Long considered just a low-rent alternative to Orlando's major attractions, International Drive is becoming a destination in its own right. There's enough to do on I-Drive to occupy you for a full day, provided you can endure the traffic.
1. FIND AN OUTLET FOR YOUR SHOPPING ADDICTION
Every tourist town in America has its outlet malls, and the Orlando International Premium Outlets mall (4951 International Drive, premium outlets.com/orlando) on the north end of I-Drive is among the biggest. Along with the discount designers, don't miss the Character Warehouse filled with last season's Disney souvenirs. For something completely different, check out nearby Artegon Marketplace (5250 International Drive, artegonmarketplace.com), a sea of artisan stalls installed inside an ex-mall. The vendor selection leans more Magic Mall than Faneuil Hall, but you're sure to spot something unique.
2. GET SOME WOOD
Proving you don't need a big price tag to deliver huge thrills, Fun Spot America (5700 Fun Spot Way, fun-spot.com) sports Central Florida's only wooden roller coaster. This GCI-designed compact out-and-back delivers a surprising amount of out-of-your-seat airtime, and is well worth the $9 for coaster junkies. If you want multiple re-rides, or to race on Fun Spot's patented go-kart tracks, an all-day pass is about $40 with free parking.
3. TASTE INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS
Amid the chain restaurants and rubber lobster buffets, there are actually some ethnic eateries along International Drive worthy of the road's name. If you're looking for an authentically exotic I-Drive lunch, three of the best are Aashirwad Indian Restaurant (5748 International Drive, aashirwadrestaurant.com), Nile Ethiopian Cuisine (7048 International Drive, nile07.com) and Hanamizuki Japanese Restaurant (8255 International Drive, hanamizuki.us)
4. TAKE THE WHEEL FOR A SPIN
The surroundings may not be quite as scenic as at similar observation wheels in London and Las Vegas, but the new 400-foot-tall Orlando Eye (8401 International Drive, officialorlandoeye.com) at I-Drive 360 is sure to provide stellar views of the theme parks. And while $18-$32 for a single 30-minute revolution may seem steep, a $35 combo pass with the adjoining Madame Tussauds wax museum and Sea Life aquarium could be a good way to kill an afternoon.
5. HAVE A MYSTERY MEAL
Orlando is home to several dinner theaters, most featuring stunts, special effects and substandard food. The standout is Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows (8267 International Drive, sleuths.com), which employs some of the area's best comic actors in nightly interactive whodunnits. There are numerous scripts and solutions, and the prime rib and Cornish hen are a cut above the competition.
6. MAKE YOUR ESCAPE
The best way to escape traffic is to stick to Universal Boulevard, which roughly parallels I-Drive from Wet 'n Wild south to the Convention Center. Rejoin I-Drive at State Road 528 and head south past SeaWorld. Once down there, make one final escape, this time from an elaborately themed "puzzle room" at Escapology (11951 International Drive, escapology.com), the slickest of a number of similar attractions to open locally in the last year. For $28, think your way free from an Oriental freighter or Cuban embassy in under an hour, and you'll have conquered I-Drive from top to bottom.