Drive Like a Pro
I’ve been driving for more than half of my life, but I have never experienced a thrill behind the wheel like the one I had driving a Lamborghini at 118 miles per hour.
Exotic Driving Experience and the Richard Petty Driving Experience in Orlando offer one of the most high-end and high-intensity travel experiences available for groups traveling in central Florida. These drives take place at Walt Disney World Speedway, which, though located on Disney property, is independently run and is not located inside any of the Disney theme parks.
My Lamborghini experience was part of the Exotic Driving package, which lets participants take several laps around the speedway in an expensive, exotic sports car under the direction of a professional racecar driver who sits in the passenger seat. The Richard Petty product is a similar experience but uses NASCAR-style stock cars instead of street vehicles.
No matter which style of car you choose, the results are thrilling. Participants get detailed instruction before the driving begins and are allowed to push the cars’ handling, braking, acceleration and top speed as hard as they like. It’s not uncommon for drivers to hit speeds of 130 miles per hour on the track’s straightaways.
For larger groups, the company can add drag racing, pit crew activities and other hands-on components that give guests up-close experiences not common outside of professional racing. They can also arrange garage tours, during which enthusiasts will see several of the speed world’s most admired vehicles and learn about the maintenance required to keep them in top-performance shape.
Daytona Beach has made a name for itself through the decades as a coastal destination, where sand, waves and resorts are the primary attractions. But if there are adventurers in your group, take them to Zoom Air for a treetop adventure.
Located in Tuscawilla Park, an inland area lush with tropical plants and mature trees, Zoom Air is a zip line and aerial obstacle course that gives participants a chance to test their strength, balance and agility while snuggly harnessed to a safety line.
Three separate adventure courses at the park each take about 45 minutes to complete. Groups get a thorough safety briefing and instructions on using the safety tethers and zip apparatus. After passing a ground-level test, adventurers are free to climb into the canopy to experience the thrills at their own pace while instructors monitor the action from the ground.
Each course features a number of “games,” such as swinging bridges, suspended planks and rope swings, that adventures must traverse to pass from one treetop platform to another. Scattered between the games are zip lines, giving riders a chance to lean back, enjoy the breeze and experience a bird’s-eye perspective of the area as they glide through the park.
Legacy of Exploration
Anyone who has watched space exploration, from the first Apollo mission to the final shuttle landing, has likely seen images of spacecraft launching from Cape Canaveral on Florida’s central Atlantic coast. For travelers, a visit to the Kennedy Space Center affords an opportunity to see launch pads, landing strips and other NASA sites in person.
The Kennedy Space Center is a large visitor complex that serves as the tourist gateway to NASA’s Florida base. The center is the size of a small theme park, with numerous exhibit buildings and interactive rides that replicate some of the sensations astronauts experience when blasting off or floating through space.
Perhaps the most spectacular display is the new Atlantis exhibit, which opened last year to house the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Visitors stand just feet away from the retired shuttle, with its bay doors open and its utility arm extended. Exhibit organizers decided not to clean the shuttle before mounting it, so visitors can see some of the “space dust” still clinging to its side.
For real space enthusiasts, the visitor center is just the jumping-off point for a tour of NASA’s operations. The two-hour Explorer Tour takes groups out to restricted territory to see the launch pads used in dozens of missions, the vehicle assembly building where rockets and shuttles are compiled, the massive “crawlers” used to transport finished space vehicles around the complex and the longest runway on earth, where the space shuttles finished their missions.
The center also offers longer in-depth tours that go inside the assembly and launch control buildings, as well as other experiences that give fans the thrills of space exploration.