On the one hand, you don’t have that awesome bird’s eye view. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry that your parachute won’t open.
Those are just a couple of differences between actual skydiving and the indoor version now offered at iFly in Minnetonka near Ridgedale Mall (iflyworld.com/minneapolis).
The vertical wind tunnel, the first of its kind in the state, simulates the sensation of skydiving. It features a giant glass tube 12 feet in diameter and about 35 feet tall. When massive fans drive air up through the cylinder at up to 150 miles per hour, there’s enough force to suspend a person in midair.
Unlike real skydiving, there’s no gulp-inducing approach to an open aircraft door. Instead, you just step toward a door-shaped opening in the tube, stretch out your arms and lean forward into the rushing air. The instructor guides you into position, and presto, you’re floating.
For the experience ($69.95 for two flights) you’re outfitted with a jumpsuit, helmet, goggles and tennis shoes, if you don’t have the right kind of footwear. After a short video explaining the basic body position (a sort of Superman posture, belly down, limbs extended but slightly bent), you get a quick lesson in the hand signals your instructor will use to advise you to straighten or bend your legs, tilt your chin, relax. (It’s too loud inside the tube to hear instructions.)
If you start to spin or drift off course or threaten to bump into the wall, the instructor can gently nudge you back into position. Your jumpsuit has grab handles sewn into it for that purpose. There’s also an employee sitting in a glass control booth, adjusting the wind speed for your body weight and size.
It can take a few flights to be able to balance weightlessly on the wind without guidance from the instructor. More flying is needed to learn dazzling acrobatic tricks inside the tube: spins, flips, midair headstands.
Each flight lasts about a minute, longer than many skydiving free falls. Instead of opening a parachute and gently descending to the earth, the instructor simply guides you to the door and you hop out. Then you can watch a replay of your flight on a TV screen. (You can buy a video.) You also can pay for virtual-reality goggles which will give you the sensation of being above Hawaii or the Swiss Alps while you’re in the wind tunnel.
Lee Petersen, 67, recently took an iFly flight with his son, Dustin and his grandson, Bradley. Petersen said he was an active skydiver when he was younger, having done about 400 jumps.
“It’s very, very fun,” Petersen said of the iFly experience. “It’s been 22 years since I’ve jumped. This is the first time I’ve floated in the air in 22 years.”
The Twin Cities is home to several indoor ax throwing parlors, giving urban lumberjacks the chance to hurl hatchets at wooden targets. The concept, a sort of edgier version of darts, started in Canada and has spread to the United States. At FlannelJax’s (flanneljaxs.com), located in a former factory in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, you can get beer and wine while throwing a sharp metal object. Prices start at $25 for an hour-long session. At Big Thrill Factory locations in Oakdale and Minnetonka (bigthrillfactory.com/axes), kids as young as 11 can give it a try.
A mechanical mountain
Love downhill skiing but hate frigid chairlift rides? At the Alpine Factory (thealpinefactory.com) in Arden Hills, you can go downhill skiing or snowboarding indoors. The factory has two massive downhill treadmills where skiers can carve turns on an endlessly rotating carpet of artificial snow. Even in the winter, skiers use the treadmill to sharpen techniques and get a quick workout. Prices start at $47 an hour for a group lesson, coaching and equipment rental included.
The wait-to-ride ratio is pretty high at the Barnacle Blast Zip Line at the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park in the Mall of America (nickelodeonuniverse.com/rides/dutchmans-deck-adventure-course). The 800-foot-long ride lasts only about a minute. But it’s surprisingly vertiginous being 60 feet above the MOA’s theme park. Pants or long shorts required (that harness really rides up) for the $13.99 ride.
There’s always a percussive TGIF at the end of the workweek at the Can Can Wonderland (cancanwonderland.com) entertainment venue in St. Paul. Every Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. is Tappy Hour, an all-levels-welcome tap dancing lesson. Started by Ellen Keane, a longtime local dance instructor, the mini-lessons cost only $2 per person, and tap shoes are provided.
It seems like the Twin Cities area has been invaded by ninja gyms in recent years. These “playgrounds on steroids” feature indoor obstacle courses inspired by the TV show “American Ninja Warrior.” At Obstacle Academy in Edina (obstacle-academy.com), there are offers programs for kids and adults, including an open gym for ninjas ages 15 and up on Friday and Saturday s nights for $18. An adult membership costs $49 a month and includes obstacle course race training and high-intensity circuit training sessions.