Orlando, Florida, is known around the world as being the tourism capital of America. Between the theme parks and beaches just a short drive away, Orlando brings millions of people to Florida every year. Most people spend their time at one of the big theme parks, but what many people don’t realize is that there’s a street that’s full of smaller touristy things. I-Drive, or International Drive, is basically Orlando’s version of the Las Vegas Strip. Tons of restaurants, hotels, museums, and attractions can be found up and down I-Drive. It’s popular among Orlando residents as a way to escape the theme parks while still having a “staycation” tourist experience. Here are the top ten things I recommend checking out on I-Drive!
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is a walk-through museum featuring nearly 200 artifacts recovered from dive expeditions of the famous RMS Titanic. You’re transported back in time to 1912 as you wander through the exhibits, admiring a variety of artifacts from cookware, notes, makeup, jewelry, furniture, and more. Employees are dressed in era regalia and you’re occasionally joined by Captain Smith and his crew while you’re on your self-guided journey through time. They also offer a themed gala dinner party that you can check out as an addition to the museum or as a stand-alone experience.
Icon Park is an Orlando staple, hosting tons of experiences all in one place. The Wheel at Icon Park, the Orlando StarFlyer, Madame Tussaud’s, the SEALife Aquarium, and tons of dining and shopping areas. Shake Shack, Tin Roof, Ben and Jerry’s, and Ole Red are just a few of the dining options available at Icon Park. With so many great things to do in one location, Icon Park is a must-do while visiting I-Drive.
Previously known as the Orlando Eye and the Orlando Icon, the Wheel at Icon Park is almost an Orlando monument. Easily seen from I-4, the Wheel towers over I-Drive at 400 feet tall. Part ferris wheel, part observation deck, the Wheel is an experience like no other. Each “capsule” is enclose in glass, with air-conditioning and motion stability to make the ride smooth and pleasant, and music piped through speakers in the ceiling. Each capsule has two computers so you can virtually explore Florida and see the sights in closer detail. From your capsule, you can see for miles around Orlando! It’s by far one of the most unique experiences I-Drive and Orlando have to offer, and I highly recommend checking this out!
McDonald’s is on this list? Really? Yes! And for a good reason—the McDonald’s on I-Drive is the largest in the U.S., and by far the coolest! Not only does it offer the usual McDonald’s fare of burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets, but it also offers pizzas, pastas, and sandwiches, all fully customizable to best fit your appetite. There’s also Belgian waffles, cheesecakes, and a dessert bar! For the kids (and kids at heart), the upstairs—yes, there’s an upstairs!—has a giant playplace complete with tunnels and tubes for kids to climb through. For the bigger kids and adults there’s a variety of arcade games and a prize counter to entertain you before or after your meal.
While Madame Tussauds isn’t unique to Orlando, it’s definitely a fun experience and a nice change of pace from the theme parks. Featuring hundreds of wax models of celebrities that you can pose with, Madame Tussauds is located at Icon Park and is available as a stand-alone experience or a group ticket to experience multiple Icon Park adventures. Make a day out of it and go for the “Double Play” option—walk through the wax museum of Tussaud’s and finish off with a trip around the Wheel.
While driving down I-Drive, your attention might be grabbed by an upside building that looks like it was dropped from the skies—that would be the Wonder Works Museum. Wonder Works is a great place for kids and adults alike to learn more about natural forces, history, science, and tons of other subjects in a fun and interactive way. Experience a hurricane, the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and more!
Down the street from Wonder Works is Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a walk through experience full of oddities and curiosities sure to amaze people of all ages! Ripley’s is another great option to consider instead of hitting the theme parks or beaches and is such a unique experience, it’s sure to keep you and your family entertained for hours!
Fun Spot is a great option for somebody who wants to go to a theme park but doesn’t want to pay the giant theme park prices. There are actually a couple locations around Orlando and Kissimmee, making it super accessible to guests! They offer a variety of amusement rides, including rollercoasters and a ferris wheel, a handful of dining options, and an arcade! Because it’s a smaller park, it’s a lot less busy than Disney or Universal, and you’re able to easily hit the rides multiple times. The best part is that it’s located right on I-Drive and is walking distance to several restaurants and other experiences.
The I-Ride trolley is a trolley service that runs up and down I-Drive and Universal Boulevard. It’s a fun way to take a break from walking and the heat, see the sights and offerings located on I-Drive, and a really convenient way to travel. It’s cheap to ride, and for a couple dollars more you can upgrade to a daily unlimited pass so you’re able to catch rides all day. You can also freely transfer between the red and green line depending on where you need to go or what you’d like to see.
Mango’s Tropical Café is actually a nightclub/restaurant that provides the best Latin nightlife experience in Orlando. Offering a full menu—including a kid’s menu!—and full service bar, Mango’s also has brightly colored dancers and singers performing every night, including occasional impersonators! Salsa dancers, hip hop dancers, a Brazilian Carnival celebration, the I-Drive band, and Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga impersonators make this “dinner and a show” something you definitely don’t want to miss!
I-Drive is full of fun and exciting things for the whole family! From unique museums, to local amusement attractions, to nightlife, dining, and shopping, I-Drive has a lot to offer that's also conveniently located. Next time you’re in Orlando, be sure to set some time aside and take a day off from the theme parks or beaches to enjoy the “Orlando Strip”.