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In Honor of Obscura Day, Get Off the Couch and Explore

Ideally, weekends are for sleeping late, spending time with loved ones, and eating carbohydrate-rich breakfast foods. But if Atlas Obscura has their way, you’ll forego the prolonged nap and Netflix marathon on Saturday, April 16, for some unusual museums, historic cemeteries, literary walking tours, amputation demonstrations, and/or taxidermied frogs instead.

Atlas Obscura, a compendium of off-the-beaten-path wonders, has been hosting Obscura Days since 2010. The idea behind the hundreds of events, all planned for a single day, is to eschew big-ticket tourist items in favor of the overlooked charms in your own backyard—which shouldn't stop you from hopping a plane to Vienna, say, to explore the Stephansdom Crypt instead. Last year’s events included an invocation from a sorcerer at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft and an orchestral performance at the Robotic Church in Brooklyn, among other amazements.

This year, there are 160 events in 26 countries to choose from. Highlights include dinner in an Ecuadorian cave on the slopes of a volcano, a hike through an Italian marble quarry, a scavenger hunt at the abandoned Olympic Village in Beijing, a tunneling workshop (“learn how to dig your own escape route!”), a visit to the world’s only dedicated LGBT cemetery section, and more ruins, underground research bunkers, death mask collections, and marine creatures built out of trash than you could possibly desire (at least on a single day). Most events are free, and all are under $100. Go forth and explore—Netlfix will still be there for you next week.

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Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach
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Inside the German Town Where Advent Is the Main Attraction
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach

The German town of Gengenbach takes Christmas very seriously. So seriously that it counts down to the holiday with one of the biggest Advent calendars in the world.

Two decades ago, the town of 11,000 people on the edge of the Black Forest set out to bring in more tourists during the holiday season. So to make its holiday market unique, Gengenbach began turning its town hall into a building-sized Advent calendar.

Now one by one, every night from November 30 to December 23, the windows of Gengenbach’s Baroque city hall light up with artistic creations inspired by a yearly theme. At 6 p.m. each evening, the lights of city hall go up, and a spotlight trains on one window. Then, the window shade pulls up to reveal the new window. By December 23, all the windows are open and on display, and will stay that way until January 6.

Gengenbach's city hall lit up for Christmas
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach

Each year, the windows are decorated according to a theme, like children’s books or the work of famous artists like Marc Chagall. For 2017, all the Advent calendar windows are filled with illustrations by Andy Warhol.

According to Guinness World Records, it’s not the absolute biggest Advent calendar in the world. That record belongs to a roughly 233-foot-high, 75-foot-wide calendar built in London’s St Pancras railway station in 2007. Still, Gengenbach’s may be the biggest Advent calendar that comes back year after year. And as a tourist attraction, it has become a huge success in the last 20 years. The town currently gets upwards of 100,000 visitors every year during the holiday season, according to the local tourist bureau.

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A New Roller Coaster is Whizzing Through Colorado's Rocky Mountains
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iStock

There are plenty of ways to explore the majestic Rocky Mountains, but few offer the adrenaline rush of the Rocky Mountain Coaster, a brand-new roller coaster that sends riders soaring along the range’s natural twists and turns.

As Urban Daddy reports, the Rocky Mountain Coaster recently opened at Copper Mountain, a mountain and ski resort that’s located near the tiny town of Frisco, about 75 miles west of Denver. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the vacation spot is ideal for hikers, skiers, and mountain bikers. Now, visitors looking to enjoy the surrounding scenery without breaking a sweat can cruise for roughly a mile down to the resort’s high alpine Center Village.

The ride’s raised track “runs along the natural curvature of the mountain, with zigs, zags, dips, and 360-degree turns for guaranteed thrills,” according to a press release. Each personal car is equipped with manual hand brakes to control the ride’s pace, but the coaster does feature a 430-foot drop, so be careful with your phones while Instagramming the view.

The Rocky Mountain Coaster is open-year round, though it will initially mostly only be open on weekends. Solo rides cost $25, and a two-ride pass can be purchased for $35. (Resort guests get an exclusive discount.)

[h/t Urban Daddy]

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