Article by Michelle Salyer

School’s out for summer, and parents all over Brevard are scrambling to book camps, lessons, day trips and other activities— anything to avoid hearing the dreaded, “I’m bored!”  But why should the kids get to have all the fun?

Bring back the carefree thrill of summer vacation—even if just for a day— and take advantage of some of the Extreme Adventures available to you (and often the kids, too) right here in our own backyard…

Train like an Astronaut


If you ever wanted to be an astronaut when you were a kid, don’t miss the chance to live out that dream at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Astronaut Training Experience (ATX).  You’ll be assigned a job such as Commander, Pilot, Mission Specialist or another critical role, and carry out a full-scale space shuttle mission simulation, ride spaceflight training simulators, and perform hands-on space exploration activities.  Not to worry, though… You’ll have the first-hand advice of a veteran NASA astronaut to guide you through.

A half-day (approximately five-hour) program for ages 14 and older runs $145 per person plus tax and includes a mission polo shirt. Families with children as young as age 7 can also join the fun at ATX Family, a half-day program designed specifically for them. Customized experiences are also available for groups of 12 or more.  Choose from morning or afternoon programs. Reservations required.

Astronaut Training Experience, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
State Road 405
Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899
www.kennedyspacecenter.com; 866-737-5235

Go on a Gator Hunt

Call Captain Mike Tipton of Bull Gator Adventures for an airboat ride and he’s quick to distinguish between an airboat ride and an airboat tour.  An experienced and certified captain, nature lover and Melbourne native, Tipton provides much more than a spin around the lake and a glance at a gator or two. For $45 a person (minimum four people or $180), Tipton provides a personalized, private, hour and a half “outback experience.” Available during the day or evening, and launched from either the north or south end of the county at the guest’s convenience, Tipton’s  tours are peppered with personal anecdotes about growing up around Lake Washington, airboating, camping and fishing, as well as tidbits about the area’s history and ecology, and plenty of info about alligators.

The informative breaks provide the perfect segue between plenty of thrills and chills — this custom-built airboat tops 40 mph and can turn on a dime to circle around and take a closer look at any one of the 40 to 50 or more alligators that guests typically see per tour.

If an airboat tour wets your appetite for a more up close and personal alligator encounter, Tipton also offers nighttime gator hunting trips in season (mid-August to early November).  If that’s a little too extreme, try your hand at world-class bass fishing. See website for pricing and more details.

Bull Gator Adventures

www.bullgatorairboattours.com or www.airboatridesmelbourne.com ; 321-288-3997

Put Some Wind Back in Your Sails

If you’ve ever thought about trying windsurfing, the Space Coast is the place. It’s home to one of only two master windsurfing instructors in the United States, Tinho Dornellas, owner of Calema Windsurfing & Watersports.

Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline pumping, wave jumping adventure or a laid-back cruise on flat water, windsurfing can fit the bill. According to Dornellas, “Windsurfung is mentally and physically challenging for the rest of your life. It’s an action sport that’s mentally challenging at the same time. And, you can do it until you’re quite advanced in age because it’s low impact.”

Take a private lesson for $65 an hour or invest in a two-day clinic for $199. Calema also rents stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, sailboats and catamarans.  See website for pricing and details.

Calema Windsurfing & Watersports
2550 N. Banana River Dr. (Kelly Park)
Merritt Island, FL 32952
www.calema.com; 321-453-3223

Get Your Motor Runnin’…

Extreme is the name of the game at Parker Brothers Choppers in Melbourne,  where young boys’ fantasies come true in the form of out-of-this-world custom motorcycles and trikes straight from movies, television — and the imaginations of brothers and owners, Shanon and Marc Parker.

Discerning riders, who have included a few Middle Eastern princes and even a king, can have custom bikes built for anywhere between $15,000 to $100,000 or they can purchase one of Parker Brothers’ featured models which are built upon order. Channel your inner superhero on the Batpod from “The Dark Knight” or navigate the Brevard “grid” on the Tron Lightcycle from “”Tron: Legacy” — either can be yours for just $55,000. Have you always wanted to rule the ‘hood? “The Green Machine” is a grown-up version of the Big Wheel that every kid on the block would’ve died for. Its $75,000 price tag is nothing compared to the payback of owning this three-wheeled monster. Or, celebrate the 20th anniversary of the cult classic, “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man” by owning one of only 20 special edition bikes that will be signed by both Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson, complete with a certificate of authenticity, for just $35,000.

Why buy custom? “Being on a custom bike is the best feeling in the world,” said Marc. “You’re riding a rolling piece of artwork.”

Parker Brothers Custom Choppers
www.parkerbrotherschoppers.com; 321-960-0756 

Rock Your World

Picture yourself as Tom Cruise, hanging from the side of a canyon in the opening scene of Mission Impossible 2… Okay, indoor rock climbing may not be quite that extreme, but you’ll work out muscles you didn’t know you had and gain a brand new kind of confidence. On the Edge Rock Climbing Gym in Melbourne offers an introductory package for just $25 that includes a day pass, top rope belay, instruction, gym orientation, harness, shoes, chalk bag and belay device — in other words, everything a beginner needs to get started. Intro classes are offered twice a day most days of the week but reservations are required as space is limited to six per session. Purchase a membership and enjoy a weekly yoga/pilates class free.

On the Edge Rock Climbing Gym
200 West Drive
Melbourne, FL 32904
www.ontheedgerockclimbing.com ; 724-8775

Go Fly a Kite

Anyone’s who’s driven over the causeways to the beach has seen those crescent shaped kites hovering over the water and wondered, “What are they doing?” and “I wonder if I could do that?” Quit wondering and learn to kiteboard with 321 Kiteboarding in Cocoa Beach. The four-hour foundation course, or “Ground School” which normally runs $200, is now offered free on the first Saturday of every month (reservation required) and covers safety, set-up, wind theory, kite styles, trainer kite flying and more.  “The basics are a must, and we’re happy to teach them, no strings attached!” said owner Brett Zachar.

Not sure you want to invest that much time? A half-hour “teaser” class can tell you if kiteboarding is for you, and will only set you back $50, including rental of the trainer kite.

“Kiteboarding looks hard but it’s really not,” said Zachar. “It’s more about technical coordination with flying the kite. Very little strength is needed. Pretty much anyone can do it.”

Swimming skills are required. Serious students are encouraged to bring their own wetsuit and booties if possible, as the company may not carry every size in rentals.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding rentals are also available for $25 per hour, $40 per half day or $60 per day.

321 Kiteboarding
400A West Cocoa Beach Causeway
Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
www.321kiteboarding.com; 321-302-5663

3, 2, 1, Jump!

With a bird’s eye view of Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and the beaches, there’s quite possibly no more breathtaking place to jump out of a plane than right here on the Space Coast.  Skydive Space Center in Titusville offers the “world’s highest tandem jump” from 18,000 feet for just $229, or “Florida’s highest tandem jump” from 15,000 feet for $189. First-timers can stretch out, relax and enjoy the 120 mph freefall and let their harnessed-in tandem partner, an experienced instructor, worry about pulling the cord.

Hooked on adrenaline? Learn to become a certified sky diver with a four-to-five day program including seven freefall training jumps and a ground instruction class for $1,390. Jump reservations require a non-refundable $25 deposit on Visa or MasterCard.

Skydive Space Center
476 N. Williams Drive (Dunn Airpark)
Titusville, FL 32796
www.skydivespacecenter.com; 800-823-0016

Get a New Perspective

If great views simply aren’t worth jumping out of a plane for, then perhaps parasailing is more your speed.  Part boat ride and part parasail trip, Cocoa Beach Parasail offers hour-and-a-half excursions departing from Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar at The Cove in Port Canaveral. Soar over the Atlantic at 500 or 800 feet, keeping an eye out for whales, dolphins, sting rays and sea turtles and of course, the stunning panorama of Port Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. Just like sitting in a swing set, you’ll slowly lift higher and higher, taking off and landing straight from the boat without even getting wet.

Little ones always fly with an adult, but those weighing 130 pounds or more may choose from a single or tandem flight if wind conditions allow.

Flights are weather dependent and are never guaranteed. To book more than three days in advance, purchase the VIP Parasailing Ticket online, starting at $65 per person. All others may book by phone no more than three days in advance, by calling between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., subject to availability.

Cocoa Beach Parasail
628 Glen Cheek Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
www.cocoabeachparasail.com;  321-212-8277

Fish for Demons of the Deep


If fishing for sharks sounds ominous, then fishing for sharks at night is even more likely to have you humming the tune from “Jaws.”  According to Christine Carr of Orlando Princess & Canaveral Star Deep Sea Fishing, goose bumps are all part of the extreme fun.  “Our customers enjoy the thrill of hooking into a shark that puts up a great fight.”

The family-owned and operated deep-sea fishing fleet has been sailing out of Port Canaveral since 1948 and offers nighttime shark fishing trips from 7 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, starting at $40 per adult. If fishing for grouper, cobia, sea bass, flounder, triggerfish, mahi-mahi and a variety of other salt-water fish  is more your style, book a half or full-day trip starting at $55 per adult. Lunch/dinner, beer and soda, rod and reel, bait and tackle are included with all trips. Book online at www.orlandoprincess.com to enjoy discounted tickets.

Orlando Princess & Canaveral Star
650 Glen Cheek Drive, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
www.orlandoprincess.com; 800-481-FISH

Dive into a New Hobby

Explore Brevard’s backyard—the Atlantic Ocean– in a whole new way by learning to scuba dive. JND Scuba Center in Palm Bay, a PADI 5 star dive center owned by husband and wife, Jeff and Donna Dornbos, offers a one-dayDiscover Scuba course in a pool or in “pool-like conditions” for just $100 for ages 10 and up.

To get beyond the swimming pool, however, a three-to-four-day Open Water class is required (ages 15 and up). The $259 fee includes your Open Water Crew Pak, mask, fins, weight and weight belt, as well as open water dives, discounts on more than 40 continuing education courses, such as Wreck Diver, Night Diver, Cavern Diver and more,  and one free rental package for up to three months after the course. After that, the world is your oyster, as JND offers special rates on group dive trips to some of the world’s best dive spots, including Grand Cayman, Bali and the Red Sea.

JND Scuba Center/ Dixie Divers
4651 Babcock Street NE
Palm Bay, FL
www.jndscuba.com; 321-723-8888

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