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Have skydiving fun without the fear

Native Chicagoans know that the real reason for our “Windy City” nickname actually has little to do with the gusts coming in off the lake. But what you might not know, at least when it comes to meteorological phenomena, is that August is actually the least windy month in our fair town.

If You Go

  • 1752 Freedom Drive, Naperville
  • 5520 Park Place, Rosemont
  • 800 W. Scott St., Chicago
  • iflyworld.com

But if you’re missing our oh-so-Chicago weather this month, there’s a solution: iFLY. The three locations in Chicagoland (Lincoln Park, Naperville and Rosemont) offer a simulated skydiving experience that will definitely blow you away.

I’ll admit that I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to ever jumping out of an airplane, but iFLY offers a similar feeling without the fear of death by plunging-to-the-earth. My adrenaline was definitely pumping for at least a few hours post-fly – and even managed to convince me that actual skydiving wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Logistically, here’s what you need to know. Kids as young as 3 can fly, but the futuristic-looking vertical wind tunnel might be a bit intimidating for little ones. Our group of 10 included a nervous 8-year-old, but our instructor quickly put her at ease and accommodated her, never pushing her too far outside her comfort zone. It also helps that the instructor stays with you the whole time, so you don’t have to worry about getting sucked to the top of the wind tunnel.

We chose the first-time flyer “Earn Your Wings” package ($69.95), which includes two “jumps” in the flight chamber. The brief instructional video had me a bit concerned that I wouldn’t remember all the directions and what the various hand signals meant, but those worries blew away thanks to the freefall conditions.

Each of the two jumps lasts just 60 seconds, but it feels much longer when you’re in the middle of the excitement. You also have the option to “go high” on your second jump, which is definitely worth the extra $10. We thought soaring to the top of the tunnel was the most fun part of the experience, and you’ll likely want to add it on anyway once you get into the flight area.

Families can opt for package for three to five flyers, which also includes a total of five video clips ($303). If you don’t want to shell out for photos and videos, you might want to bring along a spectator who can document the action from outside the tunnel. Phones and cameras are not allowed in the flight area, so you’ll need to leave them in one of the complimentary lockers or with a member of your party.

The flight suits are exactly as flattering as you’d expect, so be sure to take lots of pictures so you can laugh about it later. You’ll also get a certificate to take home as proof of your accomplishment. Mine is currently proudly hanging on my fridge to prove to visitors just how hardcore I am.

As someone who is prone to motion sickness, I was concerned that the flight might upset my stomach, but the website assured me I could eat beforehand and not have bad effects. My stomach was a little jittery before the jump, but settled right down thanks to the adrenaline rush. And I know that if I go back again – which I’d love to do – I won’t be nearly as nervous. I probably won’t ever jump out of a plane (you’re welcome, Mom), but thanks to iFLY, I can still take the leap.

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