1. Flash some flesh at Fantasy Fest in Florida
The saucy climax of Key West’s calendar is a week-long party known as Fantasy Fest. The old town is transformed into an outdoor costume bash, somewhat tenuously pegged to Halloween; really, it’s a gay-heavy take on Mardi Gras and flesh-flashing costumes. The week is punctuated with offbeat events, like the pet costume contest where dogs and their owners dress the same, and a sequin-spangled satire of a high-school prom.
FantasyFest2-27 by Brian Lin via Flickr (CC license)
2. Attend the most surreal show on Earth in Nevada
Picture a nudist miniature golf course, an advanced pole-dancing workshop and a bunch of neon-painted bodies, and you may be getting close to imagining what Burning Man is all about. Every year during the last week of August, several thousand digerati geeks, pyrotechnic maniacs, death-guild Goths, crusty hippies and too-hip yuppies descend on the Nevada Desert to build a temporary autonomous “city”. Known as Black Rock City, this is the most survivalist, futuristic and utterly surreal show on Earth, where the strangest part of your alter ego reigns supreme.
Burning Man 2013 CARGO CULT by Bexx Brown-Spinelli via Flickr (CC license)
3. Kayak alongside a glacier in Prince William Sound, Alaska
As you manoeuvre your way towards the towering face of one of Alaska’s many tidewater glaciers, the gentle crunch of ice against the hull of your kayak sounds faintly ominous. It’s nothing, though, compared to the thunderclap that echoes across the water when a great wall of ice peels away from the glacier and sends waves surging toward you. Your first reaction is quite naturally a jolt of fear, but no need to panic: the danger will have dissipated by the time whatever’s left of the waves reaches you, leaving you to look on in awe.
4. Visit North America’s largest bat colony in Texas
Just after sunset, Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the deep crevices of the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, flapping and squeaking in a long ribbon across the sky. An eclectic mix of townies and tourists watches from the south bank of Town Lake and from the bridge itself. Picturesque from any spot, the bats’ game of follow-the-leader is most impressive when you stand beneath the ribbon and look up – that’s when the sheer number of these creatures hits home. During the summer, the best viewing season, more than 1.5 million bats reside here, making it the largest urban bat colony in North America.