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Q: Grandma's birthday is coming up and I'm fresh out of ideas. She doesn't need another set of oven mitts.

A: Assuming she doesn't have a heart condition, consider skydiving lessons. Because of its distinctive mix of natural and man-made landscapes, the New York City area has some of the best "drop zones" on the planet. Grandma can try the accelerated-free-fall (AFF) program and leap out solo like former President George Bush did to celebrate his 72nd birthday. Or do a tandem jump harnessed to an instructor, who does all the work while she relaxes and enjoys an exhilarating 60-second free fall and then five to seven minutes of serene, earthward floating beneath a colorful nylon canopy. Is it dangerous? Perhaps, but then so is driving on the L.I.E.

  • At the world-famous Skydive the Ranch (914-255-4033; $185 for the first tandem), 80 miles north of Manhattan at Gardiner Airport, she can take in views of the Hudson River Valley and Shawangunk Mountains.

  • In northern New Jersey, Skydive Sussex, based at the Sussex Airport (1-800-sky-dive; $195 for the first tandem), offers a Manhattan view. It's about an hour from the George Washington Bridge.

  • On a clear day, jumpers at Skydive Long Island (631-878-jump; $225 for tandems) at Spadaro Airport, an hour and a half from the midtown tunnel, can see from the Twin Towers to Montauk Point.


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