July 20, 2009
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|COUNTDOWN TO 2009 ANNUAL MEETING
Regionís Outdoor Activities Capture Visitorsí Spirit of Adventure
While world-class attractions have made Orlando famous, the region is also filled with unique adventures that make vacations unforgettable. Where else can adventurous travelers try their hand at hang gliding or skydiving with no prior training or feel the wind in their hair in an open-cockpit 1930s biplane?
From favorite pastimes to once-in-a-lifetime adventures, the perfect vacation activities await in Orlando.
Up, Up & Away
Hot air balloon rides. Visitors looking for an over-the-top experience should check out a hot air balloon ride—at sunrise, no less—with one of the area’s established vendors. After boarding, visitors are carried away by warm breezes and breathtaking views that only a hot air balloon ride can provide. Once back on land, many companies offer a champagne toast, celebration picnic, and commemorative photos with the pilot.
Helicopter rides. For a truly unique view of Orlando’s famed attractions, visitors can board an air-conditioned helicopter. Several companies provide narrated tours, offering insight into the area and fantastic opportunities for photos and videos.
Skydiving. Visitors seeking the ultimate thrill can do so with the help of area skydiving schools that have visitors airborne in just one day. Not quite ready to take the plunge? Consider a company like SkyVenture Orlando on International Drive, which offers an exhilarating indoor experience through a super-charged wind tunnel.
Hang gliding. Wallaby Ranch Hang Gliding Flight Park has visitors airborne within moments of their arrival on a tandem hang glider. Towed to a height of 2,000 feet by a specially designed ultra light tow plane, guests will enjoy the view of unspoiled landscape as they glide back down to solid ground.
Historical flight. Aircraft aficionados can step back in time on board a vintage biplane or fighter plane flight over central Florida. For example, Fantasy of Flight in nearby Polk City offers open-cockpit biplane rides in a 1930s New Standard D-25 or a 1940s Boeing PT-17 Stearman; Biplane Rides over Kissimmee also offers biplane rides in a 1940s PT-17 Stearman; and Warbird Adventures provides flights on the World War II T-6 Texan fighter plane.
Down to Earth
Horseback riding. Trail riding, pony rides, and horsemanship training are available for guests of all skill levels at various locations in the greater Orlando area.
Eco-tours. The Orlando area is home to abundant land-based wildlife from wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and wild hogs to the more elusive Florida panther, black bears, coyotes, and bobcats. An eco-tour is the perfect way to go off the beaten path. Forever Florida offers open-air eco-safaris of cattle ranches that are home to many native species, as well as horseback adventure safaris to accommodate riders of all skill levels. Fun 2 Dive Scuba and Manatee Snorkeling Tours host full-day manatee snorkeling experiences, which include a manatee awareness program and time in the water with these gentle creatures.
Trailing. Designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, Orlando offers a multitude of paved fitness trails for people who want to put more fun in their exercise program by biking, in-line skating, or walking. Many paths surround scenic lakes or are located in recreational parks. A number of shops offer equipment rentals.
The West Orange Trail provides 19 paved miles with restroom and picnic facilities. Those looking to discover a new way to see the sights in Orlando may enjoy using the Segway Personal Transporter, an easy-to-navigate upright motorized vehicle. Sweet Glides of Florida offers one-hour guided tours of the scenic Baldwin Park area, formerly the Orlando Naval Training Center.
Camping. Orlando’s sunny weather makes camping a popular activity for visitors. From public recreational parks such as Moss Park and Wekiwa Springs State Park to campgrounds like Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and Tropical Palms Resort and Campground, the area has endless options for enjoying the great outdoors.
Skateboarding. Energetic boarders can find safe haven at the numerous skate parks in central Florida. The indoor Vans Skatepark and many others in the area offer equipment rental and clinics.
Motorcycling. Visitors can rent a motorcycle for the day, week, or month at several Orlando outlets. Single and couples riders can join up with one of the area’s friendly group rides for hours of cool excitement.
Off-road riding. Revolution: The Off-Road Experience lets visitors take the wheel of an all-terrain vehicle, Hummer, Jeep, dune buggy, or high-speed rally car for a few hours of off-road fun.
Stock car racing/riding. NASCAR fans can live their dreams by driving or riding in an authentic stock car at Richard Petty’s Driving Experience at Walt Disney World Resort or at the Daytona 500 Experience.
Archery, skeet, and trap shooting. Visitors can shoot ’em up at target practice at Westgate River Ranch’s trap, skeet, and archery range or at the Archery Experience at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. Rental equipment is available.
Birding. Bird-watchers will want to check out the 19 central Florida stops on the Great Florida Birding Trail, a 2,000-mile trail with 445 sites throughout the state, designed to conserve and enhance the state’s bird habitats by promoting bird-watching and environmental education.
Ziplining. Florida Eco-Safaris at Forever Florida features the first and only Zipline experience in the state. The Zipline Safari takes guests on a treetop nature tour reaching heights of 55 feet and speeds up to 20 mph.
On the Waterfront
Fishing. Anglers will discover a sea of choices in the more than 2,000 named lakes, rivers, and springs in the greater Orlando area. Large-mouth bass, monster redfish, and spotted sea trout are just a few of the creatures waiting to take the bait.
The area hosts numerous professional fish camps and guide services.
Swimming, skiing, wakeboarding. Water enthusiasts have unlimited options when they want to swim or skim the water’s surface on skis, kneeboards, wakeboards, or other watercraft. Area facilities include Buena Vista Water Sports, Sammy Duvall’s Water Sports Centre at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Wake Zone at Wet ‘n Wild-Orlando. The Orlando Watersports Complex has two cableways for unlimited riding time and increased skill building for riders of all levels.
Slipping and sliding. The region’s famous water parks take guests to new levels of drenching fun as they splash, spin, turn, and twist through one-of-a-kind water rides. Aquatica–SeaWorld’s Waterpark, Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, and Wet ‘n Wild–Orlando in Orlando, as well as Splash Island at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven and Adventure Island in Tampa, offer refreshing excitement for guests of all ages.
Boating. Explore Florida’s natural, unspoiled beauty via a number of boating experiences, including a dinner cruise on the Rivership Romance or on the Indian River Queen paddle wheeler on nearby Merritt Island; a leisurely outing on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour or Scenic/Eco & Nature Tours in Kissimmee; or on an airboat ride through nature on Boggy Creek Airboat Rides.
Surfing. Orlando’s central location makes it an ideal home base for surfers. Head east or west and expect to find some of the greatest waves in the southeastern U.S. The Atlantic Ocean offers awesome board time in Cocoa Beach and Sebastian Inlet, while Clearwater’s waters on the Gulf of Mexico are not to be missed. Also, The Flow Rider—an indoor sheet-wave attraction that allows board riders of all levels to surf the waves on a thin platform of rushing water—can be found at Adrenalina: The Extreme Store at The Florida Mall. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon provides surfing lessons at its water park.
Oceans of fun. Sandy beaches, rolling surf, and warm, subtropical breezes beckon sun worshippers to the nearby Atlantic and Gulf Coast beaches. Many beaches provide lifeguards, shower and picnic facilities, and food and equipment concessions. Several allow parking directly on the beach for a nominal fee.
Cruising. Port Canaveral, 45 minutes east of Orlando, is the second busiest multi-day cruise port in the world. Each year, more than four million cruise passengers sail from this bustling port on some of the most spectacular vessels in the industry.
Games People Play
Golf. Eagles, birdies, and pars fill the scorecards at the 176 Orlando-area golf courses that were designed by such famed architects as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones, and Tom Watson. Nearby Daytona Beach is headquarters of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the longest-running women’s sports association in the world.
Tennis. Orlando serves up more than 800 tennis courts at area tennis centers, resorts, and hotels. Visitors can leave the racquet at home as most facilities rent and sell equipment and can arrange lessons or matches for players of all levels.
Collegiate and professional sports. The University of Central Florida and Rollins College offer a terrific lineup of sports competitions. For professional sports fans, Orlando is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Pro sports teams playing in nearby Tampa are the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.