11 Under-the-Radar Play Destinations That Are Worth a Visit
Whether it’s in the dead of winter or the dog days of summer, travel time is the best time of year. But it can be hard to choose a travel destination that has everything on your checklist, and sometimes the perfect place turns out to be more crowded and less special than you had hoped. Here are 11 alternate vacation spots that are worth considering for your next adventure.
Wilderness safaris are among the first things people think of when they consider Southern Africa as a tourist destination, but countries like Namibia have more than exotic animals to offer adventurous travelers. The Namib Desert is the oldest in the world, with sand dunes nearly 1000 feet high. Hiking is always an option, but those seeking an adrenaline rush may want to try their hand at sandboarding, quad biking, skydiving, or even whitewater rafting the Class 4 rapids in the Cunene River.
2. WESTERN NICARAGUA
Nicaragua has all of the water-based activities that you would imagine, including surfing and snorkeling off the coast of San Juan del Sur, but there are other things to do in the Central American country. Canopy tours let visitors explore the forests near the foothills of the Mombacho Volcano, and thrill-seekers can also go ash-boarding down the 1,600-foot slope of Cerro Negro, an active volcano near the village of Malpaisillo.
3. REYKJANES, ICELAND
There is a lot to do in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and most popular city, but a short trip down to the southern peninsula opens the door to more exciting travel opportunities. Explore the Reykjanes peninsula, which is known for its volcanic craters and lava fields, by helicopter, boat, bicycle, or ATV, then go underground on a spelunking trip before relaxing in the hot geothermal bath.
4. CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO
Skip Aspen and Breckenridge and fly directly to the tiny airport in Crested Butte. The elevation may take some getting used to, but the dog sledding, skiing, and hanging out in a warm cabin during the winter, and the rock-climbing, whitewater rafting, and hiking during the rest of the year are worth the altitude sickness. There are also various festivals and events in the area throughout the year, including Mardi Gras and Butte Bash College Ski Week.
5. WESTERN SOUTH DAKOTA
Nearby attractions like Mount Rushmore are definitely on everyone’s radar, but there are some places around the Badlands and Black Hills that travelers are less familiar with. For starters, Wind Cave National Park in Hot Springs is one of the longest cave systems in the world, and the Black Hills themselves have lots of prime rock climbing and other nature-based fun.
6. AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Named one of the world’s friendliest cities in 2015, Auckland has something for every mood and age group. Beyond the farms, theme parks, island tours, and casinos, there is one place that is worth the cost of the plane ticket to New Zealand: Asylum Paintball is located, as the name suggests, inside an abandoned asylum, and features programming for teens and adults, as well as pain-free paintball for younger children.
7. CANNES, FRANCE
Most people only know Cannes as the place where the film festival is held, but the resort town doesn’t close when the directors leave. Whether you’re renting a scooter to cruise around, hanging out at the beaches, or kayaking to Nice, Cannes is a great place to visit to forget about work and focus on playing and relaxing.
8. SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER, LOUISIANA
Everybody goes to New Orleans, but it’s not the only city in Louisiana worth exploring. Shreveport, a part of the Shreveport-Bossier municipality in the northwest, is the third largest city in the state and is known for its casinos and various cultural festivals. You can also go flyboarding with a water jetpack in Benton, fish for bass, jump on a party barge, or just eat your way through the Cajun cuisine of the region. There are also various art museums and a water park for those looking for some more family-friendly playtime.
9. ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
St. Petersburg may not have the same name recognition as Miami and Orlando, but it’s worth a stop on your next road trip. Thanks to a large college student population, nightlife in St. Pete is growing; so while some Florida cities have the stigma of being massive retirement villages, St. Petersburg is still a quiet enough place to go and have a good time without being overwhelmed.
10. HELSINKI, FINLAND
Helsinki was named the “World Design Center” in 2012, but the culinary and club scenes in Finland’s southern capital are also on the rise, so visitors can enjoy nature tours, downhill skiing, and historic sites by day and clubs by night. There are also events like Flow Festival that bring in big crowds during the summer.
11. BOISE, IDAHO
Just about any fun activity that involves the land, sky, or sea can be found in Boise. Visitors can take a ride in a hot air balloon, go kayaking, golfing, skiing, splash around in a river, or participate in a number of other activities against the backdrop of the beautiful Boise Mountains.
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All images courtesy of iStock