Fun for All
11/20/2009 5:52:22 PM
Wild and crazy adventures abound from sea to shining sea.
Wide Open Spaces
From the tallest building in North America, the Sears Tower in Chicago, more than 1.3 million visitors a year used to have an incredible view that on a clear day could span nearly 50 miles and four states. But starting this July, the new view is focused squarely on Chicago — specifically 233 S. Whacker Dr. — and rather than just looking out, looks straight down as well. The Ledge, a series of glass boxes that extend out 4.3 feet from the building, allows visitors to literally step out past the ledge of the building and look 1,353 feet down to the cars, buildings and shops below on Whacker Dr. The journey up to the 103rd floor on some of the fastest elevators in the world gives visitors the history of the building, while interactive exhibits once you reach the Skydeck share insight on the landmark and Chicago sports, culture and more. Group ticket discounts, photo packages and free bus parking, as well as bag lunches are available if you get in touch with the guest relations staff beforehand. theskydeck.com
Stretching across 40 miles of the Oregon Coast, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area represents the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America with dunes towering up to 500 feet above sea level. Take off-roading to a new level on a guided dune buggy tour with one of several permitted tour groups through the National Recreation Area. Sandland Adventures offers both 10 person tours as well as the Giant Dune Buggy Tour that fits 27 of your closest friends into an off-road vehicle that explores eight miles of dunes and two miles of ocean beach with a little added adventure. If your group wants to pump a little air into their trip, visit the world's first sandboard park, Sand Master Park, in Florence, Ore. The 40 acres of private sculpted sand dunes, 40’ ramp, and portable jumps, kickers, rails and boxes are free for everyone to try out this variation of snowboarding or skateboarding with $5 parking or any equipment rental. Call ahead for group lessons and packages. travellanecounty.org
Bird’s eye view
It’s a jungle out there at the Louisville Zoo, and not just for the animals. Try your own hand at navigating the zoo’s new Sky Trail High Adventure Course, where everyone in your group — no matter their age or height — can try to make their way through the obstacle course while tethered to a structure more than two stories above ground. Swing like a monkey, show off your cat-like agility or perch like a bird atop the balance beam as you attempt to traverse the 22 challenging elements that include footlines, balance beams, rope ladders, the Rickety Bridge, Tremor Bridge and Quarter Cargo Net. In addition to the group rates available to enter the park, the Sky Trail offers 4- and 20-pack discount packages for groups. Also, tack on a little extra to your day by choosing from a variety of menus and venues to create a themed picnic or special event for your group ranging from a safari sleepover birthday party to a picnic or black-tie affair. louisvillezoo.org/skytrail
The ultimate Tall Ships experience is in full regalia during the annual Sail Boston event in early July, when the Tall Ship fleet docks in Boston harbor for five days during the Tall Ships Challenge, which has the fleet racing from Vigo, Spain to Northern Ireland by way of the Canary Islands, Bermuda, Charleston, S.C., Boston, and Halifax, Canada. Take in a harbor tour, crew and cadet parades through town, youth events, shopping and entertainment — all with the magnificent Tall Ships docked in the harbor providing quite the backdrop. If you can’t make it to Boston in July, you can take a peek into other tall ships, as well as modern day, historic and educational ships year-round throughout Massachusetts. Sail Massachusetts brings various seagoing vessels from around the world to the region regularly even when the festival is not taking place. Sailboston.com
Everyone knows about the world famous waterfalls on the New York/Canada border and millions visit the destination each year, but seeing the awe-inspiring sight in person will truly blow you away. The three roaring waterfalls and 400 acres of protected wildlife make up the oldest state park in America. But don’t let its age fool you, the park continues to live up to its enormous reputation. The surrounding park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of landscape architecture and designer of such famous parks as Central Park in New York City, features numerous ways to experience the falls. View them from multiple lookouts, take a boat ride to the bottom or take a tour that gets you within 20 feet of the crashing waters of Bridal Veil Falls. Special events throughout the summer include nightly illuminations of the falls and firework displays every Friday and Saturday, as well as U.S. and Canadian national holidays. The Niagara USA Discovery Pass combines access to several of the park’s attractions including The Cave of the Winds, The Maid of the Mist, Niagara Adventure Theater, The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Aquarium of Niagara and Niagara Scenic Trolley.
Zoom past Olympic Nordic athletes — or at least above them — on the world’s steepest zip line ride at Utah Olympic Park. The ride is made by ZipRider, which has seven attractions across the country, with its flagship location also in Utah at Park City Mountain Resort. At both locations you and your group can race on four parallel lines at more than 50 mph as you fly through the air in seated harnesses. The Utah Olympic Park attraction has an Xtreme version that sends you zipping at as fast as 60 mph down the 1,500-foot line as Olympic athletes train below you (or members of your group try out some of the events), or test your courage on the Ultra, a shorter version of the ride for younger riders. The Park City ZipRider sends you through the trees over a mountain coaster ride to add some excitement to the 550-foot vertical drop, which you cover during the 2,300-foot trek down the mountain. Additional ZipRider locations are in Snowbird, Utah, Icy Strait Point, Ala., Heavenly, Calif., Sno Mountain, Pa., and Wildcat, N.H. Ziprider.com.
The air up there
You are already high above Albuquerque, N.M., when you get on at the base of the tram, so after the world’s longest aerial tramway transports you 2.7 miles higher into the Sandia Mountains, just imagine the breathtaking view from 10,378 feet above sea level atop Sandia Peak. From the top, take a look across an 11,000-sq. mi. panoramic view of the Rio Grande Valley and the Land of Enchantment. On the journey to the top, the mountains and canyons beneath you may be filled with native wildlife, while the skies are dotted with hawks and eagles around you, not to mention a spectacular natural scene — especially at sunset across the desert. Summer visitors can go for a hike once they reach the top, while winter provides a different way down — skiing down the eastern slopes of the Sandia Peak ski area. Grab a bit to eat up top at High Finance Restaurant or back at the base at Sandiago's Mexican Grill, where you can also stop in the free, recently opened New Mexico Ski Museum that shares the history of skiing in the region. sandiapeak.com.
Wet ‘n’ wild
If wet and wild is your idea of adventure, head to Wisconsin Dells no matter what the weather is outside. While summer temperatures in the area may be warm enough to allow you to jump in a swimming pool, the rest of the year can range from below zero to a chilly 45 degrees in the spring. Surprised that the Midwestern city is the Waterpark Capital of the World? Good thing they put so many of their waterparks inside. More than 20 indoor and outdoor waterparks featuring more than 200 waterslides pump as much as 16 million gallons of water into your experience. Test your skills on the stand up and surf FlowRider at Kalahari Resort, where you can also experience an uphill rollercoaster waterslide, family raft ride and indoor wave pool. At Noah’s Ark, the largest outdoor waterpark in the country, age doesn’t matter because rides range from relaxing to extreme. Both parks have group discounts, and Noah’s Ark has pavilions available for rent as well as catering or the option to bring your own food for a group event. wisdells.com
Rough and tumble
What could be more fun than rolling down a giant hill? Rolling down a giant hill in a giant plastic ball … adding water … and adding friends. Zorb Smoky Mountains, the first and only Zorb site in North America, brings the extreme sport invented in New Zealand to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Try the Zorbit, where one person is put in a specially designed safety harness inside the Zorb globe and let loose to roll straight down a hill, or throw a few gallons of water into the giant inflated ball and try the straight or zig-zag run while you are free in the ball alone or with a couple friends tossing around with you. “It’s a cross between a slip-and-slide and a roller coaster,” says Andy Havill, Group Marketing Manager for the company, about the Zydro run. “The globe rotates around you, and you slide left to right as water splashes all around you. You have to be close friends though because you get pretty up-close-and-personal.” The attraction offers discounted group rates as well as the ability to set up a tent onsite and bring in catering for your group. zorb.com/zorb/smoky/
SeaWorld Orlando has combined marine life with the fun and excitement of a theme park ride. Fly through the air “superman” style, or “manta-style” actually, on the new roller coaster, which sends you gliding like a giant manta ray through 10 distinct aquariums similar to a manta’s freshwater lagoon and saltwater habitats. Along the way, riders will zoom past more than 3,000 animals, including 300 rays and 2,500 exotic fish, all while spinning, looping and even skimming the water’s surface. But don’t think all that excitement will distract you from the experience. The smallest details were considered during the design process — such as filling the rails with sand to make the ride quieter and smoother so you won’t miss a thing. Groups get a discount to the park, as well as a second day free, and large groups can take advantage of packages that include behind-the-scenes tours, picnics and teambuilding. Seaworld.com
Group Travel Planet