Denmark is one of the world’s flattest countries, but as of last week it’s got its own ski spot...on top of a power plant. Copenhagen’s CopenHill, also known as Amager Bakke, is a green energy facility-slash-recreation area. It’s got hiking trails, the world's tallest artificial climbing wall at a dizzying 279 feet, a roof garden and, the pièce de résistance, an artificial ski and snowboard slope. Visitors can actually descend four trails, a slalom course and a freestyle park before hoisting a pilsner at the après-ski bar.
Designed by BIG, the firm of Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels, the plant is “waste-to-energy,” meaning it burns waste instead of fossil fuel to generate heat and electricity. Capable of heating and powering 150,000 Danish homes, it’s part of Copenhagen’s plan of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. Ingels calls his design an example of "hedonistic sustainability," but CopenHill is not the world’s only power plant with a fun side. You can hike, bike, and even go fishing in these eco-friendly energy facilities.
Stroll the scenic boardwalks at Australia’s Albany Wind Farm
Sunsets at this Western Australia wind farm are Instagram gold: a dozen 328-foot turbines turning against a pinkening sky at the edge of the sea. Visitors flock to the farm to stroll boardwalks through native bushland and fields spangled with wildflowers, stopping at lookouts perched high above the Great Southern Ocean. Take the cliff staircase down to the beach to spot pods of dolphins arcing past. You can also hike part of the Bibbulmun Track, a 623-mile trekking trail that cuts through part of the wind farm on its way to its southern terminus in the nearby city of Albany.
Bathe beneath Iceland's midnight sun at Svartsengi Geothermal Power Station’s Blue Lagoon
It may look natural, but Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon is actually the runoff from Svartsengi Geothermal Power Station. When the plant was built in the 1970s, the runoff accumulated in a nearby lava field, forming milky aqua pools. Curious locals began bathing there and discovered the high mineral content of the water was good for skin conditions like psoriasis. Today the pools are one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, with hundreds of thousands of visitors lounging in the steamy water, white mud smeared on their faces each year. The Svartsengi facility heats water for more than 20,000 local homes; it's one of a half-dozen geothermal plants in the volcanic island nation.
Spearfish at Rhode Island’s Block Island turbines
When America’s first commercial offshore wind farm opened in 2016, locals worried it would affect tourism at nearby Block Island. But an analysis of visitor numbers showed that the popular destination is unaffected—or even slightly buoyed—by the presence of the turbines. One group of fans: fishermen and women. The turbines’ underwater supports act as artificial reefs that nourish fish populations. Since the wind farm opened, spearfishers have been stalking bass and other quarry around the turbines.
Soak your cares away at Hong Kong’s T-Park
From the outside, Hong Kong’s T-Park waste-to-energy plant smells like, well, waste. But inside the gleaming facility, incinerated sludge powers a sleek—and stench-free—thermal spa. Visitors willing to trek out to the city’s rural New Territories can enjoy the three pools for free, soaking while gazing down on the oyster farms of Deep Bay and the Shenzhen skyline beyond. Afterwards, sip tea at the café, where benches are made from reclaimed dock wood, or visit the roof garden (just hold your nose). The plant burns enough sludge to power 4,000 households; the resulting ash takes up far less square footage, a must in the space-strapped city.
Mountain bike at Scotland’s Whitelee Wind Farm
Near Glasgow, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm generates enough power for 300,000 homes. It’s also a super-popular getaway from Scotland’s largest city, thanks to more than 80 miles of recreational hiking, biking and horse-riding track. On weekends, rent a bike from the on-site rental shop and hit the trails, powering along single track beneath silvery-gray lowland skies, then stopping for a shower and a scone at the visitor’s center. Weekends also bring all sorts of events, from concerts to guided stargazing to children’s craft workshops.