When most people think of rides in Orlando, they envision attractions of the theme park variety. They don’t realize there are other rides beyond the gates of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando, many of which are more thrilling than any roller coaster.

One of the most fun and exciting non-theme park rides is the helicopter rides offered at various locations in the Orlando/Kissimmee area that take you much higher than even the SeaWorld Sky Tower. The helicopter companies offer various options, from short jaunts to longer scenic trips that give you a bird’s eye view of Disney, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld Orlando. You’ll also see the water parks and many of the hotels and resorts.

If you want to venture a little farther afield, many companies offer tours of Downtown Orlando, the Space Coast, or lakes and wilderness areas.

While most families opt for a daytime ride, you can ride in a helicopter at night, too. It’s a totally different experience to see all the tourist areas lit up in neon and brightly colored lights. You might even catch a Disney fireworks show from the best seat in the house if you go up at the right time.

Helicopter tours have high overhead, so be prepared to a premium for the experience. Prices typically range from $30 to over $100, depending on the option you choose. Kids pay a discounted price.

You’ll find helicopter rides in two main locations: International Drive, which is in the vicinity of Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, and Highway 192, which is closer to Walt Disney World. Companies that offer helicopter tours include Orlando Helitours, Sunshine Helicopter Tours, and Orlando Helicenter.

Helicopter tours typically require at least two people, so make sure that more than one member of your family wants to go on a sky-high adventure. If anyone is unsure, you can book a short tour that only lasts for three to four minutes to get a sampling of what it’s like to go up in a chopper.

Like most activities in Orlando, you can get a discount on helicopter tours by picking up coupon books at your hotel or an area restaurant. Many companies publish coupons that offer significant savings.

Helicopters are just one of the many non-theme park activities in the Orlando/Kissimmee area. There are other opportunities to soar in the sky, like hot air balloon rides, and plenty of fun at ground level at go-kart tracks and miniature golf courses. You’ll want to leave some free time in your vacation to explore the more off-beat ways to have fun, including the chopper rides.

Book your trip through www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 to find out about the hotels near the helicopter rides and dozens of other attractions.