Make no mistake, you can go to Disney World®, Universal Orlando®, SeaWorld® or any other great Orlando theme park 100 times and experience something new each visit. The same is true wherever you dine, shop, or even simply drive in the area. That’s why millions of vacationers to Central Florida are repeat visitors.
But if you’re like most people, there also comes a point when you think, I’ve seen this before. You’ll wake up one vacation morning craving a break from the routine. You’ll want to see something different—or maybe just differently.
How do you get a fresh perspective on this diverse vacation wonderland? View it from 1,000 feet up (via helicopter) or up-close and personal (via airboat) with some of these amazing helicopter and airboat tours.
Orlando helicopter rides
Several helicopter tour companies in the Orlando area compete for your business, most of them conveniently headquartered in the Disney-International Drive vicinity. A little online research will lead you to the experience best for you. Start with these:
- Air Florida Helicopter Charters offers nine tour routes. They range from an eight-minute jaunt above SeaWorld®, Discovery Cove® and a few other International Drive highlights to longer tours featuring various combinations of all major theme parks, downtown landmarks and outlying nature areas. The top-of-the-line tour even flies over celebrity homes in the exclusive town of Windermere.
- Orlando HeliTours has locations in Orlando and Kissimmee. The tour selections are mostly the same at each location, with an additional one or two unique to each. Several of the tours fly over all, or selected parts, of Disney World as well as other parks. One tour is dedicated specifically to upscale celebrity homes. An evening tour from Kissimmee takes you over all the major theme parks and choppers over Epcot during the nightly “IllumiNations” fireworks show.
- Air Force Fun offers six different tour selections. None stray farther than the Disney/SeaWorld area, but the top-priced tour is much easier on vacation budgets than top-priced tours offered by the competition.
The “river of grass” that is the Everglades National Park actually originates in the lakes and wetlands around Orlando. Many people associate airboat rides with swamp areas south of Lake Okeechobee, but over the past two decades or so, tours of the northern headwaters of the vast ecosystem have become increasingly popular. Seeing alligators, snakes and other such creatures in captivity can be thrilling enough. Seeing them in their natural habitat, as your pilot negotiates cypress and reed thickets, is something else altogether.
Again, consult your favorite online search engine to find the experience and price that makes you most comfortable, but here are a few businesses you’ll find:
- The original Orlando-area airboat service, Boggy Creek Airboat Rides embarks on guided tours from two Kissimmee locations. Tour selections range from 30 to 60 minutes in length in crafts that seat either six or 17 passengers. Some selections require reservations but others are walk-up. One 60-minute ride requiring a reservation tours the wetlands after sunset, the best time to spy stealthy alligators.
- Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Tours explores the area in longer tours, up to 2 hours. The crafts all seat six and each passenger is provided a headset to better hear the pilot’s narration, and even ask questions, over the massive propeller’s roar.
- Orlando Airboat Tours also offers a large selection of narrated, 60- to 120-minute tours. Some, however, including an Extreme Sunset/Twilight ride, are available only November through February. The tours all take place aboard the more intimate, six-passenger crafts.
Go online to make reservations and buy tickets for helicopter and airboat tours at these sites. Some even offer you discounts for doing so. Regardless of the tour you choose, come prepared to see Orlando and Central Florida in a way you’ve never seen it before.
And don’t forget to bring binoculars.