Other Orlando | Table | Page 4

  • With so much happening in and Orlando the area you owe to yourself to discover what is out there beyond the big 3!

    The Orlando Eye and I-Drive 360 Present Frostival

    The Orlando Eye and I-Drive 360 are adding to Central Florida’s holiday happenings with special events to celebrate the season. From Dec. 1-25, guests on the Orlando Eye can indulge in some holiday spirit at 400 feet by riding in one of four beautifully themed holiday capsules, ranging from The Night Before Christmas, Gingerbread House, Winter Wonderland and Candy Canes. Holiday capsule packages begin at $30, and include priority boarding and holiday music throughout the flight.

    During select times throughout the month, younger guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a flight with Santa Claus himself! Santa flight packages begin at $35, and include priority boarding, photo opportunities, a holiday cookie and a holiday story reading.

    Throughout the entire season, look to the skies to see the Orlando Eye lit in different colors to celebrate the holidays. In addition to special lighting for Christmas and the New Year, the Eye will feature blue and white lighting on Dec. 14 to celebrate the last day of Hanukkah.

    The fun doesn’t end after guests take their flight on the Orlando Eye, as I-Drive 360 has completely decked the center’s courtyard with a 20-feet Christmas tree, purple wreaths, string lighting, as well as an outdoor ice-skating rink and snow machines. Ice-skating rates begin at $10 (with advanced purchase of Orlando Eye admission) or $12 at the door. The cost includes 30 minutes of skate time and skate rentals.

    Discount tickets available here.


    If you love theme parks, and visit often, you can buy a Disney Platinum Plus Pass (for ages three and up) for $729. Or a Universal Premier Pass for $479.

    They are among various price options for single tickets to visit all the times you want.

    No better place to do that than Orlando which, as you know, is the theme park capital of the world.

    But of course it is much easier to do if you live here.

    We are not urging it but have you considered it?

    Not such a far-fetched idea, really.

    Who is moving here? Thousands

    Florida is approaching New York as the US’s largest state.

    Orlando in a recent year had 50,000 new residents.

    So what if you did live here, and could visit a park virtually any time?

    Would you want to?

    Move here, that is.

    You probably would visit theme parks a lot more.

    You would not move into an area just for its theme parks, of course.

    But you would be far from alone if you have thought about life in Orlando.

    Where under mostly sunny skies, you could visit a theme park anytime you want.

    If you are considering it, or seriously thinking about it, at any rate, there are surprising things you should know.

    For example, Disney World is not located in downtown Orlando or even in the city itself. It is about 20 miles away, and much of it is located in the former cowboy capital of Kissimmee.

    Perhaps you already know that but if you did live here, you might have some surprises.

    What you might not know about Orlando

    And you might as well start with the alligators.

    But before that, what we are going to get into here is not the pros and cons of life in the theme park capital.

    You can read about those on the internet (people also leave here, remember).

    You will have to make your own decision about where to live, of course.

    But we’ll stick to what may surprise you if you are from, say, Boston, or Chicago or Denver, and you are thinking of life here (in addition to your interest in theme parks).

    Let’s start with alligators. And we’re not being facetious since everyone knows they are the real face of Florida (and the symbol for the highly ranked sports teams of the University of Florida in Gainesville, located less than two hour’s drive from Orlando).

    Floridians do strange things with alligators.

    They eat them.

    Owners of small pets like dogs fear them (they might eat your pet).

    And they, Floridians and tourists, watch them wrestle human beings.

    Eating alligators is not as common as downing McDonald’s, of course, but you can find them on the menu at restaurants and cookouts. If you wonder about the taste, it’s similar to chicken…but come to think about it, they say the same about snakes,

    To put this into perspective, it is probably as common a menu item as you might find rattlesnakes offered on or off the menu in small town Texas towns. Not common, but it does happen.

    Dog-eating alligators can be found here

    Alligators also do eat dogs and other pesky animals. It is unusual enough to draw newspaper stories and a small item on the 6 o’clock television news.

    And people wrestling them are events that can be commonly found in South Florida or at the Orlando area’s own Gatorland. This has been a long and highly respected tradition in the Sunshine State, though there seem to be few explanations other than to please the tourists.

    While we’re on the subject, Central Florida and the rest of the state has some unusual animals. In the past, it has had “walking catfish.” Yes, they walked on land. And poisonous frogs, which at least were deadly to other animals.

    Lovebugs are another hazard, at least to car windshields when covered with the pesty creatures who are otherwise harmless.

    Outsiders often note that Cypress and Palmetto trees are in abundance in the Orlando area, but they also find such unfamiliar wildlife as armadillos (looking like miniature armor-plated dinosaurs), turtles (some much bigger than pie plates), manatees and various birds not found in most places.

    Watch out for the animals

    Just keeping this in mind will help: don’t jump into any lake idly since ‘gators do occasionally attack humans, though this is not common and at Gatorland they far prefer chickens

    But let’s get to the more serious stuff.


    If you are young and reasonably bright, and personable, you could probably find a job here.

    We say “probably” because no one these days is guaranteed a job in this society, at least so far.

    Finding a real job, as opposed to flipping burgers, is not always easy. Finding jobs: easy enough

    But it has been getting easier in the theme park capital as the overall US economy gets better.

    Particularly in demand jobs are in the general areas of service, especially retail, and security.

    Not all the jobs here are in theme parks, either.

    Other tourism attractions such as restaurants and hotels are not only expanding but also hiring. And there’s always turnover, which in all honesty is understandable because many jobs are admittedly not ones you would to do forever.

    But there are also jobs in healthcare and particularly construction. There are even jobs in the aerospace and defense industries.

    Not for you, perhaps?

    But theme parks are expanding, as you also know.

    So new hires are on the horizon there as well.

    You might still think all such jobs are at minimum wage.

    Not so.

    New jobs often pay more than minimum

    Disney World has been leading the theme parks in raising salaries beyond the lowest possible rates.

    So what, you say?

    Disney and other theme parks have also been strong advocates of “promoting within,” so that the job of maintenance sweeper today might lead to no broom tomorrow because you were named supervisor.

    No guarantees, of course. And there are still other surprises associated with jobs here.

    Two of those: you probably need a car.

    And a roommate.

    Rental rates are high enough so that many newcomers end up sharing living expenses. And if you can’t afford a car, it would help to have a roommate with one.

    Forced to get a roommate

    You can get around the Orlando area by bus or even by train, in a much more limited fashion. But to make regular work hours, it helps a lot and makes life much easier to have your own transportation. Or have a roommate who has a vehicle.

    And yes, there are traffic tie-ups,

    Particularly since most people get to Disney and the theme parks via the main artery, I-4. But most commuters eventually find their own special and traffic-avoiding routes (which we won’t reveal here to keep the traffic moving).

    Everyone looks these days at the cost of living.

    There are many ways to interpret this.

    Some studies show the cost of living here is about 10 percent less than the average of the US in general. But those are just general numbers, and obviously depend on your own spending (or lack of it) habits.

    Let’s just say it is cheaper to live here than in say, California.

    Also much cheaper than, say, Chicago (where there are also more state and local taxes and higher costs for such items as winter clothing and even automobile expenses during frigid winters).

    What else may surprise…or even shock you?

    You know your entertainment taste will never be satisfied here…

    …simply because there are so many things to do.

    Orlando may be landlocked but it has beaches on both sides of it, easily within less than an hour’s drive. These thousands of miles of beaches offer fishing, boating, hiking, camping and any other kind of outdoor activity you might prefer. These attractions are why so many visitors come to stay here.

    But if you happen to play golf, there are more courses here than anywhere in the country.

    If you are single, you should not have any dating difficulties.

    At least when it comes to finding a date.

    Dating not hard here

    Single women outnumber men, at least slightly.

    Forbes Magazine rated the area one of the best cities in the US for singles.

    There’s also a lot of places to take a date, even if you just consider restaurants. There are upwards of 5,000 restaurants here. Yes, that’s just a number but it is a lot for any size population. And there are a huge variety of food choices so that the only real issue is who is paying, anyway?

    Maybe you have not thought too much about this, understandably, but there is also what we commonly associate with cultural options. Ballet, opera, Bach and Shakespeare festivals.

    For readers of books, this is far from paradise, however. Major chains such as Barnes and Noble regularly shut their doors. Independently owned smaller used book stores also come and go. Definitely an endangered species.

    But don’t despair, book-lovers.

    The Orange County Library System is one of the best in the country. It’s main outside drop-off window in the heart of downtown has long been closed but it offers far more than books: CD, movies, preloaded playaway mp3s, as well as various self-improvement courses at 15 different locations.

    And if you get a library card, which is free to residents, they will home deliver.

    University classes are common

    There’s also a huge university to take more classes or get a bachelor’s or advanced degree. The University of Central Florida has grown to where it has more than 60,000 students. It is either the largest or the second biggest university in the entire US.

    If you do enroll there, and drive to classes, have patience.

    Parking lots are always crowded and almost always full. And never cheap.

    There are other colleges here as well.

    But you almost certainly will need a car to get there.

    And they also have limited parking.

    You may have heard the sun shines all the time here, however.

    Not true, of course.

    It rains. A lot. Much of the year, in fact.

    Sometimes, it even rains all day.

    But the rainy season is usually predictable and of limited durations during the wet afternoons.

    Here’s a summary of the weather:

    The weather in Orlando has an average temperature in the 80’s, mild rain and thunderstorms in the summer and cool evenings in the winter with the occasional frost. 

    So the sun does shine a lot.

    If you’re from a climate that traditionally has autumn and winter, the consistently warm weather and lack of deciduous trees can be uncomfortable.

    At first. Anyway.

    But soon you will get used to the regular Florida uniform of shorts, t-shirt and scandals.

    No rule for dress-up days

    No dress-up days, at least for most people.

    Not a clothing concern, but the universally-beloved Christmas season may shock and disappoint you, however.

    No snow, of course, though long-time residents know a time back decades ago when a few flakes fell here (even in Miami).

    But people here still dress up their homes with seasonal decorations and you can always take a trip to the Crystal River less than an hour’s drive away to see the migrating manatees. You’ll be joined by a lot of other residents.

    Windy matters in Orlando

    If you are from say Denver, the “Mile High City,” you know that the capital of theme parks does not have any similar slogan but it does have its own reputation is for hurricanes.

    But you should also know that much of a hurricane’s real damage is from flooding. That tends to impact more coastal areas. Orlando has a lot of lakes but is land-locked, as far as the Atlantic and Pacific is involved.

    So the bottom line: don’t worry much about hurricanes.

    But if you live here, hurricanes and other natural disasters will not discourage visitors.

    Families, often enough.

    They will expect to stay on your couch, of course.

    And they will think you can get them free tickets to theme parks (hopefully, that is where you work).

    They also will think you know how to avoid any traffic jams.

    So if you do move here, do your homework. And expect to accommodate some long-lost cousins as well.

    Just one more unexpected event that, come to think of it, should not at all be surprising.###


    First, Disney banned it. Then, Six Flags followed.

    No more selfie sticks.

    But that hardly means no more photography at theme parks…though this might be a good time to think about the subject of your taking photos.

    What happened with the selfies?

    They (Six Flags) explained:

    “Nothing is more important to us than your safety. After careful review we've decided to prohibit selfie sticks, monopods, and similar devices at all Six Flags theme and water parks effective immediately. Guests who bring selfie sticks to the park will be asked to store them in their cars during their visit. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes, and thank you for helping us keep Six Flags among the safest theme parks in the world!”

    They don’t say it directly but the issue is not just you taking selfies.

    It is also for protection of the park.

    Details about what happened to selfies

    If you want more detail, a Disneyland employee in California wrote a lengthy blog on what was behind the selfie ban:

    Envelopes of protection.

    What in the world is that?

    All attractions since 1965, before Disney came to Orlando, are designed with these.

    They are giant contraptions that are placed on rides to simulate what might happen if a rider extended his or her arms or legs while moving.

    The Envelope of Protection tries to make sure that people's limbs couldn't possibly get hit while riding a roller coaster.

    Selfie sticks extend several feet. The result: they can be very dangerous for both you and the attractions.

    Say you’re traveling even a slow speed of 30 miles an hour, the use of a selfie hits some part of the ride.

    Dangers not just to self

    It can damage your camera or cell phone. But also the selfie can fly out of your hands, possibly hitting someone else on the ride.

    Or the loose item can derail the vehicle behind you.

    The Disney employee said the park tried simply banning selfie sticks on some rides where they might have an impact.

    But riders kept bringing them on the ride.

    Disney World No Selfie SticksWhen cast members saw an item, they asked that it be put away.

    But that caused ride delays.

    Inconvenience, of course.

    Not the Disney way.

    So the issue is not really selfie sticks but safety.

    Or using them on rides.

    An issue beyond selfies

    But that takes us to another issue: photos at parks.

    None of this prevents you from taking photos.

    However, how often do you get memorable photos?

    More likely, you get a lot of barely visible friends or family shots that you are not particularly proud to show others.

    When it comes to taking photos, some things are obvious.

    Available light is necessary, for example.

    You almost certainly knew that.

    But have you considered garbage cans?

    No, not to shoot them (unless your occupation is some type of sanitary engineering, and you want to show your fellow workers how it’s done here).

    But think of tripods (professional photographers do) tripods.

    Garbage cans are good substitutes

    They serve as braces for longer shots that require a more steady hand.

    This brings us to 20 tips of what to shoot, where, when and more…some of these you probably know but probably not all of them…so here goes:

    1. Unusual angles. Say a roller coaster hangs over a sidewalk, for one example. That might be a great and memorable place to shoot it. Unusual angles add a lot of interest to your photos. So make an effort to look for them.
    2. Compose and frame your shots. This is a very basic tip, but most professionals will remind you of it. Take your time. Be patient. Wait a few seconds if necessary to let others get out of your picture, or into it, if that is your choice. Placing things in the foreground adds depth of field and helps adds interest to your photos. Try to experiment with different angles.
    3. You are in a theme park. So what could be more logical them theming your own photos. Show them all with characters or eating or trying on crazy hats. Find a common theme with all of your party or friends/family on the monorail or wearing Safari hats in Animal Kingdom. Or take a photo every hour or so to show your progress through one park or another. No, not all photos are should be themed. Not all elements of a park have themes, either. So use judgment.
    4. Fireworks over the park are always dramatic. When it comes to shooting fireworks, you need to stake out a good spot. Park attendants or Disney cast members can suggest places. But keep in mind they go quickly. So find your spot early. And patiently wait.
    5. Are you always ready? Or is your camera ready for that shot when you get an unusual look at a character or other photo opportunity. Be aware of possibilities. When it comes to characters, shooting them is fine. But a better picture is a child’s delightful expression when spotting Minnie during a parade. Remember that photos are highly personal and reflect emotions. Characters combined with members of your own party (adults or children) are potent 1-2 combinations.
    6. Be aware of overshooting. Remember that later you may have to go through all these photos. That is not so hard when you have dozens, say, instead of hundreds and hundreds. If you don’t want to look at all of them, neither do your chosen viewers. Shoot two or three of the same shots, from different angles, then stop. Know when to stop. Even if you are a dedicated shooter, put your camera away for a while.
    7. Phones and various cameras give you a lot of options, including a variety of lenses. But remember you have to lug them all around all day. So try to be realistic when deciding what you really need for the photos you want. Zoom lenses are nice, of course. But obviously, if you are just shooting family shots, you don’t need a half dozen lenses and three new expensive Hasselblad cameras.
    8. Food is also always a good subject for photos. Why? It brings people together and perhaps reminds us of our shared humanity. For whatever reasons, someone munching on a Dole whip or ice cream cone is always a good subject, worth preserving. Mid-bite is a good time to catch it.
    9. Be generous. If you have a child or a significant other, he or she might also like to take some pictures. Why not? The only real deterrent is age. So if they’re old enough, let them try it. Maybe it will not come out as professional as your own (you might be embarrassed if it did), but give them a chance.
    10. Be sure to store your camera during rain or inclement weather, and keep it protected during roller coaster rides. Ziploc bags are helpful.
    11. Disney is not the only place where you can shoot tons of animals, of course. Real and imaginary. They provide great dramatic images. That’s true whether they are eating, showing off or simply heavy-lidded and ready to fall asleep.
    12. Learn to wait. Sure, you know how to wait for rides because you stand in line. But stand around for a few minutes watching a potential scene so that the next time there is a repetition, you know when to shoot it. Patience, patience.
    13. Don’t overlook landscaping. Part of the beauty of parks is the shrubbery and the way they are laid out. Floral clocks or arrangements are common at Disney (and other parks), so use them as attractive backdrops.
    14. Things at Disney seem larger than life, so when you take photos of kids make sure you get on their level but also consider the background. Consider carefully the background of your people photos. By doing that, you will end up producing a more natural perspective of your kids or family or friends.
    15. Think about including other outside your own family. Yourself included. Ask someone else to shoot you (the main photographer) so you have a record. You can also ask the official park photographers too snap a shot or two with your equipment. They are usually agreeable.
    16. At the same time, don't spend the entire day with the camera held up to your face. You want to enjoy the theme park, too, which can be difficult if you constantly have a camera in your hand. If you're someone who has a hard time putting the camera down, you may want to shoot a series of images and then force yourself to put the camera away for an hour or other designated time..
    17. Have a sense of silliness. Why not? This is a theme park, not an accident scene. Playful pictures are always welcome. Particularly when they portray people enjoying the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
    18. And selfies? Yes, do it all you want...but get by without the selfie sticks. Some things you can do without. ###


    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.

    It’s still warm in Florida this month (ha ha…lol). It’s almost always warm in Florida. But as we approach the end of summer and face the fall, it’s time for fair weather travelers of all types to consider:

    Choose a beach vacation while it is still hot enough to stay in the sun long enough for a lasting tan…or visit a theme park like Disney World?

    Not as hard a decision as you might think.


    Because you can do them both.

    A lot of hotels advertise their closeness to Orlando theme parks. But others who have noted that many visitors want BOTH beach and Disney World and combine the two.

    Just to mention one that is on the Ocean but still offers tickets to theme parks only an hour way: Comfort Inn & Suites in next-door-to-Orlando Cape Canaveral.

    Guests there can pick from a variety of packages. And they are far from alone in offering those combos.

    But what if you do not have the funds and perhaps the limited time to for only one?

    Pick only one

    So is it the beach or theme parks?

    What if you have to pick only one?

    And say you are doing it in August, this month, before we come into September and the start of the fall season?

    We can help you decide…

    Let’s assume since you are in Orlando, your beachfront destination is not a water park or a placid hotel pool.

    You want the mighty Ocean.

    That’s easy enough because it’s as close as 30 miles or less than half an hour away from Orlando.

    That’s the closest beach: Cape Canaveral, where the Comfort Inn offers both options. And has company.

    Few would suggest it’s the best beach. But it does have a lot of local shopping and other tourist attractions. And it is one of the few beaches in Florida where you can go au natural. That’s in Playalinda Beach in nearby Titusville, where clothing is optional.

    If that is not enough, the Canaveral area also has the attraction of the space center and a lot of nightlife-bars.

    The two other beaches near Orlando are New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach. Both are less than one hour away (Tampa Bay is also an option, but that is farther, say 90 miles or so).

    New Smyrna is best viewed as a laidback beach, gentle in nature and more attuned to older travelers and children.

    Daytona is famous for your being able to drive there. But as that amenity has faded in recent years, it remains famous or infamous for its biker weekends. It’s a famous watering hole for them, as well as college students.

    Is coleslaw wrestling your thing?

    It’s also the home of coleslaw wrestling at the Cabbage Patch Bar, where bikini-clad women who often lose their suits in addition to the match. Yes, that’s the coleslaw you put on hot dogs (if that is to your taste).

    Its hotels are inclined to offer bargain basement prices. Its atmosphere is generally loud and raucous. Besides, driving on the beach may be fun but not if the fast moving driver of a vehicle does not see you sunbathing where care are allowed.

    There are accidents. Serious ones.

    So let’s make some comparisons between the the two types of vacations.

    Could you possibly be bored at the beach? There’s sunbathing, reading, and cooling off during a swim in the warm Ocean waters. Fine.

    But Disney has four parks and Universal has two of them, not to mention water parks and others, so the boredom thresh hold is much lower at the parks. They win this comparison.

    But they also come out ahead on many other counts.

    Beach houses and resorts often require payment in full before getting there. Not so the theme parks. Vacation deposits are invariably less. Winner: parks.

    Mummies and other attractions

    August in Orlando is not a particularly busy month, but there are still such events outside the parks as the Main

    Street Restaurant Week where fixed price menus are as low as $10. And special events include the chance to see preserved mummies at the Orlando Science Center (not to mention daily fireworks and many other events at theme parks).

    Daytona Beach, by comparison, offers coleslaw wrestling.

    Beach-goers with children pretty much need to also be babysitters. But theme parks have all kinds of babysitting amenities.

    Babysitting has really gone up in price. An average cost for a nanny for one week is $477, though a lot less, $488, if you bundle two of them, according to the the 2015 Care.com Report.

    Don’t need a week?

    The most expensive city for hourly babysitters is San Francisco, where the average cost is $16.55 an hour. Oops, you’re not in California but expect to pay a trusted sitter $11.31 an hour, says Care.com. Year over year, it’s the largest annual household expense, averaging $18,000 for families in the United States

    At a beach vacation, you will almost certainly need a car. Few beach-goers arrive by bus.

    But at theme parks, everyone is reasonably close. No time spent behind the wheel of a rental car. No traffic jams when you take buses or monorails or ferry boats.

    Autos not needed

    So no auto expenses once you get here.

    Car rentals? Prices have not escalated as much as other items in recent years, as The New York Times recently reported. But it still can be costly.

    Prices are anywhere from $45 (say a Toyota Escort) to $75 (maybe a Chevrolet Impala or other standard size) these days, or even $80-120 for real luxury rides such as minivans, reports USA Today.

    Beach lifeguards are often good-looking and helpful, particularly if you swim out too far and the undertow gets you. But most visitors find friendly customer service at theme parks is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

    Beaches are somewhat dependent on weather. If it rains, you and your party may be confined to your hotel room with a deck of cards to play Hearts or Poker. You aren’t rained out at theme parks.

    Beachfront hotels and other rentals charge you set fees, though there are discounted rates for certain times of the year. But theme parks offer a variety of packages that can generally accommodate all price ranges.

    Then, there’s the issue of safety.

    And beach-goers: did you know this?

    New Smyrna Beach is the shark attack capital of the world. So says the International Shark Attack File.

    In fact, if you get into the water there, you are close to a shark.

    Sharks are closer than you think

    "Most people who have swum in and around New Smyrna have been within 10 feet of a shark in their lifetime," says George Burgess, an ichthyologist and fisheries biologist at the University of Florida who maintains the International Shark Attack File.

    Now it’s true that ever since the movie “Jaws,” there has been an exaggerated fear of sharks.

    It is not likely you will get attacked by sharks, even if you do swim in the Ocean.

    Your chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.

    On average, there are about 65 shark attacks worldwide each year. Only a handful are fatal.

    No one likes to think too much about it. But you are more likely to be killed by a dog, snake or in a car collision with a deer. You’re also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning and three times more likely to drown at the beach than die from a shark attack, according to ISAF.

    Even digging a sand hole is more dangerous…

    And isn’t that something you might do at the beach?

    Sand castles can be deadly

    The New England Journal of Medicine reported that from 1990 to 2006, 16 people died by digging until the sand collapsed and smothered them.

    Then, there’s skin cancer.

    Medical experts say the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers is the sun.

    So many sun-worshippers despite slathering on high UVB water-resistant sunscreen of 30 or more SPF and the widest-brimmed hats available still get cancer.

    In a recent year, there were 77,000 new cases. More than 9,000 of those people died (sorry to bring the bad news but there it is).

    But even non roller coaster fans who have seen stories of accidents might ask: are these usually dangerous-looking vehicles safe?

    There is not really an extremely fair answer.

    That’s in part because they are like plane crashes: every single one is major news, even though they are rare.

    You may not entirely trust the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. But they do say the coasters are very safe.

    How safe?

    One number is that the odds of being seriously injured in a fixed-site amusement park is about 1 in 24 million.

    The Amusement Parks group says there were eight injuries for each million days of roller coaster riding.

    By contrast, playing (American) football was 40 times more dangerous, at 343 injuries, and even fishing was far riskier, at 88 injuries per million days.

    Travel writers generally assure us that while putting numbers to safety is not an exact science, roller coasters are generally very safe.

    The far more likely scenario is that riders may get stuck for a few minutes or even a couple of hours.

    That’s not a bad price to pay when you’re having fun. ###