There’s another reason to visit Orlando: I-Drive 360. The entertainment complex, which opened in May 2015, houses Madame Tussauds Orlando, SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando and the Orlando Eye — the tallest observation wheel on the East Coast. It also features a rare skeleton museum, shops and restaurants, from quick-service eateries to fine-dining establishments. Plus, it’s located near Universal Orlando Resort and dozens of hotels, and can easily be experienced in one day or less.
The Orlando Eye
The Orlando Eye rises 400 feet above I-Drive 360, and features views of Cinderella’s Castle (a very tiny version), Hogwarts Castle and The Incredible Hulk Coaster. You might also spot Cape Canaveral in the distance. Guests ride in air-conditioned capsules, which provide a bench for those who want to sit, as well as an audio guide who points out areas of interest as they come into view. Capsules hold up to 15 people, so if you’re traveling with a large group, it’s possible you’ll have one car to yourselves. Beforehand, riders have the option to see a show in 4D, and afterward, they can visit a gift shop to pick up their souvenir photo (taken during the ride) or another trinket to take home.
Madame Tussauds Orlando
Madame Tussauds Orlando features figures of everyone from Christopher Columbus to Taylor Swift, along with “non-human” icons, like Shrek, Fiona and everyone’s favorite — E.T. You, too, will feel like someone famous when you visit — expect to be photographed along the way! Pictures are available in the museum’s gift shop following the tour.
SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando
The highlight at SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando is a Giant Pacific Octopus, who’s quite fascinating to watch. Other features include a 360-degree ocean tunnel, a “talking” aquarium for kids and interactive exhibits — you’ll have an opportunity to touch starfish and other sea creatures. The aquarium houses more than 5,000 sea creatures in total!
Skeletons: Animals Unveiled
Only the second museum of osteology (bones) in the U.S. (the first is in Oklahoma), Skeletons: Animals Unveiled features some-400 skeletons of animals, from tiny mice to a giant turtle. You’ll also see the flesh-eating beetles that are a vital part to the preservation of bones. It takes about 30 minutes to explore the museum, making it a great diversion when you’re waiting to be seated at a restaurant. There’s also a gift shop onsite.
This indoor arcade — perfect for escaping the heat or avoiding a rain shower — will run the gamut of traditional games and amusements.
Purchase admission online to save money in advance of your trip. Otherwise, you’ll pay an additional $7 when you buy individual tickets for the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE at I-Drive 360.
Orlando Eye: Adult: $18; Child (3-12): $13
Madame Tussauds Orlando: Adult: $18; Child (3-12): $13
SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando: Adult: $18; Child (3-12): $13
Skeletons: Animals Unveiled: Adult: $14.99; Child (3-11): $9.99
Orlando Eye Drive Experience (Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds Orlando and SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando): Adult: $35; Child (3-12): $30
I-Drive 360 offers casual full- and quick-service restaurants, along with fine-dining restaurants and entertainment venues for the late-night crowd. These are your best bets for easy dining with kids:
Buffalo Wild Wings
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Ben & Jerry’s
Pretzelmaker/Great American Cookies
ICafe De Paris
Terminal Building Food Court
Many families may opt to stay at a hotel in Downtown Disney, just 15 minutes away, or at a hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, even closer to I-Drive 360. There’s also the option to stay at a hotel along International Drive. Our recommendations include the following:
Hyatt Regency Orlando
Getting to Disney World: I-Drive 360 is less than 10 miles from Disney World, but it’ll take you at least 30 minutes to get there — especially during the summer and other peak travel times.
Getting to Universal Orlando Resort: I-Drive 360 is very close to Universal Orlando Resort — it’s less than 2 miles away, making it easy to stay at the resort and make a day trip to the attractions along International Drive.
Getting to SeaWorld Orlando: SeaWorld Orlando is just under 4 miles from I-Drive 360 — it’ll take you 10 to 20 minutes to get there, depending on traffic.