Ten-time Emmy-winner Elise Doganieri came up with the idea for The Amazing Race, and now she’s written a book about the CBS show: The Official Amazing Race Travel Companion: 20 Years of Roadblocks, Detours, and Real-Life Activities to Experience Around the Globe, which is out today.
It has advice and recommendations for places to visit and things to do in 32 countries across six continents, identifying them by the season and episode number they appeared on. Some of the entries have behind-the-scenes insight from Elise about filming at that location.
In this excerpt, read about five locations, including the starting line of the very first Amazing Race, and the infamous site of the watermelon-to-the-face.
Visit the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace
Season 1, Episode 1, Starting Line
Eleven teams of two lined up in front of Bethesda Fountain for the start of Season 1 and ran up the grand staircase to find transportation to get to JFK airport.
Sitting in lower Bethesda Terrace, this neoclassical sculpture, designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868, is also known as Angel of the Waters, featuring an eight-foot bronze angel “who stands above four small cherubim representing health, purity, temperance, and peace.”
Address: 72 Terrace Drive, New York, NY 10021
Behind the Scenes Snapshot: I grew up on Long Island in Port Jefferson and moved to Manhattan when I started college at FIT. Each summer, people would look for a “summer share”—a rental house in the Hamptons—with a group of friends. Every weekend there would be a mass exodus from Manhattan to the eastern end of Long Island for house parties and long days at the beach. I had always wanted to find a way to showcase the magnificent beach homes in the Hamptons, and in season 27, we found a stunning house on Dune Road for the finale. One of the highlights of that day was spending it with my father, Michael, who was one of the gentlemen standing on the beach while the teams built Adirondack chairs. When the task was complete, he handed the final clue to Kelsey and Joey before they raced to the finish line to win the competition.
How to get there: Fly into JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark Airport, and then you can take the subway, bus, taxi, pedicab, bike, or walk.
Fly on the Trapeze at Le Château de Cirque
Season 8, Episode 11, Roadblock
At Trapezium, one team member had to successfully complete a flying trapeze maneuver known as a “catch,” where they had to swing from the platform, turn upside down, hang from their legs, and then reach out midair to the trapeze artist on the other swing, who would catch them so they could receive their next clue.
Trapezium, also known as Le Château de Cirque, offers many unique circus classes adapted to all levels. These include flying trapeze, rope, lyra, silf, Chinese pole, static trapeze, flexibility, and hand to hand.51 No circus background is necessary.
Behind the Scenes Snapshot: In the mid-1990s, my parents took me to my first Cirque du Soleil show in New York City, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Seeing many of their shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I was inspired to have a circus performance challenge in The Amazing Race. Since Cirque du Soleil was founded in Canada, it seemed to be the perfect place for this task.
Address: 6956 Saint Denis Street, Montreal, Quebec H2S 2S4, Canada
How to get there: Fly into Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and then drive or take the metro.
Hang Glide from the Top of Pedra Bonita Mountain
Season 27, Episode 1, Fast Forward
In the season’s only Fast Forward, each team had to tandem hang glide from seventeen hundred feet at the Pedra Bonita Ramp (located in the Tijuca Forest National Park) to São Conrado Pepino Beach to win the Fast Forward award.
With a height of 2,283 feet, Pedra Bonita is perfect for hiking, paragliding, or hang gliding. Here, at one of the hidden treasures of Rio, you can choose to simply hike up and down the mountain, or you can choose to hike up and soar down over the stunning scenery, experiencing the unique jungle-meets-city landscape below, and landing on the white sands of São Conrado Pepino Beach. There are many hang gliding companies that offer packages, so make sure to pick one that you feel comfortable with and enjoy the spectacular views!
Behind the Scenes Snapshot: While scouting this location for season 2, I had to put myself in the contestants’ shoes and hang glide off the mountain. It was my first time tandem hang gliding, and I was petrified. I was on the top of the mountain, standing on a wooden ramp that sloped downward, and I was told to run as fast as I could down the ramp and off into thin air! I did, and it was amazing; I soared through the air like a bird, and eventually landed on the white sandy beach below. I knew the minute after we took off that we had to add this activity to the new season of The Amazing Race.
Address: Estrada da Cascatinha, 850, Alto da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20531-590, Brazil
Explore Iconic Camden Market
Season 31, Episode 11, Pit Stop
At Camden Market, teams found the Pit Stop and host Phil Keoghan, who surprised them with a clue. Teams had to search Camden Market for the items in a display and, once they found the items, arrange them to recreate the same display, before they could check in at the Pit Stop.
Open since 1974, Camden Market has over a thousand places to shop, eat, drink, and dance in its historic central London location. Camden Market started off with sixteen stalls, as a small arts and crafts fair. Originally it was only open on Sundays; however, its popularity grew fast. Today it’s the largest market in London, open seven days a week. It’s the most concentrated place in London to search for original and unusual merchandise from hundreds of independent shops.14
Address: 54-56 Camden Lock Place, Camden Town, London NW1 8AF, United Kingdom
Behind the Scenes Snapshot: I remember the moment vividly: I was watching Claire attempt the Roadblock, which was supposed to be fun: put a watermelon into a giant slingshot and hit a target (a suit of armor) not too far away. Simple enough, right? Not really. Claire pulled back so hard on the slingshot that the band holding the watermelon flipped around, sending the watermelon torpedoing right into her face! When the shocking moment happened, several of us (including our medic) immediately ran to Claire. We were afraid of what we might find, as it appeared that she might be badly injured given how hard the watermelon had hit her. The watermelon had exploded into pieces; what was her face going to look like? Miraculously, she was okay, but she had a severe headache and numbness in her cheek for days! How incredible that she was all right and continued on. Strong woman!
Go to Robben Island and visit Nelson Mandela’s Prison Cell
Season 2, Episode 3, Active Route Marker
Once in Cape Town, to retrieve the next clue teams took a ferry to Robben Island and had to find Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, where he was incarcerated for eighteen years in Section B, Cell 5.
Robben Island is located five miles off the shore of Cape Town and is considered “a testament to courage and fortitude in the face of brutality.” Between the seventeenth and twentieth century, Robben Island was a place for banishment and isolation, but today it’s a World Heritage Site and Museum (which opened just three years after the fall of Apartheid). A visit to Robben Island is something else; a reminder of the price that so many people paid for freedom. You can take a tour and visit Mandela’s cell, a seven- by nine-foot room where he was held prisoner for eighteen years. Many guides are former prisoners, and they speak openly about their lives inside this historical prison.32
Behind the Scenes Snapshot: It has always been part of the fabric that makes up the beautiful tapestry of The Amazing Race to take the viewer and our contestants to historically important locations that help us remember and reflect on what occurred there. Secretly, the show is educational, and whether you learn about something in school or by watching the show, Bertram and I feel it’s important not to forget our history and the places and people who came before us to shape our world. Nelson Mandela is one of those people, and standing in his prison cell was one of those important moments.
Address: The Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island, Victoria & Albert Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa
How to get there: Take a ferry from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria & Albert Waterfront.
Excerpted from The Official Amazing Race Travel Companion. Copyright © 2022 Elise Doganieri. Reproduced by permission of Simon Element, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. Buy the book on Bookshop.org, on Amazon, or wherever you find books.