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Trip Ideas

Coolest Learning Vacations

Have you ever come home from a vacation more brain-dead than when you left? Turns out baking in the sun or shlepping from place to place isn’t always mentally restorative. We rounded up nine thrilling ways to get your relaxation on while wising up — on wine, photography and more. Read on for sample syllabi.

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1

Take a Space Tutorial, AL

If you missed out on Space Camp as a kid, it's not too late. Astronaut wannabes can get trained in space flight history, experience a one-sixth gravity chair and multi-axis trainer, and build and launch a real rocket, all from the comfort of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The $599 fee is a steal for the four-day course, which was founded by a onetime director at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and comes with food and lodging. (It's significantly cheaper than a certain other space experience.)

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2

Go Olive Picking, Tuscany, Italy

One major reason to help with the harvest on this 15-acre organic olive farm: The meals they feed you, which may include braised local lamb, stuffed guinea hen, and fresh ricotta with chestnut honey. You’ll also take the olives you’ve picked to a centuries-old frantoio (pressing mill) and go truffle hunting with locals. All in a day’s work.

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3

Re-energize Your Soul, AZ

Occasionally in life you need a total soul reset. The Mii Amo spa in Sedona’s red rock canyons has long been known to do just that. This December, California-based celebrity lifestyle guru Tammy Stokes is leading a four-day workshop on living your best life, from how to train your mind to be happier to why you should be drinking organic green juices regularly. Oprah would be proud.

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4

Learn to Shoot Beautiful Photos, India

National Geographic's photography is nothing short of legendary. You can learn the secrets to shooting beautiful images with National Geographic Expeditions, which hosts dozens of trips with top photographers every year, all around the globe. We love the 13-day trek across India, which includes a sunrise snap session at the Taj Mahal and a camel safari in the Thar Desert. Prep your Instagram friends now — your feed is about to blow up.

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5

Sign up for Mermaid Camp, FL

You haven’t seen kitschy until you’ve visited Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, where pretty local ladies have done underwater ballet (and eaten bananas!) dressed up like mermaids since 1947. In their weekend-long Sirens of the Deep mermaid camp, you’ll learn how to be a real-life Ariel — complete with shimmering fins — and make all the tween girls in your life green with envy.

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6

Take an Archery Class, PA

Camp was the ultimate learning experience when you were growing up, and it’s back in a big way for adults. Whether you’re 25 or 75 you can relive those glory days at Camp Bonfire, on Lake Owego in the Poconos. Sign up for workshops on book binding, archery, standup paddleboarding and good old-fashioned friendship bracelet weaving.

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7

Join a Wine Boot Camp, CA

At the Culinary Institute of America, in St. Helena, California, you’ll learn to taste wine like a sommelier. On the agenda: a vineyard visit, background lessons on everything from grape varietals to terroir, and lots of tastings. (Tip: Avoid wearing perfume or cologne. Your nose is of the utmost importance here, and you don't want to throw off the group’s sense of smell.)

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8

Save the Coral Reefs, Bahamas

Your 10-day mission, should you choose to accept it: snorkel the clear turquoise waters off Eleuthera Island, in the Bahamas, helping Earthwatch Institute researchers monitor (and hopefully save) the area’s coral reefs. You’ll have free time every evening, but mornings and afternoons are spent in the water, visiting mangrove and patch reef sites, counting fish species and tracking their interactions. The $2,800 fee includes nearly everything, but BYO snorkel gear.