Guest blogger Katie Ellison gives her take on can't-miss attractions in Orlando (Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf pictured).
When people visit Orlando for the first time, they think the city is made up of the four main theme parks: Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld® Orlando and LEGOLAND® Florida Resort. While these are a must-do, Orlando has hundreds of amazing experiences that provide family-friendly fun for a great value. One area is International Drive (I-Drive), an entertainment, dining and shopping district near Disney and Universal.
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We've found that having a break between full-on, theme-park days is the best way to experience Orlando. For example, we'll have a day at Disney, then relax the following morning by the pool and spend the afternoon at I-Drive. Having three young children, this works best as it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries. Below are our top five attractions and venues to experience on I-Drive.
ICON Park is a fantastic new entertainment complex on International Drive. It's not only home to the amazing, 400-foot The Wheel, but also Madame Tussauds, the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium and lots of places to eat. It's a really nice place to spend an afternoon. Plus, you don't have to spend lots of money.
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We loved buying ice cream and relaxing in the middle of the complex, which is a great spot for people-watching. It's also definitely worth riding The Wheel if you have the time for beautiful views of the Florida skyline.
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WonderWorks is definitely an interesting sight when you first spot it from the road, as it literally looks like an upside-down building! But the weird amazement doesn't stop there. Part of the Pointe Orlando dining, shopping and entertainment hub, WonderWorks definitely lives up to its name. The 35,000-square-feet amusement park for the mind provides what they call "edu-tainment," with more than 100 hands-on exhibits that challenge the mind and spark the imagination.
I wondered if WonderWorks might be a bit of an anticlimax compared to the excitement and sheer grandness of Disney and Universal, but I was wrong. From the second you walk in and go through what you think is a turning motion tunnel on an elevated platform, WonderWorks keeps you fascinated. The exhibits are split into zones, including "The Natural Disaster Zone," "The Physical Challenge Zone" and "The Light and Sound Zone." The girls absolutely loved WonderWorks, and I wish we could have stayed longer.
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iFLY Orlando Indoor Skydiving
iFLY Orlando Indoor Skydiving is a new addition to I-Drive, and it is the perfect way to spend a morning if you are an adrenaline junkie. It is, quite simply, indoor skydiving, and they welcome flyers from ages 3 to 103. My little girl is 4 and absolutely loved it. You just can't put into words the experience of soaring in the air! The staff is also great and fantastic. If soaring is not you're thing, there are great seats outside with full views of the flying chambers so you can sit and watch the actions.
Dave & Buster's
Dave & Buster's is an all-around entertainment complex on International Drive. It has a fantastic restaurant serving American favorites, as well as bowling, arcade games and billiards. For us, it was an exciting way of spending an afternoon and letting the kids go off and enjoy all the fun. To make the trip affordable and fun for the whole family, simply give your kids a spending limit on game tokens.
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Going to Dave & Buster's was also a great way of getting out the sun for a bit and grabbing some shade. I-Drive is full of restaurants and eateries, and Dave & Buster's definitely gets our vote.
Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf
In Orlando, there's always something to do. You will never get bored! Sometimes, though, you want to find an activity to entertain the little ones that won't be an all-day affair. Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf is perfect for both young and old alike. The mini-golf location has two, 18-hole courses, themed around — you guessed it — pirates. Each hole is varied and exciting, as well as brilliantly themed and styled. Plus, the location provides an affordable way of having a few hours of fun for the whole family.
These are just a few suggestions of fun things to do on I-Drive that provide good value but, of course, there is much more to do in the area. I-Drive is definitely a fantastic place to spend some time experiencing all the amazing attractions Orlando has to offer.
All photos by Katie Ellison.
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