Originally built by NASA to test the effects of weightlessness on manatees, vertical wind tunnels have since become popular practice areas for professional skydivers, barbershop quartets, and other death-defying thrill-seekers. Simulate floating in the sky and work on your four-part harmonies with today's Groupon: for $55, you get one four-minute vertical wind-tunnel flight (a $95 value for adults, $90 for ages 3–11) at SkyVenture New Hampshire, located about 40 miles from Boston in Nashua. Anyone age three and up (way up; 90-year-olds have been spotted doing this) can take the virtual plunge so long as they meet SkyVenture’s weight and health requirements.
SkyVenture New Hampshire’s state-of-the-art indoor wind tunnel lets acrophobic and aerophobic adrenaline junkies experience the sensations of skydiving under far safer conditions than they would leaping off roofs and hoping their plastic shopping-bag parachute catches the airstream. Once SkyVenture suits you up with a helmet, goggles, flight suit, and a can of gravity repellent, an instructor will teach you the basic maneuvers and hand signals before unleashing you into the vertical tunnel’s artificial wind current for four minutes of air-swimming (equivalent to about 6 skydives from 13,000 feet). As you hover in empty space, you’ll feel like you’re floating serenely rather than freefalling, as if the wind's hands were lifting your body into a high, carefree state rarely achieved without being fired from a cannon into a cumulus cloud of nacho cheese. The entire process may take up to 90 minutes, including waiver signing, a 30-minute class, and a half-hour flight slot during which your group takes turns flying.
Indoor skydiving is accessible to a wide, family-friendly age range, meaning that grandma and grandpa can celebrate their 60th anniversary with more than the traditional cake shaped like Andy Griffith. SkyVenture New Hampshire’s observation deck allows for maximum show-offiness, so invite along an audience of hard-to-impress friends, lovers, and butlers to marvel at your simulated plummet through the heavens.
- Totally unique experience. Cuts straight to the fun part of skydiving. – quasimodal, TripAdvisor
- Indoor Skydiving at SkyVenture is incredible! I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking to do something a little different and wants to experience flying in a totally safe environment. – Catherine P., Yelp, 7/19/09
The swimsuit-clad guests at Skyventure New Hampshire's Surf's Up attraction may not be going anywhere, but they're having lots of fun along the way. Designed to be the largest indoor wave park of its kind, the new venue from simulated-extreme-sports specialists sets surfers atop a standing wave that can—depending on the settings of its modular SurfStream machine—reach heights of 6 feet. Surfers with experience can use it to stay conditioned and improve their balance on barrel waves year round, while beginners can more easily learn to mount their boards in a 100% jellyfish-free setting. As reported on the Discovery Channel, the machine can release a rush of 750,000 liters of water per minute. And because the water temperature is kept at a mild 83 degrees, no wetsuits are necessary.
At 32 feet wide—making it the largest in North America, the owners say—the surf pool is a star attraction. But it's not the only one. There's also the FishPipe, a wildly spinning water-filled sphere that replicates the thrill of an ultra-steep water slide, a 24-foot Nicros art rock wall with an auto-belay system, and SkyVenture itself. The last provides the surreal thrill of falling slowly through the air with no need for a parachute—it's an indoor, vertical wind tunnel, of a kind used not only by everyday thrill-seekers but also by pro skydivers.
Right beside the rolling waters and powerful winds is the Oasis Cafe Restaurant, which completes the beachy experience with a thatched roof and tabletop shakers of sand. Even approaching the wave park puts surfers in a tropical mood—its exterior is bedecked with towering palm trees and other tiki trimmings.