The Other Orlando – Chicago Tribune Article

Filed under: Hidden Orlando,Just For Fun,Leisure,Vacation Tips |

They don’t call it miniature golf anymore. The term nowadays is adventure golf, as in Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf. They’re part of the other Orlando, the under-the-radar part that exists outside the Disney-Universal-SeaWorld triumvirate and, with two notable exceptions, thrives mostly along a 4-mile stretch of International Drive, I-Drive for short.

I-Drive is a dizzying, often overwhelming compression of businesses that live for the tourist trade. The list goes something like this: 226 places to eat, 102 hotels and motels, 41 movie screens not counting those at Universal’s CityWalk, 18 car rental offices, eight gas stations, seven supermarkets, six night clubs, five Walgreens, four 7-Elevens, an unknown quantity of vacant lots and an ever-shifting number of Bargain World souvenir outlets.

That’s not the whole list, you understand. That’s just the backdrop for things like Fun Spot Action Park, Skull Kingdom and Sports Dominator–all establishments that leave you wondering exactly what goes on inside. This is also the place to lie on a bed of nails (WonderWorks), skydive without a chute (Sky Venture Orlando Indoor Skydiving) or see a deck chair salvaged from a famous shipwreck (Titanic–The Experience). You can even play mini–no–adventure golf.

On the whole, I-Drive is as hypnotic and as exhausting as the Las Vegas Strip. When it becomes too much, it’s time to remember those two exceptions I mentioned: the tranquil un-park of the Holy Land Experience, about 3 miles northwest of I-Drive, and the roadside attraction of Gatorland, 11 miles south-southeast of I-Drive.

– – –

A WORLD OF THEIR OWN: Beyond the kingdoms of Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, there exists another Orlando with smaller attractions. Here are the more prominent among those:

Air Florida Helicopter Charters, Congo River Adventure Golf, Fun Spot Action Park, Gatorland Hawaiian Rumble, Adventure Golf,,The Holy Land Experience, International Drive, Magical Midway, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Skull Kingdom, Sky Venture Orlando Indoor Skydiving, Titanic–The Experience, Wet ‘n’ Wild, WonderWorks.

A break from the big stuff on Orlando’s I-Drive

Getting around

During the day, the traffic’s not so bad. You can drive from Universal to SeaWorld in 15 or 20 minutes by way of International Drive, with only the lights to stop you. But by night, you might entertain the idea of bringing a few sandwiches, an ice chest of drinks and maybe a book of crossword puzzles to sustain you because by night, I-Drive, as it’s affectionately known, is a place where cars move at a glacier’s pace.

It’s hard to get angry about it. Drivers are courteous–there’s something about a vacation that brings this out in people–hardly anyone is honking, and besides, everyone’s here on this 4-mile section of pavement for the same reasons you are. They’re trying to get back to the room or to dinner, to the pharmacy for the aspirin forgotten at home or to the mini golf the kids spotted that morning.

If you’ve ever braved Missouri Highway 76 in Branson, Mo., at a time of day when everyone is trying to go to the theaters, if you’ve ever found yourself inching between water parks along U.S. Highway 12 in Wisconsin Dells, if you’ve ever idled on the Las Vegas Strip with the engine threatening to overheat and the AC at full blast, then you already understand about I-Drive: Its frustrations are balanced by its fascinations.

There’s no telling how many businesses survive here, even thrive, because of that most human imperative to get out of traffic, pull into a parking space and Do Something. A lot of other people–2.06 million last year alone–deal with the drive by hopping the I-Ride Trolley, which operates two lines that snake through the heart of I-Drive and venture to malls beyond. The trolley gets stuck in traffic along with the rest of the vehicles. But for $1 per ride–less for seniors, kids and those who purchase multi-day passes–at least you’re out from behind the wheel and out from under the gasoline bill. And you can get off at more than 50 designated stops.

Shopping around

Even if you never make it as far as Prime Outlets Orlando and Festival Bay Mall to the north or Orlando Premium Outlets to the south, I-Drive at its core still has plenty of places to buy stuff: seven shopping strips or plazas including The Mercado and Pointe Orlando, for instance. It turns out that the curiously named Sports Dominator isn’t a carnival ride or a video arcade but a sporting goods store, albeit one where action figures two stories tall welcome you to the parking lot.

I’m not sure if there’s a correlation, but there are 18 places where you can get snack-attack stuff like candy, doughnuts, ice cream or coffee, and another 18 stores where you can buy clothes, sportswear and shoes. There’s also an Internet cafe and a couple of music stores. The tattoo parlor in one of the strip centers got me to wondering whether its presence was a weed in the mainstream-travel garden or proof that the practice has become boringly un-taboo.

I stopped thinking about that the minute I got to Bargain World, seeing as how its locations are full of cut-rate T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, swimsuits, tote bags and stuffed animals. They had shelves loaded with discounted Mickeys and Minnies, Shreks and Fionas and Shamus; small glass vials labeled “Florida” that held no more than a teaspoon of sand; picture frames made of sea shells; and a table full of real alligator heads with their jaws forever open, in varying sizes.

Dinner patrol

If you’re here in the daytime, you can choose to eat at any of the following: six Brazilian grills; 14 Chinese sit-down restaurants and/or buffets; two Cuban places; eight Indian; five Italian; 10 Japanese grills or sushi bars; five Mexican; one billed as Moroccan, though Mediterranean might be a more suitable category; 21 pizza joints; seven places to get seafood; 21 steak houses, seven of which are all-you-can-eat buffets; two Thai; several chain pubs, diners and cafes like Bennigan’s, Chili’s, Denny’s and IHOP; and 27 national name-brand fast-food hamburger stands and sandwich shops, including what claims to be the World’s Largest McDonald’s.

Theoretically, you could also eat at your choice of these spots by night. But in reality it doesn’t work out that way. You discover that you are in the wrong lane or on the wrong side of the street. Polite as the other drivers may be, you either can’t get over or you get over only to find nary a parking space.

I deliberately ate at IHOP for breakfast because I like their Harvest Grain and Nut Pancakes; at IHOP you know what you’re getting. I deliberately had lunch at Cafe Tu Tu Tango because, in these days of concept-is-everything, its concept of art-plus-tapas sounded interesting. It wasn’t. I passed on buying any of the high-school-quality artwork that covered the walls; and I refused to order the Gator Bites, which the waiter described as fried bits of breaded alligator meat.

For dinner, I missed Fish Bones, the seafood place I wanted to try–wrong lane the first time, no parking the second. Instead, on two different nights, I found myself at Chinese places I’d be happy to go back to: Trey Yuen Restaurant, where the prices were reasonable, the service attentive and the clientele predominately Asian; and Ming Court, with its grand dynastic decor, serene atmosphere and lightning-fast service. I bought sandwich makings for the rest of my I-Drive stay.

If you want to eat at one of the dinner theaters–Pirate’s Dinner Adventure or Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Theater in the heart of I-Drive, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede on the north end or Arabian Knights out near Walt Disney World–you’ll need reservations.

Playing along

Most of the activities on I-Drive are self-explanatory. Wet ‘n’ Wild is a water park. The mini-golf parks offer exactly that. Fun Spot Action Park and Magical Midway deliver go-kart tracks, arcades and carnival-like rides. Air Florida Helicopter Charters takes you on flights of varying lengths and routes.

But some attractions need a little more explaining. Skull Kingdom gives haunted-house tours by day and dinner magic shows by night. Sky Venture Orlando Indoor Skydiving puts you in a flight suit and helmet, instructs you on wind-tunnel dynamics, then takes you soaring in its vertical shaft.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is a museum of the weird that exhibits oddities from around the world. WonderWorks is a sort of hands-on science lab, where you can experience mild hurricane-force winds (not so bad, I thought), see what a 5.3 earthquake feels like (this wasn’t working right when I was there), lie on a bed of 3,497 nails (not as bad as it sounds, but you wouldn’t want to spend a night on it), leave your shadow behind (something about the light-absorption properties of the special wall they use for this), design and ride a virtual roller coaster, see what you’ll look like 10 years from now or what you’d look like if you were from another race. Before you leave you can play a drum accompaniment to your favorite rock tunes.

At Titanic–The Experience, you’re assigned the name of a real passenger from the fated vessel before a guide in period costume leads you to re-creations of a First-Class cabin’s sitting room and the Grand Staircase (with a very different candelabra). Along the way you’ll see historic artifacts such as an actual deck chair that was salvaged the night of the disaster, touch an ice wall to see what an iceberg might feel like and walk along an “exterior deck” where the temperature is cold but not nearly as low as the night of the sinking. At the end, you learn whether you, or rather the passenger name assigned to you, survived. From the movie “Titanic,” there’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s actual boarding costume and a re-creation of Kate Winslet’s boarding costume. In the gift shop you can buy a paste replica of the movie’s necklace for $20.

If you need a change of scenery, or action for that matter, there are several places along I-Drive where you can catch a shuttle to Port Canaveral for a free half-day cruise with Sterling Casino Lines.

Beyond I-Drive

The classic American roadside attraction, anywhere U.S.A., was always a private-property mom-and-pop operation, kitschy, on the outskirts of town, with a souvenir shop, snack bar and restrooms. That’s what Gatorland still is. The minute you walk through the teeth of the man-made `gator mouth, you’ve gone back in time to a place where families crowd ’round to watch men wrestle alligators at one exhibit or, at another, to see alligators leap from the water to eat the chickens (not live ones, of course) park employees offer at the end of long poles. For an extra couple of dollars, you can ride the train around the park and see the original ‘gator truck that the original park owner used to collect and transport the animals.

At the other end of the attraction spectrum is a far different spectacle, The Holy Land Experience. Part park, part evangelical outreach, it re-creates Biblical locations, events and themes from a Christian perspective. On the steps of a scale model of The Great Temple, a musical number tells the story of the Roman centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus. At a scale model of the Wilderness Tabernacle, the Jewish priesthood and sacrificial system are explored.

Lectures take place at a re-creation of the Garden Tomb and at an indoor scale model of what Jerusalem would have looked like in A.D. 66. An actor playing the part of Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount at the rocky outcroppings of a replica of the Dead Sea caves at Qumran.

vodafone tl yükleme kontör yükleme hamile giyim turkcell fatura alanya escort işbankası kredi kartı borç sorgulama elektrik faturası ödeme turkcell tl yükleme tl yükleme hgs yükleme pvp serverler site ekle r57 shell indir antalya escort yapı kredi borç sorgulama finansbank borç sorgulama akbank borç sorgulama ogs yükleme enerjisa fatura ödeme clk akdeniz fatura ödeme