Think you know family fun in Orlando? Think again. There’s something for the whole gang within and beyond the city limits.
Zap each other with lasers. Solve brainy puzzles together as the clock ticks. Bounce over muddy trails under the warm Florida sun. Orlando and its surroundings are a playground for active families.
Pile into one of the amphibious four-seater Mucky Duck vehicles provided by Revolution Off Road, in Clermont, to traverse rugged roads, mud pits and steep hills and to skirt Revolution Lake. Those traveling with older kids may prefer to explore the 240-acre property and its 70-acre private lake in ATVs or dune buggies. A guide leads all outings, so you don’t have to spend any energy figuring out which way to turn or which trail to follow. If you want to be able to watch yourself in action later, rent a GoPro® camera from the office. By appointment, archery, paddle boarding and catch-and-release bass fishing are also available.
The mammoth Orlando Eye Ferris wheel whisks its passengers 400 feet into the sky in 30 air-conditioned capsules. All are equipped with high-tech features that let you control creature comforts, like temperature and lighting. The observation wheel takes 20 minutes to rotate fully, so there’s plenty of time to take in the 360-degree views of the city’s theme parks and lakes and the high-rises of downtown.
It’s one thing to spot monkeys in the wild; it’s another to climb around like one yourself. The latter is part of the fun at the Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park, which offers a network of rope courses and zip lines. Kids can traverse a miniature rope jungle in which they tackle 25 “games,” including bridges, a rock wall and swinging logs. Grownups walk below to cheer the youngsters on. After a training session, adults take on a series of 4 courses that get higher and more difficult over 3 hours. Expect to climb through tunnels, swing on ropes like Tarzan and step between planks while dangling (securely tethered) in the air.
We’ve all had the urge to spread our arms and glide in the air. At Orlando’s iFly Indoor Skydiving you can do just that. After a short tutorial, your small group gathers around a chamber containing a narrow wind tunnel. One at a time you step into the chamber, lift your legs, stretch your arms forward and out, and rise into a horizontal position until you’re floating on a man-made “cushion” of wind that reaches approximately 130 to 175 miles an hour. An instructor stands beside you all the while. Each flyer is suspended for 2-minute-long sessions.
A GREAT RACE
The new I-Drive NASCAR Indoor Kart Racing takes go-kart racing up a notch. First you don a full-face helmet with a specially designed cooling system; then you step out to the pit, where colorful low-to-the-ground electric Sodikart vehicles await. After strapping in and revving up, you’ll race other drivers at up to 45 miles an hour in air-conditioned comfort, passing, but never bumping, your opponents. After the race you’ll receive a Race Performance Results certificate stating how fast you went. Anyone who wants to sit this one out can watch from the glass-walled Grandstand Bar & Grille. Before or after the festivities, you can bowl in four short lanes, play air hockey or hit more than four dozen arcade games.
You can stroll past locals boarding their own boats at the public dock in the quaint town of Mount Dora, and you may spot Dave Seidel standing by a few spiffy two-seater catamarans called CraigCats. By appointment with Cat Boat Tours of Mount Dora, Seidel leads scenic tours through the area’s Harris Chain of Lakes. You’ll steer the boats over Lake Dora and through the lush Dora Canal as Seidel narrates the experience over a one-way radio. He will then invite you to tool around elsewhere, maybe on nearby Lake Eustis or Lake Beauclaire. Along the way you may spot the nest of a bald eagle, alligators lounging on the shore or, in the distance, stately mansions. Once back home, don’t be surprised if Seidel follows up by sending you fun snapshots from your trip.
TAG, YOU’RE IT
Laser tag isn’t just for kids anymore— at least not at Hard Knocks. This flashy, high-tech venue is geared to the whole family. It has 2 arenas, and every 15 minutes a new game for as many as 40 players begins. Players are divided into teams, then sent to the “armory,” where each person chooses from among 9 types of laser gun. Groups are given missions, such as opening a locked vault. Those wanting to take a pass can watch the action live on TV in the Combat Café.
Revolution Off Road: 4000 State Rd. 33, Clermont; 1.352.400.1322; revolutionoffroad.com
Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park: 7625 Sinclair Rd., Kissimmee; 1.407.390.9999; orlandotreetrek.com
Orlando Eye: 8401 International Dr., Suite 100; 1.866.228.6438; officialorlandoeye.com
iFly Indoor Skydiving: 6805 Visitors Circle; 1.407.903.1150; iflyworld.com
I-Drive NASCAR Indoor Kart Racing: 5228 Vanguard St.; 1.844.437.4831; idrivenascar.com
Cat Boat Tours of Mount Dora: 311 S. Tremain St., Mount Dora; 1.352.816.9339; catboattours.com
Hard Knocks: 5707 Dot Com Court, Suite 1025; 1.855.926.6228; indoorwar.com