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Avoiding Orlando's I-Drive means missing out on a whole lot of gems

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It’s funny how Orlando’s biggest industry is also the bane of every resident’s existence. For many, International Drive is strictly a workplace – and there’s little room to hang out among the millions of tourists who clog the tourism district every year. If our annual visitors don’t discourage you from dropping by one of I-Drive’s theme parks or kitschy attractions, the inhumane gridlock called Interstate 4 will do the trick. But avoiding this area of Orlando means missing out on a whole lot of gems, even if they are stuck between two different dinner theaters. Be a tourist in your town without ever having to pick up a passport.

EAT

Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

7048 International Drive, 407-354-0026, nile07.com

Finally, a place both vegetarians and carnivores can agree is delicious. This cozy Ethiopian eatery serves a savory array of meat and vegetable platters on top of spongy injera bread (no spoons needed).

Café Tu Tu Tango

8625 International Drive, 407-248-2222; cafetututango.com

The tradition of Spanish tapas collides with the celebration of art to bring you Café Tu Tu Tango. Mouthwatering small plates of food go hand-in-hand with local artists and performers. Always remember to tip the fortune teller.

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse

8282 International Drive, 407-370-0711, fogodechao.com

If I-Drive is the land of Brazilian steakhouses, then Fogo de Chão is its king. Known for its wonderful service, this churrascaria serves decadent cuts of meat in so many varieties you'll have to come twice.

Tapa Toro

8481 International Drive, 407-226-2929, tapatoro.restaurant

Chef Wendy Lopez and her team treat customers right with Spanish specialties like jamon Iberico, authentic paella and all the sangria you can slug.

Gostoso Bakery

5472 International Drive, 407-447-8946, gostosobakery.us

From pão de queijo (cheese bread) to delicacies like brigadeiro (a type of chocolate bonbon), you can find all the yummy Brazilian pastries you'd ever want at Gostoso Bakery.

DRINK

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar

9101 International Drive, 407-226-1600, cubalibrerestaurant.com

Party people love Cuba Libre not only for its variety of handcrafted mojitos, but also for its commitment to playing the best in bachata, merengue and salsa every weekend.

Icebar Orlando

8967 International Drive, 407-351-0361, icebarorlando.com

Claiming to be the "largest permanent ice bar in the world," this frozen watering hole features 70 tons of hand-carved ice sculptures kept intact by keeping the temperature at 22 degrees. Party in free thermal parkas and gloves you'll get from the bar's "Ice Princesses."

GO

Gods & Monsters

5421 International Drive, 407-270-6273, godmonsters.com

Gods & Monsters is one of the last surviving remnants of Artegon Marketplace, and thank the stars for it. Meet all your fantastical needs in this enormous comics and collectibles shop, with an added gaming bar.

I-Drive 360

8445 International Drive, 407-601-7907, i-drive360.com

Mammoth entertainment complex that features the Orlando Aquarium, the breathtaking 400-foot-high views from the Orlando Eye and Madame Tussauds wax museum (where you can use a selfie stick without judgment).

Kings Dining & Entertainment

8255 International Drive, 407-363-0200, kings-de.com/Orlando

Not your grandma's bowling alley. Kings Dining & Entertainment features 22 lanes, billiards tables, a bocce court, ping-pong, shuffleboard and tasty appetizers.

Skeletons: Museum of Osteology

8441 International Drive, 407-203-6999, skeletonmuseum.com

Celebrate vertebrate life in this family-owned museum that features the skeletons of hundreds of animals from all over the world.

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

8201 International Drive, 407-345-0501, ripleys.com/orlando

Where else in Orlando can you find decorated Tibetan skulls, a real vampire-killing kit and a spinning vortex tunnel?