Drive or ride in a race car
Do you have a need for speed? Get in the driver or passenger’s seat of a Winston Cup-style stock car for a spin at the Daytona International Speedway or the Walt Disney World© Speedway. The Richard Petty Driving Experience offers packages in Daytona and Orlando that range from ride-along to advanced driving schools. How fast drivers can go will depend on their ability, the track, and the package.
Daytona International Speedway offers the ride-along or 14- or 24-lap packages for $105 to $2,119, including tax. The Walt Disney World® Speedway offers ride-along or eight-, 18-, or 30-lap driving experiences ranging from about $94 to $1271, including tax.
Call 1-800-BE-PETTY to arrange a driving time for either course. Or check out the Internet for the Daytona schedule or more information on the Disney schedule.
Ride-alongs must be at least 16 years old and have a parent present if under 18. Drivers must have a valid driver’s license and be able to drive a standard transmission. All students must be able to slide through a stock car window. All students will get a neck brace and safety instructions and are buckled up. Students always follow an instructor and learn about the track and cars before they get behind a wheel.
Book your stay in Daytona or Orlando.
Skydive Palatka, based at Palatka’s Kay Larkin Airport (less than an hour from Jacksonville or Daytona) offers skydiving packages ranging in prices from $160 to $1,020. You can take a tandem dive hooked up to an instructor after just 15 minutes of instruction or jump solo from 3,500 feet after five hours of instruction. Or take an accelerated solo free-fall from 11,500 to 13,500 feet above ground after seven hours of instruction and seven jumps with assistance. For another $55 to $70, a free-fall videographer can jump alongside and capture the big moment on film.
You must weigh less than 230 pounds, be at least 18 years old and be in good general health. People who are on medication or have been treated for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, nervous disorders or blood pressure irregularities will need a doctor’s authorization to jump with Skydive Palatka. For more information, call Skydive Palatka at 1-800-243-6481.
Book your stay in Jacksonville or Daytona.
For those who want to experience flying without jumping out of a plane, Sky Venture in Orlando uses high energy wind tunnels to simulate the sensation of flying. Learn the correct body position from a professional instructor, suit up in real skydiving gear, and soar like a bird in a column of air going 120 mph. The price of an adventure ticket is $38.50 for adults and $33.50 for children 12 and under. An adventure ticket includes your class, gear rental, and the flight experience of two rotations in the tunnel. For more information call (407) 903-1150.
Book your stay in Orlando.
Float in a hot air balloon
Fly through the air the old-fashioned way.
Chuck Vaughn, owner of The Balloon Man based in Jacksonville, FL, has flown balloons for 25 years. He charges $400 plus tax for a ride for two. Vaughn meets his clients at dawn and drives them to the best location around Jacksonville to launch the balloon, based on the wind direction. The ride lasts about an hour. After Vaughn lands in a field, everyone helps disassemble the balloon and enjoys a champagne brunch. For more information, call (904) 725-0119.
If you’ll be in Central Florida, try Above Tampa, LLC. Above Tampa offers the unique experience of hot air ballooning in the Greater Tampa, Orlando, and Central Florida areas with flight ports in Tampa, Orlando, and Lakeland, Florida. Passengers are ensured a comfortable and private flight experience. Following the unforgettable flight, you’ll have a toast and enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant. Call 888-909-1992 for more information.
Book your stay in Jacksonville or Tampa
Watch a shuttle launch up close
Ever touch a moon rock or seen a shuttle longer than a football field? You can when you visit the Kennedy Space Center to watch a shuttle launch and tour the visitor complex. Choose from a number of packages that allow you to watch the launching of a space shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center. For $35.50 for adults and $25.50 for children, you can watch the shuttle launch from inside the Kennedy Space Center about six miles from the launch pad. The cost includes admission to the center’s visitor complex where history and future meet for an unforgettable journey through space and time.
For the same price, get reserved parking at the Astronaut Hall of Fame and watch the launch from the closest spot outside Space Center grounds. The package includes admission to the visitor complex and the recently opened Hall of Fame.
Another package option lets people eat dinner with an astronaut the evening before a launch, gets them to the viewing site six miles from the launch pad the next day, and admits them to the visitor complex. The cost is $65.50 plus tax for adults and $45.50 plus tax for children. Call (321) 449-4444 for more information.
Book your stay in Orlando or Kissimmee.
Play with dolphins
When was the last time you kissed a dolphin? Participate in one of two dolphin interaction programs at Hawk’s Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. During a 45-minute program, participants can interact directly with the dolphins for 25 minutes in the saltwater lagoon under the supervision of skilled trainers. Participants must be 54 inches or taller and the cost is $110.
For a unique family experience, the 30-minute dockside program provides a behind-the-scenes look at dolphin training and the opportunity to participate as a dolphin trainer’s assistant. Participants will not enter the water and those five years old and younger must be accompanied by a paid adult. Cost is $55. For reservations and information, call 1-888-814-9154. Reservations must be made at least 3 months in advance.
Marineland of Florida offers a unique interactive experience with their dolphins. Guests will get up close and personal with some of Marineland’s more famous residents during this 40-minute program. Guests will go through an orientation program before standing on an underwater platform in the Dolphin Stadium where they will be able to play and pet the dolphins.
Up to three people at a time can take part in the 40-minute program. The cost is $120 and reservations are required. People must be at least 50 inches tall to stand in the water. For more information or to make a reservation, call 1-888-279-9194.
Book your stay in Key West or St.Augustine.
Experience Northeast Florida waterways with Windward Sailing School in Fernandina Beach. Just 30 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport and only 20 minutes off of Interstate 95, Windward Sailing School offers basic and advanced sailing instruction, navigational lessons, bareboat charters, and captained charters. Charter a 34-foot sailboat for only $87.50 per hour with a two-hour minimum. Call (904) 261-9125 for more information.
Book your stay in Jacksonville
Blue Water Sailing School offers an American Sailing Association Certification through a unique seven-level instructional program. Liveaboard classes are held on quality cruising yachts departing from a private marina. Professional instruction emphasizes “hands-on” sailing instruction. Bareboat and crewed charters are offered from four base locations: Fort Lauderdale, Marathon, Marsh Harbour, and Cancun. Charter costs range from $200 per night for overnight sails to $500 for a four-hour day sail.
Book a stay in Ft. Lauderdale
What better way to relax and unwind than a leisurely sail on the beautiful waters of Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico with Emerald Coast Sailing School. The Crewed and Bareboat Charter packages range from full-week (7 days) to mini-vacations (4 days, 3 nights), enjoying all the Florida Emerald Coast has to offer. Prices vary depending on package length but can start at $450 for a ½ day crewed charter. Fully crewed charters for just a few hours, or full-day if your schedule permits is also offered.
Book a stay in Panama City
Take a helicopter ride
Explore the wonderful world of South Florida’s beaches and water by air with Heliflight. From a helicopter, you can experience more sightseeing in one hour than you can see in many days on the ground. Some popular charter destinations include the Palm Beach Polo Club, South Beach, Watson Island, Fisher Island, the Pro Player Stadium, Florida Keys, and Key West. Tours can range from 15 minutes to a four-day package with prices ranging from $69 to $410. For more information call (954) 771-6969.
Discover the magic city of Miami and its beaches aboard a jet helicopter with Action Helicopter Inc. See exciting South Beach, the beautiful islands of Indian Creek, Bal Harbour, Virginia Key, Star, Fisher, Hibiscus and the Paradise Island of Key Biscayne. You will fly over to Vizcaya Palace 7 Gardens, Miami and the fabulous Bayside Market Place and Marina. The helicopter tour is one of Miami’s most popular attractions. Open seven days a week from 9am to 6pm. Call (305) 358-4723 for more information.
Book your stay in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami
Swim with the manatees
Get up close and personal with a manatee, Florida’s official marine mammal, when you take a snorkel tour in Crystal River or Homosassa Spring. American Pro Dive, less than two hours away from Orlando or Tampa, offers a basic package for $40, including gear, to snorkel with the curious and playful manatees.
Snorkel with the manatees in the blue waters of the Homosassa River. A smaller and shallower river (some areas of the Homosassa River are only four feet deep) is great for kids or the novice snorkeler. The visibility is typically crystal clear and has less boat traffic so you can enjoy a peaceful encounter with these gentle giants. Prime viewing time is November through March when the manatees flock to these waters. For more information call 1-800-291-DIVE.
Book your stay in Tampa or Orlando.
Go deep-sea fishing
Captain Jim Hammond at the Sea Love Marina in St. Augustine, offers inshore fishing trips ranging from $240 to $440 depending on the number of people and length of time. Rods, reels, tackle, bait, fishing licenses and ice are supplied. Guests can bring their own food and drink for any fishing tours. Fly-fishing, offshore and surf fishing are also available. Arrangements for large groups can also be made. Call (904) 757-7550 for more information.
Captain Chris Haught of Tampa, Florida offers fishing from the beautiful waters of Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Bradenton. Bait, tackle, license and filet and packaging of fish are provided. Charter prices are as follows: $300.00 for 4 hours, $350.00 for 6 hours and $400.00 for 8 hours. Prices are for 2 anglers; add $50.00 for each additional angler. For more information or to build a customized trip, call 1-866-795-FISH.
Book your stay in St. Augustine or Tampa.
Relax at a day spa
Dawn Dions Salon & Day Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville, offers a variety of packages and spa treatments ranging from $40 for a Sea Mineral Salt Scrub to $93 for a Spa Sizzler package that includes a 60 Minute Swedish Massage, Express Manicure and Express Pedicure. Call (904) 285-5919 for more information or to make your reservation.
Book your stay in Ponte Vedra.
The Spa at Sanibel Harbour offers guests a beautiful and serene setting in which to relax, restore and rejuvenate. Experience a 50-minute Swedish Massage for $85, a classic massage style that uses soothing, relaxing strokes to promote balance and body harmony. Or relax with one of many spa packages ranging from $157 to $381 that include a massage, aromatherapy, hair and nail care or facials. Call (239) 466-2156 to make reservations at least one week in advance.
Book your stay in Sanibel.
Irene Gott’s European Day Spa, located in the quaint hamlet of Clearwater, offers a variety of anti-aging and wellness services. Irene´s specialties include microdermabrasion, European facials, bio-cellular skin lifts, and collagen facials. Prices start from $55 for facials, $79 for body wraps or $99 to $250 for spa packages. Call (727) 462-8131 for more information.
Book your stay in Clearwater.
Sources include: Florida Times-Union