What's New and What's Next on International Drive

Since we are only hearing bad news from the Walt Disney World Resort at this time, let's talk about something positive. International Drive continues to expand its offerings and has seemingly something new every month. let us take a look at what is new and what is coming soon to this busy entertainment area (from IDrivedistrict.com):

What's Making News on I-Drive in November 2013!

ORLANDO, FL (November 2013) - It's November and in addition to a late fall vacation with six of the world’s most famous theme parks (SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica - SeaWorld's Waterpark, Wet ‘n Wild, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure), great restaurants, dinner shows, shopping experiences, mega entertainment complexes, smaller family style attractions and spas...visitors enjoy the cooler weather that makes this a perfect time to vacation.

- Orlando in the news
Orlando is named #1 among the top 50 destinations in the USA this year for meetings and corporate events, according to Cvent, a technology company that connects event planners with over 200,000 venues.

The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) received the 2013 Venue Excellence Award at VenueConnect, International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) 88th annual conference and trade show in New Orleans, LA. This prestigious award recognizes venues that demonstrate excellence in the following four criteria: operational excellence, service to the community, team building/professional development and safety and security. The criteria used to evaluate the venues are at the core of IAVM’s mission, and are key components to the success and vitality of the venue industry. A committee of industry leaders chose the finalists and winner was approved by the IAVM Board of Directors.

 In addition, the OCCC has become the third convention center in the world to be certified to a new international sustainability standard. The OCCC achieved Level One certification with the American Society for Testing and Materials. The recognition helps event planners and suppliers produce events in a more sustainable manner, based on the venue's staff management, communications, waste management, energy, air quality, water, procurement, and community partners.

Celebrating 30 years of success, the OCCC is the second largest convention facility in America. Each year the OCCC attracts more than 200 events to the Central Florida area. As a result, roughly 1.4 million attendees contribute approximately $2.1 billion to the area's economy each year. For more information about the Orange County Convention Center visit www.occc.net.

 The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is now gold-certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is the only center in the world to receive a Gold Certification. The LEED designation is expected to attract businesses that demand green meeting space and sustainable facilities. Officials said the convention center achieved the designation by using LED lighting, reclaimed water and for having one of the largest rooftop solar systems in the southeast.

Mark your calendar!
The Central Florida International Auto Show takes place at the Orange County Convention Center Nov. 28–Dec. 1. With hundreds of the latest cars, trucks, crossovers and more, show goers are invited to check out the newest rides, sit behind wheels, experience the latest in-car technology and even take a test drive in dozens of hot models. The auto show will feature a dazzling collection of high-end luxury cars, classics, plug-in electric vehicles, family fun and much more! Open to the public. More details can be found HERE.

Orlando Bowl Week Events include: 10th annual Russell Athletic Bowl will be played at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on Dec. 28 at 6:45 p.m. It will be televised on ESPN. Tickets start at $30. The 68th annual Capital One Bowl will be played at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1, 2014, at 1 p.m. It will be televised on ABC. Tickets start at $50. Details: fcsports.com or 407-423-2476.

- Hot off the press
Drive Electric Orlando, a rental car initiative that puts you behind the wheel of America’s transportation future – plug-in electric cars, has launched. Through the collaboration of Orlando’s leadingrental agencies, hotels and major attractions, visitors now enjoy an exciting and seamlessrental experience on your vacation and businesstrips in Orlando. Partners in this new venture include SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando, Orange County, I-Derive District, Hyatt Regency Orlando Convention Center (formerly Peabody), Doubletree by Hilton, Rosen Shingle Creek, Rosen Inn, Pointe Orlando, Orange Country Convention Center and more. For details, visit http://www.driveelectricorlando.org/. For a map of I-Drive charging stations: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_locations.html

The Gary Sain Memorial Skybridge, connects the Rosen Plaza with the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) West Building. This new skybridge completes the fourth and final link in connecting the OCCC with adjacent International Drive hotels including Rosen Plaza, Rosen Centre, Hilton Orlando and the Hyatt Regency Orlando Convention Center.
Construction of the $2.5 million skybridge was funded entirely by Rosen Hotels & Resorts. Coming in well under its $3.2 million budget, the 745-foot connector was built in just over three months and will provide thousands of meetings attendees annually with a safe, weather-proof and traffic-free “commute” from their Rosen Plaza guestrooms to the convention center.

In attendance at the dedication ceremony, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs proclaimed the day in honor of Gary Sain, as well as Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel and Harris Rosen, President and COO, Rosen Hotels & Resorts. They, along with other Orlando tourism industry leaders, cut a ribbon to officially open the skybridge named in honor of the previous Visit Orlando President & CEO who passed away in May 2012.

“It is with great honor and respect that we dedicate this skybridge to my friend and colleague Gary Sain,” said Rosen. “Gary worked tirelessly to build and strengthen this destination during his time with us. Rest assured, Gary’s legacy continues here today.”

The bridge will be an added benefit to the millions of convention center attendees visiting the convention center each year and provide more accessibility between the convention center and I-Drive's local hotels, nearby shops and attractions.
- I-Drive attractions news

Opening in January 2014, I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing, will be a $5 million attraction consisting of a multi-level entertainment center equipped with a half-mile-long go-kart track, a 10,500-square-foot second floor with bowling lanes, an arcade area and a food and beverage area. Also, many of the attractions will include a windowed bridge that will allow guests to walk over the track and look at the races happening below.

King's Bowl has opened on International Drive with 22 lanes and a full-service, upscale restaurant. In addition, visitors enjoy four billiards tables, outdoor Bocce ball court, over 60 giant HDTV’s and HD projector screens and more! The venue is part of Unicorp National Developments Inc.’s $200 million I-Drive Live project, the redevelopment of the former Mercado retail and entertainment complex on I-Drive. www.kingsorlando.com. 407-363-0200.

The widely acclaimed OUR BODY: The Universe Within is currently on display at 7220 International Drive. The exhibit educationally and artfully displays approximately 200 organs, human bodies and other anatomical specimens that reveal an enlightening understanding of the human body. Visitors journey through a fascinating tour of the human body as a whole, then through each of the bodily system specimens to see firsthand how each functions and also relates to all the other systems. www.ourbodytheuniversewithin.net/current_exhibits.html. 407-226-7220.

- Coming in 2015: It's big!
I-Drive Live, according to Unicorp National Developments Inc. plans are underway to open the $200 million I-Drive Live development’s main attraction, the 425-foot Orlando Eye observation wheel, on New Year’s Eve 2014. The foundations on the wheel were poured in June and the first pieces of steel are expected to go up in the fall, according to a recent interview. The two Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd. attractions — the 25,000-square-foot Madame Tussauds wax museum and the 25,000-square-foot Sea Life Aquarium, are expected to open at the same time. Stay tuned for more news!
- I-Drive accommodations news
The Peabody Orlando has been rebranded as Hyatt Regency Orlando. Located in the heart of Orlando’s International Drive resort area and directly connected to the Orange County Convention Center, Hyatt Regency Orlando features 1,641 recently renovated guestrooms and 315,000 square feet of meeting space. And with over two million square feet of space in the Orange County Convention Center to which the hotel is attached, Hyatt Regency Orlando is the largest convention hotel for the brand in the United States. For more information and reservations call 407-284-1234 or visit www.orlando.regency.hyatt.com

Avanti Resort has completed a renovation that includes updates to the lobby and guest rooms, as well as addition of a 6,672-square-foot amenity building. www.avantiresort.com 407-313-0100

Hotel Sonesta ES Suites (formerly the Radisson by the Aquatic Center) is currently undergoing a $7 million renovation program.

The Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive is undergoing an extensive 75 million dollar redevelopment. Guests will see a complete refurbishment and upgrade to all 613 guest rooms and suites which will showcase modern resort-chic décor. A dramatic sense of arrival with a meandering pathway leading to a grand porte-cochere as well as a newly built lobby and redeveloped meeting space to complete over 60,000 square feet of ultra-flexible space. Additionally, there will be 15,000 square feet of flexible outdoor space ideal for plated meal functions, casual receptions or fun themed events! A combination of brick pavers, beautiful, lush landscaping, tranquil fountains and specialty lighting for evening events will make Paradise Key and the Grand Lawn a much sought after venue without even having to leave the resort. www.wyndham.com

Green Destination Orlando (GDO) presented participation plaques to Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, The Hilton Orlando and The Peabody Orlando as founding members of the GDO. The three I-Drive properties were cited as the catalyst for the program by investing in sustainable practices such as: food and waste recycling, water conservation, reducing electrical consumption, and promoting sustainable efforts to its guests.

GDO’s mission is to make Orlando the leading green destination in the world by creating a total sustainable travel experience from the moment a visitor steps off the plane in Orlando, to the transportation to their hotel, their stay at local lodging, their daily activities (be it a conference or family vacation), and back to the airport, a completely sustainable loop that never breaks. The program is designed to help properties make significant progress with their green building practices over time. The GDO program invites all hospitality related facilities, including airports, restaurants, shopping venues, transportation, and others to join their community effort to make Orlando a truly Green Destination.

It is notable that in keeping with the eco-friendliness of I-Drive, the I-Ride Trolleys are equipped with Clean Diesel Technology (CDT) engines from Cummins, a technology leader in the diesel engine market. The CDT engines eliminate 90 percent of the particulate matter (exhaust pipe smoke) and over 90 percent more of the mono-nitrogen oxides (smog). The new engines are also 10 percent more fuel efficient which helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Information about Green Destination Orlando: www.usgbc-cf.org/aws/CFGBC/pt/sp/committee_hospitalityadvocacy
International Drive Resort Area properties to the Florida Green Lodging Program. Launched in March 2004, the Green Lodging Program establishes environmental guidelines for hotels and motels to conserve natural resources and prevent pollution. After receiving the designation, hotels are recommended to companies and trade organizations seeking environmentally conscious lodging facilities. dep.state.fl.us/greenlodging. For a complete list and details Click Here

Hilton Orlando is adding a 50,000 square-feet outdoor meeting space to accommodate up to 3,000 people. The $2.1 million project, known as the Promenade, broke ground June 4. thehiltonorlando.com; 407-313-4300.
A joint venture comprised of three companies announced that it has acquired Lake Eve Resort, a 176-room hotel in the I-Drive area. The Arden Group Inc. of Philadelphia, Eightfold Real Estate Capital of Miami Beach and Hostmark Hospitality Group of Schaumburg, Ill., are investing a total of $24 million, which includes upgrades to the guest rooms and lobby, lighting and signs, and a new children's water park.

Universal Orlando Resort, in conjunction with Loews Hotels & Resorts, announced the addition of a new on-property hotel that will offer a more affordable on-site experience. Scheduled to open in 2014, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort will be the largest of Universal's four on-site hotels with 1,800 rooms, including family suites and standard guest rooms. Guests of the new resort will receive early admission to Universal Orlando's two theme parks. universalorlando.com

The minions are coming! Universal Orlando announced that each of the 18 kids' suites in its Loews Portofino Bay Hotel are being renovated to feature a theme based on the movie "Despicable Me," complementing Universal Studios' new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride. Among the features: missile-shaped beds and Minions rappelling from the ceiling. Stay tuned.
- I-Drive dining and nightlife
Hash House A Go Go, which serves "twisted farm food" in massive portions, recently opened its doors on International Drive. Hash House features fresh farm foods and old-fashioned recipes mixed with unique styling and flavors.| www.hashhouseagogo.com  

Giraffas has opened on I-Drive! The fast-casual, Brazil-based grilled steak and burger concept is already planning to double its seating in a mall-like patio area. www.giraffas.com

Pirate's Town Dinner Theater Complex announced a new show, The Three Musketeers. The show features sword fights, comedy, and romance. Tickets include three-course dinner and are $63.95 for adults and $39.45 for children ages 3 to 12. pirates-town.com.

Marlow’s Tavern has opened at Pointe Orlando. The restaurant offers American Tavern Fare in a neighborhood atmosphere. Visit marlowstavern.com

Coming in Spring 2014: Yard House, the trendy craft beer-focused restaurant concept, is taking a 14,063-square-foot space in the $200 million I-Drive Live project. It will seat 400 including a patio in the shopping, dining and entertainment complex anchored by the 425-foot Orlando Eye observation wheel, 25,000-square-foot Madame Tussauds wax museum and 25,000-square-foot Sea Life Aquarium. More details to come!

- Shopping
Orlando Premium Outlets - Vineland Ave.
Just in time for holiday shopping, this center has unveiled its new expansion, The Promenade, a 110,000-square-foot addition. The new center features a 28,462-square-foot, two-story Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th outlet shop and a 24,048-square-foot trendy Forever 21 as its anchors, and brings in several other retailers, some in combined spaces. Including: Gap Factory Store/Kids & Baby combo store, 15,000 square feet; The North Face 5,966 square feet; Tommy Bahama, 5,500 square feet, UGG Australia/Teva combo store, 5,000 square feet; Famous Footwear, 5,000 square feet and more.

The center now has a collection of 160 stores from the finest designers and name brands including one of the world's only Dior outlets, Roberto Cavalli, Lululemon Athletica, Barneys New York Outlet and more. In addition, a Volcom skater-themed retailer will open in November, while a new 8,000-square-foot full-service restaurant, Dick’s Last Resort, is planned.

Dining and group tours are available. For details and a complete listing of shopping and dining: www.premiumoutlets.com/orlando. 407-238-7787. Hours of operation: Mon-Sat: 10am – 11 pm / Sun: 10am - 9pm.

Orlando Crossings International Drive has completed renovations and redevelopment on North International Drive. With more than 15 stores and restaurants, the shopping, the shopping complex also offers a post office, full service concierge and money exchange.  www.orlandocrossings.com 407-354-3939
- Cultural attractions in the Orlando area
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art will have free admission and extended hours Friday nights Nov. 1 through April 2014.  Galleries will be open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with live music on select nights. morsemuseum.org 407-645-5311.

Mennello Museum of American Art offers free admission to the galleries on the second Sunday of every month. Museum hours are noon to 4:30 p.m. mennellomuseum.com

- News you can use
Check for discounts and special packages
Be sure to check out “Hot Vacation Deals” for the latest discounts on dining, attractions and more! When contacting accommodations, ask about packages and special rates.

The International Drive Official Visitors Guide for fall / winter is available at more than 100 locations throughout the I-Drive area, including the Orlando Official Visitors Center and all I-Drive area 24-Hour Walgreen Drug Stores. The free guide includes information on area attractions, accommodations, dining, shopping, nightlife and the I-Ride Trolley. At the same locations, visitors may also pick up a copy of the I-Ride Trolley Map with more than $500 worth of FREE coupons to area venues. Both the Visitors Guide and Trolley Maps are also available on the I-Ride Trolleys.

- North I-Drive
Groundbreaking took place for the $9.2 million North I-Drive improvement project that will be completed at the end of 2014. The project will enhance pedestrian safety and reduce congestion and includes major widening of North I-Drive, dedicated lanes for Trolleys, buses and right-hand lane turns, new bike lanes and landscaping, Intelligent Transportation System Improvements. More details will soon be shared here on OTPN.

As you can clearly see, there is definitely a lot we can look forward to. We will continue to keep you up-to-date.

1 comment:

  1. To add to the cultural attractions:

    Across the street from the Mennello Museum are the Orlando Repertory Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Both offer great shows year round and have strong ties with Disney and UCF.


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