The licensed skydive veterans of Skydive Tampa Bay have accompanied customers soaring from the bellies of airplanes since 1978. These plummetologists have earned national and international championship titles and multiple world records, and now start beginners on a path to their own air-bound accolades with introductory tandem jumps. Lessons begin with on-ground instruction before instructors securely attach students to their torsos like thrill-seeking mother kangaroos and freefall for two miles. After students learn the basics through tandem dives, instructors put them through the Accelerated Freefall Program, which includes classroom time, ground training, solo jumps, and post-dive critiques of freefall techniques and maneuvers.
Kids learn with all five of their senses?that's literally what puts the V in the name of Explorations V Children's Museum. Spread across three floors, the museum brims with hands-on activities in a range of permanent exhibits. And the organization's interactive approach to learning has helped it earn accolades, such as a grant from Disney's Helping Kids Shine award program.
On the lower floor, an exhibit charting the journey of the Florida orange begins with local history and ends with a look at global ecosystems. On the first floor, the exhibit Marvelous Me! teaches about the human body with an interactive skeleton and memory tests; Water Matters teaches water conservation with interactive stations. At the top of the museum, check out the temporary exhibits and the Dragon of Toys, a colorful sculpture of plastic trinkets. It's also here that instructors conduct daily programs ranging from open art studio sessions to nutritional cooking classes.
Safari Wilderness Ranch's exotic wetland animals freely roam 260 acres of grassy plains, girded by an 850-square-mile watershed. Accredited by the Zoological Association of America and licensed by the USDA, the ranch is an agritourism project dedicated to teaching about endangered species through hands-on safaris. Wandering zebra and watusi-cattle herds coexist harmoniously with waterbuck and lost cable guys as explorers ride by on trucks, horse-drawn carts, and camels. An outdoor aviary flutters with nearly 100 colorful, playful budgie parakeets who will munch millet seeds from the palm of a hand, and a lemur habitat allows guests to feed the ring-tailed primates grapes.
Though the creatures on display at Dinosaur World don’t need much space to roam, plenty of care has been taken to furnish them a comfortable habitat. They peer imposingly from the hillsides of Kentucky, crane their necks up through native trees, and stomp through prairie fields. Although a life-size mammoth or T. rex might be hard to miss, little visitors might still jump with delight at noticing a baby dino suddenly appear from behind a bush. Giant brachiosaurus necks arch high above treetops, while toothy meat-eaters and spiny stegosauruses roam the world below. The fiberglass, steel, and concrete models reach up to 80 feet in length, and are built according to the latest scientific discoveries about what dinosaurs looked like and what styles were trendy in the Mesozoic era.
The first Dinosaur World location was a former alligator farm in Florida and five years later another one was opened in Kentucky. As Swedish-born Christer Svensson began to fill it with statues, he consulted with experts around the world to not only create realistic reptiles but to surround them with fun, educational activities. Kids can sift through sand to find shark’s teeth, gastropod shells, and trilobites in a fossil dig, get to know some lizards a little better on the playground, or examine ancient eggs and raptor claws in the museum.
Cypress Lanes enthralls orb-launching visitors with rounds of bowling within its 40-lane facility. Imperfect aiming abilities receive a boost by bumper lanes, and all players can chase their perfect-game dreams during open bowl or by joining adult leagues or youth programs. Each Friday and Saturday night partakers can attend 2.5-hour Rockin' Bowl outings to enhance sessions with a thumping sound system, special-effect lights, and prizes such as bowling pins that clatter to the exact bassline of "Stairway to Heaven" when knocked down. Between frames, customers can relax on Cypress Lanes' outdoor smoking deck, peruse the pro shop, or compete in rounds of air hockey or Deal or No Deal in a redemption game room stocked with assortments of new prizes every week. Striker's Sports Cafe reenergizes clientele after each game with delectable bar fare.
Nestled on the shores of the eponymous southern Florida lake, Lake Okeechobee Resort is an ideal base camp for outdoor recreation. Popular pursuits here include bass fishing, boating, and hiking or bicycling along a segment of the 1,400-mile Florida Trail that wends around the lake’s perimeter. You can set off into the lake from the resort’s 100-slip marina. From its location on the southeastern side of the lake, the resort has a spot to watch sunsets over the water.
For those camping, Lake Okeechobee Resort has especially long lots for oversized RVs or sleeping bags designed for giraffes. An onsite restaurant, public bathrooms, and pool take the edge off of roughing it while staying at the campground or in the cabins.