International Drive Development: A Look Back
2015: A banner year for development
This is the year it all began with the opening of these highly anticipated and landscape-changing projects:
ICON Park (formerly I-Drive 360), $200 million entertainment destination and home to The Wheel (formerly the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye) opened in the heart of International Drive. The 400-foot, iconic observation wheel is the centerpiece of the themed complex featuring a dynamic blend of attractions, restaurants, nonstop entertainment and shops.
Joining ICON Orlando as part of ICON Orlando 360’s unique line-up of attractions, are world-famous Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Aquarium, SKELETONS: Animals Unveiled! and Arcade City
. Twice a day, visitors also 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. iconorlando.com
Mango's Tropical Cafe & Nightclub Complex
opened its $40 million, 55,000-square-foot restaurant and nightclub providing nonstop live entertainment, dancing and dining. The Latin-themed restaurant and club is an expansion of the Mango's brand in South Beach and is the newest nighttime hotspot on I-Drive. mangos.com
In addition to these exciting, new attractions, visitors continue to find endless fun in the I-Drive Resort Area including six of the world's most famous theme parks (SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica - SeaWorld's Waterpark, Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay Water Park), restaurants, dinner shows, shopping experiences, mega entertainment complexes, smaller family style attractions and spas.
2016: The trend continues
Development in 2016 kept moving forward with new attractions such as SeaWorld's Mako Coaster, Universal's Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster and Skull Island Reign of Kong, Main Event at Pointe Orlando and Breakout Escape Rooms Orlando. New dining venues were also added, including the new McDonald's - World's Largest Play Place, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen and a completely re-designed Tony Roma's. Loews Sapphire Resort and Home 2 Suites by Hilton Orlando both opened their doors to guests and Alexan Crossroads and The Courtney Apartments at Universal Blvd. started leasing, adding more residents to the Resort Area. As well as a new Seabra Foods grocery store.
2017: No slowing down
With 33 projects tracked by the District, development definitely did not slow down in 2017. We saw many new attractions such as Volcano Bay Water Park, Topgolf Orlando, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, iFly Orlando Indoor Skydiving, Universal's Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Lockbusters Escape Game. SeaWorld Orlando opened a new and improved Dolphin Nursery, the Aquatica Pass Member Pavilion, Flamecraft Bar and Kraken Unleashed. Three new restaurants started serving guests: Pio Pio, Uncle Julio's and Pollo Tropical. Hogan's Beach Shop, CVS Pharmacy and the brand new Visit Orlando's Official Visitors Center all opened their doors.
The I-Drive Pedestrian Bridge between the Orange County Convention Center and Hyatt Orlando opened to allow pedestrians to safely cross above International Drive. The I-4 Ultimate project completed the Grand National Drive Overpass & Kirkman Road Interchange which connects the Major Blvd. area to north International Drive.
It was a record year for accommodations as new & existing hotels accounted for ten projects, giving guests even more options for their stay in the I-Drive Resort Area: Cabana Bay Beach Resort Expansion, Calypso's Pool Bar & Grille at Caribe Royale, DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld expansion, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at SeaWorld, Homewood Suites Orlando Theme Park, Las Palmeras by Hilton Grand Vacations, Staybridge Suites Orlando at SeaWorld, TownePlace Orlando at SeaWorld, and Westgate Lakes Resorts & Spa.
Finally, five new residential complexes came online: Ancora Apartment Homes, Axis West, Lake View Apartments, Lantower Grande Pines and Westwood Apartments. All helping to make the I-Drive Resort Area a great place to dine, shop, play and live!
2018: A look back
Development was still going strong in 2018 with the District reporting on 32 projects throughout the year. Visitors can take to the skies via Air Force Fun North Helicopter Tours or the Orlando Starflyer. Ray Rush at Aquatica and Infinity Falls at SeaWorld both splashed onto the scene. Fast & Furious opened at Universal and Nomadic VR Games came online at Pointe Orlando. Enjoy some entertainment at the Rock Dinner Show & Orlando Forum or Route 65 Orlando. The Hollywood Plaza Entertainment Complex and parking garage opened their gates in December and we are eagerly awaiting additional dining and entertainment venues that are coming.
There was no shortage of new eateries opening in 2018: Bahama Breeze, Longhorn Steakhouse & Starbucks all opened at Grand National. Those with a sweet tooth can visit Voodoo Doughnut at Universal's CityWalk, Dunkin Donuts or The Golden Pod Chocolate Bar. A second Starbucks opened on the south end at Vining Crossing. Avid shoppers will be pleased to visit Vineland Pointe - Phase I and U.S. Gift Factory at Grand National. Lexus of Orlando and 7-Eleven both opened in 2018 as well.
If you are looking for a place to rest your head, look no further. Aventura Hotel, Hyatt House Orlando Universal, and Residence Inn Near Universal Studios opened in 2018. Avanti Palms Resort & Conference Center, The Reserve at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, and Hilton Orlando all had major renovations and/or upgrades. Solaya Luxury Apartments and the Solstice Apartments began leasing in 2018 also.
Finally, Kirkman Point II office complex and parking garage opened, the Orange County International Drive Widening project was completed, as well as the Orlando / Orange County Convention Center Capital Improvements project at the West Complex.
2019: Paving the way forward
The District tracked 21 completed projects in 2019. From attractions: Fun Spot's new Ferris Wheel, Hagrid's Magical Creatures at Universal Orlando Resort, KareKare Curl at Aquatica, and SeaWorld's new Sesame Street & corporate headquarters; to dining: Bigfire Restaurant, Burger Barn, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Mia's Italian Kitchen, Mikado, Saltgrass Steak House, and TODAY Cafe. Vineland Pointe Phases 2 & 3 are well underway with Target and the Cheesecake Factory opening this year.
Staying over? There are plenty of choices for the weary, or not so weary traveler. The Resort Area welcomed several new accommodations to the Area: Surfside Inn & Suites at Endless Summer Resort, Holiday Inn & Suites at Regency Village, Home2 Suites by Hilton, La Quinta Inn & Suites Orlando and WoodSpring Suites Signature Hotel. The Fountains Resort added a new tower and Renaissance at SeaWorld increased their meeting space. The Addison at Universal Apartments also starting leasing this year.
2020: Can't keep a good Resort Area down
While 2020 was definitely a unique year, the District still tracked 29 projects that were completed in 2020!