At 400 feet tall, the Icon Orlando observation wheel, which used to be known as the Orlando Eye, attracts attention. (In fact, it is one of Florida’s tallest attractions.) As you see it spinning high above Florida's theme park capital, you’re bound to wonder what's up with the huge wheel, and what else, if anything, is available to do there? Let's break it down.
The entire entertainment/shopping/dining complex is called Icon Orlando 360. Its attractions are operated by Merlin Entertainments Group, one of the world's largest theme park and attraction companies. Among Merlin's many other properties is Legoland Florida (and the other Legoland parks and Legoland Discovery Centers across the globe), the London Eye observation wheel, and Alton Towers, a wonderful theme park in the UK.
Location and Admission
Icon Orlando 360 is located at 8375 International Drive in Orlando, Florida. International Drive (also known as I-Drive) is one of the region's main tourist corridors and is the home of a number of other attractions as well as many hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and the massive Orange County Convention Center.
Entrance into the the Icon Orlando 360 complex is free. The onsite parking garage is also complimentary (a rarity at parks and attractions these days). But the individual attractions do charge admission fees. (What'd you expect? A free ride on The Icon Orlando?) You can purchase single-attraction tickets for the wheel as well as reduced-price multi-attraction that pair the wheel with the complex’s other attractions.
The centerpiece attraction is, of course, the Icon Orlando Wheel. At 400 feet, it is one of the world's tallest observation wheels. (For comparison, its sister wheel, The London Eye, tops out at a bit over 440 feet. The world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller in Las Vegas is 550 feet.)
The wheel includes 30 air-conditioned capsules, each with a capacity of 15 passengers. The ride offers one (fairly slow) revolution that takes 20 minutes. Prior to boarding, guests enter a 4D theater and experience a 5-minute film about Florida.
High atop the wheel, the views include glimpses of nearby attractions on I-Drive, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, and, in the distance, Walt Disney World and Cape Canaveral. At night, the parks, as well as downtown Orlando, are aglow. The wheel itself has an impressive lighting package and makes a bold statement after dusk.
You can take a special "Sky Bar" flight and enjoy beer, wine, and Prosecco during your experience. You could also plan a birthday party and celebrate other occasions by booking a private capsule. We're not sure what couples might do in there, but the Icon offers a "Romance Capsule" package that includes an exclusive capsule, drinks, and a box of chocolates.
Price: In 2019, the general admission to ride the wheel is $27.99.
The chain of attractions that displays wax figures has locations in major cities around the world including New York, Hollywood, Tokyo, London, and Berlin. The Orlando Tussauds features celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Taylor Swift, and Oprah Winfrey; sports stars like Muhammad Ali and David Beckham; historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Juan Ponce de Leon (who "discovered" Florida), and superheroes such as Aquaman and other members of the Justice League.
Unlike wax museums of the past, which used stanchions and other means to separate its exhibits from guests, the Tussauds attractions allow visitors to sidle alongside and pose with the lifelike figures.
Price: In 2019, a ticket to visit Madame Tussauds and take a ride on the wheel is $39.95.
Merlin also operates Sea Life Aquariums with locations throughout the US and abroad, including Arizona, Texas, Paris, and Rome. Orlando's indoor attraction offers similar exhibits and showcases many of the marine animals found at the nearby SeaWorld Orlando, but in a more compact space.
Among the features at the Orlando aquarium is a clear 360-degree tunnel through which guests can pass and observe creatures swimming above and all around them, a hands-on rock pool experience, interactive exhibits, and feeding opportunities. Animals on display include sharks, jellyfish, clownfish and giant octopus.
Price: In 2019, a ticket to visit Sea Life Orlando and take a ride on the wheel is $39.95.
In addition to the three main attractions, there are other things to do as well as dining and shopping available at Icon Orlando 360. You could shoot zombies aboard the 7D Dark Ride Adventure. (Does that get you wondering what the heck a "7D" attraction might be?) Or take a crash course in biology at the Skeletons Museum of Osteology. Among the 40 exhibits are killer whale and crocodile skeletons.
The slow-moving Icon Orlando wheel may be tall, but it's not particularly thrilling. The same can’t be said for the Orlando Star Flyer. The ride rises 450 feet and revs up to 45 mph—all while you sit in an open-air swing seat.
The complex also offers a train and an arcade. Among the many restaurants is the 300-seat Yard House, a chain known for its enormous selection of beers, Tin Roof Orlando, a bar that features live music, and a Shake Shack, which is known for its burgers, shakes, and frozen custard "concretes.”