More than $1 Billion in development planned through 2017 for the International Drive Area

ORLANDO, FL--December 2015--As we head into the holiday season, it’s an exciting and busy time in Orlando’s I-Drive area with new attractions, dining, entertainment, accommodations and much more. For returning visitors as well as those coming to the area for the first time, there is a huge selection of new experiences.

In addition to exciting,new attractions, visitors will find endless fun in the I-Drive area including six of the world's most famous theme parks (SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica - SeaWorld's Waterpark, Wet ‘n Wild, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure), restaurants, dinner shows, shopping experiences, mega entertainment complexes, smaller family style attractions and spas.

And with everything that is happening in 2015, it's no wonder that Travel+Leisure named Orlando one of the best places to visit in 2015. Read all about it here!
 
Cvent, the leader in cloud-based enterprise event management solutions-named Orlando the No. 1 destination for meetings and events in the United States for 2015.The list ranks the top 50 convention destinations based on total room nights available, number of profile views, awarded room nights, percentage of qualified meeting venues, awarded requests for proposals and unique request for proposals received.
 
Openings
I-Drive 360, Orlando’s new $200 million entertainment destination and home to The Orlando Eye is open. Located in the heart of International Drive, the Orlando Eye’s 400-foot, iconic observation wheel is the centerpiece of this themed complex featuring a dynamic blend of attractions, restaurants, clubs and shops.

One of the most anticipated attractions to come to International Drive, The Orlando Eye, is equipped with 30-6,600-pound capsules, each capsule holding 15 people, reaching a maximum wheel-capacity of 450 people at one time. The wheel, providing 360-degree views, will continuously load and unload passengers as it rotates. Also, the capsules are air-conditioned and include audio effects for riders throughout the 20-minute experience.

Joining the Orlando Eye as part of I-Drive 360’s unique line-up of attractions are world-famous Madame Tussaud’s, SEA LIFE Aquarium and Skeletons: Animals Unveiled! Hot off the press: USA TODAY Travel named the Orlando Eye the second largest observation wheel in the U.S. at 400 feet tall. Read about it here.

In addition, the complex includes restaurants, shops and entertainment venues: iCafe de Paris, Sugar Factory restaurant and upscale candy shop, Tin Roof live music bar, Cowgirls Rockbar Orlando country western bar, Paramount Fine Foods, Naru Restaurant & Sushi Bar and Tapa Toro. I-Shops retail and dining complex is home to BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, Cooper's Hawk Winery, Chuy's Tex-Mex restaurant, LongHorn Steakhouse and Walgreens. www.unicorpusa.com 

Twice a day, visitors enjoy a $1.5 million water show set to music and color-changing lights. The complex offers free parking in its 1,600-space garage.
 
At Pointe Orlando, Lafayette’s Music Room has opened featuring acts ranging from Americana to alternative rock, progressive country and jazz. The restaurant combines the musical influence of New Orleans; Austin, Texas, Nashville and Memphis, along with up-and-coming musical talent and local musicians. Guests also enjoy a New Orleans-inspired menu. Also at Pointe Orlando, RA Sushi has opened with 6,395 square feet. Offering popular music and distinctive Japanese fusion cuisine this is not your typical sushi restaurant. Part of the Benihana company portfolio, the restaurant is consistently awarded for its fresh sushi, creative cocktails, happy hour, and musically inspired nightlife. 
 
Del Friscos Double Eagle Steak House has opened on I-Drive. For details on the upscale steakhouse, visit here.
 
Shake Shack has opened inside Orlando’s I-Drive 360. Known for its 100% all-natural Angus beef burgers, griddled-crisp flat-top dogs, fresh-made frozen custard, crinkle cut fries, craft beer and wine and more, Shake Shack is accessible to guests entering from the center’s bustling inner shopping circle or zipping in from I-Drive.
 
Blue Martini, has relocated to Pointe Orlando, with a modern design including an expansive outdoor patio overlooking International Drive. Known for offering 42 signature Martini's specialty cocktails, fine wines & spirits and appetizers, the premier martini bar is popular for after-work cocktails, happy hour and nightlife. www.bluemartinilounge.com
 
Itta Bena, a speakeasy-style, fine dining restaurant has also opened at Pointe Orlando. Located upstairs behind an old New Orleans facade, the restaurant and piano bar focuses on fine dining with a Southern style. The eclectic interior has international influences but the menu has a clear American accent. www.ittabenadining.com/orlando/
 
A new sushi restaurant, Ichiban Buffet, has opened at Orlando Crossings. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant features 300 seats and a variety of Chinese and Japanese dishes. 
 
Chocolate Kingdom Factory Adventure Tours has opened on Hawaiian Court. Tours are offered each hour on the hour from 11 a.m. -5 p.m. www.chocolatefactory.com  

International Hot Glass has opened its glass-blowing shop and studio at Artegon Marketplace. The shop offers classes and demonstrations for hopeful glass artists, using a 2,100-degree Fahrenheit furnace.
 
The gators arrived at Fun Spot America with the opening of Gator Spot, a 15,000-square-foot extension of Gatorland. The addition includes three ponds to house baby gators, giant gators and crocodiles. A separate building houses a white gator. www.fun-spot.com/orlando/gator-spot-orlando/
 
Citi Lakes apartments (www.citilakes.com) and Integra Cove apartments (www.integracove.com)
 
Orlando Crossings International Drive
has completed $2.5 million in renovations and redevelopment on North International Drive. With more than 15 stores and restaurants, the shopping complex also offers a post office, full service concierge and money exchange. The complex is anchored by I-Drive’s first full-scale supermarket, Seabra Supermarkets, a 17,000-square-foot store. www.orlandocrossings.com. 407-354-3939.
 
Mango's Tropical Café & Nightclub Complex is planning to open a December opening. The $30 million, 55,000-square-foot Mango's Tropical Café restaurant and nightclub at the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road will provide nonstop live entertainment, dancing, dining. http://mangos.com/orlando-home/ 
 
Also
: the adjacent $14 million, 226,502-square-foot Hollywood Plaza parking complex to include 9,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and a 10,257-square-foot, glass-enclosed rooftop restaurant. Expected opening is 2016
 
Staybridge Suite Hotel
plans a late 2015 opening of its boutique-style hotel on Sea Harbor Drive. www.ihg.com

Westgate Lakes Retail Village plans to open the $11 million complex at the end of 2015 and will include retail, restaurants and meeting space. www.westgateresorts.com
 
North I-Drive Improvement Project
has opened with a new 1.5-mile stretch that includes improvements for pedestrian safety in the area and helps to relieve traffic congestion. From Universal Boulevard to Oak Ridge Road, the project incorporates a series of multimodal improvements that provide for existing traffic and future growth. Improvements include the construction of an exclusive lane for buses and right turns, new bike lanes, new 10-foot wide sidewalks and streetscape elements. Check it out here.

Start your engines! I-Drive NASCAR opened with the go-kart attraction, developed by AMP Group/Perfumeland. Includes: state-of-the-art go-kart racing, bowling and arcade games, a sit down restaurant/bar, meeting space and more. Click here to see inside the attraction. Latest details: www.idrivenascar.com

Artegon, Festival Bay's transformation into the new, $70 million, 1.1 million-square-foot mall, Artegon Orlando has opened. Its Artegon Marketplace Orlando is a new shopping concept for the region described as being inspired by the world’s famous marketplaces, from Seattle’s Pike Place and Boston’s Faneuil Hall to the London Flower Market. The Village at Artegon Marketplace houses 165 artisanal shops and stores where local craftspeople sell and demonstrate their products and services. Among the offerings are hand-made leather goods, accessories, jewelry, sculpture, mixed media artwork, custom clothing and locally-sourced foods. Artegon Marketplace Orlando is anchored by Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Ron Jon Surf Shop Cinemark Theaters, Sheplers Western Stores. For more details and photos, visit www.artegonorlando.com or 407-351-7718.

Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant has opened with more than 6,000 bottles of wine that can be seen stored on walls all throughout the venue. The 12,400-square-foot eatery is part of Unicorp National Developments Inc.’s $200 million I-Shops project. The restaurant seats up to 340 people, which includes indoor and outdoor seating with patio space. www.coopershawkwinery.com 
 
Plan ahead
Skull Island: Reign of Kong, a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional ride, plans a summer 2016 opening at Universal’s Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort. www.universalorlando.com/email-signup/skull-island-reign-of-kong.aspx

Loews Hotels & Resorts plans a 1,000-room hotel to Universal Orlando Resort by summer 2016. Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, will be the fifth hotel at Universal Orlando. The resort will have a Caribbean theme and 131,000 square feet of meeting space, according to an official release. The hotel will be located between the recently opened Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. It will also include 77 suites. Visit www.universalorlando.com/Hotels/Loews-Sapphire-Falls-Resort.aspx.
 
Construction is underway on the $28 million-Hyatt House at 5370 International Drive.  The 175-room property is part of Hyatt's limited service, extended stay brand and is the first in Orlando.  Opening is planned for summer 2016.
 
SeaWorld Orlando plans to open its Mako roller coaster in summer 2016. It will have a maximum speed of 73 mph, a 200-foot drop and more than 4,700 feet of track length.  www.seaworldorlando.com
 
The iconic Oerther Foods-owned McDonald's restaurant on the northwest corner of International Drive and Sand Lake Road is being rebuilt and transformed into the new "World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's." The almost 19,000-square-foot restaurant has welcomed millions of guests from all over the world since opening in 1976. Completion for the 19,000-square-foot restaurant is scheduled for summer 2016 but the current restaurant will remain open until the opening.
 
StarFlyer at Vue 360, the "largest of its kind" is coming to the I-Drive 360 features a chair swing ride that will stand 420 feet tall. The attraction will be built next to the Outback Steakhouse at the former Gooding's Plaza, which will be renamed the Vue at 360. The Star Flyer will include of 12 double-seat swing chairs, sending up to 24 riders spinning more than 400 feet in the air for three to four. Completion is expected to be late 2016.
 
Volacano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort plans a 2017 opening.
 
Choice Hotels has announced plans for a new 140-room Cambria Hotel & Suites at the intersection of International Drive and Central Florida Parkway.  Scheduled for a 2017 opening, the hotel will have more than 2,000 square feet of meeting space.
 
Skyfall, the world's largest drop ride attached to a support structure will stand at more than 460 feet and join the 570-foot-tall Skyscraper coaster at the $300 million Skyplex development. The Skyfall ride will be part of the Skyscraper tower and will drop at speeds of 90 miles per hour. Developed by Wallack Holdings, is the 495,000-square-foot combination of upscale arcading, simulators, rock climbing, bars, restaurants and retail. At the top of the Skyscraper guests will experience an observation deck and the region's tallest glass elevators. There will also be a restaurant and lounge atop the observation deck that will provide views of Orlando and the surrounding area. Included with this project will be a 1,500-space parking garage. The attraction is scheduled to open in 2017. Details www.skyplex.com.
 
iSquare Mall+Hotel
Upscale multi-level mall with international retailers, along with a 26-story hotel, spa and multi-level mall, an indoor ice skating rink, a 100,000-square-foot convention center, a 500-seat live performance theater and a rooftop observation deck with rotating restaurant. Phased openings. Fully operational by summer 2017. www.iSquareUSA.com.
 
I-Drive's overhead pedestrian bridge is scheduled for completion in 2017. The 410-foot enclosed pedestrian bridge that will connect the plaza outside the Hyatt Regency Orlando to the Orange County Convention Center, just across from the Linda Chapin Theater. The bridge also will have an escalator leading from the hotel plaza to bridge, and will follow the path of the existing crosswalk but will be above International Drive. The project is being managed by Orange County. http://www.orangecountyfl.net

Orange County Convention Center Five Year Capital Improvement Plan is expected to be completed in 2017 and is estimated at approximately $187 million. For details on the progress, visit www.occc.net/CIP/

The Grand National Drive Bypass/Kirkman Road Interchange plans completion in 2017. Details: www.I4ultimate.com/project

I-Drive dedicated transit lanes in each direction for mass transit such as busses and trolleys will also serve as right turn lanes for all traffic. The transit corridor begins at Destination Parkway runs north along International Drive and then crosses over to Universal Boulevard at Via Mercado. The corridor then runs north along Universal Boulevard to Sand Lake Road. Project completion is planned for December 2018. Check here for updates and details.

For additional information, hot deals and assistance planning a vacation in the I-Drive area, visit www.internationaldriveorlando.com.

Media contact: Wrenda Goodwyn, Communications Director
International Drive Resort Area
International Drive Improvement District
P: 239-949-1808
Orlando's Most Dynamic Destination!
December 2015