Orlando is known for being a bustling hub of familiar and famed theme parks such as Universal Studios Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort and SeaWorld Orlando. But those amazing destinations don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the endless adventures throughout The City Beautiful. Let’s take a look at a smidgen of fun that abounds on the southern side of International Drive, one of the city’s most popular strips. Or, as locals like you and me call it, I-Drive.
Previously called I-Drive 360, ICON Park is a must-see mecca for foodies, quest seekers and savvy shoppers to dine, play and peruse through over 40 venues. Parking is free for the 20-acre walkable grounds. Visually dominating it all, The Wheel rises 400 feet into the sky and offers stunning panoramic views. The Wheel contains 30 capsules, each with ample room to fit a large group comfortably all while moving slow enough to appreciate the surrounding sights and sounds.
Throw caution to the wind and be a daredevil with a ride on the world’s tallest StarFlyer. Ascending 450 feet into the air, this atypical swing set will have you soaring at speeds up to 45 mph. Like The Wheel, the indescribable views are sure to impress. Once you’ve come down from that adrenaline high, walk the red carpet into Madame Tussauds wax museum for close-ups with celebrities from past and present. Then, float over to Sea Life Orlando for a swimmingly fabulous time as you learn about and watch creatures from ocean blue waters.
Other notable activities at ICON Park to engagingly entertain are a 7D Dark Ride Adventure, Arcade City and SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology.
All of that activity is sure to create a ravenous appetite. No worries; this area has plenty to satisfy your hunger! Tapa Toro is a local favorite with a full menu bursting with flavorful Spanish cuisine. Belly up to the inviting paella pit to watch the chefs sauté, sear, simmer and steam their way through a delectable meal. Every night beginning at 7 p.m., expect Flamenco dancers to occupy your oculars with authentic moves and flare.
“You’re what? Tiiiiiiiiiiin roof rusted!” Any B-52 fans out there? Tin Roof Orlando, a.k.a. The Roof, is a live music locale hosting famous and not-yet-famous musicians while serving southern eats and traditional drinks. Patronizing this dining option is sure to deliver cheer.
Calling all beer lovers! Boasting 130 taps of draft beer, Yard House has a unique brew that is uniquely you. Aside from the plethora of brewski options, the food menu showcases over 100 tasty items made from scratch every morning. With such extensive beer and food choices, there’s no doubt you’ll find your perfect marriage of eats and drinks.
A close neighbor to the Orange County Convention Center, Pointe Orlando is an oasis for memorable merriment. The liveliness of this recreational center will keep you busy with diverse stores and delicious dining dripping with leisurely delight. The shopping selection is packed of various retailers from clothing to accessories and everything in between. Take, for example, Charming Charlie, where you can purchase creative, yet affordable jewelry for yourself or the leading lady in your life.
Dare to blur the line between reality and fantasy at Nomadic Virtual Reality. This fully-immersive experience allows you to step into a world of zombies as you fight, fly, run and solve your way through a post-apocalyptic terrain. Participants wear a small backpack and headset with virtual reality goggles while balancing beams, solving timed puzzles, pulling levers and more. This will be a mission you won’t soon forget!
Laugh your way through dinner at Improv Orlando with bites served up from Fat Fish Blue. Expect your funny bone to be tickled by top comedians currently on tour. Open mic nights are held weekly for those humorous individuals looking to make others laugh and chuckle.
For the younger crowds, Monkey Joe’s is the place to be! Children 12 and under will enjoy a jumping good time with the many bounce houses and obstacle courses designed for endless fun. A toddler area is also featured for those three and under who aren’t quite ready for the big leagues. Adults are always free when accompanying their favorite munchkin.
Adults can get their game on too! If bowling strikes your fancy, spare some time for fun at the Main Event. Enjoy bowling, billiards, arcade games, an exhilarating ropes course and food and drinks.
When hunger strikes, there’s ample opportunity for your taste buds to nosh on a wide variety of food. Taverna Opa serves up Greek plates with a side of amusement. Enjoy morsels of cheese and olives imported from Greece as you wait for your main course of fresh seafood or the favored lamb chops. Each night starting at 7 p.m., a Zorba and belly dancers shimmy around the restaurant to delight guests.
Plunge into Asian culture with dishes inspired by Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine at Lotus Asia House. Patrons are surrounded by beautifully painted murals and posh decor to match perfectly plated provisions.
Other dining and cocktail options include Cubra Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, Itta Bena, HopDoddy Burger, The Capital Grill, B.B. King’s Blues Club and Blue Martini.
Chocolate Museum & Cafe
Located in a less congested section of International Drive, Chocolate Museum and Café is filled with delectable treats sure to entice your sweet tooth. But this is not just a chocolate shop. They also offer an entertaining museum tour of chocolate making and a chocolate and wine pairing.
Following a short video presentation, journey through the history and evolution of chocolate. One may think a chocolate history lesson would prove to be a little on the boring side but, trust me, you’ll eat up every morsel of this engaging study. Next, arrive at a gallery of sculptures made of solid dark, milk and white chocolates. Talk about a feast for the eyes! From there, whisk off to the tasting room to savor and enjoy delicacies of many flavors. The tour concludes with smaller chocolate displays and – spoiler alert – a surprise hot chocolate tasting!
For those participating in the wine pairing, a sommelier will graciously assist with explaining each wine and paired chocolate after the tour has finished. Definitely browse the store to decide on which fine treats to take home.
Forty-five minute tours are conducted every hour on a first-come first-serve basis beginning at noon with the last tour starting at 6 p.m. The museum and café are busiest when the weather is rainy and during the weekends, so be sure to arrive a little early during those times.
Plan your getaway now at http://Travel.Hilton.com/Florida