Concealed in the leafy canopy of the forest at the Central Florida Zoo, wires, rope bridges, and ziplines create intricate pathways amidst the treetops. Zoom Air Adventure Park's monkey architects designed courses to follow the natural flow of the area's existing terrain and plant life. While securely fastened to a safety line via a sturdy harness, visitors can swing, climb, and balance their way through dozens of obstacles while taking in views of the forest below. The grand finale: a zipline that soars through the air for about 500 feet. Safety is just as important to the experience as fun, and the adventure park's experienced operators keep an eye on guests to ensure that everyone is comfortable and secure.
During the Superhero Scramble, racers of all fitness levels tear across arduous terrain littered with body- and mind-challenging obstacles. Participants must wade through mud and, to reach the finish line, persevere through a barrage of Super Slime generously donated by retired Ghostbusters.
Upon completing the race, athletes ride their endorphin high into a party stocked with ice-cold beer. There, they can mingle with other contestants, sway to live music, and see awards doled out to the fastest runners in each age bracket. Male and female Scramble Gamble contestants compete for prizes that can cover the cost of replacing the engines in their sneakers. The benefits of the race extend beyond the Gamble winners, too—the organizers donate a portion of the proceeds to charity.
Visitors to Florida EcoSafaris get a close look at the state's distinct flora and fauna during thrilling outdoor adventures. The Coach Safari whisks riders on a two-hour open-air jaunt through a 4,700-acre wildlife-conservation area rich with streams and forests. Naturalist guides delve into the natural history of the region's nine ecosystems, which house species including alligators, Florida panthers, and herds of roving photo opportunities. Visitors can also take in sweeping views of the nearby wetlands and their many residents, including countless kinds of birds and white-tailed deer. For equestrian adventurers, safaris on horseback take riders through scenic trails used by Native Americans in the 1500s.
Florida EcoSafaris' EcoPark adds to its Cypress Canopy Cycle adventure-which sends visitors rolling along steel cables in a suspended, pedal-powered cart that doubles as a spy machine for squirrels-with five new and recently renovated zipline adventures. Guests fly high through the air at 30 miles per hour with the Peregrine Plunge and Zipline Safari or leap off 55- or 68-feet platforms during controlled-free-fall adventures. No matter what activity guests participate in, Florida EcoSafaris donates a portion of all proceeds to the Allen Broussard Conservancy, an agency dedicated to the preservation of Florida's ecosystems and wildlife.
When the warm season arrives, the team at Epic Boardsports strives to get locals and visitors out and enjoying nearby tropical waterways such as Banana River lagoon. For the uninitiated as well as the experienced, knowledgeable guides lead stand-up paddleboard tours around the lagoon to share local lore and point out manatees, seabirds, and dolphins playing Jenga in their natural habitat. The team also gives paddleboard lessons at Banana River or on the ocean, and rents and sells top-flight Hawaiian Pro Designs surfboards for aquatic adventurers looking to go paddle-less. Kiteboards by brands such as the versatile Jimmy Lewis, designed to enhance every style of boarding, give wave athletes one more way to soar over the sea. Fostering a year-round passion for extreme board sports, the team can send skiers down powder-covered mountainsides in style with boards, boots, and accessories.
During the Backwoods Challenge, runners shimmy through a tunnel of mud, step across a balance beam, army-crawl under barbed wire, and shoot through a slide before plunging into a pond. And for some of them, there isn't even a prize on the line. In addition to frequent competitive races, Backwoods Challenge also hosts fun runs and mud-run training sessions. Either way, the 5K course, which pushes bodies and minds to the brink, forces participants to confront more than 25 obstacles that test their physical prowess. Only those who aren't afraid to get down and dirty in the mud can conquer all of the manmade and natural obstacles.
Snorkel with Manatees' expert divers lead tours on underwater sojourns to discover peaceful manatees and environs beneath the waves. Offering both group and mini manatee tours year-round, the guides monitor each diver to ensure safe practice with the animals. Their Crystal River scallops tour scours the ocean floor for tasty scallops while avoiding crabs auditioning for The Little Mermaid revival, and the Snorkel with Manatees excursions explore the Crystal, Homosassa, and Chassahowitzka Rivers on airboat. They also teach the fundamentals of their craft during discover scuba-diving lessons.