A SoCal Adventure
Get your pulse pounding with these thrilling day adventures around Southern California.
By Jason Sanford
Sure, you’ve been on a plane before, dozens of times. You’ve more than likely even sat nice and close to the front—those plush, comfy seats with the extra leg room and first right of passage upon landing—but you’ve more than likely never sat in the cockpit of a plane actually cruising through the air. Dreamt about flying far away from board meetings and never-ending teleconferences? Of course—but you’ve probably never had one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the throttle, adjusting the nose of an airplane as you soar through the bright sky over the Huntington Pier or the Hollywood sign.
“Less than half of 1 percent of Americans have ever been in the cockpit of a plane during flight,” explains Gary Reeves, owner and pilot of Sunset Flying. “We’re the only company that lets you fly a plane over Disneyland and LA—the difference here is you actually fly the plane.”
Brave souls seeking a spike in adrenaline, an unforgettable adventure or just an out-of-the- ordinary way to impress an adventurous date have many options at their disposal in Southern California. Whether it’s jumping into the cockpit of a plane, zip lining through the forest or taking a Harley-Davidson for a dream ride up Pacific Coast Highway, there are plenty of ways to feed your inner daredevil and get your fill of local excitement.
Take off on a ‘Hog’
Portrayed in TV dramas as the getaway vehicle of choice for fleeing outlaws, Harley-Davidsons are in reality a distinctly American symbol of independence, adventure and innovation. Few experiences compare to the first time you hop on a motorcycle, especially the one most renowned for its handling, craftsmanship and throaty roar.
“It’s definitely a five-sense experience—it’s one of those ways that people aren’t used to traveling,” says Tara Schreiner with EagleRider, the largest motorcycle rental company in the nation. “We’ve had people rent bikes for two weeks and come back with tears of joy in their eyes—it’s just incredible.”
The thrust of the throttle combined with the roar of the bike’s thunderous engine is enough to give anyone chills, especially when it’s their first time with their fists wrapped around the handlebars and their butt planted in the seat. And with dozens of various makes and bodies of Harley at your disposal—literally anywhere you may be—countless numbers of adventures await, whether it’s a jaunt to Palm Springs or Joshua Tree, a rolling run up Pacific Coast Highway or just lunch in San Diego or Malibu—getting there just got a whole lot more exciting and head-turning.
EagleRider also has a bevy of guided and self- guided tours that let riders discover the biggest area sights and some of the off-the-beaten-path attractions while they’re on their bike. These trips can range from daylong, roundtrip excursions to full 21-day cross-country explorations of New Zealand. Some of the other tour destinations include a run on Route 66, a trip up the West Coast and even a caravan to Yellowstone and Canada. In addition, there are comprehensive tours of Europe, South Africa, Israel and New Zealand.
EagleRider also allows its guests to take a bike from one of its locations and drop it off in another satellite location too, meaning that what happens in Vegas does stay in Vegas, including the bike that got you there.
Hopping on a Harley gives its rider the adventure of a lifetime, even if it’s rolling down the same streets that you’ve driven dozens of times before, as the world passes by a little faster and the breeze ruffles your shirt like no drop- top convertible can.
217 Avocado, Newport Beach 949-646-7433 eaglerider.com
Get Your Head in the Clouds
“Yes we’re a sightseeing flying company—but we’re the only company that lets you actually fly the plane,” explains owner Gary Reeves. “You can fly around the Santa Monica Pier, the Hollywood sign, LAX, Disneyland, the Queen Mary—we’re great for birthdays, anniversaries, wedding proposals.”
The journeys aboard a Sunset Flying tour are very popular with both romantic couples and entire families according to Reeves, and are appreciated by most anyone who appreciates the rush of flying in something a little smaller and more agile than the standard commercial aircraft. The main difference here, being that you can hop in the pilot’s seat (with some hands-on professional guidance), without hours and hours of lessons from a flying school.
“So many people have come up here and said it’s the best day they’ve ever had in their life,” says Reeves. Each flight adventure includes pictures from the flight, the logbook used, a custom CD containing a photo screensaver and an official flight certificate.
Reeves even says that some have been inspired to become pilots after hopping in the cockpit for a flight, thereby turning their flying adventure into their future.
If guests mention that they’re staying at The St. Regis Monarch Beach and were referred to Sunset Flying, they also receive a complimentary pickup from the resort, transportation to the tarmac and a ride back to the resort—not a bad liftoff for adventure.
Zip Through the Tall Trees
Hopping from tree to tree is easier said than done unless you’re part simian or flying squirrel, but with ziplining not only a viable, but a heart- pounding way to take treetop adventure to new heights, getting lost in the beauty of the tallest reaches of the forest is well within your grasp.
“We’ve had 10-year-olds do it, we’ve had 80-year-olds, this is just a really fun zipline tour,” says Belinda Bain, owner of Action Zipline Tours in Big Bear. “It’s a lot of fun, it’s something that everyone can do.”
Action Zipline Tours operates in the scenic and rugged backcountry around Big Bear—25 miles northeast of San Bernardino and less than 100 miles from The St. Regis Monarch Beach— and gives visitors the chance to go zooming from platform to platform high above the bottom of the forest basin, with scenic views of Johnson Valley all around. Known largely as a snow sport haven, Big Bear is quickly becoming known too for its high- wire zipline adventure course, set up between posts and platforms and securely threaded by reinforced 60,000-pound aircraft cable.
“We actually own our own mountain, two miles deep in the forest and a photographer goes with you for the entire adventure,” Bain explains. “It seems like 99 percent of the people come back and love it, and we’re really unique because we don’t allow cell phones up there.”
Bain says that electronic devices aren’t allowed to go up on the mountain, as they only distract adventurers from the full, immersive exhilaration of the zipline, and she wants everyone that leaps from
platform to platform to not be fumbling with a phone to take pictures or videos of their experience, thus prioritizing safety in addition to a great time.
“We say ‘safety first, and fun second’ when we do tours. Our lines aren’t attached to trees that can rot, they’re attached to safety-tested permanent posts,” Bain says. “But this is a favorite zipline tour, it’s so much fun, you can actually go off backwards or spin on the line when you ride—which you can’t do elsewhere.”
And any occasion is a great reason to grab some gloves, strap in and embark on the high-flying adventure—Bain says that they get individuals from all walks of life that participate in the zip course—the common denominator being that they have a sense of adventure and aren’t afraid to go flying through the air.
“We get people that come up for bachelor parties, we get newlyweds, we get girl scouts, church groups—it’s truly for everyone.”
That is, everyone that’s ready to fly through the air—spinning, flailing or screaming in utter joy at the heart-pounding adventure that awaits them.
No matter which out-of-the-ordinary way you choose to liven up your day, these thrilling activities are guaranteed to take your breath away. But as any adventurous soul can attest to, once you take the initial leap, it’s that inimitable feeling of pure adrenaline coursing through your veins as you’re flying, falling or hugging tight hairpin turns that reminds you just how alive you really are.
Action Zipline Tours
41647 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear; 909-866-0390 actionziplinetours.com
GET YOUR KICKS IN SOCAL
Skydive over San Diego with Skydive San Diego (619-216-8413; skydivesandiego.com)
Dogfight in an authentic early-20th century biplane or “warbird” with Barnstorming Adventures (760-230- 0903; barnstorming.com)
Zipline across Catalina Island with Catalina Zip Line (1-800-626-1496; visitcatalinaisland.com)
Tour Los Angeles in one of only two authentic zeppelin airships with Airship Ventures (650-969-8100; airshipventures.com)
Fly over Temecula’s scenic wine country in a hot air balloon with California Dreamin’ (951-699-0601; californiadreamin.com)