One of the greatest thrills you can experience in Orlando is not to be found in the theme parks, but in a small, oddly shaped tower perched beside the busy thoroughfare of International Drive. It's SkyVenture Orlando, which offers you the sensation of skydiving without actually fooling with airplanes, parachutes, falling or the terror of heights. While never achieving a height of more than about 10 feet, you otherwise undergo the same conditions as in an actual jump. In fact, parachutists use this facility to train and practice - there's a photo on the wall of former president George H. W. Bush training here for his much publicized skydive on his 75th birthday.
After an orientation session in which you learn the correct way to hold your body for maximum flight potential and minimum risk, you make your way to the vertical wind tunnel to wait your turn, all suited up in your jumpsuit, helmet and goggles. Step out onto the metal grid and the turbines will be turned on, generating a wind of 150 mph that will lift you up to float, and for a full minute, you're airborne, feeling the wind push your face back into a gruesome but happy grimace (it's comical to watch on other people).
This, mind you, is just the introductory session. If you take a few more lessons, you might find yourself soaring to heights of 40 feet and turning somersaults in midair. Most likely, your instructor at the first session will demonstrate such ecstatic behavior for you to entice you back.
SkyVenture is a bit pricey, but worth it for this rare adventure for all ages. For a few bucks more, you can also take home a video of your flight.
IF YOU GO: Reservations are recommended. Arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled time, as you'll have to fill out some paperwork. 'Flights' are scheduled every 30 minutes. Nearly any age, as young as 3, can participate, but anyone with back or neck problems should probably avoid it. Excessive weight may also prohibit your participation, depending on your height. Free parking is available.
WHEN TO VISIT: SkyVenture is open daily from 10:30 to 10:30. (Note that this is different from what is stated on the website, which is not kept current.)
JURISDICTION: Privately owned by SkyVenture, LLC.
INFORMATION VERIFIED BY Dennis Goza by Telephone 09/25/10
ADDRESS: 6805 Visitors Circle, Orlando, Florida 32819