Landing a jumbo jet, skydiving, experiencing zero gravity at space camp and surfing. Sounds like enough adventures for a lifetime, but you might be surprised to learn you can do all of that in just one day—in Quebec, Canada of all places.
Just outside of Montreal, the city of Laval is the perfect place for adrenaline junkies, where the doors of otherwise unassuming buildings lead to experiences even daredevils couldn’t dream up. Better yet, the action-packed activities are located so close together that you can try them all in just one day. Here are some of the best.
When it comes to thrills, it’s hard to beat SkyVenture. The centre’s vertical wind tunnel is like skydiving without the terrifying jumping part, making it ideal for those with a fear of heights.
My experience began with meeting our cheerful instructor Guillaume, who walked our group through what to expect in the chamber, how to position our bodies and the hand-signals used inside—the most important one being “relax!”
After gearing up with a wind suit, helmet and ear plugs we headed into the simulator, and the engines start roaring as winds between 160 and 260 km/hr funnelled through the chamber. I was one of the first in line, and quickly found myself being waved to the doorway by Guillaume, who motioned for me to cross my arms over my chest and tip forward. Just like that, I was flying!
That first round in the simulator was spent getting accustomed to the feeling of floating in mid-air, experimenting with how just a slight bend in my chin, arms or legs dictated whether I sunk toward the mesh net below or suddenly shot skyward. I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face as I defied the laws of gravity—or perhaps it was the gale force winds freezing my smile into place. Regardless, what a rush! The two-minute session flew by (pun intended *groan*), and before I knew it Guillaume was guiding me back through the doorway to solid ground.
Fortunately the fun wasn’t over yet. After everyone else had flown once it was my turn to head back in, where I got to put my newfound aerial skills to the test. Guillaume let me fly around the chamber and press up against the windows like a little bird trying to escape, then reached out to spin me in circles. Seconds later I got the ultimate thrill as he grabbed my suit like we were doing a tandem skydive, and we burst all the way up to the top of the chamber then free fell straight down.
My breath completely left me, then a mix of exhilaration and delirium set in and I started giggling like a maniac from pure delight. We shot up and down three times, closing the 45-foot gap in just seconds before finally navigating towards the doorway to get back on solid ground. The full experience may have only lasted a few minutes, but the thrill of flying at SkyVenture is something one doesn’t soon forget.
Ever wondered what goes on in a cockpit? You can find out first-hand at AeroSim Experience, one of the first places in Canada to offer professional level flight simulators to the general public. An actual pilot explains the different controls and instruments inside an exact replica of a Boeing 737 cockpit, and after choosing your final destination you’re free to take the controls.
I chose to “land” in Male (MLE for the aviation geeks out there), not only because the Maldives is pretty much my favourite place on earth but also because I knew the runway is located on a tiny island at sea level which provides some major eye-candy. My “co-pilot” Mathieu was stationed next to me, and his ongoing commentary provided a glimpse into the kinds of things captains take into consideration when landing a jumbo jet, as I soared over the sparkling turquoise water and white-tipped sailboats straight for the Maldavian capital.
But as you can see from this video of my experience…I’m much better at sitting on planes than flying them.
After I—I mean, Mathieu—safely landed the airplane, the next stop was to check out another highlight of AeroSim Experience: their Fly Fighters program. There, visitors can take control of a Fighting Falcon F16 jet fighter simulator, reproducing missions including reconnaissance, monitoring and of course fighting.
AeroSim Experience packages range from a 30 minute express flight with instruction, to a two-hour long haul where you can experience taking off from one airport, flying, then landing in another.
Fun fact: AeroSim Experience also offers aeronautical therapy in collaboration with the CNRC, which can help desensitize those who have a fear of flying.
What kid doesn’t dream of going to space camp? You can do just that at the Cosmodome in Laval, a museum dedicated entirely to space exploration and astronautics. Designed with interactivity in mind, highlights include a zero-gravity simulator, a 4D experience simulator based on the story of skydiver Felix Baumgartner who jumped from a helium balloon 120-thousand feet high, and a permanent exhibit about all things space exploration.
Be sure to sign up for one of the three hour-long virtual missions such as The Impossible Dream, where guests race through Star Trek-worthy capsules channeling Russia and America’s race to the moon.
The last stop of the day should be Maeva Surf—because baby, you’re going to get wet. The indoor facility proves you don’t need an ocean to enjoy a day of riding the waves, thanks to massive pumps that create artificial surf.
Maeva Surf offers a number of different packages, with most including a 30 minute training session which is perfect for those who haven’t seen much of a surfboard before. Once you get accustomed to navigating the constant tide on a bodyboard, you can test your skills and attempt to stand up on a real surf board. Best of all, instructors help you out by holding the other side of a rope for balance, and the mesh surface below the water is similar to a trampoline so it won’t hurt when you inevitably fall into the churning waves.
Maeva Surf is a fantastic spot to learn the sport of surfing thanks to the consistent waves, and the perfect place to cap off an adrenaline-driven day of adventure in Laval.
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Globe Guide explored Laval in collaboration with Tourisme Laval. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.