Racers fly over the European-style road course, whipping past red-and-black boundaries as they maneuver in and out of the turns and straightaways. While they jockey for position and widen the gap between them and the competition, they listen to the race coverage on their radio helmets, striving to improve on their last lap time by cracking a whip over their engines until they gallop up to 40 miles per hour. This is the Andretti Challenge, one of five go-kart tracks within the six-acre Andretti Thrill Park.
The park’s attractions span amusements for nearly every age, from tyke-friendly fun on Rookie Row to single and double karts on the Super Speedway. The park also encompasses nonmotorized fun, such as the Andretti Edge climbing wall, mini bowling, and a tokenless, card-based arcade. And as expected at any family amusement park, Andretti's staff includes a team dedicated to handling parties so that parents don't have to sneak into the park at midnight and power the arcade with their car battery. This scope and quality of entertainment earned Andretti Thrill Park the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Best of Melbourne Award: Amusement Parks from the US Commerce Association.
As a conglomerate of paintball facilities, Paintballtickets.com is a one-stop shop for weekend warriors seeking some chromatic outdoor combat. Partnering with fields across the country, the company helps players live out their battlefield fantasies, whether they're sneaking up on an enemy installation, executing tactic strategies, or painting Water Lilies on the chest of a charging opponent.
Skatetown USA entertains speedsters with a slick rink full of friction-less fun during open-skate sessions on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Skaters can careen in the company of a partner or assemble a gaggle of friends, family members, or doppelgängers to perform choreographed rink routines. Family packages help to replenish energy spent on glissading across the floor or perfecting quadruple axel jumps with a hot pizza and slurpable sodas. Bask in retro glory with four-wheeled skates or for an additional fee, spring for a pair of speed skates or rug-cutting roller blades to ensure hummingbird-paced conga lines.
The only way to get into Gatorland is to walk straight into an alligator's toothy maw. The giant mouth provides entrance to 110 acres of marshy wildlife preserve––home to a vast ecosystem populated by thousands of alligators, crocodiles, and birds, including rare wading birds and four rare white alligators. Among these, more than 130 gators splash and lounge in the park’s breeding marsh, which visitors can view safely from a three-story observation tower or while sitting on the shoulders of Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Yet one of the biggest thrills of Gatorland is the reptile's raw power. Visitors can see this on full display during the Gator Jumparoo show, where alligators leap four to five feet out of the water to snag food directly from a trainer’s hands, or during the Gator Wrestlin' Show, where a handler demonstrates survival skills. True thrill-seekers can even dangle over the breeding marsh while riding the 65-foot-tall Screamin’ Gator Zip Line. And to experience the unsettling sensation of stumbling upon a swamp filled with alligators at night, the Night Shine takes participants deep into gator territory armed with only a flashlight and a few hot dogs.
From the outside, Professor Wonder’s WonderWorks laboratory appears to have flipped completely on its head. When visitors enter the upside-down edifice, they must first pass through the psychedelic, spinning lights of the Inversion Tunnel, which turns the building right-side up for families to embark on a full day of entertaining, educational activities. More than 100 interactive exhibits spark excitement around natural phenomenon, including replica space capsules that visitors can climb into, a gallery of mind-bending illusions, and the lab where Cabbage Patch Kids are grown in petri dishes.
Some of WonderWorks Orlando’s hands-on displays allow guests to experience the aftershocks of the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, throw a strike against Derek Jeter, and lie down on a bed of 3,500 sharp nails without so much as a scratch. Additional activities include the Indoor Ropes Challenge Course, which exercises bodies and minds as challengers navigate three stories of swinging beams and suspension bridges, and the XD Theater 4D, which transports viewers to swift canyon roller coasters, haunted mines, and Mars with full-motion seats and 3-D visuals.
Fun Spot America's family-friendly amusement park has the charm of a small-town carnival, but the colorful adventure never packs up and leaves. Although there are activities for kids, such as miniature tea cups, a fun slide, and an arcade, where Fun Spot really makes its name is with its thrilling ride for adults. White Lightning, Orlando's only wooden roller coaster, offers 10 moments of air time over it's 2,000-foot track, sending riders down 75-foot drops, around a track filled with twists and turns, and around 90-degree banking turn before pulling back into the loading station.
Speedsters can also head over to a series of Go-Kart tracks that keep riders pushing pedals through banked bowls and hairpin curves on a multilevel track. The park rounds out its attractions list with bumper cars, Enterprise, a Tilt-a-Whirl, and Rip Curl.
At Happy Days Family Fun, a cautious driver is the biggest maniac on the road. Seated behind the wheels of sparkly bumper cars—rather than the vintage pedal fire trucks used for everyday commutes—motorists crash into each other in a huge indoor space bordered with tinsel curtains shimmering under an overhead disco ball. Players also collide with cushioned pillars during laser-tag matches in a galactic-themed arena, housed behind a 3-D spaceship hovering over the entryway. Fender benders are discouraged, however, at the go-kart track, where patrons speed to the finish line under the influence of cotton-candy sugar highs. In the arcade, skee-balls land in target rings, triggering streams of tickets exchangeable for a variety of toys at the prize counter.