International Drive Area
Somewhere there’s an urban dictionary where the phrase “tourist trap” is accompanied by a photo of the garish gash of transient commerce known as I-Drive. Jammed side-by-side along the several miles of this strip is a seemingly endless agglomeration of buffet restaurants, T-shirt shops, tchotchke dealers, mini-golf courses, cheap hotels, sports bars, and bargain steakhouses. It’s nearly unavoidable for visitors who venture out of the Disney cocoon for visits to Universal or SeaWorld.
Wet ’n’ Wild
Owned by Universal Orlando—and therefore eligible for various add-on ticket discounts—Wet ’n’ Wild (6200 International Dr., 407/351-1800, hours vary seasonally, park open year-round, $44.95 adults, $38.95 children, kids 2 and under free) is an I-Drive institution; it was opened in 1977 by SeaWorld creator George Millay and is generally thought to be the first large-scale water park in the United States.
Accordingly, Wet ’n’ Wild’s original incarnation set the tone for its many followers, and its expansion over the years has found it filling every nook and cranny of its 60-acre property with a dizzying array of water rides.
There are more than 20 different attractions at Wet ’n’ Wild, and nearly every one of them involves some variation on hurtling down a wet slide at top speed. There are some exceptions, though, in the handful of skiing activities that take place in and around the property’s lake as well as the 17,000-square-foot wave pool.
Despite its iconic status among water parks, it must be said that the park’s amazing rates for weekday annual passes—available for an additional $5—mean that during the summer, large groups of teenagers descend on Wet ’n’ Wild en masse, making a day at the park a little less family-friendly than some folks might care for.
The garish upside-down building on the side of I-Drive? That’s Wonder Works (9067 International Dr., 407/351-8800, 9 a.m.–midnight daily, adults $19.95, children $14.95), an attraction that takes all the interactive exhibits frequently found in science centers and children’s museums and strips all the educational value from them.
The facility itself has seen better days, and the entertainment value hardly holds up for repeat visits, although as a rainy-day time-killer it’s not too terrible. Games of laser tag can be appended to the admission fee for an additional $4.95.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
It wouldn’t be a tourist trap without a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (8201 International Blvd., 407/351-5803, 9:30 a.m.–midnight daily, $18.95 adults, $11.95 children, kids 3 and under free), now, would it? This “Odditorium” is much like other Ripley’s outposts in other tourist-swarmed locales, featuring shrunken heads, a three-legged man, a Rolls Royce made out of matchsticks, a portrait of the Mona Lisa made out of burned toast, and other sublimely ridiculous things.
The building is hard to miss, as it appears to be sinking into the ground.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition