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May 8, 2015

Go Big or Go Home: I-Drive 360 Makes Its Grand Debut

If you have been anywhere near Orlando lately, you certainly haven't missed the amazing developments taking place along International Drive. I-Drive 360 has been an ongoing phase project that finally hit its pinnacle with the Grand Opening of The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussaud's, Sea Life Aquarium and Skeletons - Animals Unveiled this week. Last week, Merlin Entertainment treated long-supportive media guests to an unparalleled preview of their latest ventures, and Skeletons hosted a soft opening. It was a non-stop blast of incredible entertainment and much-anticipated introductions to some of Orlando's newest, greatest amusements. 

While most of my reports are very verbose and in-depth with descriptives, this is truly a case where pictures (and videos) are worth a thousand words. I'll go against my norm and let the visuals tell most of the story here. Sit back and enjoy a fun-filled week at I-Drive 360!


SEA LIFE AQUARIUM

Over 30 displays containing more than 5,000 underwater creatures and dramatic seascapes await...
Sea Life promotes an extensive conservation program: breed, rescue, and protect!
Moray eels, starfish, and massive schooling fish greet you as you begin your underwater journey!
Newfound friends, large and small drift in and out of vibrant coral reefs and incredible ocean structures!
The 360-degree ocean tunnel puts you right in the middle of a whole new world - and all the action it contains!
Breathtaking decor is a perfect compliment to the Sea Life inhabitants.
Sea Life takes aquariums to new depths - with special tours, Magnus the shark, and fascinating interactive education!
The Interactive Rockpool invites guests to get up close and personal with starfish, sea urchins, and more!
The Sea Life gift shop has a wide variety of toys, housewares, and mementos - including a brilliant informational book, fully-loaded with your own souvenir photos!
Enjoy a musical video tour of some of the Sea Life highlights....


MADAME TUSSAUD'S

A few new faces have arrived since our last visit! Let's see what's new... like this larger-than-life Shrek and Fiona!
Who can resist the chance to get up close and personal with some of history's most notable figures?
Some of the world's most influential people call Madame Tussaud's Orlando home - including this new addition... WALT DISNEY! How very appropriate, don't you think? Don't forget to take a break to moonwalk with Neil Armstrong!
Speaking of history... you can take a glimpse into the past with Madame Tussaud herself, and get a hands-on waxwork experience yourself!
Don't wear yourself out just yet! You still have to tackle the sports stars!
When you've completed this physical challenge... have a laugh with some of TV's favorite sit-comedians!
...Or have a chat with some big talkers!
Enjoy a blockbuster stroll through the film zone for some wild encounters!
Or just kick back with an A-lister!
Want to make google-eyes with that celeb that always turned your head? Tussaud's has you covered... and drooling (but not on the figures, please).
The Madame Tussaud's gift shop features fun celebrity collectibles, glitzy gifts, and an equally impressive photo book. No, you can't buy Tom Hanks... sorry!

WEDNESDAY - THE ORLANDO EYE

Just when it seemed that this week couldn't get any bigger - The Orlando Eye was the icing on the cake. I have to admit... it takes a lot for me to drag myself out of the house before sunrise! Not only did I accomplish that, but it did it with zest and zeal! After all, I had been anxiously awaiting this day since long before my behind-the scenes tour in December during the construction phase.
Yes... it was completely worth the early wake-up call! You think a sunrise at the beach is beautiful? Try watching dawn break behind The Orlando Eye!
I've been referring to myself as an 'obsessive eye stalker' for a while now. I won't admit to the total number of pictures I have from the entire construction process, but it's obscene. How can you not drain a battery and fill an SD card when this is your muse?
But there was even more to see during the media preview event! Many familiar faces came out to see Nik Wallenda kick-off the day's festivities, including former "Bachelor" Sean Lowe, his stunning wife Catherine, Orlando Mayor Teresa Jacobs, and Governor Rick Scott!
Just as a beautiful morning settled over Orlando, Nik Wallenda embarked on a record-breaking stunt, strolling along the rim of The Orlando Eye, while it was in motion. Members of the media, spectators, and viewers tuned into "The Today Show" breathlessly gawked at the sky-high display, before Wallenda rode back down - atop one of The Orlando Eye's passenger pods.
Watch Nik Wallend's death-defying stunt!

As the dazzling demonstration of derring-do concluded, media members flocked inside The Terminal Building for the first round of flights aboard the beckoning behemoth. It's hard to believe these photos are from the same scene... just four months apart! (For more pics of The Orlando Eye's incredible progress during construction, click here!)
Finally, it was time to fly! After a short stop for some green screen snapshots, guests were corralled for the tantalizing 4D experience building up to the flight.
Time for lift-off! 
Up, up, and AWAY!
400 feet above I-Drive 360...
I first met General Manager Robin Goodchild at the installation of the first passenger pod. Coming from Merlin's famous London Eye, he was unmistakably proud to be a part of this venture!
It was an honor to be able to congratulate Robin on this mammoth accomplishment, and of course - to thank him for his part in Orlando's latest, greatest feat!
The Orlando Eye's gift shop includes a vast array of diverse souvenirs - cuddly, decorative, and everything in-between!
Quite a nice touch of class... media guests were gifted with a bottle of celebratory champagne. Personally, I look forward to opening mine 400 feet in the air, as I ring in the tenth anniversary of The Orlando Eye!
Come fly with me!
What can you expect to pay for this trifecta of entertainment?

SKELETONS - ANIMALS UNVEILED

And let's not forget... the fun doesn't end when you leave The Terminal Building and the treasure trove within! You don't want to miss the stunning sights of Skeletons-Animals Unveiled, just outside of the Merlin amusements complex!
It's no secret that I am an uber fan of this attraction. I've been following progress since the first walls were erected on-site!
Let's try a few skulls on for size...
With the exception of the centaur, all of these skeletons are painstakingly reconstructed as they were in their natural, live state.
Menageries of creatures great, small, and abnormal are dramatically staged in creative dioramas, with comparative species in categorical groupings.
The astounding process of the skeletal reconstructions provides an unrivaled look at the natural wonder of osteology. 
Not to play favorites, but the Skeletons gift shop may very well be stocked with the coolest merchandise in Orlando. You can find almost anything in here!

I-DRIVE 360

Even those I-Drive 360 establishments yet-to-open made appearances to introduce themselves to guests! Stay tuned to ComeSeeOrlando.com for updates on Sugar Factory, Cowgirls Rockbar, Tapa Toro, and more!
A huge thank you to all of the fine folks that are coming together to make I-Drive 360 a full-service entertainment complex unlike any other. From ComeSeeOrlando.com, I'd personally like to express my gratitude for your ongoing hospitality. JOB WELL DONE!

For more information on these incredible new businesses:
Sea Life Orlando - Twitter Facebook
Madame Tussaud's Orlando - Twitter Facebook
The Orlando Eye - Twitter Facebook
Skeletons - Twitter Facebook
Sugar Factory - Twitter Facebook
Cowgirls Rockbar - Twitter Facebook
Tapa Toro - Twitter Facebook