I-Drive 360

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I-Drive 360 is a group of attractions and restaurants on the south end of International Drive near the Orange County Convention Center and is about a mile north of SeaWorld Orlando. This complex occupies the former Mercado complex and takes the name, I-Drive, that we locals have for International Drive and incorporates it into is I-Drive 360. It is owned and operated by an English company called Merlin and it opened here on May 4, 2015. There is so much for you and your group to do that you could easily spend 6 to 8 hours here at this beautiful complex. Usually, we locals will tend to stay away from the I-Drive area as it has deservedly earned a reputation for being very crowded and filed with nothing but very tacky tourist attractions and shops filled with cheap and tacky souvenir shops that hock things like five t-shirts for ten dollars. Fortunately, companies like Merlin are really starting to turn that image around with the additions of places like this. I almost forgot to say that parking is free and there is a complementary valet service as well.

This area boasts several different attractions and restaurants with room to add more in the future. The Restaurants include Buffalo Wild Wings, Carrabba’s, Outback Steakhouse, Tin Roof, Paramount Fine Foods, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and other establishments.

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There a total of five attractions here and two of them are Skeletons and Arcade City which I haven’t yet experienced.

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There are also a few gift shops here as well.

Now, on to the main building that houses the three main attractions as well as a food court with several fast food restaurants to choose from. The first thing you’ll see when you enter the building is this mock-up of the building and observation wheel that is completely made up od Lego’s which makes sense since Merlin also owns and operates the LEGOLAND chain of parks and hotels.

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The next attraction, directly behind it, is called the Orlando Eye and the ticket counter where you can buy different ticket combos that include one, two, or three attractions. You can also add a full day ticket to LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven which is about a 30-45 minute drive west of here depending on traffic conditions. I bought the three attraction combo which cost about $50 and was a very good deal. Now that I’ve purchased my ticket I will head to the first Attraction which can be seen from miles away.

Orlando Eye

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This attraction was built by Intamin and is the second largest observation wheel on the North American Continent behind the High Roller Wheel at 550 feet tall in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA and the fourth largest observation wheel in the world behind the High Roller, Star of Nanchang at 525 feet tall in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, China, the Singapore Flyer at 541 feet, and the London Eye at 443 feet tall in London, UK. This also was the wheel where famed wire walker Nik Wallenda became the first person to ever walk across the top of an observation wheel without his balance bar or any device tethering him to the structure.

There is a photo opportunity in front of a green screen where you can choose from a few different backdrops and a decent 4-D theater that features a very nice video of the surrounding sites that include flyovers of SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort, downtown Orlando/Lake Eola, Winter Park, Cape Canaveral and NASA, and other areas which DOES NOT include Walt Disney World.

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Once you’re done with the 4-D experience, you’ll go outside and board your gondola that can hold up to fifteen people. The wheel is moving at a stately 1 mph so you really shouldn’t have any trouble boarding your gondola but they can stop it to allow those that have difficulty to board safely.

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From here, you can see for many miles so you can clearly see the surrounding sites.

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Those sights include SeaWorld Orlando and the sprawling Orange County Convention Center. Part of the OCCC is on the left and SeaWorld Orlando is behind that and the large hotel.

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Walt Disney World with the Spaceship Earth ride from EPCOT, Swan & Dolphin Hotel, Contemporary Resort, Downtown Disney/Disney Springs, and Space Mountain and the Magic Kingdom. I do apologize for the graininess of the photos as I was using my iPhone 6 and zoomed in as much as possible. You’ll get a better view in the video you’ll see a little later on.

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You can also see Lockheed-Martin right next door. Lockheed-Martin is a very big defense contractor for NASA and the US Government. No top-secret work is done outside as it really wouldn’t be very top-secret if everyone could see it.

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Not many people realize that Lockheed-Martin, formerly known as Martin Marietta, has been here for many years, even before Walter Elias Disney built WDW.

The round trip lasts about 25 minutes but I pared down my on ride video to just under six minutes. I’ve included several clips where I’ve zoomed in on the sites shown before plus downtown Orlando with the Amway Center that is home for the Orlando Magic of the NBA and the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League (AFL) and the Florida Citrus Bowl that is home of the Orlando City Lions of the Major League Soccer (MLS) and home of the annual New Years Day college football game called the Capital One Bowl.

Next up is the world-famous wax museum.

Madame Tussaud’s

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Madame Tussauds has been operating for well over two hundred years and was founded by Marie Tussaud who was born as Marie Grosholtz in Strasbourg, France in 1761. She basically began making wax heads of famous deceased people and noblemen. Her first wax sculpture was of Voltaire and was completed in 1777. She didn’t really have a permanent home until 1835 when she settled down and opened a museum on Baker St in London. She also made death masks during French Revolution. Here is a wax figure of her sculpting a head from wax.

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This museum is really incredible and contains several different themed rooms that are themed to History,  television, movies, sports, music, and more and I really enjoyed myself. I’d have to admit that I thought it would be more of a museum setting with displays behind ropes and please don’t touch or climb signs all over but that was not the case. There are themed areas but there are no ropes and please don’t touch or climb signs. Everything here is very hands on and you are encouraged to get up close and personal with the wax statues, you can even take photo’s with them. The first room is a group photo opportunity with you sitting in an air boat in a room called Gator Creek.

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The next rooms are part of the history area. These two photos are of Juan Ponce de Leon who discovered what is now the State of Florida on April 2, 1513 and named it La Florida which is Spanish for “The Flower” as it was the Easter season that the Spaniards called the “Festival of Flowers”, or Pascua Florida in Spanish. The ship’s wheel and cannon actually work.

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The next area shows Uncle Sam and Abraham Lincoln who was the 16th President of the United States of America.

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Then there’s Walter Elias Disney in his studio.

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You can actually learn how to draw by using the interactive display on his drawing table. Then comes Dr. Martin Luther King who led the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. I found it really amazing to see how short Dr. King really was as he was only five feet seven inches tall.

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On the other side is a full mock-up of President Barack Obama in the Oval Room of the White House. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo as we all had a group photo taken and then immediately left for the next room. Needless to say it was an impressive set. There’s also mock ups of Alan Shepherd in his Mercury 7 Space Suit and full set of Neal Armstrong on the Moon.

The next rooms aren’t guaranteed to be in order but I will do my best to keep them together. This room is the Sports room and includes figures like Shaquille O’Neil wearing his original Orlando Magic away kit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. from NASCAR, Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins and Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos from the NFL, David Beckham of the EPL, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball (MLB),

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Here’s the movie and television rooms, what I found amazing was the attention to detail. I was amazed that they were able to replicate the sweat patterns on Shaquille and what really was amazing was the detail in the eyes as they almost looked real. You’ll see many figures representing some of Hollywood’s top stars from yesterday to today. Pictured are Marilyn Monroe, Sofia Vergara from Modern Family, Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met your Mother, Oprah, and Jimmy Fallon from the Tonight Show.

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There are many photo opportunities but the most popular by far was the ET set. Here you could masquerade as Elliot in the scene where ET lifts the bikes into the air to avoid being captured by the police in the movie ET: The Extra Terrestrial.

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Here’s the music room that features Madonna, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and other pop artists. I really had no idea that Madonna was so short.

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The last room was the Miami/Party Room

Here you’ll see different stars in a more casual party setting.

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There’s also a place where you can take a wax mold of your hand and take it home with you as a souvenir. You can also learn how wax figures are made as well. This was money that was well spent and it is very kid friendly.

Now we’ll go across the building and dive in to our last attraction.

Sea Life Aquarium

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This attraction is highly themed and really geared towards kids but there are things for the adults to enjoy as well. First you’ll pass through an area where you can take a group photo.

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 You first enter into a circular aquarium with fish all around you and an introduction movie that talks about the animals and dangers that live in the seas. There are different areas here that are divided up into to several areas like the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Shipwreck Shark, and the Florida Everglades. Each area showcases the animals that live in those oceans. This first area seems to be the Coral Reefs area which contain several aquariums and photo opportunities.

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Next up is the Shark Shipwreck area where you’ll see several Sharks from a shipwreck themed area. There are even touchscreen games you can play.

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Here is one of the ocean areas called the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll see fish that are native to the Atlantic through two tunnels, one of which is a 360 degree tunnel.

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This is the Pacific Ocean Area.

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Here’s the Indian Ocean area.

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Next up are the Mangrove Swamps of the Florida Everglades.

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Last, there’s a children’s play and climbing structure as well as a please touch pool where your kids can GENTLY touch and handle the sea life.

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The Sea Life Aquarium is definitely a fun place for kids and adults and very hands on so I recommend this place if you have kids with you. Overall, I would definitely recommend spending a full day here and I would definitely say this is well worth the time and money you would spend here and is well worth a visit.

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