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Summer Goes Rogue: 13 Trips Outside Your Comfort Zone

Edited by Jenna Scatena | May 12, 2014 | Story Further Afield

Read More Summer Travel:
Your Gypsy Convoy Awaits
Death to the Station Wagon
Bring Bail Money

1. Go Surfing (Among Glaciers)
Yakutat, AK
Think Hawaii's North Shore, but replace the bikinis with wetsuits and the palm trees with glaciers. The common denominator? First-class barrels. And the Pacific Ocean’s temperature here can climb into the 60s, thanks to a late-summer current from Japan (still, you can leave the tanning oil at home). Get here by way of Alaska Airlines, then drop by the micro-town’s surf shop, Icy Waves (rentals from $40 a day, icywaves.com), where they’ll clue you in on swell conditions and provide rentals. Novices will want the easy-riding break at Graveyards, while seasoned surefers will dig the point break with head-highs at Cannon Beach, but wherever you paddle out, you won’t have to contend with a lineup—locals estimate that fewer than 40 surfers are spread out over a dozen beaches at any given time. End the day with après-surf brews at Glacier Bear Lodge (glacierbearlodge.com) or catch the local lore from fishermen at Mallott’s General Store (907-784- 3355), then tent up with a fire at Cannon Beach. Bonus: This time of year, it’s only dark from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., so you’ll have plenty of time to fulfill that (nearly) endless summer dream. —Lauren Ladoceour

2. Luxurate in Reno (Seriously)
Reno, NV
Finally, a part of town that appeals more to the mellow art obsessives and less to glassy-eyed slot fanatics (not that there's anything wrong with those). Case in point: Brasserie St. James (brasseriestjames.com), a sprawling new-American gastropub with a sun-soaked roof deck and an in-house brewery that would be right at home in Dogpatch—if only San Francisco had more space, lower prices, and views of majestic, snowcapped Mount Rose. Add to that the small but mighty Nevada Museum of Art (nevadaart.org), which packs several surprisingly edgy exhibits, not to mention the brand new bistro Chez Louie (chez-louie.com), into a modern building on the edge of the up-and-coming Midtown district. Instead of crashing at one of the many neon-signed mega-hotels lining the strip, stay at the new Burning Man–themed Morris Burner Hotel (flexible rates, morrisburnerhotel.com), where art from the playa abounds and each room is outfitted in a different theme. Place yourself in the hot pink–and–zebra print Sparkle Pony Room, or the cactus-filled Desert Room, designed by Nevada abstract artist Cindy Gunn. —Ellen Cushing

3. Book an L.A. Girls’ Getaway (in Koreatown)
Los Angeles, CA
If downtown is so 2013, the Line (from $199, thelinehotel.com)—a new, almost excruciatingly hip hotel—is banking on Koreatown hitting the top of this year’s it-list. So far, so good: Roy Choi is opening a hot pot restaurant in the hotel any day now, as well as a cheeky lounge called Pot that begs for a selfie alongside daredevil cocktails of natto and uni. Park’s BBQ (parksbbq.com), situated in the heart of the 2.7-square-mile neighborhood, makes it easy to have a dinner of galbi and banchan—followed by a late-night drunkeoke session at Cafe Brass Monkey (cafebrassmonkey.com). The next day, detox with the Milk and Honey treatment at the remodeled, women-only Olympic Spa (olympicspala.com). It’s at the point when the burly attendant, sadistically scrubbing your naked body, makes her way to your inner inner thigh that you realize you’ve officially submitted to K-Town. —Sara Deseran

4. Sleep Above the Clouds (and Hike to Get There)
Colorado Springs, CO
It’s not Mount Everest, but hiking the 9,200-foot Cheyenne Mountain, a scenic, craggy peak that soars from the flatlands near Colorado Springs, will certainly test the strength of your quads. Even so, the views above the cloud cover are worth the two-hour trek up steep, dusty switchbacks. Start midway up the mountain at the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, a medieval-looking stone tower dedicated to the American humorist. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including eagles and foxes, on your ascent. Your determination will be rewarded when you reach the top, where you’ll find not only heavenly vistas of Pike National Forest but also the Broadmoor Hotel’s Cloud Camp’s 11 upscale new cabins, opening this summer (from $400 per person, all-inclusive, broadmoor.com/broadmoor-cloud-camp). After resting your legs on your log cabin’s porch swing, explore options like mountain biking—or just kick back for a high-altitude dinner of veal with morels or trout in the main lodge, then cap off the night by roasting s’mores. —Blane Bachelor

5. Tour a Chinese Food Mecca (That Goes Beyond Dim Sum)
Richmond, BC
Bubbling vats of unlabeled sauces, a cacophony of Chinese dialects, and waves of undecipherable aromas—no, you haven’t landed in Beijing. You’re in Vancouver’s neighbor city of Richmond, British Columbia, where 400 Asian restaurants beckon daring diners to sample authentic and unusual dishes hard to find outside of Asia proper. You’ll smell the appropriately named Stinky Tofu before you see it: The fried, brine-soaked specialty is popular at Richmond’s growing outdoor summertime International Night Market (summernightmarket.com), every Friday through Sunday from May through September. Cuttlefish balls, a traditional Hong Kong street eat, are served with pork blood and pig skin at Wu Fung Dessert (aberdeencentre.com), while the “24-flavor tea” at Fok Po Tong Chinese Herbal Shop (yaohancentre.com) is boiled into a syrupy black elixir that’s said to pack a healthy punch along with centuries of ancient Chinese wisdom—a cleansing end to a whirlwind trip. —Kimberley Lovato

5. Hit up Vegas (for an Art Fix)
Las Vegas, NV
Does the idea of the Strip make you woozy? Instead, get a culture inoculation in the burgeoning Fremont East Entertainment District, with six blocks of sidewalk cafés, galleries, and restaurants, as well as the new shipping container shop complex, Downtown Container Park (downtowncontainerpark.com). Don’t miss the defunct medical center turned gallery collaborative Emergency Arts (emergencyartslv.com), which now houses artists instead of patients. Saunter into the former x-ray room, currently the TastySpace gallery, exhibiting a mix of experimental photography, paintings, and sculptures. Fancy some ammo as an accessory? Watch DobeZ DesignZ craft bullets into earrings. The Burlesque Hall of Fame provides photo exhibits on themes ranging from the art of striptease to performers of color, and the Zine Library has stacks of DIY publishings worth flipping through. For a taste of old-school Vegas, stay at veteran El Cortez Hotel & Casino (from $18, elcortezhotelcasino.com), slip into the Laundry Room (702-701-1466)—a speakeasy located within the Commonwealth cocktail bar—and end the night at Insert Coin(s) (insertcoinslv.com), a dance club with a classic video arcade. —Marlene Goldman

6. Snorkel in a Marine Reserve (Teeming with Leopard Sharks)
San Diego, CA
Forget Finding Nemo. From June through September, the waters off La Jolla Shores Beach in San Diego turn into a real-life Shark Week when hundreds of leopard sharks migrate to the sandy flats off the coast. Strap on a snorkel and get a closer look in the clear waters of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve with the guides at Bike and Kayak Tours La Jolla (from $39, bikeandkayaktours.com), which recently started offering shark tours. There’s no safety cage—just you and a drove of five-foot sharks floating in the shallow water. Fortunately, these slender gray sharks are timid, not fierce, with small mouths to feed on crustaceans and shrimp. Save some time to explore other watery nooks, like any of the seven spooky sea caves, or paddle a kayak out to the lively kelp forest. When you’re ready for land again, just up the hill overlooking the Pacific is a festive pink Spanish-Mediterranean hotel, La Valencia (from $200, www.lavalencia.com), that recently completed an impressive makeover. —Jenna A. Scatena

7. Suit up (for a Bromantic Vacation)
Portland, OR
Think of Portland as the anti-Vegas, the thinking bro’s alternative to annual mancations. Orient yourself to PDX’s nerd culture by studying the encyclopedic spirits list at Multnomah Whiskey Library (multnomahwhiskeylibrary.com), where portraits of Portland’s bearded brethren watch over the packed bar. Tip: Order roasted Oregon hazelnuts to soothe any whiskey burn (Portland bars don’t do peanuts). Cab it to Ox (oxpdx.com), where provisions like maple-brined pork are prepared the primal way—in a live fire. Post-dinner, hit up the Doug Fir (dougfirlounge.com), a hipper-than-thou music venue and lounge in the industrial district with a Mad Men–meets–urban lumberjack charm. The new Sentinel Hotel (FroM $179, sentinelhotel.com) in Portland’s West End has a lustrous bar, Jack Knife, for a nightcap and rooms with mannish decor: wood “taxidermy,” flannel blankets, and industrial photography. In the morning, a hearty communal brunch awaits across the street at beloved Tasty n Alder (tastyntasty.com/alder), and bespoke men’s stores abound—including Poler (polerstuff.com) for stylish outdoor gear and Tanner Goods (tannergoods.com) for hand-tooled leather. —J.A.S.

Page two: Crocodiles, mountains, and hot springs

8. Unwind at an Eco-Retreat (with Crocodiles)
Jalisco, Mexico
Don’t expect mainstream luxury at Cuixmala (from $400,cuixmala.com), a seductively unconventional Mexican resort a swift drive south of the swim-up bars in Puerto Vallarta. Paved roads on the property are few, but no matter. What you’ve come for is exotic, unabashed wilderness: The 25,000-acre nature reserve and organic fruit plantation stretching along the lush, rugged coast is a refuge for 189 animal species—crocodiles, zebras, antelope, sea turtles, and endangered jaguars roam free, as well as spiders as sizable andcolorful as the tropical flowers that blossom in early summer. For the best vantage point, saddle up and follow the resident ranchero along the seemingly endless trails. It’s only when you reach the mangrove, an eerie but beautiful passageway where dozens of crocodiles glide through the water, that you realize just how wild this place really is. Luckily, it also has a soft side: a dozen tangerine villas and casitas spread throughout the property and decorated with international wares, each offering a private infinity pool and an in-house chef. —J.A.S.

9. Summit a 14er (Still Covered in Snow)
Mount Rainier, WA
Instead of taking a summer sabbatical from snow sports, brave Washington’s notorious 14er, Mount Rainier—one of the only mountains in the West with a year-round snowpack. Summer is the best time to climb, as the weather is more predictable and the views go on for miles. But be forewarned: As the most heavily glaciated mountain in the Lower 48, this is where serious trailblazers train for trekking the Himalayas and Denali, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Get to know the mountain’s glacial terrain with Ashford-based RMI Expeditions (from $1,000, rmiguides.com), whose instructors cover essential mountain survival techniques and teach you how to put that badass ice ax to good use. After that, don your crampons for the outfitter’s four-day climb to a series of camps. When you hit 10,000 feet, your shelter for the night is a one-room rudimentary mountain hut, surrounded by slick glaciers. The next morning, you conquer the summit. —Jill K. Robinson

10. Take a Lesson in Horticulture (on Cannabis)
Denver, CO
While it’s not quite the New Amsterdam some had hoped for—you can’t smoke a joint in public, and there are no “coffee shops”—Colorado has rolled out a fledgling cannabis tourism industry over the last year. My 420 Tours (from $920, all inclusive, my420tours.com) is the first legit outfitter in North America, introducing people to the, ahem, budding scene in Denver through vacations like the Cannabis Sampler Tour. Don’t expect the special brownies of your dorm days; the cooking classes cover refined edibles—think quinoa fried rice and chocolate truffles. A high point is the behind-the-scenes grow-room tour, during which an expert guides you through a skunky forest in a 30,000-square-foot facility. Transportation back to your room at a 420-friendly hotel in downtown Denver is provided via the Cannabus. —Serena Renner

11. Go on a Foodie Road Trip (That’s Not About Farm-to-Table)
Columbia River, OR
Don’t tell Alice Waters, but even the most dedicated San Francisco foodie deserves a break from organic orthodoxy. Embark on a sugar-and-carb-fueled trip along Oregon’s Columbia River Highway, where old-school comfort cooking proudly reigns. Start in Troutdale, then eat your way 48 miles east: First, hit the logger and biker hangout Shirley’s Tippy Canoe (shirleysfood.com), which serves sloppy joes—homemade sauce smothering a beef patty set on a Frisbee-size plate—in a delightfully kitsch setting. Next, look for the neon roadside sign for Tad’s Chicken ’N Dumplins (tadschicdump.com), a landmark as famous as the stewed chicken and gravy-soaked dough balls that it references. Walk up to East Wind Drive-In (541-374-8380) for soft-serve cones taller than your kombucha bottle. And lastly, Big Jim’s Drive-In (bigjimsdrivein.com) looks like a fast-food joint, but the burgers are fresh, as are the tater tots dipped in pots of homemade fry sauce. You’ll find redemption at the juice bar at Mother’s Marketplace (mothersmarketplace.info), where the first shot of fresh ginger is on the house. —K.L.

12. Soak in a Natural Hot Spring (in the Buff)
Ukiah, CA
If the prospect of spending a weekend naked—like, totally naked: no shirt, no pants, no Internet or cell reception—incites existential dread, Orr Hot Springs (yurts and cottages from $155, 707-462-6277) will soothe your fears. This isn’t a creeper hangout; in fact, you might not see many people here, as the clothing-optional refuge is tucked away on 27 acres in the Mendocino redwoods. By day, make the circuit between the sauna, the cold pool, and two communal open-air spring-fed tubs, with 105-degree water so mineral-rich that it’s downright cloudy. Out of the water, there are trails for hiking and sundecks for curing tan lines. At night, score a spot in a rooftop claw-foot bathtub for stargazing beneath the unpolluted sky before retiring to your yurt or cottage. —E.C.

13. Unplug on a Deserted Island (Right off the California Coast)
San Miguel Island, CA
You don’t come here to make friends: The most remote of the Channel Islands, 60 miles from the mainland, offers only one campground and sees fewer than 200 visitors a year. You’ll arrive like a castaway, sloshing through aquamarine waters from a dinghy to the crescent-shaped, white-sand beach. From the point that Ventura-based outfitter Island Packers (from $147, islandpackers.com) drops you off, you’re on your own until it returns three days later. Traverse a landscape filled with calcified remnants of a prehistoric forest, mountainous dunes, endemic fauna like the island fox, and the largest congregation of seals and sea lions on the planet. Plus, summer is prime blue whale–watching time—they migrate through the watery channel in droves. It might not be Tahiti, but it’s tranquil and blissfully removed from civilization. —Garrick Ramirez

Originally published in the May issue of San Francisco

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