The Orlando Eye observation wheel, which is now piercing the skyline, is set to open in spring 2015. With its sheer size, it is already attracting attention. When it starts spinning and invites customers to take a ride high above Florida's theme park capital, folks (like you?) are surely going to wonder: What's, er, up with the huge Ferris wheel, and what else, if anything, is available to do there? Let's break it down.
The entire entertainment/shopping/dining complex is called I-Drive 360. Its three main 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 in the UK.
8337 International Drive, Orlando, FL
International Drive (also known as I-Drive, hence the name of the complex) 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 I-Drive 360 complex will be free. The onsite parking garage will also be complimentary. But the individual attractions will charge admission fees. (What'd you expect? A free ride on The Orlando Eye?) Guests will be able to purchase single-attraction tickets as well as reduced-price multi-attraction tickets.
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The centerpiece attraction at I-Drive 360 will, of course, be The Orlando Eye. At 400 feet, it will be one of the world's tallest observation wheels. (Its sister wheel, The London Eye, tops out at a bit over 440 feet. The High Roller in Las Vegas is 550 feet.) It will be one of the tallest rides in Florida.
The wheel will include 30 air-conditioned capsules, each with a capacity of 15 passengers. The ride will offer one (fairly slow) revolution that will take 20 minutes. Prior to boarding, guests will enter a 4D theater and experience a 5-minute film about Florida.
Prices had not been announced at the time this was written. To get a sense of what the tickets might cost, the High Roller charges $24.95 during the day and $34.95 at night. The London Eye charges £29.95 (British pound).
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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 will feature celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Taylor Swift, and Oprah Winfrey, sports stars like Muhammad Ali and David Beckham, and historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Juan Ponce de Leon, who "discovered" Florida.
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.
Prices had not been announced at the time this was written. The Las Vegas Tussauds charges $29.95 for admission.
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Merlin also operates Sea Life Aquariums with locations throughout the US and abroad, including Arizona, Texas, Paris, and Rome. Orlando's indoor attraction will offer similar exhibits and showcase many of the marine animals found at the nearby SeaWorld Orlando, but in a more compact space.
Among the features at the Orlando aquarium will be a clear 360-degree tunnel through which guests will be able to pass and observe creatures swimming above and all around them, a hands-on rock pool experience, interactive exhibits, and feeding opportunities. Animals on display will include sharks, jellyfish, clownfish and giant octopus.
Prices had not been announced at the time this was written. The Kansas City Sea Life Aquarium charges $19 for admission.
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Other Things to Do at I-Drive 360
In addition to Merlin's three main offerings, there will also be other attractions as well as dining and shopping available at the complex. Among the restaurants will be the 300-seat Yard House, a chain known for its enormous selection of beers, and Tin Roof Orlando, a bar that will feature live music. The odd-sounding Orlando's Skeletons: A Museum of Osteology, with over 300 sets of bones on display, will also be opening at the complex.