The world looks different from 11,000 feet (3,353m) above the ground, especially when the airplane door opens and there’s nothing between you and the ground below but 2 miles of thin air. And when you’re about to make your first solo free-fall jump, the wind rushing past the airplane is drowned out only by the adrenaline rushing through your head.
For visitors to Florida, Orlando has established itself as ground zero for skydiving adventures, with several schools and centers near that entertainment capital. Those who’ve never tried skydiving may opt for a tandem flight, in which the diver is strapped to a professional instructor who controls the equipment and the descent—all the diver has to do is enjoy the scenery. (Some training centers dismiss those untrained dives as “an amusement park attraction.”)
For real thrill jockeys, however, the fun that comes from a solo dive can’t be beat. Some schools offer both kinds of dives, while others pride themselves on catering to those who want to take the classes needed to earn the right to an AFF, or accelerated freefall. It takes a little class time before you can jump out of an airplane, so expect to spend some time on the ground reviewing stability, forward movement, loops and turns, and radio-guided landings.
And if, by some chance, you’re just not ready to leap out of an airplane, you can still capture the thrill of skydiving by trying indoor skydiving at SkyVenture. A collection of fans forces air at 100 mph (161kmph) through a wind tunnel, which lifts visitors above the ground, effectively mimicking the experience of skydiving for several blissful minutes. The experience requires a bit of training, and safety equipment like goggles, helmets, and jumpsuits are required, but it’s the closest you can get to skydiving without leaving terra firma.
Skydiving Orlando ( 800/691-5867; www.skydivingorlando.com).
Florida Skydiving Center 863-678-1003; www.floridaskydiving.com).
SkyVenture Orlando ( 407/903-1150; www.skyventureorlando.com).
When to Go: Year-round.
$$ Embassy Suites Hotel Orlando, 8978 International Dr. ( 800/EMBASSY [362-2779] or 407/352-1400; www.embassysuites.com).
$$$ Grand Bohemian Hotel, 325 S. Orange Ave. (866/663-0024 or 407/313-9000; www.grandbohemianhotel.com).