During 29 years of drifting through the Florida skies, Orlando Balloon Rides had already amassed an impressive fleet of gargantuan flying inflatables when a new balloon arrived. The product of an ambitious factory in Spain, the newcomer holds more than 400,000 cubic feet of hot air and stands as tall as an 11-story building. Four times the size of the average hot air inflatable, it's among the most massive hot air balloons currently flown in the United States.
Now reigning as a popular vessel for the company's sunrise tours, the mammoth balloon can fly away with a basket of 24 passengers as it commands the skies, dwarfing most clouds and giving the Goodyear Blimp an identity crisis. From any of Orlando Balloon Rides' baskets, passengers take in high-altitude views of Walt Disney World and the city's skyline, sights visitors rarely get to see from above. Each of the company's hot air balloons is piloted by an FAA-certified pilot who also serves as a knowledgeable narrator of the scenery below.
In 1994, owners Chris and Margie Long established Boggy Creek Airboat Rides with a single, six-passenger vessel. Recently, their company celebrated its 20th anniversary, and 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
Dash Around Tours' experienced guides cart up to 14 sightseers to scenic central Florida locales, such as Cocoa Beach, Lake Eola, and Kissimmee, aboard the Dashmobile, a van replete with complimentary food and drinks. During unique expeditions, quirky tour guides take digital pictures for the group's future perusal on the web, as well as dole out their own brand of trivia about central Florida that they admit is more useless than a megaphone at mime school. The tour price includes admission to area attractions, but riders must provide their own change for retail purchases.
With a fleet that ranges from the low-key Cessna 150 and 172 to a multi-engine jet, the FAA-licensed pilots of Beach Aviation take to the skies for short jaunts and longer, flights. Lessons depart from nearby airports and cruise the wild, blue yonder along the coast, unveiling a bird?s-eye view of the local wildlife, downtown areas, and other picturesque scenery. Beach Aviation?s seasoned airmen also run instructional courses for aspiring pilots, teaching them the art of ascending, descending, and dodging territorial weather balloons.
In more than 100 locations around the country, ThrillZown's staff facilitates adrenaline-filled excursions full of extreme water, air, and land adventures. Under the supervision of experts, brave souls defy gravity as they skydive, hang-glide, bungee jump, or play films of apples falling off trees in reverse. On land, crews harness the power of horses, stock cars, and snowmobiles; in the water, groups navigate whitewater rapids or explore aquatic depths as they scuba dive or surf.
Kissimmee Ghost Tours' enthusiastic team guides specter seekers through the annals of history as they hoof it through the city's Downtown District. The otherworldly promenade passes the Hanging Tree, where some suggest spirits wreak shenanigans, as well as less famous trees possessed by squirrels in search of nonspectral acorns. Guides encourage their charges to snap photographs in case mysterious orbs of light appear; they also spin tales of the Ghost of the Lake, who lurks in fresh water in search of a dock. Groups of up to 25 people depart for their mysterious meanderings nightly at 8:30 p.m., and the all-flat terrain makes the spooky stroll both scooter and wheelchair friendly. Kissimmee Ghost Tours recommends that guests come equipped with walking shoes, umbrellas, and cassette singles of the Ghostbusters theme song.