Orlando has tons of between-the-cracks entertainment – fun diversions that eat up a few hours – and it’s about to get more in Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and a giant Ferris wheel called “The Orlando Eye.” (When Ferris wheels get big enough, they apparently become “observation wheels,” however.)
Most weekly visitors try to take a one-day break to recoup, but kids (and some adults) go through ride withdrawal. They’ve dipped, sped, and dived for three solid days, and by God they need to ride or tour something or they’ll go nuts. Orlando already has tons of small attractions hoping to nab these bonus tourist dollars, and a giant observation wheel and wax museum will surely attract their share of attention when they debut in 2013.
Merlin Entertainment, which is also developing Legoland a half hour south of Disney, plans the complex on International Drive (I-Drive to locals) and calling it “I-Walk Orlando.” I-Drive runs parallel to I-4, the major artery through Orlando, and everyone driving to or from the theme parks will see the 425-foot observation wheel en route. It will sell itself. (Visitor tip: Florida is flat. Any building taller than 10 stories provides a commanding view, and an elevator trip to the top of a major hotel is your free ticket.)
The center part of I-Drive, while difficult to maneuver in a car, is tourism’s carnival area. It already has fake skydiving (a giant fan keeps you aloft), go-kart racing, midway rides, and a couple thrill attractions that shoot tourists up in the air on something akin to giant rubber bands. All are sandwiched between moderate-to-cheap hotels and junk food that appeals to virtually any palate. The I-Walk complex will sit on the south side of the midway, just a few blocks north of the convention center.
A giant observation wheel will be a welcome addition to Orlando, and wax versions of Michael Jackson, Charlie Sheen, and Mel Gibson should feel right at home.