Thrills, Chills & Spills
Looking for an adrenaline rush that you can get only from jumping out of a plane or shooting a wild boar with a bow? Then you’ll love our thrill seeker’s guide to Dallas.
For some of us, going to an ethnic restaurant is not what we’d call an "adventure." We want more grit and less grace. We want to jump out of a plane and shoot wild animals. We want the thrill seeker’s guide to Dallas.
This is the king-daddy of all thrills. On the perceived danger meter, it’s somewhere above a knife fight with a grizzly but below a late-night encounter with the Garland Police Department. (We kid, we kid.) Northeast of McKinney, in Whitewright, after 30 to 45 minutes of instruction, you’ll be sucking air at more than 2.5 miles up, thanks to the fine folks at Skydive Dallas. Your first jump will be a tandem, but with a few more hours of training time, you can make your first solo jump. No thrill seeker’s life is complete without making at least one jump. The real danger is getting hooked. $209 for the first tandem jump. 800-759-3483. www.skydivedallas.com.
PUT THE HAMMER DOWN
Several driving schools affiliated with the track can put you behind the wheel of an authentic stock car at Texas Motor Speedway. If you just want the thrill of speed without steering the beast, go for a ride-along with a professional driver. But if you want it all, take a driver course that puts you on the track for as much as an 80-lap race, pitting you against other students. From about $300 for driver packages. 817-215-8500. www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
CLIMB A WALL
The world’s tallest indoor climbing gym is really an old grain silo. It’s 121 feet tall, and climbing faces are found on the inside and outside. Carrollton’s Stone Works Climbing Gym offers four other silos-cum-mountains on its grounds, too. Each has numerous routes—so many, in fact, that it’s hard to get an exact count of them all. But with arches, dihedrals, laybacks, and overhangs, Stone Works has routes to accommodate everyone, from the guy who’s never climbed a ladder to those ready to freehand El Capitan. $12 for a day pass. 972-323-1047. www.stoneworkssilos.com.
Also try: Dyno-Rock Indoor Climbing Gym, Arlington. 817-461-3966. www.dynorock.com.
FLY A PARACHUTE
Flying and Floating Toys offers powered parachute rides that have the thrill of an open-air hang glider but the power to control your flight. Here, you are master of the winds. Strapped into a ridiculously lightweight machine with owner/pilot James Doolin behind you, you’ll soar over Lake Lewisville to heights of 500 and 1,000 feet. Any higher and Federal Aviation Administration restrictions are imposed. (Lake Lewisville is in the flight path of DFW Airport.) But if you want to be a true free bird, Doolin will take you out into the country, away from restrictions, where he can push the elevation to as high as 10,000 feet. On a clear day, you can almost see from Fort Worth to Texarkana. $60 for a half hour and $90 for an hour. 214-621-8499. www.flyingandfloatingtoys.com. By appointment.
BURN UP THE QUARTER MILE
Maybe that loop racing stuff doesn’t do it for you. Maybe you want a fast and furious straightaway race. Friday night, Texas Motorplex in Ennis is the place to take your own souped-up ride and pent-up aggressions. Your vehicle has to adhere to NHRA rules, and your license better be in order, but after that it’s open season on how and what you race. Entry fees depend on event. 972-878-2641. www.texasmotorplex.com.
PEDAL LIKE A MADMAN
Just west of Denton, in Saint Jo, the Breaks at Bar-H Ranch rolls out more than 25 miles of rigorous mountain biking trails that wind through 1,100 acres of hilly terrain, arroyos, and canyons. Designed by Arrowhead Trails, this is the bicycling equivalent of an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course. Ride them and you’ll never again complain that Texas is too flat. The scenery alone is worth the trip, and there’s no better way to experience it than from the back of your bone-shaker, dust in your teeth. You can make a day of it—or a weekend. There are primitive camping facilities, showers, grilling pits, and trailer hook-ups for the hardcore. $6 per day. 940-995-2309. www.barhbreaks.com.
Also try: Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Hill (972-291-3900) and Northshore Trail at Grapevine Lake, Flower Mound. www.dorba.org.
HUNT A WILD BOAR
There are only a few animals in these parts that will hunt back. Smart, armor-plated, and aggressive, wild boars are the game to be had in North Texas. There’s no state bag limit, and the season is year-round. Just remember: the boar doesn’t like you either, and one of you is going to be squealing like a pig before it’s all over.
About an hour north and west of Fort Worth, in Archer City, is the Boar’s Den, which specializes in trophy Russian boars. With terrain as harsh and rugged as the hogs, this is an adventurer’s destination. There are lots of hunting options, from spot and stalk to dog hunts (the most physically demanding). At night, enjoy Southern home cooking and swap lies around the hunting lodge. $550 for a two-day, three-night stay. 888-542-4476. www.theboarsden.com. By appointment.
Also try Circle T Bow Hunting Ranch in Commerce, one of the largest bow hunting-only ranches in North Texas. Here you can get back to hunting the way your stone-age ancestors did. Just 90 miles from Dallas, Circle T offers 1,000 acres of thick brush, dense forest, and river land with boar hunting at its most adventurous—just you, a bow, and Piglet’s angry cousin. There are also a number of other native animals and exotics to be hunted—all the old, old-school way. Relax with a cold one by the fire pit at the end of your day while imagining yourself routing the Sheriff of Nottingham. They welcome first-timers and veteran bowmen. Hunts begin at $250 for boar, $1,500 for exotics. 972-814-4440. www.circletbowhuntingranch.com.
TAKE A LEAP
Zero Gravity, a high-speed and high-altitude thrill park, has three activities with a decent pucker factor. Let’s start with the Freefall. It’s a fall from a 100-foot tower into a net that’s way too small. Zero Gravity calls this the "Nothin’ But Net." It’ll be the longest 3.5 seconds of your life. Then there’s the bungee platform. It stands 70 feet tall. The first thing you’ll think after making the leap and returning to firm ground is, "I have to go again." Lastly there is the Texas Blastoff, which takes you from 0 to 70 mph in 1.25 seconds in a contraption sort of like a pellet affixed to a slingshot at the moment of release. It gives its own kind of thrill, especially considering that just a few years back, under previous management and with a more primitive design, one of the tethers broke in mid-flight. Happy landings. $30 per ride. 972-394-8359. www.gojump.com.
GO FULL AUTO
At DFW Gun Range, you can rent about 80 different guns, including a few fully automatic 9-millimeter sub-machine guns. There are also pistol and rifle lanes; combat shooting classes; and enough shooting and tactical gear on sale to outfit a rifle company. Many instructors boast SWAT, special operations, or military backgrounds. Who better to help you adopt good shooting habits and break bad ones? The Range offers women-only classes, too. $16 range fee for nonmembers. 214-630-4866. www.dfwgun.com.
WASTE A CLAY PIGEON
Urban living isn’t normally associated with clay pigeon shooting, but in the heart of Dallas is an outdoor shotgun range that hosts every shotgun game you can imagine, from skeet and trap to sporting clay. Elm Fork Clay Sports offers pistol and rifle ranges, too, but the outdoor shotgun lanes are its strongpoint. The facility hosts individual shooters and groups and rents everything you’d need. Range fees vary, $7.50-$25 per round of targets. 972-556-0103. www.elmfork.com.
Various dive clubs and scuba schools in Dallas, including International Scuba (www.internationalscuba.com), offer regular weekend outings to the 22-acre spring-fed Clear Springs Scuba Park in Terrell, which boasts startling clarity and a diverse underwater landscape. Nearly 60 feet deep, the lake features plains, rock formations, and even a sunken American Eagle ATR prop plane. It’s not the Caribbean, but it’s better than practicing in the murky waters of some Dallas lakes we could name. $20 per dive. 972-524-6820. www.clearspringsscubapark.com.
PAINTBALL YOUR BUDDY
About two miles west of Grapevine Lake, in Roanoke, is an all-in-one extreme adventure experience park for the outdoorsy type. The DFW Adventure Park offers a number of fighting engagements, including paintball and infrared combat games. The periodic Airsoft Special Ops Scenarios offer complex combat simulation missions using Airsoft pellet guns. Rates vary by adventure. 817-854-0085. www.dfwap.com.
Dave Broyles has been gliding since the early 1970s. He can make a flatland flyer out of any novice. Operating out of the Caddo Mills Airport, east of Allen, Broyles’ Kite Enterprises offers two types of flying lessons. In paragliding, the pilot sits in a harness suspended below a soft fabric wing shaped by the pressure of air vents in the front. In hang gliding, the more traditional unpowered flight, the wing is made from a composite or aluminum frame. Either way, within two lessons you’ll be executing your first low-altitude flight. If you stick with it to get your intermediate rating, you can take your first free flight at Buffalo Mountain, in southeastern Oklahoma. $300 and up. 972-390-9090. www.kite-enterprises.com. By appointment.
FLY A BIPLANE
Take a step back into the days of open-air cockpits aboard a World War II-era bird. Through the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, you can take a 30-minute flight in either an AT-6 Texan trainer or an N2S-4 Stearman biplane. With wind in your hair, you’ll get in touch with the thrill of a bygone era when daring aviators were household names and Howard Hughes was only halfway off his nut. There’s something clean and viscerally empowering about rumbling into the wild blue yonder in one of these bad boys. This feeling, however, will pass. The pilots, once airborne, will dip, roll, dive, and shimmy you, leaving your stomach somewhere back at 10,000 feet. $175-$250. 972-380-8800. www.cavanaughflightmuseum.com.
Barnwell Mountain Recreational Area in Gilmer is one of the most well-known off-highway parks in Texas. There are more than 1,800 acres of prime, award-winning, off-road trails to slog through, all of them open every weekend, weather permitting. Motorcycles, ATVs, and four-wheel-drive vehicles are welcome to try the challenges, accommodating any level of experience. The trail system is well-marked, and there are after-ride amenities, including shower and bathroom facilities and an on-site food vendor. $20 per vehicle per day. 903-797-4066. www.texasmotorizedtrails.com/ohvareas/barnwell.
Also try Wheelin’ Ranch in Nocona, Texas. This privately owned four-wheel-drive park is not for the timid or the beginners among us. Owner Tim McGill has cut an extreme trail (with bypasses for those who can’t handle a particular obstacle), and there is a network of moderate skill trails to learn on. $20 per vehicle per day. www.thewheelinranch.com. By appointment.