Experiental Travel: Great American Days Lead to Culinary Nights

Travel is one gift that still has a great return–an experience, a memory that will stay with you for years to come. As Father’s Day draws nearer we decided to check out Great American Days, an online company with locations across the United States that specializes in gifting adventures and experiences. These certificates offer an incredible way to have adventures while traveling, whether it be on a staycation or beyond and with the flexibility of buying a gift that can be redeemed however and wherever travel takes them.

We caught up with CEO Adrian Dewey, who left a career in finance when he co-founded Great American Days to find out the concept behind the company. “As I spent more and more time pursuing corporate goals, I began to realize that time was my most precious commodity, not money. It’s the things that we do that define us, not the things that we have. When you give an experience gift, you have the potential to take somebody out of their comfort zone and change their outlook to life forever. I think that’s what appealed to me the most about the Great American Days concept.”

Their offerings cover a myriad of pursuits: from wine tasting parties for curious winos to private cooking classes for the most discerning of foodies in their culinary category to incredible air travails (we tried their helicopter lessons in California for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill), to Formula and NASCAR racing for the need-for-speed enthusiasts (Dad should come to mind right about now.)

Mr. Dewey’s favorite experience? Paragliding. “I’ve tried lots of our experiences and will never forget the feeling of being driven at high speed in a NASCAR stock car. Those guys drive seriously fast! However, my biggest achievement was my first solo paragliding flight. I had just done a one-day course and didn’t really expect to get off the ground at all. I couldn’t believe it when I was soaring through the sky; it was incredible.”

A Great American Days Culinary Experience

Of course we had to try a culinary experience to tell you all about.  Imagine: a decadent feast prepared at home by  a certified personal chef. Great American Days arranged for Pamela Croft to give us a taste of the “At-Home Cooking Class,” an experience available in many states.  After an initial consultation, we decided on a Greek-inspired menu with a French dessert.  Pam arrived with everything she needed to prepare the meal, and we made sure the dish washer was empty.  If only all things in life were so sweet.  Over the next two hours we interacted as Pam prepared spanakopita (spinach pie) and saganaki (an incredible appetizer of wonderful Greek Kasseri cheese en flambé!), and peppered her with questions to discover some of her kitchen secrets . . . i.e. “there can never be enough butter” and “frozen spinach is the way to go when making spinach pie.”  The experience ended with satisfied stomachs, an immaculate kitchen (thanks to Pam), and leftovers for days.  This is a wonderful gift for anyone interested in the art of cuisine.

For those of you with Dads that are actively crossing things off their bucket list, you can’t go wrong with a helicopter lesson.  After a thirty-minute classroom lesson, he’ll be up in the sky taking charge of the cyclic and pedals in an exercise of pure excitement.  Most helicopters fly low on purpose, giving a giddy feeling of suspended flight.  The instructor is there to take care of all of the dashboard essentials and radio tower comm’s, leaving the best part to him: flying. Great American Days offers two-person flights in a Robinson R-44 so you can be there to witness that incredible moment in Dad’s life. Bonus: the lesson counts toward getting a license to fly when Dad realizes he can’t get enough.

The Robinson R-44 4-seater helicopter has excellent stability for first-time fliers and allows you share the thrill.
Katherine Hsia

Known affectionately as "the wandering concierge," Katherine segued a hospitality career in fabulous New York City into a life pursuing her passions of writing, adventure and travel on the spectacular island of O'ahu. She is a freelance writer for publications such as Honolulu Magazine, Hawai'i Parent, Freesurf, and more, while working on her Hawaiian comic and non-fiction book. She enjoys seeing life for its whimsical beauty, great meals with good friends, her love affair with travel, and being overstimulated by new experiences. Want to get in touch with Kat? Add her on facebook or send her a message on her website, http://www.katherinehsia.com, where she's been known to get her blog on.

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