If you've checked out Bravo's new digital series Going Off The Menu, you may have caught the co-host, rogue chef, and culinary adventurer Russell Jackson mentioning that he likes to skydive. Well, that's a bit of an understatement — by his estimation, he's jumped out of planes, helicopters and hot air balloons more than 900 times. Want to fly in the sky for a bucket-list adventure too? Check out Russell's recommendations on where the best places in America to do it.
1. Davis, California
With beautiful vistas and plentiful choices, Northern California is one of the best places in the world to jump. Russell calls SkyDance in Davis (where he learned to dive), "My home. It's my everything." For years he ran an on-site bar called Dive Bar (get it?) and made food for the community there. It's here where he's planning a big event called Dine and Dive 2 this fall under his SubCulture Dining umbrella.
"During the spring and winter, it's picturesque-ly beautiful there," he says. "It's in the middle of Northern California farmland so it's green, lush, and flat and you can see for hundreds of miles," including, some days, all the way to San Francisco. It's accessible from San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento airports.
2. Perris Valley, California
Fly into Orange County or San Diego airports to head to Skydive Perris, which sits nearly smack dab between the two major Southern California metro areas. A playground for the world's best divers, the site is home to national and world championships and the area has some culinary culture for visitors: "There are a lot of good Mexican mom-and-pop restaurants within 30 minutes," he advises.
3. Eloy, Arizona
If you're in the mood to hop from there, it's a quick flight to Phoenix and a one-hour drive to SkyDive Arizona. "I trained there every Christmas from 2000 through 2004," he remembers. "Twelve hours a day we would jump, eat, drink good food, and I would come back a different person. I would jump out of hot air balloons in the morning and helicopters at night." While those aren't options for beginners, first-timers can still head here for big thrills. Russell also recommends it as a good spot for an RV vacation where you can kick it and watch coyotes and the planes fly by.
5. DeLand, Florida
Orlando is the closest major city to Skydive DeLand, where you can take a bit more time with your dive because of the atmosphere: "The air is super super mushy so the dives are a little bit slower," he notes. "It’s pretty cool." Russell says there are also some pretty slamming mom and pop Cuban restaurants nearby serving up some real home cooking.
5. Gardiner, New York
Just about an hour outside of New York City, Skydive The Ranch is Russell's East Coast base of jumping operations. Jump from 13,500 feet and take in scenic views of apple orchards. And importantly: "They do some really cool barbecues, too."
Bonus! International picks
While Russell does most of his jumping in the United States, he's also had amazing experiences in Spain, Portugal, and France... and there's one global cosmopolitan city that's still on the bucket list: "Dubai is probably the most high-end luxury place to jump," he says. "My pork fat blood level won't let me go there, though."
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