50 of the most thrilling, daring things you can do on vacation

Story highlights

Got cash and guts? You can fly your own fighter jet in Russia

One of the world's most treacherous cliff walks is along Mount Hua in China

Strapping into a competition-prepared, V8-charged Impreza WRX sound fun? You can do it in Australia

CNN  — 

Warning: don’t read this list if you have a heart condition.

What follows are 50 heart-pounding, life-affirming activities that’ll get that tiptoeing-the-cliff-edge buzz shooting around your body. In some cases, literally.

1. Jet fighter pilot for a day (Europe/U.S.)

Are you a Maverick or a Goose? “Top Gun” references aside, these day you really can fly a fighter jet.

Switzerland-based MiGFlug is an intermediary between the public and operators of fighter jets such as defense departments and air forces that makes it possible for you to fly in a MiG-29, L-39 Albatross and Hawker Hunter, among other aircraft.

MiGFlug operates in Russia, the United States, United Kingdom and other European countries.

MiGFlug; +41 44 500 5010 (Switzerland); +1 813 384 3191 (United States); +44 20 3129 3070 (UK)

2. Volcano boarding (Nicaragua)

Snow boarding is old school. The most extreme way to slide a slope is at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua.

The live volcano, which erupted as recently as 1999, has become a hotspot for extreme boarders, who can reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour as they course down the volcano. Run by Bigfoot Nicaragua, day trips include a hike, boarding session and mojitos.

Bigfoot Nicaragua, Del Banco Procredit 1/2 cuadra al Sur, Leon, Nicaragua; +505 8505 1284; $30 including $5 entrance fee to the park

3. Cage of Death (Australia)

You can stare into the faces of some of Australia’s biggest saltwater crocodiles for 15 minutes, separated by nothing more than a couple inches of glass.

The cage houses two people at a time, so there’ll be someone there to hold your hand.

Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin Crocodile Park, 58 Mitchell St., Darwin; +61 8 8981 7522; $160/240 for one/two persons

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4. Cliff walk (China)

Here’s a trek with a difference: at 2,160 meters, the majestic South Peak of Mount Hua is one of the most popular among climbers in the mountain range.

Some say it’s the most treacherous. At one point, a kilometer above the ground, you have to traverse a slim wooden plank stuck to the face of a vertical cliff.

South Peak of Mount Hua

5. Insanity ride (United States)

Hovering 270 meters above ground and 20 meters over the edge of Las Vegas’ Stratosphere Tower, these spinning mechanical arms will get your heart pounding probably even before you’ve strapped yourself to a seat.

It’s not the only ride offered at the 350-meter Stratosphere Tower, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States.

But it’s the one most likely to make you question your sanity.

Ride Insanity, 2000 Las Vegas Boulevard S., Las Vegas; +1 800 99 86937; $15 per ride, entry to the Tower costs $18

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6. Zapcat powerboating (United Kingdom)

These inflatable catamaran hulls decked out with powerful racing engines are built purely for speed, and therefore thrills.

The Gs can be brutal, and the jumps will make you wonder whether you’re sailing or flying, but there are few things on water that beat these bad boys for bragging rights.

The powerboat experience in the United Kingdom is run by the current National Zapcat Championship winning team.

Zapcat powerboating; +44 0844 815 7793; from $300 per experience

7. CN Tower Edge Walk (Canada)

The thrill of visiting Toronto’s CN Tower used to be the half-kilometer ride up the elevator.

Now, adventurers can dangle from the outside of the roof of the tower’s restaurant, 356 meters above the ground. The Edge Walk lasts 90 minutes, with 20-30 minutes spent on the walk itself.

CN Tower, 301 Front St., West Toronto, Ontario, Canada; +1 416 868 6937; $160

Toronto: Insider Travel Guide

8. Everest skydive (Nepal)

You could spend months preparing for, and eventually climbing, the world’s highest mountain … or you could skydive past it.

The self-proclaimed “world’s most elite skydiving adventure” allows adventurers to jump from a plane at 29,500 feet, higher than the Everest summit, to float back to base camp.

Everest skydive; +33 634 267 097; $25,000/35,000 for one/tandem

9. Nevis Bungy (New Zealand)

Think Usain Bolt is quick?

You can travel 134 meters in 8.5 seconds, if you have a go on the Nevis Bungy, New Zealand’s highest.

The adventure starts before you get to the pod, 134 meters above the Nevis River, with a 4x4 jeep journey across the kiwi back country.

Nevis Bungy, buses to the location depart from the Station Building, Queenstown daily; +64 800 286 4958; $222

10. Free dive at Dean’s Blue Hole (Bahamas)

Don’t be fooled by its poetic name or its tropical location: Dean’s Blue Hole is deep, dark and intimidating. But, if you’re up for it, you can tame the world’s deepest known seawater blue hole by learning to become a free diver.

You probably won’t beat William Trubridge, who broke the unassisted free diving record by diving 100 meters here in 2011. And you certainly won’t conquer all 203 meters of this light-and-oxygen-deprived sinkhole. But you’ll have a great time getting close.

Dean’s Blue Hole; a four-day beginner’s course starts at $475

11. World’s steepest roller coaster (Japan)

The world’s steepest steel roller coaster opened at the Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Yamanashi, Japan, in 2011.

On top of a free fall of 121 degrees, riders fight G forces through seven twists and a drop of 43 meters. The near-vertical free fall is the fourteenth Guinness World Record set by Fuji-Q, one of the leading amusement parks in the world for thrill seekers.

Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park, 5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara, Fujiyoshda, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan; +81 0555 23 2111; $10 per ride, entrance ticket to the park costs $13

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12. Zorbing (Global)

Yes, it looks and feels faintly ridiculous, but there’s nothing like tumbling around in a giant inflatable ball to bring out the child in you. It’s simple: get to the top of a hill, crawl into a giant inflatable orb and off you go. Your only regret will be not having room for one in your backyard.

Zorb; +64 9 365 1180 (various offices in the United States); around $40 per person.

13. Water buffalo racing (Indonesia)

Balancing on small, wooden chariots while wading through shin-deep wet rice fields, racers have to control both their own nerves and not one but two charging bullocks.

You won’t be able to compete, but just watching these animals careering almost out of control through mud and water will got your blood pumping. The water buffalo races are held every year in Negara Town, Bali, in October.

Makepung buffalo race, Negara

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14. Running of the Bulls (Spain)

This one might be a bucket list cliché, but there’s no adrenaline rush quite like the fear of being gored and trampled by one of the world’s most powerful land mammals.

The biggest Running of the Bulls event occurs during the nine-day festival in San Fermin (July 6-14) in Pamplona, Spain. Fifteen bulls charge through the streets of the old city, to be herded into the bull ring.

If you get cold feet, they run for seven consecutive mornings so you have plenty of chances to build your nerve. There is a down side – at least 15 people have died in the event since 1924.

Pamplona, Spain; +34 1 888 825 4720

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15. Office Chair Race (Germany)

Sitting in the same old office chair day after day can be so dull. Why not kit it out with crazy add-ons and race it down the road? The Office Chair Racing Championship in the German resort town of Bad Koening sees more than 50 participants race downhill over jump ramps.

Bad Koenig-Zell, Germany

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16. Kayak over a waterfall (United States)

Floating down a river isn’t always an exercise in blissful stress reduction. Taking on the waterfalls of the Palouse region of eastern Washington State and northern Idaho is proving an irresistible sport for young pro kayakers.

Tyler Bradt, who clinched a 3.7-second freefall over the 57-meter (that’s higher than Niagara Falls) Palouse Falls in eastern Washington in 2009 said “the motivating factor for all of this was just that I thought it was possible.”

Here’s a video of Tyler Bradt’s adventure.

Palouse Falls, Palouse Falls State Park, LaCrosse, Washington; +1 360 902 8844

17. Motorcycle cab ride (Thailand)

Don’t mistake this for some ordinary cab ride. Commuting on two wheels in Thailand is an adventure.

In places like Krabi and Bangkok, tourists and locals alike often enjoy the thrill of snaking through crowded streets at high speed, inches away from buses on either side.

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18. Marathon des Sables (Morocco)

Six days, 50 C, 254 kilometers – just some of the reasons this ultra marathon across the Sahara Desert in Morocco is known as the world’s toughest foot race.

This isn’t one to go into unprepared. Competitors must carry all their own equipment and even experienced runners train for years for the race. In 2007, two competitors died on the way.

Marathon des Sables; + 33 3 2576 5777 (head office); inquiries can be made through an online form; entry fees $3,680 for individual and $3,820 for each competitor in a team

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19. Nurburgring taxi ride (Germany)

BMW “Ring Taxis” are available from April to October, during which time you can be driven by a professional driver around a race track in a BMW M3.

The rides take place in the Nordschleife, given the name “Green Hell” by Formula 1 racer Jackie Stewart.

It’s one of the two race tracks in Nurburgring. Ring taxis get booked up a year in advance, but you can keep an eye out for canceled reservations as April approaches.

BMW “Ring Taxis,” Nurburgring, 1 Nurburgring Boulevard, Nürburg; +49 2691 302 630; $307 per lap. Travelers can book the more flexible tourist drives experience for $36 per lap.

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20. Hot air ballooning (Turkey)

It’s one of the oldest, and finest, ways to see the world. The sweeping vistas of the Cappadocia greet those who float silently in clear skies above the region’s villages. Champagne is provided.

Hot air balloon, Nese Tour, Avanos Yolu Uzeri No: 54, Goreme, Nevsehir Province, Turkey; +9 0533 768 3409; from $238

21. Whitewater rafting (Zambia)

The Zambezi River in Africa is rated Class 5 for rafting, which means “extremely difficult,” slightly easier than “unrunnable.”

Its thundering rapids – nicknamed Oblivion, Overland Truck Crash and Stairway to Heaven – pull no punches.

Just below Victoria Falls, you’ll be hit relentlessly by raging waters and tested by precipitous drops and deadly whirlpools.

White water rafting; +260 213 324406/7; $151 per person

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22. Dine in the sky (Worldwide)

“Pull up a seat” takes on a new and literal meaning when you and 21 of your friends are eating dinner hanging from a crane 50 meters in the air.

Each meal takes around an hour, and going to the toilet can be a rather unsubtle affair as the whole table needs to descend if someone really needs to go. But this is one meal that’s memorable for other reasons.

Dinner in the sky

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23. Harbour Bridge climb (Australia)

More than 2,000 marriage proposals have been made at the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge since the bridge climb service went into operation.

There are various ways to get to the top of the bridge to view one of the most beautiful harbors of the world – The Express Climb (just more than two hours), The Discovery Climb (3.5 hours up close with the engineering) and The Bridge Climb (3.5 hours along the outer arch).

Sydney Harbour Bridge climb; 3 Cumberland St., The Rocks, Sydney; +61 2 8274 7777; $180-323

24. Swim with great white sharks (South Africa)

There are countless places to swim with sharks, but one of the best is in Cape Town.

A Great White Shark Diving and Viewing trip from Simon’s Town can also include a visit to the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony.

Great white shark diving, Simon’s Town Harbour, Simon’s Town, Cape Town; +27 21 782 9356; $146-217

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25. London Eye (United Kingdom)

Three million people can’t be wrong, can they? That’s roughly the number of people who take a ride on Europe’s biggest Ferris wheel each year.

The 135-meter-tall icon is to London what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. But much more fun to ride.

Trips take about 30 minutes and provide spectacular views across the city. Night trips show London’s lights spread out for miles around.

London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London; from $44

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26. Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race (Chile)

There’s no better way to appreciate the Patagonian landscape than to swim in its rivers, hike its hills, cycle its paths and climb and kayak through its 563 kilometers of rugged topography.

Teams of four take up to 10 days to travel through the roughest and most remote corners of Patagonia.

Racers can only use satellite images to navigate.

The clock never stops and many teams take just a few hours of sleep over the duration of the race.

There won’t be a race in 2014, but registration for the 2015 edition will be open soon.

Patagonian Expedition Race; +56 61 61 3891; $1,350-2,170

27. Wingsuit flight (Switzerland)

You may not want to fly through a waterfall in your wingsuit as one thrill seeker did in 2011.

But just zipping this thing on and preparing to get as close to natural flight as is humanly possible will get your nerves jangling.

The United States Parachute Association requires any jumper flying a wingsuit for the first time have a minimum of 200 freefall skydives. Click here for information on how to get certified as a wingsuit flier.

Some wingsuit schools to look up once you’re ready: Skydive Elsinore and Texas Wingsuit Academy.

28. Ice swimming (Finland)

Don swimming togs, find a deep patch of frozen water, drill a hole and plunge in – that’s the protocol for this time-honored Finnish custom.

If the thought of plunging right into an icy hole sends shivers up your spine, you can heat up with a sauna session first. Watch a video of ice-hole swimming in Finland here.

Ice-swimming, VisitFinland

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29. Sopelana Naturist Race (Spain)

There’s a strict dress code for this race – a cap or hat, sunglasses, socks, footwear and nothing else. Formally called Patxi Ros Trophy, the race was initiated by Patxi Ros, sports and naturism lover, in 1999.

In 2003 it was taken over by the Basque Country Naturist Club, which uses it to promote the naturalist way of life.

Basque Country Naturist Club

30. Neuschwanstein Castle paraglide (Germany)

Paragliding anywhere is going to be a thrill, but it looks best in this video of a flight over the fantastical Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.

The building allegedly inspired Walt Disney as he was creating the castles of his cartoons.

Paraworth, C/O Ambos Fussenerstr 28, Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, Germany; +49 177 845 0720; $203

31. Bossaball (Global)

Bossaball combines soccer, volleyball, gymnastics and capoeira, and is played on a big bouncy trampoline-like surface.

Players try to ground the ball on the other side of the net. It takes skill and athleticism, but most of all a childish sense of fun.


32. World’s highest zip ride (South Africa)

You can become a human torpedo on the world’s highest and fastest zip line. At a height of 280 meters and two kilometers long, riders can hit 160 kilometers per hour.

A great way to feel like a bird. A very nauseous bird. The best part about this thrill activity is that it doesn’t require any skills. Just courage.

Zip2000, Sun City, South Africa; +27 14 557 1544/3382; from $40

33. Cheese rolling (United Kingdom)

It’s not smart, it’s not even that impressive. But it is fun.

With roots in a springtime heathen festival, the cheese rolling race originally involved an eight-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese sent careening down Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England, with daredevil contestants in hot pursuit.

Last year’s race saw the cheese being replaced with a lighter, safer foam copy.

Either way, bruised limbs and fractured bones are inevitable, as people try to catch the wheel of before it gets to the bottom of the 200-meter hill.

The event takes place on the last Monday of May.

See a gallery of the Cheese Rolling and Wake competition.

Cheese-Rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire

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34. Hang glide (United States)

One of the best spots for hang gliding is Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the Cumberland Plateau rises more than 900 meters above the lush Sequatchie Valley.

Local pilot and hang glide specialist Trevor Childress makes a living giving others the thrill of their lives.

Going on Glide, 1570 Window Rock Road, Dunlap, Tennessee; +1 423 463 6389; $149

35. Rickshaw Run (India)

Why get frustrated haggling with India’s rickshaw wallahs when you can ride one and see the country yourself? With these three-wheeled, half-a-horsepower contraptions, dozens of gallant travelers race from one end of India to the other three times a year.

Each edition is different from the last and is “the most stupid and probably the best thing you could possibly do with two weeks” according to The Adventurists website.

The Adverturists; +44 (0) 117364 3402; $2,464 per team (up to four members per team), each team will also have to raise $1,648 for charity

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36. Sea kayaking (Antarctica)

For many, making it all the way up to Antarctica is enough.

But in order to cross it off this list, you’ll need to get into the water.

You can get there by flying to the southern tip of the world in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina to take a boat to the Antarctic.

We recommend Natural Habitat Expeditions as a discovery tour.

Natural Habitat Expeditions; +1 303 449 3711/+1 800 543 8917 (toll free from United States and Canada); 15-to-17-day trip starting at $22,995, boarding at Ushuaia, Argentina, and disembarking at Punta Arenas (flights to/from Ushuaia and Punta Arenas not included)

MORE: Antarctica: The final frontier of travel

37. Dog sled racing (United States)

Dog sledding may not sound exciting, but consider that you’re on dog-powered transportation whistling past trees at speeds humans weren’t really designed for.

It’s best to go with a company that does small groups to ensure your independence on the sled.

Golsovia Alaska offers some of the best dog mushing; you’ll see the vast tundra, moose, wolves, eagles and, maybe, the Northern Lights.

Alaska Adventures; +1 877 923 2419; from $2,500

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38. Great Barrier Reef dive (Australia)

If you’re a water baby, or a nature lover, and especially if you’re both, a diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural constructions, will be like coming home.

Hook Reef on the east side of Southern Swain Reefs, 220 kilometers from Gladstone, has up to 50 meters of visibility so you can see scorpion fish, parrot fish, fusiliers, sea snakes, crabs, shrimp, starfish and octopus.

Learn to dive at Prodive Cairns.

The Whitsundays; Overnight diving and sailing tour about $420 with Whitsunday dive operators

39. Death Drop (Zambia/Zimbabwe)

Four glorious seconds of terrified regret as you walk off a 53-meter high cliff and free fall at 180 kilometers an hour.

You’ll just have time to catch the awesome view of Batoka Gorge before the terror of what you’re doing throws your stomach into your mouth and snaps your eyes shut.

Wild Horizon’ gorge swing, The Look-out, Batoka Gorge, Victoria Falls (transfer from Victoria Falls Town, Zimbabwe); +263 (13) 44571/44426/42313/42029 (if calling from Zimbabwe); +260 (21)3 322765 (if calling from Zambia); $90/$130 (solo/tandem)

40. Dead Sea swim (Israel)

Perhaps that should be “try to swim.”

The Dead Sea isn’t a sea at all but a lake made up of 30% salt, which turns even the skinniest figures into buoyant blobs on the surface. It’s better to just sit there and enjoy it.

The salty water is meant to be good for the skin and can help with respiration. Swimmers must wear shoes – the salt crystals on the bottom are sharp enough to cut your feet.

The Dead Sea is drying out

41. Rally drive (Sydney)

Once strapped into a competition-prepared, V8-charged Impreza WRX, how can your inner Schumacher not express himself?

Those with driving experience can take the controls and get a feel for rally driving on a custom-designed course, after which the terror quotient cranks up again as a pro driver shows you how it’s really done.

Adrenalin, 20 Burton St., Sydney, Australia; +61 1300 791 793; different prices for various laps

42. Death Road cycle (Bolivia)

Ever since a new road was built connecting the same destinations, Bolivia’s “Death Road” has been all but abandoned by cars, leaving it to a few brave cyclists.

The road connects Bolivia’s main city, La Paz, and the Yungas region.

Such is the beauty of the scenery, thousands of people flock to ride this route every year. Some reports claim 300 people die each year on the road. It’s best to avoid the road during rainy season (December to February).

Gravity Bolivia, Av. 16 de Julio #1490, Edificio Avenida, La Paz, Bolivia; +591 2 231 3849; about $110 per ride but travelers should book a ride and confirm the price with Gravity Bolivia

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43. Wing Walking (United Kingdom)

Strapped into the top wing of a vintage biplane, you’ll get swept through the skies at 220 kilometers per hour.

Originally a functional role during wartime to aid in-air re-fueling or to transfer fuel tanks from plane to plane, wing walking is now purely a thrill seeker’s pursuit. And for those who like a face full of bugs.

Wing Walking, various locations; $825

44. Himalaya rally (India)

What makes Raid-de-Himalaya different from other motorcar rallies? You have to drive above an altitude of 4,572 meters for two days of the five-day adventure.

This turns the rally from one of pure driving skill, to one of intense endurance and physical and mental toughness, as you battle oxygen depletion and icy temperatures.

Raid-de-Himalaya; +91 98160 25899

45. Surf Shipstern Bluff (Australia)

Great white sharks, huge waves, difficulty just getting out there – there are several reasons Shipstern Bluff is considered one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world.

It was only when Tasmanian surfer Andy Campbell took up the challenge 1997 that the spot on the southeastern coast of Tasmania became fodder for big wave surfers around the world.

46. Cliff diving (Mexico)

Cliff diving – it involves big heights, high speeds, crowds of onlookers, and if you’re doing it properly, tiny Speedos.

What’s not to like? This extreme form of getting into the water began in Hawaii and has since spread across the world. Divers in Acapulco, Mexico, are the most famed.

You can watch them from the safety of your restaurant, then sign up with the World High Diving Federation to train yourself up for a big splash.

World High Diving Federation, Langestrasse 42, CH-3603 Thun, Switzerland; +41 33 535 5852

47. World’s longest cable car ride (China)

The cable car at Tianmen Shan (Heaven’s Gate Mountain) in China’s Hunan province is the world’s longest – it takes 28 minutes from start to finish.

China’s scenic town of Zhangjiajie and Tianmen Shan are connected by the 7,455-meter-long cable car ride that gets as steep as 38 degrees in parts. It ascends and descends 1,279 meters.

Tianmen Shan cable car, Tianmen Shan cable car lower station, Guanliping, Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China;+86 744 836 9999 ; cable car ride costs $25, admission ticket to the park is $12

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48. Snowmobiling (Canada)

Bay Du Nord Wilderness Reserve in Newfoundland is the largest protected area in the province, offering miles of uncharted terrain for extreme snowmobiling.

It’s fast, it’s furious, it isn’t always safe, but that’s why we do it, right? The snowmobile season runs from December to April.

Newfoundland Outdoor Adventures; +1 709 467 2744; $227/318 for a four/six-hour tour

49. Ice climbing (United States)

It’s a bit like yoga – constantly bending your limbs into awkward postures – but with a helmet, spiky shoes and an ax, inside a giant fridge.

You need to be fit, you need to be nimble, and you need to be prepared for one of life’s most exhilarating experiences. Colorado offers some of the best ice climbing in the world.

Front Range Climbing Co., 1370 Windmill Ave., Colorado Springs, Colorado; +1 866 404 3721; ice climbing classes start from $240 (four hours) to $350 (six hours)

50. Rodeo (United States)

Another sport derived from a functional job, a rodeo, the naughty twin of cattle herding, will test your strength, balance and determination to impress that cute cowgirl or cowboy in the stands.

There are various events, from roping and tying up calves, to barrel racing to steer wrestling, so if the thought of sitting on one of those bucking broncs for eight seconds turns you off, don’t fear – there are other ways to get hurt.

Sankey Rodeo Schools, 3943 Sycamore Church Road, Branson, Missouri; +1 417 263 7777; various prices for different classes (from about $100)