You can't miss it. The wind tunnel, standing out in a gaudy International Drive area where getting noticed is a notable achievement among the collection of bright lights and roadside attractions, protrudes. Appearing like a huge yellow funnel on stilts a few stories high, it is readily visible off the I-4 exit to Universal Orlando.
Literally a stone's throw away from Universal's Royal Pacific Resort (though not a recommended walk -- opt for the short drive over I-4), Skyventure is the area's only skydiving simulator.
Reservations are suggested, and during peak travel periods practically required. Parking is free and informal, on a grass field just outside the fenced attraction. You check in downstairs. After pre-paying for your adventure -- and ordering a videotape of your experience if you want one -- you climb a set of stairs and enter the observation deck which doubles as a waiting room until your appointed time (or a place for guests who won't be participating in the experience to watch).
Arriving early gives you the perfect opportunity to see an earlier group in action. Skyventure patrons are grouped into parties of roughly six for every half-hour slot. You do have to sign a liability waiver downstairs (which means that minors will need to have their parents or legal guardians accompany them to sign on their behalf -- they don't have to accompany them on the Skyventure experience itself).
While every precaution is taken to assure safety, the waivers are signed for a reason. Watching the first group in action on the observation deck I noticed a few flyers get banged up against the plexiglass that encircles the wind tunnel. It looked harder than it felt because nobody winced and, at worst, they may have walked away with a small bruise as a temporary souvenir. The structure itself is safe and secure. While the wind tunnel is fast and furious, every flyer is always being tended to by a qualified instructor.
My turn! They called out my time slot so away I went -- with my 9-year-old son. No, they really don't have an age requirement though it's a pretty intense experience. While I heard that they have even had some kids as young as five give it a go, if a child isn't able to understand the basic training commands and is uncomfortable being bundled for the stint, it's probably not a good idea.
While the group we were watching was all adults, I was the seasoned citizen in ours. Three high school girls and another boy about the same age as my son all followed us upstairs to the briefing room.
First we were given our padded flight suits to wear over our clothes. After removing our shoes and being assigned lockers to put away our valuables (that includes bracelets, necklaces and any loose-fitting rings) we entered a small classroom. The training was brief and rudimentary. We were taught the proper position as well as a few hand signals that would come in handy inside the tunnel. The tunnel is loud. You are given rubber earplugs to drown out the noise and protective eyewear to provide visibility in the swirling wind so the hand signals are pretty much the only way to communicate the 3-4 basic instructions that may apply during your airtime session.
We all took turns lying down belly-first to make sure we all understood the ideal stance to float inside the tunnel. Once ready we moved back down to the observation deck -- this time from the exciting side of the plexiglass.
One by one, we were taken into the roaring wind tunnel with the instructor. Ours was named Carlos. He was excellent. Not only did none of us ever bang against the glass like the earlier group, but he was also a master of tricks, demonstrating Spider-Man like abilities to navigate the wind currents up and down the tunnel. We each had two brief segments -- 1-2 minutes long -- in the tunnel. Carlos was sensitive to each member of the group. He was more attentive with the boys, yet still took them for leaps up and down the wind tunnel to make sure they had a lifetime experience, but let the older members in the group improvise freely within reason.
While the tunnel is grated safely the bottom is bouncy to give veteran flyers the ability to perform acrobatic stunts once they are able to navigate the currents. The group after us was an actual skydiving team, practicing freefall parachute formations.
It was an amazing experience. The videotape captures the entire group through both sessions -- along with the instructor's acrobatic stunts at the end. It is not as scary as it sounds or even appears. It is over quicker than you think. It is also safer than it seems. While Skyventure is not cheap it is worth it as a memory maker (and actually significantly cheaper than the similar Las Vegas wind tunnel).
Money-saving tip! Florida residents get $5 off. You may also find similar discounts in the free coupon books that are scattered all over Orlando and Kissimmee. However, the biggest savings is the 2-for-1 coupon in the Orlando Entertainment book. That book is not free, however, you will more than make up the cost of the book with just that one valuable coupon. Order the Orlando Entertainment Coupon Book
Try Skyventure. At least once. As I mentioned at the start: you can't miss it!
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