Ahh, spring. Time to banish the cabin fever and get outdoors — and beyond. This season brings chances to make discoveries dug from the dirt of the distant past to outer space, and in some cases, the air in between. Hop aboard a new roller coaster, zip line or space simulator, or settle into a seat at one of Paris’ newest sweet spots. Options to try something new abound at destinations around the globe this spring.
Mars Training, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
At the Kennedy Space Center, getting to Mars and thriving there are more than daydreams. The center’s new Astronaut Training Experience demonstrates exactly how all aspects of the challenge have been addressed by NASA scientists. Based on those concepts, simulation technology demonstrates what traveling to and working in the harsh environment of the Red Planet might be like. Visitors can sign on for sessions that duplicate training programs for the professional astronauts, including how to perform base operations, science experiments and engineering tasks. The experiences are enhanced by the Land-and-Drive-on-Mars motion simulator; Walk-on-Mars virtual reality and spacewalk training. And participants will have the chance to team up with NASA scientists to work on food production and experiments in the Mars Botany Lab. Closer to Planet Earth, the center also features exhibits around the moon landings, the space shuttle and NASA’s distinguished astronauts who have been inducted into the year-old Heroes and Legends hall.
Le Meurice, Paris
As the song suggests, April is the best month to be in Paris, when the city’s gardens and grand boulevards are blossoming with color. This spring, the chance to sample sweet indulgences by the chef lauded as the best in the world just adds to the city’s allure. Cédric Grolet of the historic Le Meurice hotel was voted Best Pastry Chef 2018 by the French Gault & Millau guide for his artistic and delicious creations, highlighted in his recent book, “Fruits.” To showcase his talents, a pastry shop is set to open in the hotel this month. The shop is a sweet addition to the hotel’s Michelin two-star restaurant, Le Meurice Alain Ducasse. The recently renovated palace hotel, dating back to the early 1800s, has long been a backdrop for exquisite dining served to some of the world’s most glamorous travelers, including Salvador Dali and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Museum of the Bible, Washington, D.C.
Since opening in November, this attraction has drawn tourists and visitors intrigued by the concept of putting the Bible on display. The 430,000-square-foot space goes well beyond presenting versions and historical documents from the world’s most-published book; it also explores how the Bible has served as an inspiration for art and culture, how it has been translated through the ages and how it has embraced technology. Docent-led walks through Nazareth give a sense of what the ancient land was like in the time of Christ’s youth.
Documentary Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada
Be the first to see the documentary films that will rock 2018 by heading to Vancouver, where the Documentary Media Society presents the 17th Annual DOXA Documentary Film Festival. This year’s event, slated for May 3-13, features films from around the world that are judged in categories that include short film, youth programming, female-directed and Canadian. Among last year’s entries were films exploring Ben Carson’s political career, the making of the famous shower scene in “Psycho” and how freelance reporters cover news in some of the world’s most dangerous locations. Can’t get to this British Columbian city in May? The society hosts programs and panels throughout the year to showcase works of documentary filmmakers.
Hummingbird Ziplines, Orange Beach, Ala.
The Gulf Adventure Center just added a lot more zip to the Wharf on Orange Beach. Last month, the family-friendly destination opened at this entertainment district with a zip line attraction that extends about a mile and a half, with the longest stretch running 1,210 feet. Designed with eight launching towers, the course rises 90 feet above water and land and takes about 2.5 hours to complete. Before or after the aerial thrills, explore the Wharf’s restaurants, shops, Ferris wheel and entertainment options.
4830 Main St., Orange Beach, Ala. 1-877-947-8434, gulfadventurecenter.com
Silver Dollar City, Branson, Mo.
Vertical plunges, loops, upside-down curves — roller coaster fans expect those sorts of thrills. So to shake things up, designers of the new Time Traveler ride at the Silver Dollar City Theme Park have added Tilt-a-Whirl-style cars that rotate 360 degrees. If those spinning cars alone give you pause, this may not be your ride, but coaster thrill-seekers surely will flock this spring to try out the latest craze. The takeoff — a 10-story vertical drop — takes riders from zero to 47 mph in seconds. Along the more than half-mile route, cars whip through dive and vertical loops, and a zero-G roll that are part of the excitement lasting 1 minute and 57 seconds. This new ride has another plus for families: The height limit is just 51 inches, lower than many other coasters of the same caliber.
Beerwerks Trail, Shenandoah Valley, Va.
Many have driven the famed Skyline Drive through Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, noted for its impressive vistas and mountaintop clouds. In 2016, it drew even more drivers who took a break from those twisty, winding roads to relax with a craft brew from one of 14 in the area. This year, the Beerwerks Trail has inaugurated a Passport Program that rewards visitors who make it a point to grab a pint at a local brewery in the Staunton, Augusta County, Waynesboro, Harrisonburg or Lexington/Rockbridge areas. After collecting six passport stamps, mail them in for a free Beerwerks Trail T-shirt, and if it’s your first passport, two three-day admission tickets to the July Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Mount Solon. Turn in a 10th and a 25th for fly-fishing classes and whitewater adventures.
Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Founded in the late 1700s, Winston-Salem is a cache of history, and more of it is being uncovered every day. As part of the recently launched Hidden Town Project, researchers are exploring the history of the free Africans and enslaved African-Americans who lived there from the time of Salem’s earliest days through the current century. The project is uncovering specific sites where they lived and worked, and using archaeological approaches to study them. It has also connected to descendants of these early inhabitants, identified their contributions to the town’s economy and sponsored discussions and gatherings around the area’s African heritage. Already, researchers have discovered images of many African-American residents, as well as letters, diaries, maps and prints related to the project. Visitors to Old Salem will also find crafts people engaged in traditional trades of the 18th and 19th centuries (think pottery and shoe making) and offering demonstrations of quilting, cooking and gardening.