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Your Next Ride...to the Planet Mars?


OK. You’re a fanatic when it comes to roller coasters or other thrill rides. But you have ridden all of them…and we mean all of them… more than a dozen times.

Or maybe your (spouse, friend, significant other) is not even a lukewarm fan of this type of thrill.

Where can you find your kicks after the fun disappears from thrill ride familiarity at Orlando’s two major theme parks?

And what about those who don’t share your own taste for thrills? Who might regard hair-raising rides with the same suspicion as trips to outer space, maybe even Mars?

What can they do at the parks or outside them, anyway?

Those are really two questions: what can you do, and what about the others

Here we’ll look for answers.

Get ready or not for the world’s tallest roller coaster!


You undoubtedly know the world’s tallest roller coaster is on its way here to Orlando…or sort of…maybe.

A 4-minute computer animation of the attraction was released by Orlando-based US Thrill Rides.
The video shows the takeoff from inside the Skyplex entertainment complex and climbing upward.

The vehicles hold eight passengers -- two rows of four people.

The footage includes on-board perspective -- and day versus night experience -- at different times.

The simulation shows blue cars steadily going up a red track that surrounds the white tower capped by an observation deck.

The route down is a roundabout path that includes corkscrew moves along with sudden drops and unexpected elevations.

Glimpses of International Drive sites, including the under-construction (at that time) Orlando Eye observation wheel, can be seen.

Once near the ground, the track turns and goes around the edge of the Skyplex structure.

Coming next: heart-pounding

"The unique design of the coaster means more incredible, heart-pounding inside and outside loops, dives, spirals and inversions in a vertical area than riders have ever before experienced,” said Bill Kitchen, founder of US Thrill Rides.

He added:

"Skyscraper will not only take riders higher than ever before, but also introduce one thrill right after the next – there’s no ‘down time’ on this four-minute coaster experience.”

It all sounds good to freaks.

It was due to open in 2017 but won’t make it.

It got derailed recently when government officials, bowing to protests from Universal, detoured the planned project.

But the final decision (which Universal lobbied against because of competitive fears) is still a ways off, so the coaster 500 feet above International Drive is still a possibility.

So what can you do now if the existing coasters have become tame, at least to your jaundiced experience?

How about actually going to outer space…or in this case, the planet Mars?

That would be really thrilling.

But you can’t, of course.

And neither did Andy Weir, who wrote the self-published novel that sold for 99 cents on Amazon. Author Weir spent three years researching what might happen if an astronaut was stranded on Mars.

The movie “The Martian” is widely and deserveably got great reviews.

You can go to the movie, which is recommdned.

But no one anytime soon is really going to Mars.

Go to Mars: via a new movie

But you can go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where you can train like an astronaut. Their program promises:

The space center says this is what you can expect from the ride:

“Get an intimate look at what it's like to be an astronaut at the Kennedy Space Center's Astronaut Training Experience (ATX), a half-day adventure that includes training exercises, simulator rides and a mock Space Shuttle mission.

Listen to a veteran astronaut brief you on the realities of space travel. Prepare for your mission

Practice for your mission by riding in a multi-axis trainer simulator that spins you in random directions.

Then, work with your group to execute a mock Space Shuttle flight and International Space Station repair mission in a true-to-life mission control simulator.

Meet at Kennedy Space Center to begin your thrilling Astronaut Training Experience. Developed with input from veteran NASA astronauts, the hands-on ATX program kicks off with an orientation and mission briefing by a member of the US astronaut corps.

Feel free to ask anything you ever wanted to know about space travel.
After your briefing, engage in the same kinds of exercises real astronauts do to prepare for the rigors of space flight.

To understand what it feels like to hurl through space, take a ride in the multi-axis trainer simulator, a centrifuge-like device that randomly moves its occupant in multiple directions and through 360-degree revolutions.
NASA offers to train you

Your tour culminates with a simulated Space Shuttle mission in which you work with your group to execute a high-earth orbit to dock at the International Space Station to perform critical repairs.

You'll be assigned a specific role by your trainers and perform specific tasks in a realistically outfitted mission control room to ensure the success of your mission.

Throughout your training, keep your energy up with complimentary bottled water and snacks. Conclude your 4- to 5-hour astronaut training experience with a souvenir shirt and hat and plenty of amazing memories.

The four to five hour program includes motion-based spaceflight training simulators, full-scale space shuttle mission simulations, astronauts briefing, a question and answer session, and space gear.”

The tour even includes snacks and bottled water.

And a lunch.

If that seems too strenuous, more timid visitors can opt for one of many other attractions here, such as a bus trip.

That is described this way:

“Short of becoming an astronaut, there’s no better way to catch a glimpse of Kennedy Space Center than on a self-guided tour, included with admission.

With NASA buses departing every 15 minutes from the Visitor Complex, you can get off the bus and spend as much time as desired at each location.

Safe and sane bus ride

You first take a NASA bus for a drive-by view of the space shuttle launch pad and experience the historic Apollo 8 send-off. Then, you head to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where they witness Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon. Here, walk under a massive Saturn V rocket, one of only three in existence, and marvel at its 363-foot (110-meter) height.

Your experience also includes lunch with a veteran member of NASA's Astronaut Corps – talk with an astronaut and get an authentic autograph!

Additionally, you'll receive a guided Kennedy Space Center Up-Close tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), led by a trained space expert.

Visit inside to see firsthand where space vehicles were built, and walk along the edge of the Transfer Aisle as you learn about NASA’s latest space exploration program – Space Launch System (SLS).
On you journey you will see many of America's space program icons. Best-known NASA sites

These include the countdown clock at Press Site, a crawler transporter used to move Apollo moon rockets, and the Operations and Checkout building where the astronauts depart from to travel to the launch pads.

Your guide will also take you to the NASA Causeway, A/B Camera Stop and back to the Apollo/Saturn V Center before return coach transport to your Orlando hotel.”

The most exciting part of this trip is eating.

Lunch.

Prices vary according to what trip you choose, but standard admission (includes bus tour of Kennedy Space Center, IMAX space movies, all exhibits and shows, and Astronaut Hall of Fame) is $53 adult, $42.40 child (ages 3-11) including tax. Seniors (55+) can buy tickets at the ticket booth (but not in advance) for $48.76 tax included. The astronaut tour starts at a price of $145, plus tax.

For more infornation, visit Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, or call 866-737-5235.

One of our other questions is what can you do after you are tired of the theme park coasters.

Try Fun Spot America, where they claim they have Orlando’s only wooden roller coaster. Which is also the tallest one in Florida, White Lightning.

Defying gravity

There is also the Enterprise.

It’s where you can defy gravity and go upside down.

You begin parallel to the ground in your gondolas as it spins and lifts upwards at a 90-degree angle.

All done without seatbelts, silly things, anyway, right? Or straps or restraints, either (centrifugal force is the answer).

The SkyCoaster lets you ride in groups of up to three (for reassurance). It is said to be the World’s Second Tallest SkyCoaster (250 feet up).

If nothing else, the view of the Orlando area is startling.

It’s probably as close as you can get to actually jumping out of an airplane.

Another ride, the Rip Curl, is described as “one-of-a-kind.”

It has a lot of dips.

One to three people spin round and round to loud music blasts,

You go forward.

Then backwards.

Outer space, right here

Or try the Space Invader. This ride giant arms swing you back and forth until all you see is sky. Then you’re swung back so all you see is the ground rocketing past your face. You swing more than 180 degrees, past perpendicular, first on your back and then on your face.

(Prices start at $6 for a single ride and various prices for all you can ride om a single day. Fun Spot has two locations. For more information, visit www. FunSpot.com or call 407-363-3867 or 407-397-2509)

There are hundreds of rides all over theme parks and other attractions. So while you may be getting your thrills, they can go G-rated activities.

Also keep in mind the face that not all roller coasters are thrill rides.

Less thrilling coasters

You can ride roller coasters at the Magic Kingdom but Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain are not really scary (the Haunted Mansion is more frightening for most people).

At Universal, another family friendly coaster is Flight of the Hippogriff. A lot of spirals and a few dives but nothing scary.

A kid-sized ride at Universal is also found in Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster. Fun for all ages is the best way to describe it.

(admission varies. www.universalorlando.com/home or 407-363-8000)

LEGOLAND Florida 45 miles away also has some tame rides such as the Coastersaurus, which is described as “Fun for the whole family and perfect for little ones.” It is a wooden coaster that curves and dips around a prehistoric jungle of animated and life-sized LEGO brick dinosaurs.

(admission varies. www. florida.legoland.com or 877-350-5346)

And about those non-riders?

There are many alternatives.

Some good examples include Fun Spot, which should satisfy large and small appetites for thrills.

They say of it:

“There is something to do for everyone at Fun Spot America. Whether you are a thrill seeker who wants “Bigger! Faster!” or someone who prefers the lights and sounds of the arcade, we have exactly what you are looking for. You and our family can choose to experience everything from our US patented designs for our unique multi-level go kart tracks that will provide a one of a kind riding experience to Orlando’s only wooden roller coaster and much more

Fun Spot also offers go-kart rides (for just about all ages), and a lot of native Florida animals such as snakes, birds and lizards.

Gators, too

And there are alligators as well.

Some theme park rides are far from thrilling.

Sea World is the best for mild chills…is one way of putting it.

Any of the animal shows offer G-rated entertainment. And participants don’t have to leave their comfortable stadium seats to enjoy all the relaxed action.

All on stage, of course.

At Universal Studios Florida, there is Shrek 4-D.

G-rated Shrek

You can join Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona on a 3-D adventure with a twist. Through “OgreVision,” you tag along a honeymoon adventure. There are dozens of mild visual and audio effects that add to the typical 3-D show experience.

Also nearby: Men in Black: Alien Attack. Here is here you will team up to save Earth from alien terrorists by shooting and capturing aliens. You do this with no risk while riding through New York City. It feels like a live action video game, all under your control.

There are many other shows and attractions that will entertain non-riders in your party.

There’s even more for those non-participants at Disney, of course.

From tough bugs to easy-going safaris

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, highlights for non-riders include The Festival of the Lion King, It's Tough to be a Bug!, and the Kilimanjaro Safari.

The Lion King attracts a lot of families. So that should tell you something or all you need to know about it.

The Tough Bug is not hard to stomach but it does show you their point of view (harmless and no threat to you).

The Kilimanjaro Safari is a guided tour through the 100-acres of re-created Africa. No wild animal attacks or other threats here.

Non-riders can’t go wrong at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

Hollywood Studios is rich in live productions like Beauty and the Best -- Live on Stage.

Or The Great Movie Ride (the non-scary kind).

Or Muppet Vision 3-D. Your companions are harmless creatures: Muppets.

Non-scary coasters

But even one of the attraction’s most popular rides, The Rock ’n’ Roller Roller Coaster has the non-scary Aerosmith as its stars rather than Jason or Frankenstein.

Anyone who knows Epcot can recommend it to the more timid.

You can simply take a pleasant walk here. See the World Showcase, which replicates almost a dozen different countries.

Even the attractions here are mild.

Mission: SPACE does have a high action version, but a second version does not spin riders around.

Non-riders who want to avoid any risk of getting scared can choose instead the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mickey’s Philharmagic and many other “safe” rides.

So how about that Mars Trip, anyway?

There are several would-be provider of future space travel…which may be the ultimate thrill ride.

One of them, SpaceX says it will be able to shuttle a dozen or so people to that planet by 2027.

Not so far away.

And maybe worth waiting for…at least for some of us. ###