Orlando attractions that really soar! | Other Orlando

  • If you’ve been to Disney World, you might have ventured “throughout the cosmos to the furthest reaches of the galaxy…and back.”

    In less than Disney style description…you rode on Space Mountain.

    When the ride first started in 1975, there were reports of riders getting ill. Throwing up.

    Some changes were made.

    But today, is Space Mountain now an old and maybe outdated attraction?

    Fly like an astronaut

    This is particularly true when you consider…

    …Now you can fly with an astronaut.

    Yes, believe it or not.

    Right here in Central Florida.

    The recent offer raises a question for visitors…

    Whether or not you want to try the fly program, what else can you do here along this type of often daring activity?

    Disney’s recent announcement about the future arrival of Star Wars had some future flight information. You will be able to pilot the Millennium Falcon.

    But that’s still years away.

    More timely: other types of space travel.

    All types of space travel have been promoted in recent years.

    With some experts predicting it will be the next big thing in travel (perhaps out-rivaling theme parks, at least if the price gets lower).

    Space travel is here now

    Perhaps the most prominent and certainly the most flamboyant promoter is Richard Branson, noted balloonist and founder of Virgin Airlines.

    He is probably the best known advocate of space travel.

    But a lot of people in the tourism business think it is the wave of the future.

    Branson agrees.

    He planned to take tourists into space this year via his Virgin Galactic spacecraft.

    Plans came to an abrupt halt last year when one pilot died and another was injured during a test run in California.

    Branson says he is continuing his plan for high-paying space travelers….though no one expects any reality until next year, at the earliest.

    Which brings us closer to earth perhaps with the Cape Kennedy option.

    Fly with an astronaut

    The local Kennedy Space Center option to fly with an astronaut plan is limited to 43 people a day, and can only be booked Sept. 4-7.

    Space travelers or crew members will meet with Astronaut Jon McBride for a briefing and photos. Then will then find out what it feels like to launch into space aboard a shuttle traveling 17,500 miles an hour with McBride there at their side.

    The limited-time, limited-capacity program is $199 for adults; $174 for children (ages 3-11), including visitor complex admission, a catered lunch, an autographed photo and a retail gift.

    That’s still pricy but a lot less than the Branson offer, which started at $250,000 a person.

    The Cape’s offer is presumably far less dangerous.

    Kennedy Space Center Visitor is about 45 minutes from Orlando.

    It opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season. Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11.

    For more information about the fly with an astronaut program, you can call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

    Other flying ventures

    So what flights of fancy or otherwise might you do besides Space Mountain while you are in Orlando?

    You can skydive right by the Kennedy Space Center.

    Skydive Space Center might be just your thing.

    Kenndy Space Center - Shuttle on a stick

    It says it recently made an agreement with NASA to fly directly over the Shuttle Launch Pads, the Main Assembly Building and the Shuttle Landing Area on the way up to altitude.

    That altitude is 18,000 feet, which the attraction says allows them to offer the world’s highest jumps.

    The site says:

    Incredible view from the air

    “We have an incredible view of the entire Space Coast. During your ride to altitude, you will be treated to a scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian River and the Kennedy Space Center, including all the launch sites and the main assembly building. We usually fly directly over the space center runway where the shuttle lands.”

    Pricing is as low as $99 for what they call “the world’s cheapest jump” (does that make you wonder if it comes with a parachute?... doesn’t it…gulp).

    More information is at skydivespacecenter.com or call 800-823-0016.

    You can also fly indoors at a somewhat lower cost.

    Flying with the Orlando Eye

    The Orlando Eye

    When you look at high flying, you have to also include the new Orlando Eye, which rises 400 feet above International Drive. It’s the tallest observation wheel on the east coast of the USA. It offers a bird-eye view of not only Central Florida but also an uplifting view of space activity at Cape Kennedy, about 50 miles away. Admission prices start at $20. Discount Orlando Eye tickets are available

    Flying indoors

    That’s at IFLY Orlando’s Indoor Skydiving and wind tunnel, which promises the sensation of freefall for everyone, though you have to be older than three years old.

    “The IFLY experience is so similar to real skydiving that professional skydivers use the wind tunnel for training, yet it’s also safe enough for kids,” the site says.

    Zagat says of the site:

    “If you’re afraid to jump out of an airplane but want the experience of gliding on air, this indoor facility in International Drive fits the bill, offering ‘adrenaline junkies’ an ‘exhilarating’ turn in its tank-like wind tunnel; fun-loving instructors enhance the flight, so even though it goes by fast, many can’t wait to go back.”

    Prices start at $59.

    See iflyworld.com or call 407-903-1150.

    Down to earth ventures

    Fantasy of FlightA more grounded place to visit is the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, about an hour away from Orlando.

    It offers various displays of aviation’s great 100 or so notable accomplishments. And modern classic airplanes such as the American P-51D Mustang.

    The Waldo Flying Service also offers bi-plane rides (weather permitting).

    There’s also an outdoor activity with a 600-foot zip line.

    It’s suspended four stories above water, and there’s a three-level ropes course with what are described as “midair challenges.”

    The course is particularly popular with young people, as you might imagine.

    The price here is highly attractive. Adults: $12. Seniors are $10. And children 6-8 are $8.

    Flying options are extra in cost.

    The museum is at 1400 Broadway Blvd., S.E., Polk City. Call 863-984-3599 or visit www.fantasyofflight.com.

    PS: If you visit, check for hours. They have been known to change.

    Gentler rides

    Orlando Balloon Rides

    For a view of Orlando from the air, a lot of visitors like balloon rides.

    There are several but at least one of them, Aerostat Adventures, has been offering a program similar to restaurants: kids fly free.

    Adult rates are $165 per person.

    Rates also vary according to what kind of flight you might want.

    Call 407-476-7101 or visit orlandohotairballoon.com.

    For a real flying experience,

    without any license, there’s also War Birds Adventure based in Kissimmee.

    And talk about flying the real thing….these are not simulators, says Warbirds.

    They maintain their military aircraft lets you actually fly the famous planes of the past.

    They say it is even for first timers.

    “You take the controls in the front seat for your discovery flight and one of our very experienced instructors will teach you everything you want to learn about flying,” the site says.

    They say you can do not only flying but loops and rolls, if you choose.

    No experience needed

    The experience is “100 percent hands-on.”

    Prices give you a choice, $99 for “around the patch, which includes take off, flying a landing pattern and landing, or $199 for an aerobatic experience or $500 for a 45-minute flight with a full set of aerobatics or just sightseeing.

    For more information, look to www.warbirdadventures.com or call 407-870-7366.

    Another place that lets you fly yourself also offers tours.

    Via Air ToursVia Air Tour is a new company that shows theme parks and other attractions from the air while also letting passengers take control of the airplane themselves.

    “Make sure to request the Captain's Package after booking a tour and get your adrenaline pumping by becoming the pilot during the flight. You'll even receive a certificate showing time logged toward becoming a pilot,” the site says.

    You do have to be five years old and up, however.

    Prices start at $60 for a simple 15-minute flight.

    More information is at mauivaairtours.com or call 407-641-4108.

    Another easier and less expensive way to get into the air is at the various trampoline arenas that have been growing in recent years.

    Bouncing around

    Air HeadsOne of the best known is AirHeads Trampoline Arena, which promises a “bouncing good time.”

    In addition to just bouncing around, there are games, activities such as dodgeball and arcade games.

    This is an often suggested venture for rainy days or to escape some of the area’s hottest days.

    It’s also recommended for families.

    This activity does have a distinct advantage over skydiving. You can take a break for food and drink at the concession stand.

    Prices start for what they call “Unlimited Jumping” at $19.95
    Grip Socks also required at a price of $2.99 (Required to jump and are a one-time purchase and can be brought back for future uses without any additional cost)
    Jumpers 2 & Under: 50% off Admissions.

    See more at airheadsusa.com or call 407-270-4612.

    Another way to see the area is through various helicopter tours.

    One of the best known is at adrenaline365.com for Orlando Helicopter tours.

    Prices start at $55.

    Call 888-992-3736 for more information.