Adrenaline rush: America’s top bucket-list thrills


These four adventure vacations are not for the faint of heart.


This article is part of a lifestyle series brought to you by RBC Echelon, a suite of private wealth management services for ultra-high-net-worth clients. Each article will explore different topics of interest for ultra-high-net-worth families, including design, travel and more.

If adventure is your middle name and you firmly believe that no vacation is complete without an exhilarating story to tell, our list of heart-pounding bucket-list experiences will be right up your alley.

And while many once-in-a-lifetime adventures require travel to far-flung corners of the world, our top four picks are right here in the United States.

1. Enjoy a dizzying dining experience in Chicago

Satisfy your hunger for adventure with a stomach-dropping dinner on The Ledge, a fully enclosed glass box jutting out from the Willis Tower’s 103rd floor, where your private table awaits. This vertigo-inducing experience allows you to dine as if suspended in mid-air, with no visible barrier between you and the city 1,353 feet below.

young woman looking out through glass skydeck

The evening begins after the skyscraper closes to the public, offering guests exclusive access to interactive exhibits that celebrate the city’s history, and to Skydeck, the country’s tallest observation platform.

Pairing Chicago’s signature deep-dish pizza with unobstructed Windy City views, this thrilling experience takes elevated dining to new heights. Just remember to take a deep breath as you take that first step from the tower onto the crystal-clear floor.

2. Soar Tarzan-style on the country’s highest zip line

Located an hour south of Colorado Springs, this white-knuckle excursion hurtles adrenaline junkies past jagged granite terrain and over a stark, rock-filled valley, reaching heights of up to 1,200 feet, with the mighty Arkansas River churning far below. Raising the ante on traditional zip lining, the Cloudscraper uses state-of-the-art harnesses that allow daredevils to ride hands-free during the 1,987-foot trip across the Royal Gorge.

people ziplining at sunset

Add another over-the-top experience by making your way across the neighboring Royal Gorge Bridge. At 956 feet, it’s America’s highest suspension bridge, offering stunning 360-degree views and sensational photo opportunities from every angle.

Cap off the adventure with a sunset joyride along nearby Skyline Drive, a winding one-way road with numerous hair pin turns, sheer drop offs and no guardrails in sight. The final ascent of what is considered one of the country’s most scenic drives treats you to sweeping views of Cañon City, the Royal Gorge and the Arkansas River Valley.

3. Dive into a real-life shark tank in Hawaii

Get your pulse racing on your next visit to the Aloha State with a snorkeling journey through waters filled with the ominous presence of sharks—and take it up a notch by eliminating the protection of a cage.

Although sharks claimed their position at the top of the food chain long before humans walked the Earth, there’s still much we don’t understand about this often-feared marine animal. Many ecologists agree that sustainable shark tours help promote conservation through education—and Hawaii’s balmy waters are the ideal setting for an up-close view.

Oahu’s North Shore is home to 40 shark species, including Galapagos, sandbars and hammerheads, and most tour companies guarantee you’ll see at least one. Prepare for a jolt of adrenaline as they glide silently into view.

scuba divers with sharks

With a local marine biologist as your guide, board your private charter at Haleiwa Harbor and prepare to take the plunge. For a special memento, consider hiring a professional underwater photographer who’ll capture you swimming with these enigmatic creatures.

4. Follow the footsteps of wolves in Yellowstone

This unforgettable trek begins deep in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley as dawn seeps through the inky sky. Miles from civilization, this rugged landscape offers private wolf-tracking tours through the hunting grounds of the world’s largest canid.

Approximately eight gray wolf packs roam Yellowstone’s remote corners, where interaction with humans is rare. Your best chance of sighting this elusive species is during the winter months, when they’re forced to migrate to lower valleys in search of prey.

pack of wolves running in snow

Trekking the path of apex predators takes years of experience. Even with guidance from park ecologists, who use radio frequencies to monitor collared wolves (roughly a third of the Yellowstone population), sightings are never guaranteed. However, the suspense of the quest itself will create indelible memories—to say nothing of the quiet awe of observing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

You can cut your wolf-tracking teeth with a single-day foray into the wild or a multi-day expedition, including catered meals in scenic locations, presentations by field specialists and plush accommodations in a nearby hotel.

Itching to get out of your comfort zone? Your bucket list experience is just a domestic jaunt away. Fuel your craving for heart-pumping excitement with an adventure vacation that’s less chill and more thrill—no passport required.

RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.

Let’s connect

We want to talk about your financial future.

Related articles

Five ways to outfit your space with your own sustainable style

Wellbeing 5 minute read
- Five ways to outfit your space with your own sustainable style

Vacation solved: Make waves with a luxury yacht charter

Wellbeing 6 minute read
- Vacation solved: Make waves with a luxury yacht charter

Health and well-being funds can help ESG investors align portfolios with wellness values

Wellbeing 6 minute read
- Health and well-being funds can help ESG investors align portfolios with wellness values