11 Must-Do Exceptional Experiences

Call it the adrenaline spectrum. At one end, you hear waves lapping against white sand as you’re being massaged. At the other, you’re clinging to an ice ax in the Himalayas. Every trip falls somewhere on the spectrum, and as travelers, we decide what kind of trip we need at a particular moment.

Old Dock St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA
You know a carousel must be quite special if it is the first to make the National Register of Historic Places. Jane’s Carousel, located in Brooklyn Bridge Park in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, is truly unique. The fully-restored antique carousel from 1922 with 48 beautifully carved and painted wooden horses and 1,200 lights sits on the edge of the East River, nestled between the Brooklyn and the Williamsburg Bridges. In addition, the Carousel is housed in a modern glass pavilion designed by Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel. The carousel originated in Ohio. In 1984, it was purchased and brought to Brooklyn for two decades of careful restoration before the pavillion opened to the public in 2011. The carousel is the perfect resting spot after walking over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan. Release your inner child with a ride on the carousel ($2/ticket) and marvel in the breathtaking 180-degree views of Manhattan. Afterwards, hit Grimaldi’s Pizzeria up the block or the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, located in a nearby landmark fireboat house. And on weekends in the warm months, visit Smorgasburg, a Brooklyn Flea Food Market with 100 vendors. www.janescarousel.com
Manly NSW 2095, Australia
From Shelly Beach in Manly, the path climbs a flight of stairs surrounded by jungle foliage before alternating between idyllic neighborhoods, clifftop bushland, secluded beaches, and more rainforest. Along the way, you’ll see tropical flowers and eucalyptus trees as well as many colorful birds and the area’s ubiquitous “water dragon” lizards. As soon as you feel hungry, you’ll likely encounter a beach café such as the cabana at Little Manly Cove that serves great paninis. White sand beaches with turquoise waters are the norm, and the path guides you to many that you would have otherwise never found. When you finally reach the Spit Bridge, you’ll be filled with accomplishment and the feeling that you covered a lot more than just six or seven miles.
Megalochori 847 00, Greece
If you want to get away from the crowds in Santorini, try Megalochori - one of the prettiest, quietest little villages on the island. The town’s location further inland, away from the caldera cliffs, removes it from the typical tourist itinerary. A beautiful bell-tower archway frames the entrance as you drive into town, which is easily accessible by a short car, taxi or bus ride from any part of Santorini. Megalochori features a maze of extremely narrow cobblestone streets passing by hundreds of traditional white-washed houses and churches with accents of bright blue. Let yourself get lost. At the the center of Megalochori is a sleepy town square, with two tavernas and bougainvillea-covered patios. Sit in the welcome shade and order a vibrantly-hued Santorini tomato salad, grilled souvlaki and sesame & honey-coated feta. Try Restaurant Raki (above) in the town square, where the locals go. (Live Greek music at night.) And since Megalochori is the heart of Santorini’s wine industry, be sure to visit a winery, where you can meet the local vintners and sample their goods. If you are looking for a very quiet village and a low-key, relaxing day, this is a wonderful place to visit. Sometimes a really lazy day is just what the doctor ordered. www.santorini.com/villages/megalochorivillage.htm
Glendalough, or Gleann Dá Loch in Irish (which means “valley of two lakes”), is a quiet, picturesque valley near the Wicklow Mountains. Its 6th-century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin is one of the most important in Ireland, and it’s surrounded by dewy grass and heather, lush hills, mossy rocks, and an impressive variety of wildlife. Monastic City itself includes the remains of ancient stone churches, a priests’ house, a stone fort, and a 100-foot round bell tower. The cemetery is fascinating with its lichen-covered headstones tilted every which way amid unkempt vegetation. Generations of Irish family histories are contained in this small plot of land, which is an integral part of this site. Glendalough is about 90 minutes’ south of Dublin and makes for a worthwhile day tour that includes sightseeing and hiking followed by a visit to a cozy local pub.
C. Panaderos, 32, 18010 Granada, Spain
There are plenty of flamenco places in Granada, from the 35 euro tourist cave to the 6 euro wine cellar. My love for flamenco has drawn me to each one. I think the best deal especially if you are only in Granada for a week or a weekend is to splurge and go out for a great meal, the best sangria I’ve tasted in Spain, and some very talented and passionate flamenco. For almost the same price as the tourist filled sacramonte flamenco caves you can have a three-course delicious meal and see top quality flamenco at “Restaurante Jardines de Zoraya, tablao Flamenco.” Located in the Albaycin this restaurant has flamenco shows twice a night and a third matinee show on Saturday and Sunday. Come early so you give yourself time to find it in the hilly small alleys of the Albaycin and also to get a seat and order before the show starts.
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