by professional chefs. Other activities include horseback riding, wine tastings, ATV tours, and a lot of eating. Prices start at $760.

8. Drink yourself silly at Sonoma Grape Camp

Immerse yourself in the Sonoma Wine Country for a two-day, three-night exploration of everything grapes. Sonoma Grape Camp is all about hands-on participation—visitors get to walk through the vineyards, harvest grapes, tour the winery, attend seminars, and of course, enjoy delicious wines. Prices start at $2000.

9. Shimmy and Shake at the Burlesque Showgirl Retreat

Get ready to rock those sequined headpieces. The Burlesque Showgirl Retreat from Burlesque Bikini Bootcamp is four days and five nights of intense showgirl action. You aren't just staying at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Vegas and sipping cocktails by the pool. You spend three full days learning and rehearsing a group burlesque number to perform in front of a live audience, have the opportunity to work on a solo routine, take a field trip to the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and hear from a guest speaker, among other razzle dazzle. Prices start at $1299.

10. Be amongst the trees with Boulder Outdoor Survival School

Test your survival instincts and see if you really have what it takes to make it in the wild. Boulder Outdoor Survival School runs several Field Courses that focus on living in the present without the burden of technology or literal (and metaphorical) baggage. With only a knife, a poncho, and a blanket, participants hike through Southern Utah and learn the ancient skills of the Puebloan people. Trips last from seven to 28 days and prices start at $1595.

11. Battle the undead at Zombie Survival Camp

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead or think zombies are in our near future, a weekend at Zombie Survival Camp in New Jersey will prepare you for the worst. Learn how to effectively throw a knife, use a crossbow, practice first aid, employ Zombitsu to defeat all evil, and how to stay healthy and safe in case of an emergency. You also get one-on-one time with experienced firearm experts so you can perfect your skills before returning home. Weekend camps are $450 per person and meals and lodging are included.

12. Look up at the stars at Astronomy Camp

Embrace your nerdiness and attend science camp for adults! Astronomy Camp, run through The University of Arizona, is a two or three day hands-on program that introduces participants to the wonders of the cosmos. Visit one of the nearby observatories and operate high-powered telescopes, attend lectures and workshops from scientists about space, and hear from space artists and musicians about how space has impacted their work. Tuition is $600 for two days.

13. Grin and Beer it at Black Fly Craft Brewing Camp

Earn your alcohol by learning the craft-brewing process. The Black Fly Craft Brewing Camp is a yearly event held at Great Camp Sagamore in New York. Attendees take courses on the craft brewing process, participate in a home-brew evaluation, and hear from brewing experts on all things beer. The weekend costs $279 per person and includes meals and a beer pairing dinner cruise on Raquette Lake.

14. Embrace Your Inner Freak at Coney Island USA's Sideshow School

Day camps can be just as fun as sleepaway camps and the Coney Island USA’s Sideshow School is proof. Classes are offered on 3 to 4 consecutive days and cover sideshow skills like fire eating, sword swallowing, and even snake charming. Tuition varies depending on class length.

15. Defend yourself at Incredible Adventure's Covert Ops

Learn Krav Maga under the blazing Miami sun at Incredible Adventure’s Covert Ops two- or four-day missions. Led by a former Israeli Defense Force soldier who specialized in undercover operations before working as a bodyguard for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the program covers firearm use, counter ambush tactics, and shooting from a moving vehicle, among other methods of combat. Prices start at $2950.

16. Search for clues during Murder Mystery Weekend

Stay at Point Sebago in Maine during their yearly Murder Mystery Weekend, and you’ll get a chance to solve an elaborate crime played out through an immersive theatrical experience. On Friday night, someone will die (spoiler) and it’ll be up to you and the rest of the guests to race against the clock to determine whodunit. Prices start at $165 and include meals, entertainment, and lodging.

17. Find a home on the range during Arizona Cowboy College

Live the life of a cowboy at one of Arizona Cowboy College’s week long sessions. The first two days are spent at an equestrian center, and after that you saddle up and ride on over to a working cattle ranch. Topics covered in lessons include roping, safety, grooming, handling, and everything it takes to run a ranch. The program is $2250 and participants are advised to bring their own harmonicas.

18. Build a boat at WoodenBoat School

If your community were relying on you to build an arc and save all the people and the animals from a flood, could you do it? If that’s something you’re concerned about, or you just want to learn about woodworking, WoodenBoat School in Maine has a plethora of one or two week woodworking and boat building courses for all levels. Beginners can take an introductory course, while those with a bit more hammer and nail knowledge can build a dory, a dinghy, or a skiff. Tuition varies by class and room and board are available for an additional cost.

19. Cook up a storm at The Culinary Institute of America

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Listen up, foodies and fans of the Cooking Channel! The Culinary Institute of America offers various cooking boot camps in New York, Texas, and California throughout the year. You can enroll in basic training, or a different boot camp that caters to your specific cuisine interests. Camps range from one to four days and prices vary. All tools and some meals are included in tuition, but accommodations are not.

20. Blow Your Horn at Railroad Reality Week

Toil and sweat while working on Nevada’s Northern Railway during Railroad Reality Week. Learn about what it takes to keep a train moving as you join the track crew, work in the maintenance shop, and ultimately get a chance to cycle through all of the roles that are required to get a train from Point A to Point B. The week costs $995 and lodging is not included.

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©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Inside the Kitchen of Thomas Jefferson's Acclaimed—and Enslaved—Chef James Hemings
 ©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello
©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

James Hemings once prepared lavish dishes for America's founding fathers at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia plantation. Though enslaved, he trained in France to become one of colonial America's most accomplished chefs. Now, archaeologists have uncovered the kitchen where Hemings created his elaborate banquets, LiveScience reports.

Researchers at Monticello are conducting a long-term effort, the Mountaintop Project, to restore plantation premises, including slave quarters, to their original appearance. Archaeologists excavated a previously filled-in cellar in the main house's South Pavilion, where they found artifacts like bones, toothbrushes, beads, and shards of glass and ceramics. Underneath layers of dirt, experts also uncovered the kitchen's original brick floor, remnants of a fireplace, and the foundations of four waist-high stew stoves.

"Stew stoves are the historic equivalent of a modern-day stovetop or cooking range," archaeological field researcher manager Crystal Ptacek explains in an online video chronicling the find. Each contained a small hole for hot coals; centuries later, the cellar floor still contains remains of ash and charcoal from blazing fires. Hemings himself would have toiled over these stoves.

During the colonial period, wealthy families had their slaves prepare large, labor-intensive meals. These multi-course feasts required stew stoves for boiling, roasting, and frying. Archaeologists think that Jefferson might have upgraded his kitchen after returning from Paris: Stew stoves were a rarity in North America, but de rigueur for making haute French cuisine.

Hemings traveled with Jefferson to France in the 1780s, where for five years he was trained in the French culinary arts. There, Hemings realized he was technically a free man. He met free black people and also learned he could sue for his freedom under French law, according to NPR.

And yet he returned to the U.S. to cook for Jefferson's family and guests, perhaps because he didn't want to be separated from his family members at Monticello, including his sister, Sally. He later negotiated his freedom from Jefferson and trained his brother Peter as his replacement. Hemings ended up cooking for a tavern keeper in Baltimore, and in 1801, shortly after turning down an offer from now-president Jefferson to be his personal chef, he died by suicide.

"We're thinking that James Hemings must have had ideals and aspirations about his life that could not be realized in his time and place," Susan Stein, senior curator at Monticello, told NPR in 2015. "And those factors probably contributed to his unhappiness and his depression, and ultimately to his death."

Hemings contributed to early America's culinary landscape through dessert recipes like snow eggs and by introducing colonial diners to macaroni and cheese, among other dishes. He also assisted today's historians by completing a 1796 inventory of Monticello's kitchen supplies—and he's probably left further clues in the estate's newly uncovered kitchen, says Gayle Jessup White, Monticello's community engagement officer—and one of James's relatives.

"My great-great-great-grandfather Peter Hemings learned to cook French cuisine from his brother James on this stove," White tells Mental Floss. "It was a spiritual moment for me to walk into the uncovered remains of Monticello's first kitchen, where my ancestors spent much of their lives. This discovery breathes life into the people who lived, worked and died at Monticello, and I hope people connect with their stories."

[h/t Live Science]

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Crossrail
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
8 Amazing Things Discovered During the Expansion of the London Underground
Crossrail
Crossrail

In 2009, the city of London embarked on a massive infrastructure project: a 73-mile underground railway network called the Elizabeth Line that will ultimately boost urban train capacity by 10 percent. Slated to be up and running by 2018, the undertaking allowed archaeologists to take an unprecedented peek at swathes of subterranean London, and yielded plenty of cool historic treasures from various periods. Here's a small sampling of the finds.

1. A GRAVEYARD CONTAINING VICTIMS OF THE BLACK DEATH

A skeleton belonging to a victim of the Black Plague, unearthed by archaeologists while expanding the London Underground.
Crossrail

While excavating London's Charterhouse Square in 2013, archaeologists unearthed dozens of skeletons. Scientists analyzed the remains and discovered that some of them belonged to victims of the Black Death—a.k.a. bubonic plague—who succumbed to pandemics that swept 14th- and 15th-century England.

Teeth contained traces of DNA from the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis, and radio-carbon dating indicated that the burial ground had been used during two outbreaks of plague, one from 1348 to 1350 and another during the 1430s. The skeletons also showed signs of poor diets and hard lifestyles, which might have been contributing factors for why Londoners were so susceptible to the plague.

But the so-called plague pit didn't just contain those who'd succumbed to disease. Not only were some bodies plague-free, "what they found was, not bodies tumbled together as they'd expected, but rather orderly burials with people laid in rows with their bodies orientated in one direction," historian Gillian Tindall told The Guardian. This suggests not all of them died due to plague but from other, more everyday causes.

2. AN 8000-YEAR-OLD STONE TOOL

An 8000-year-old piece of flint, discovered by archaeologists while expanding the London Underground.
Crossrail

While digging at North Woolrich, in southeast London, archaeologists discovered a Mesolithic-era site along the Thames where early humans are thought to have crafted tools around 8500 to 6000 years ago. The encampment had traces of campfires and flint scatters, and experts recovered 150 pieces of flint, including an 8000-year-old stone tool.

"This is a unique and exciting find that reveals evidence of humans returning to England and in particular the Thames Valley after a long hiatus during the Ice Age," Crossrail lead archaeologist Jay Carver said in a news release. "It is one of a handful of archaeology sites uncovered that confirms humans lived in the Thames Valley at this time. The concentration of flint pieces shows that this was an exceptionally important location for sourcing materials to make tools that were used by early Londoners who lived and hunted on Thames Estuary islands."

3. A VULGAR VICTORIAN CHAMBER POT

A bawdy Victorian chamber pot, discovered by archaeologists while excavating future London Underground sites.
Crossrail

While excavating the Stepney Green station in East London, archaeologists came across a 19th-century cesspit dating to sometime after 1850. The waste hole was filled with tobacco pipes and fragments of pots, including a raunchy Victorian chamber pot. It was once likely kept under a bed, and allowed for its owner to do their business in private during the evening hours.

The pot's bottom contains a cartoon of a grimacing man, encircled by the phrase "Oh what I see/I will not tell." Witty cursive lines once covered the exterior of the broken vessel. Archaeologists were able to decipher one line, which read "… when you in it want to p-s/ Remember they who gave you this."

4. A TUDOR ERA BOWLING BALL (OR SKITTLES BALL)

A Tudor-era bowling or skittles bowl, discovered by archaeologists while excavating future sites for the London Underground's expansion.
Crossrail

In addition to the aforementioned cesspit, excavations at Stepney Green also revealed a 15th-century Tudor manor house, complete with moat. Originally home to a rich family named Fenne, it was once called King John's Court or Palace, and later became known as the Worcester House after its owner the Marquis of Worcester.

In 2013, archaeologists excavated the home's foundations, moat, and boundary walls. Inside the moat they discovered a wooden ball made from willow, which was likely either used for bowling or skittles, a European lawn game. Other recovered items included fine glassware, tableware, and cooking and storage vessels, all of which were buried when the moat was either destroyed or filled in.

5. A 55-MILLION-YEAR-OLD PIECE OF AMBER

55-million-year-old amber, retrieved by engineers while expanding the London Underground
Crossrail

Slated to open in late 2018, London's new Canary Wharf business district station is located deep below a mixed-use development called Crossrail Place. While tunneling at Canary Wharf was too deep to disturb any buried relics, engineers were still able to retrieve a piece of 55-million-year-old amber from nearly 50 feet below the site's dock bed before construction began. It's the oldest amber to have ever been found in London, and is also notable considering that amber isn't often found in the UK to begin with.

Amber, or fossilized tree resin, takes millions of years and proper burial conditions to form. These preserved relics often contain prehistoric plants and creatures, suspended in the clear material. Experts said they plan to analyze the Canary Wharf amber to learn more about prehistoric environmental conditions and vegetation. The fossil also contained bubbles of trapped gas, which scientists said might yield new scientific insights about global warming.

6. A RARE ROMAN MEDALLION

A rare Roman medallion dating back to 245 CE, found by archaeologists during the London Underground expansion.
Crossrail

Archaeologists excavating Crossrail's Liverpool Street site discovered more than 100 mostly-copper Roman coins, along with a handful of silver currency. They ranged in date from 43 CE, during the reign of Emperor Claudius, to 348 CE.

One of the most exciting discoveries among these coins was a rare bronze medallion that was issued to mark the New Year in 245 CE. Presented by Emperor Phillip I (also called Philip the Arab) to a high-ranking government official, it's only the second example of its kind that's ever been found, according to The Guardian.

"You wonder how it got there, who brought it with them, and then how did they lose it—were they heartbroken?" speculated Jackie Keily, a curator at the Museum of London who organized an exhibition of 500 Crossrail artifacts in 2017.

7. A CLUSTER OF ROMAN SKULLS

A Roman skull, uncovered by archaeologists during the expansion of the London Underground.
Crossrail

In 2013, Crossrail workers found Roman pottery and around 20 Roman skulls while working on the Liverpool Street station site. Other Roman skulls had been found in the area, along the historic River Walbrook, and some speculated that they belonged to rebels led by the Iceni warrior-queen Boudicca, who revolted against the Roman Empire during the 1st century CE. But since the newly unearthed skulls were found in sediment that had accumulated in a bend of the river, archaeologists believe that they likely washed out of an eroded Roman cemetery long ago. Moreover, the skulls appear to date to after the uprising.

8. HEADSTONES OF VICTIMS OF THE GREAT PLAGUE

The gravestone of plague victim Mary Godfree, discovered at Liverpool Street in London during the Crossrail excavations.
Crossrail

On September 2, 1665, a girl named Mary Godfree succumbed to the plague—one of 95 people from the same church parish who died from the disease that day. She was remembered solely by a line in a burial register until October 2015, when archaeologists discovered her limestone burial stone while excavating the new Liverpool Street Crossrail station site.

The area was originally home to the historic New Churchyard burial ground, also called the Bedlam burial ground. There, archaeologists discovered a mass grave, along with the remnants of 10 stone markers. Godfree's headstone didn't mark the presence of her actual grave, as the headstone had been removed sometime during the 18th century and reused in the foundation of a wall. Still, it revealed new insights into how and where the rediscovered Londoner was buried, and what burial conditions were like during the Great Plague.

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