During a round of golf in this region, it’s not uncommon for players to see the occasional alligator sunning itself on the banks of a fairway pond. The same, however, cannot be said for miniature-golf courses, unless you’re playing at Congo River Golf, where the civilized sinking of putts coexists with the visceral carnage of live-alligator feedings. More than 25 alligators wait for patrons to feed them morsels of gator food in an exhibit beside the course. Though the course offers no chance for an encounter with the ancient, scaly species, it enchants players with waterfalls, safari-themed artifacts, and towering rock faces. In addition, Congo River Golf encompasses an indoor arcade and a gemstone-mining station, where guests dig through dirt for fossils, arrowheads, and Neanderthal’s kindergarten time capsules.
Perched on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway, Paddleboard New Smyrna Beach populates Florida’s placid waves with professional-grade standup paddleboards and kayaks cared for by expert guides. Whether leading beginners’ lessons in a protected lagoon or explaining the nuances of vehicle control before sending guests on a free-wheeling rental, the team prepares guests for jaunts around the waterway’s palm-lined shores. Pushing off from the center’s North Causeway dock, two-hour tours find the guides in their natural element, shepherding guests toward wildlife areas saturated with manatees, dolphins, and wrestlers practicing for the alligator bonus round at the next big meet.
Magical Midway’s neon-lit towers jut into the night sky as visitors scream with excitement from the amusement park’s go-kart tracks, thrill rides, and fully stocked arcade. The Space Blast Tower shoots passengers 180 feet in the air at a g-force greater than 3. Drivers cruise go-karts along two elevated tracks or whip around corkscrew turns on the Audubon-inspired fast track, as nearby bumper cars collide as harmlessly as two marshmallows doing a chest bump. Pucks float across the air-hockey table in the arcade, which also houses racing simulations and dancing games. Hungry thrill seekers refuel with sundry meals and snacks, such as hand-tossed New York–style pizza and ice cream.
In 1994, owners Chris and Margie Long established Boggy Creek Airboat Rides with a single, six-passenger vessel. Today, their fleet has grown to more than a dozen boats, and the business has whisked more than one million passengers through Orlando's nearby wetlands. From two locations, Boggy Creek's fan-propelled watercrafts launch into the Florida Everglades, exploring the swampy habitats of gators, turtles, eagles, exotic birds, and exiled Frankensteins. Four different tours offer varied experiences, including a night ride, during which participants observe red-eyed gators prowling for prey. US Coast Guard–certified captains helm every ride, which are safe for explorers of all ages—even infants.
At Combat Shooting Sports combatants are outfitted for controlled engagement using real weapons in a 40,000-square-foot, air-conditioned indoor arena housed in a converted Publix. Using Simunition, firearms are converted so that they cannot fire live rounds, allowing for realistic training involving customer's own service weapons. Conversion kits are available for customers who bring their own firearms, or they can use ones provided by Combat Shooting Sports. After briefing players on using the gear and the rules of play, the staff releases players into the arena, where they test their skills among rooms, corridors, and plywood houses. In addition to the indoor arena, Combat Shooting Sports has 180 acres of open and wooded terrain available to combatants.
Donning armor of red, purple, and gold, Orlando City has established itself as one of the USL Pro’s most dominant teams, winning USL Pro championships in 2011—its inaugural season—and 2012. After their second championship, the squad’s success attracted the attention of the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, who will serve as Orlando City’s parent squad for two years, beginning with the 2013 season.