Are you looking for a inspirational list of hands-on travel experiences in North America? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Over the past years, there has been a big trend in tourism where travellers no longer want to participate in just the standard sightseeing tours and attend so-called ‘cultural shows’, but really feel the need to get involved in experiences that are characteristic to the destination that they are visiting. This is called Creative Travel.
In this article, you can find some of the best creative travel experiences in Japan. Keep coming back, because this list will keep growing!
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN NORTH AMERICA
Creative Travel Definition
According to the Creative Tourism Network, creative travel is considered “a new generation of tourism”, that offers visitors the opportunity to “develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences, which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are taken”.
From volunteer travel programs and language immersion programs to cultural immersion travel experiences and real community immersion, Creative Tourism is a way of travel that really is for everyone.
Whether you travel alone, as a couple or with a family or group of friends, there are many activities around the world where that offer educational courses and workshops, creative experiences where you get to learn different art forms or even adventure activities where you interact with the local nature and people in a fun, yet authentic way.
Complete Hands-on Travel in West Europe List
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN CANADA
Go on a Snowshoe Tour with a Fireman
The region of Mont-Tremblant in the state of Quebec in Canada is know for skiing and snowboarding, but to get a more local experience, go on a tour with a real fireman and learn about the area!
TIP BY: me! >> read about this showshoe experience on the blog! >>
“Through Tremblant Activities, our group signed up for the Fireman Snowshoeing tour, which takes about 2 hours and comes with all needed equipment. Just dress warm!
Our guide Richard turns out to be a super funny guy that knows almost everything about the nature we see around us. Besides tracking animals (we spot some dear!), it turns out that he has even more hidden talents: he plays a traditional French-Canadian folk song for us on recorder and also shows us some survival skills, such as making fire.
This activity is great for individuals, couples or small groups, and also fun for kids (I’d say above 8 years old minimum, remember the tour will be in English). You need reasonable fitness for this activity, as you have to climb some hills and plow through the thick snow at some points.
Make sure to check out my blog, where you can find a video about the experience – and hear Richard sing.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Tremblant Activity Centre (See their website >>)
Experience the Ice Wine Festival
If you’re looking to try a truly Canadian product, then you have to sip on some ice wine. This sweet dessert wine is only produced in a handful of countries worldwide.
TIP BY: Eric Wychopen, ontarioaway.com (< read all about the wineries in Niagara on his blog!)
“Luckily, the conditions in the Niagara Region in Ontario are perfect to grow wine grapes and have them freeze to be harvested in the winter.
Canadian ice wine is produced by a few key players like Inniskillin and Reif Estates Winery. A visit to these wineries, which are among the renowned ice wine producers in the world, allows you to learn about the entire process of creating ice wine – and sip it, too!
To truly immerse yourself in the product, visit the Niagara Region in January to enjoy the Ice Wine Festival. This chilly tradition in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario is a celebration of food, culture, and – of course – delicious ice wine. Grab your tasting glass and sample a number of ice wines from different wineries around the Niagara Region.
There are a number of evening wine events during the festival and a portion of downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake turns into the famed “Ice Wine Village” complete with tastings, music, shopping, and ice sculptures accessible to all.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Niagara Ice Wine Festival (See their website >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN MEXICO
Go Piñata Making in Mexico
Always wanted to learn more about the local culture of the country you’re visiting, but not sure where to start? Often your hotel can help you out!
TIP BY: Amanda Emmerling, toddlingtraveler.com (< read all about her world travels on the blog!)
“One of the most creative travel experiences we had was on a recent trip to Cancun, Mexico. We were staying at the Park Royal Cancún, a family friendly all-inclusive in Cancun. As part of their family experience program, they offered several authentic Mexican experiences. Our experience included things like a mini fridge filled with Mexican treats and an authentic meal with dishes from the Yucatan Peninsula.
Our favorite activity as a family had to be the piñata making. Prior to making our piñata, we learned a little more about the history of the piñata. For example, pinatas first came from China before Mexico adapted them in the 1500s. Piñatas were originally clay pots with water before transforming to the treat filled piñatas that we know and love for parties today.
After learning more about the piñata, we filled ours with Mexican candies including lollipops and marzipan peanut candy. We then proceeded to decorate the outside. Our two year old loved painting the cardboard base with glue and choosing his paper colors to decorate it. The best part is that you can easily recreate this at home with cardboard, glue and paper streamers. It’s definitely a travel experience we won’t forget!”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Park Royal Cancún (See best prices on booking.com >>)
Take an Oaxaca Cooking Class
In Oaxaca City, Mexico you can find cooking classes where you can learn how to make a very specific to that region type of mole.
TIP BY: Jessica, unearththevoyage.com (< read all about her world travels on the blog!)
“One of the best creative travel experiences that you can have is to take a cooking class centered around learning how to cook a delicacy in the region you are visiting. We decided to take a cooking class held in a locals’ home. The type of mole we learned to make had been passed down from generation to generation in our instructors’ family and has been eaten in that area of Mexico for hundreds of years.
The cooking class started by meeting our instructor at the local market where we gathered the ingredients we would need for making the mole. After gathering all the ingredients we returned to her home where we spent the entire day mixing, grinding and perfectly making the mole recipe.
We learned about where the different chilis grow, and how to make everything from scratch just like people would have hundreds of years ago. The cooking class was an incredible experience and we left feeling like we understood more of that region of Mexico and how flavors and foods tie the culture there together.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Flavors of Oaxaca: Cooking Class with No Set Menu and Local Market Tour (See best prices on Viator >>)
- Oaxacan Vegetarian Cooking Class (See best prices on Viator >>)
- Oaxaca Street Food Cooking Class (See best prices on Viator>>)
- Oaxaca: Classic Downtown Food Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide>>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Attend the Saguaro Cactus Fruit Harvest
For a really unique hands-on experience in Southern Arizona, join a saguaro cactus fruit harvest!
TIP BY: Leigh, campfiresandconcierges.com (< read all about this experience on her blog!)
“The cactus fruit harvest is a very special annual celebration of the people of the Tohono O’odham nation. Each summer, the saguaro cactus blooms a beautiful white flower. Once the flower is pollinated, the cactus fruit begins to grow. There is a very short window between the ripening of the fruit and the arrival of summer monsoon storms, so it’s just a couple of weeks each year that the fruit can be harvested.
The Tohono O’odham see this as a new year celebration, and saguaro fruit wine has been used to celebrate the arrival of monsoons for hundreds of years. Harvesting of the saguaro fruit is prohibited for everyone but the Tohono O’odham, but fortunately, they partner with a few local attractions in Tucson and open the event to the public.
Two places where you can harvest saguaro fruit is at Colossal Cave Mountain Park and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. You can also find events in the Phoenix area and at Organ Pipe National Monument.”
- Colossal Cave Mountain Park (See their website >>)
- Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (See their website >>)
- Organ Pipe National Monument (See their website >>)
Go Blackberry or Strawberry Picking in Florida
With almost 10 million acres of farmland in Florida, it’s no wonder that there are so many “u-pick” places throughout the state.
TIP BY: Rachel, therxfortravel.com (< read all about her world travels on the blog!)
“We did some blackberry picking at the beautiful Congaree and Penn in Jacksonville. At the farm, we boarded the covered wagon which took us to the crops. Once there, we picked our own blackberries and filled our basket.
Depending on the harvest season, we mark the occasion with festivals in locations all across the state.
Florida is the second largest grower of strawberries in the United States. The main festival and location of where most of the strawberries are grown is Plant City. Located 20 minutes east of Tampa, Plant City is a short drive for those visiting the area who want a bit of a local experience.
The Florida Strawberry Festival is almost 2 weeks long with live entertainment, rides and attractions, exhibits, and of course food. While you can’t pick strawberries at the festival, the smaller farms where you can are located nearby. Be sure to add Florida as your fruit or vegetable picking destination.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
Go Hang Gliding in the Outer Banks
The soft dunes and brisk winds of the Atlantic attracted the Wright Brothers to the North Carolina Coast for their historic first flight and if you’ve ever wanted to take to the air yourself, there is no better place than the Outer Banks of North Carolina to learn to hang glide.
TIP BY: Brianna Simmons, casualtravelist.com (< read all about this experience on her blog!)
“Francis Rogallo, a NASA engineer, invented hang gliding and retired to the Outer Banks and often frequented the dunes with the instructors at Kitty Hawk Kites (which also happens to be the largest hang gliding school in the world).
After a history and safety lesson we were fit for helmets and harnesses and took a short walk out to the launch site in Jockey’s Ridge State Park where the dunes can reach over 100 feet tall. The dune hang gliding lesson is the first step in becoming a certified hang gliding pilot.
Once I was harnessed in I took a deep breath, started running and then all of a sudden, my feet weren’t on the ground. I was soaring through the air! While I wasn’t too high off the ground (dune flights are only about 20′ off the ground max and an instructor holds onto a tether for safety) the feeling of weightlessness is euphoric. I was hooked.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Kitty Hawk Kites (See their website >>)
Experience the Trial Reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg
Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia before America gained its independence. Williamsburg is no longer the capital, but it has become much more famous as the home of Colonial Williamsburg, a massive and authentic recreation of an 18th century American town open 365 days a year.
TIP BY: Stella Jane, aroundtheworldin24hours.com (< read all about her world travels on the blog!)
“Guests to Colonial Williamsburg can participate in many kinds of historical reenactments, from drinking hot chocolate at a colonial coffeehouse to playing traditional colonial games.
The best historic reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg take place at the Courthouse. This Courthouse was the original Williamsburg Courthouse when Williamsburg was the capital. In the 18th century, locals came here to hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud, as well as the proclamation of the end of the American Revolution. When guests visit this building today, they can participate in performances of authentic colonial trials based on accurate historical records.
Visitors might play the role of anyone from a woman attempting to punish her wayward apprentice to a man complaining that the local tailor has cheated him. Whether you participate as a plaintiff, defendant, member of the jury, or spectator, you’re sure to walk away with a new understanding of what life was like in Colonial America.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area (See their website >>)
Tropical Macadamia Nut Farm Tour
Of all the beautiful things to see and exciting things to do on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, the one that just might leave the biggest impression is visiting the Tropical Macadamia Nut Farm for a tour.
TIP BY: Sierra Schmidt, freetotravelmama.com (< read all about a 7 day Oahu Itinerary on the blog!)
“This farm has been in operation since 1987 and for many visitors is just a quick stop to pick up macadamia nuts at great prices. However, for those that walk around to the back of the charming location, they will find a booth offering Ali’i Tours twice a day for only $20 for adults and $10 for keiki (children) in cash.
Tours kick off with handmade leis and an entertaining welcome as guests board the open air buses. The Chief leads the tour through the vibrant green farm pointing out different medicinal leaves and plants along the way to educate the guests.
The small group arrives at a clearing with a rustic stage in front of an ancient fishpond. Here, he entertains with drums, fire dancing, and teaches guests how to start a fire and crack open a coconut. Visitors are invited to taste the coconut water and fresh fruit before joining the islanders in a traditional, simple hula dance. Women and children are adorned with flower crowns made of palm leaves on the spot and everyone is given a bunch of apple bananas straight from the tree before departing.
Before the tour, don’t miss cracking nuts open by hand with a rock to taste test or feed to the resident chickens. Samples inside the tropical hut include cinnamon, honey, and garlic flavored nuts to buy for the road. The amazing beauty of this farm is stunning enough to visit just for the scenery, but the added cultural experience and agricultural education make for an afternoon that will likely be a favorite trip memory.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Oahu: North Shore & Dole Plantation Island Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
Do You Travel to Discover Hands-On Experiences?
Let us know in the comments below what your favourite activity in this list is – and if you have any great additions to share with us. We are always adding to this page, so keep your suggestions coming!
Look below for more information about creative travel and where else in the world you can have great hands-on experiences:
Creative Tourism Network
If you are looking for more creative tourism examples, then make sure to head over to the website of the Creative Tourism Network, as they are a fantastic source of information and inspiration for your upcoming travels.
The Creative Tourism Network is the international organization for the Creative Tourism development worldwide. They offer consulting and training to tourism professionals and also host the Creative Tourism Awards to reward projects, companies and destinations that foster the new generation of tourism with the active participation of tourists in creative activities.
Map of North America Creative Travel and Tours
Creative Traveller’s Handbook
My travel blogger friend Elena wrote a wonderful book about creative travel that I can highly recommend reading. In this inspiring handbook, she answers not only the question who creative travel is for, but she gives practical tips on how to be creative on your own travels and how to plan your next creative trip down to all the details.
Read my full review of the Creative Traveller’s Handbook >>
Creative Travel Around the World
Read our other articles:
- Creative Travel: Is This The Best Way To See The World?
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences In Africa You Need To Know About
- 6 Hands-on Travel Experiences in East Europe You Need to Know About
- 7 Hands-on Travel Experiences In South America You Need To Know About
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences In South Asia You Need To Know About
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences in South East Asia You Need to Know About
- 10 Hands-on Travel Experiences In Japan You Need To Know About
- 3 Hands-on Travel Experiences in Central and East Asia You Need to Know About