It may seem difficult to pause and enjoy the view while you're hurtling through the air in a 120-mile-per-hour free fall, but for World Skydiving Center visitors, it's worth it. That's because they get to experience this thrill in one of two places: Kenosha, WI, where they enjoy the sight of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Lake Michigan, and Jasper, FL, where the 130-acre airport about an hour away from Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Gainesville allows jumpers to see Florida's expansive green spaces. After jumping in tandem with an experienced diver, individuals can take home a video of their gravity-defying feat.
The plane at Great Lakes Skydiving is something of a celebrity?in the '90s, 20th Century Fox used it to shoot the skydiving scenes in Point Break. This was no stroke of luck. The center's dives are truly cinematic, taking place at a breathtaking elevation of up to 14,000 feet. The spacious facility is also stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, and staffed by a team of certified instructors who helm tandem dives for newbies.
Despite their name, The Sky Knights won't swoop down to earth on a dragon?instead, they use a parachute. Since its founding in 1963, the club has helped others take their first skydiving plunge via tandem jumps or work toward becoming USPA-certified skydivers. They conduct all of their classes and aerial excursions at Skydive Milwaukee, a dedicated drop zone extending up to 13,500 feet above the Wisconsin countryside. Whether briefing visitors pre-jump in their climate-controlled classrooms or strapping them in with an instructor for their first 50-second free fall, the company adheres to all FAA and United States Parachute Association rules and recommendations and uses only FAA-certified teaching equipment fitted with automatic reserve-activation devices. The center, meanwhile, features open-air grills and an observation deck?allowing even those on the ground to partake in the pulse-pounding thrills.
For the past 34 years, Soaring Adventures of America, which boasts an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, has presented earth-bound clients a variety of ways to explore the skies. Their balloon rides take crews of up to four on a peaceful journey to heights as high as 2,000 feet in the air, capped off with a champagne or fruit juice toast. The pilots are FAA commercially certified, and the balloons are inspected for every 100 hours of flight to ensure a safe experience.
Skydive Midwest's U.S. Parachute Association?certified instructors have completed an average of more than 4,000 skydives each. The instructors' ample explorations of gravity and comprehensive training sessions, which are held onsite, help them to securely guide thrill-seekers during tandem jumps, solo jumps, and bouts of spontaneous levitation. Skydivers leap from a sleek and speedy DeHavilland Twin Otter jump ship, which boasts a glitzy new paint job, lightweight bench seating for 23 people, and the ability to climb to 14,500 feet in only 18 minutes.
Sportations connects amateur adrenaline jockeys to certified professional adventurers, drawing from a nationwide network of aeronauts and speed demons to introduce habitual pedestrians to the wonders of skydiving, ballooning, hang gliding, and stock-car racing. Thrill seekers can zipline across a forest canopy, hollering like Tarzan or taunting nearby birds until they agree to race. Helicopter tours ferry patrons skyward over landmarks and cityscapes, whereas paragliding adventures get up close and personal with blue skies and clouds. For most sports, Sportations accommodates groups of any size, from physics classes empirically proving gravity's existence to solo ballooning supervillains declaring dominion over all they see.