By Sarah Sekula
Vacationing in Orlando gives you a chance to climb out of your comfort zone and plunge right in to something you might not try at home. Let's say, for example, hang gliding at 2,000 feet (609 meters) through Central Florida's sunny skies at Wallaby Ranch. That will definitely win you some bragging rights. Not to mention, some epic GoPro video.
It turns out you don't need mountains in order to go hang gliding. At Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, just south of Orlando, this adrenaline-pumping thrill is made possible by aerotowing - think launching upward behind an ultra-light tow plane, then gliding nose first through the sky.
If you are slightly nervous about the idea of gliding through the sky, consider these sterling credentials: The hang gliding instructors are very skilled at what they do. In fact, owner/founder Malcolm Jones has chalked up more than 30,000 flights over the years (all incident-free), so you will be in very good hands. At 500 acres, this old farm-turned-hang-gliding haven is the largest aerotowing facility in the world and has been running since 1991. Pretty impressive.
This is the closest thing to flying like a bird. It's very serene up there, and it feels like everything is in slow motion. Surprisingly, it's a really smooth ride. And it's the perfect way to get a look at how gorgeous Florida really is.
Once you're back on the ground, there are all kinds of things to do. For starters, scale the rock climbing wall and bounce on the trampoline. Stroll along the boardwalk for an up-close look at the natural Florida woodlands. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, migrating birds or even the endangered Florida panther. If it's warm out, go for a dip in the pool.
Best part is the setup. It's designed for you and your family to linger. Pitch a tent. Bring your RV. Enjoy brunch or lunch in the cantina area. Whether you go for the hang gliding or just to hang out, chances are you'll be talking about it for years to come.
If you go:
1) Bring sunglasses to help block the wind.
2) Definitely spring for the GoPro footage and have your friends take photos of you taking off and landing.
3) Beyond the flight, plan for time to just hang out and relax.
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Sarah Sekula is a national travel correspondent who lives in Orlando and regularly contributes to USA TODAY, CNN.com, NBCnews.com, FOXnews.com, ISLANDS, Scuba Diving and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons. Follow her journeys at SarahSekula.com, @wordzilla on Twitter or wordzillapics on Instagram.