Safe Extreme Adventures for Families

Try these wild, but safe, activities to satisfy the adrenaline junkies in your family.

I like to pretend that I’m brave. But I’m not sure how far pretending would take me if I were thousands of feet in the air, facing an open airplane door and a leap to the earth. Fortunately, you can experience wild thrills on a vacation without having to face the fear question. If you’re like me and want to get an adventure high without too much work, check out some of these “safe” adventures for your next family vacation.

iFly and So Can You

At iFLY Hollywood, you can satisfy your desire for sky diving—indoors. The 30-foot vertical wind tunnel is a see-through flight chamber along pedestrian-heavy Universal Studios City Walk, so prepare to be gawked at. Don’t worry though, you’ll be too busy trying to relax and focus (at the same time) to think about onlookers. After a brief video and instructions on hand signals (you can’t hear in the tunnel), you suit up and get going. The instructor is holding you the whole time, only occasionally letting go if you seem to be getting the hang of things. My favorite part was when my instructor grabbed handholds on the side of my suit and walked backwards up the side of the tunnel (like Spider-Man) pulling me to the top. A single flight package, which includes one minute of flight time, is $39.95. A better deal is the $59.95 package, which includes two flights.

With the Greatest of Ease

For all those who harbor a secret desire to run off and join the circus, be sure to stop at the New York Trapeze School (which also has locations in Boston, Los Angeles and Baltimore). Whether you want to fly just once or get serious and take a two-hour class, this is the place to jump off a 23-foot platform, if that’s your thing. You’ll be in a harness, and there’s a net below, so you’re safe as can be. For a mere $10 you can take what they call a “trial” swing. Once is never enough, so you should pony up $25 for three swings, and they’ll teach you to somersault off the bar into the net. My daughter, 6 years old at the time, absolutely loved it. Stay tuned for future career choices.

The Wright Way to Fly

If you’d like to try out hang gliding, there can’t be a better place than on the soft sands of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The same place the Wright Brothers chose for their first flight clearly has something going for it. Kitty Hawk Kites, which has been operating on the same spot since 1974, offers both adult and kid classes. My husband and daughter opted to try the beginner $99 three-hour dune lesson offered at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The class includes a training film, log booklet and all equipment. Adults usually get about five flights in and kids about four. For adults, one instructor helps you run and leap off the dunes, while two adults run with the kids and keep them tethered on lines while running down the dunes. Everyone gets aloft. How adults land is variable (it does take practice), but kids always have a gentle, guided landing. Kitty Hawk Kites also offers other extreme activities including parasailing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, surfing and softer adventures like dolphin tours.

Destinations: Los Angeles, New York City, Outer Banks

Themes: Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures