What's New for December: The most wonderful time of the year!

What
ORLANDO, FL (December 2017) – It’s one of the most beautiful times of year to be in the I-Drive area. Holiday traditions and joyful celebrations transform the Orlando destination into Christmas wonderland guaranteed to have your family singing carols throughout your vacation!
  
Check your holiday list
Begin the holiday season celebration with I-Drive’s 50-ft. tall tree at the Blue Martini outdoor patio at Pointe Orlando. Throughout I-Drive, decorations, special holiday entertainment and visits from Santa at many hotels and restaurants greet visitors who are celebrating their holiday in the area. Meet the Grinch, have a holiday dinner with Pirates, have a photo taken with Santa, shop at the area’s world-famous retail outlets, visit the area’s world-famous theme parks. The nostalgic I-Ride Trolleys, decked out in wreaths and garland and playing holiday music, travel throughout the I-Drive area.
 
For holiday vacation planning, the following is a sampling of the area’s not-to-be-missed holiday events:
 
Dec. 1 - Dec. 30, 2017 
The holidays are hitting I-Drive 360, Home of the Orlando Eye, this month and it’s a celebration you won’t want to miss! Say hello to Santa, ride the Eye Express, enjoy a Holiday Nights Light Show on The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye at 8 pm and 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, and much more! Don’t forget to dine with them on your visit. You won’t want to miss a delicious dish at Tin Roof Orlando, Uncle Julio’s, Sugar Factory, Shake Shack, or any of their other fabulous restaurants. 
 
Rosen Hotels & Resorts
Dec. 1, 2017 - Jan. 1, 2018 (Select dates) 
Enjoy a selection of festive experiences at Rosen Shingle Creek, play with Santa’s Elf Buttersprinkle at Rosen Inn, get Iced Out at Rosen Plaza, and much more! Don’t forget to check out the Christmas Buffet at Rosen Centre Hotel, Café Osceola, and Rosen Plaza. For more details, visit our previous blog, as well as our online events calendar.
 
Universal Orlando Resort
Nov. 18, 2017 - Jan. 6, 2018
Once again, Universal Orlando Resort is putting a little mischief in your merry with their new holiday lineup. Experience Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a moving light show on the castle. Visit Whoville and find yourself in Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale starring The Grinch. Lastly, feel like you’re in New York City at the Macy’s Parade as the Minions, Donkey, and other of your favorite Universal characters join Santa Claus in the all-new Universal Holiday Parade!
  
SeaWorld Orlando
Nov. 24, 2017 - Jan. 6, 2018
SeaWorld has risen to new heights to provide family, friendly, entertainment during the holiday season! Dine with Rudolph, visit Santa Claus at Wild Arctic, laugh at Clyde & Seamore’s hilarious Countdown to Christmas, visit ChristmasTown, watch Shamu’s Christmas Miracles, see a Sea of Trees, and much more!
 
Central Florida Ballet's 17th Anniversary Nutcracker
Orange County Convention Center 
Dec. 14 - Dec. 17, 2017
Taking a hint from local theme parks, Central Florida Ballet merged theNutcrackerfairytale with a touch of Cirque and a glimmer of pyrotechnics creating an unforgettable experience. CFB's production was recognized as 'one of the top five productions in the nation' by CNN and has become known to many as the "pyrotechnicNutcracker" thanks to it's coverage in USA Today. For details & tickets: http://www.centralfloridaballet.com/the-nutcracker/
 
Visitors always enjoy endless I-Drive fun including six of the world's most famous theme parks (SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica - SeaWorld's Waterpark, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Universal's Volcano Bay), restaurants, dinner shows, shopping experiences, mega entertainment complexes, smaller family style attractions and spas. The excitement never stops at the world-famous Orlando resort area and you will want to check out everything that is new!
 
If you haven’t been to the Resort Area lately…don’t miss these recent openings
Make a splash with the Waturi islanders at Universal's Volcano Bay. The new tropical island water park features innovative, thrilling attractions and TapuTapu wearable technology for virtual queuing. Click here for details and remember, "Water is Life. Life is Joy."
  
Soar at iFly Indoor Skydiving's new facility next to WonderWorks on International Drive, equipped with two all-glass wind tunnels in an open single-story floor plan that allows I-Drive visitors to see fliers in action. iflyworld.com
  
Take SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken roller coaster to a new level with "Kraken Unleashed." This new twist on the coaster is the first of its kind virtual reality roller coaster. www.seaworld.com
  
And with all this fun, you have to eat! If you're looking for something spicy, Uncle Julio's Fine Mexican opened their doors on June 27th to join the dining offerings at I-Drive 360. The Texas-based restaurant chain sits near the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, with a patio around the building for a perfect view of the wheel. The Tex-Mex menu includes everything from honey chipotle salmon to cowboy queso. unclejulios.com 
 
The "world's first-ever flying theater," Universal Orlando's "Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon" is open. Check here for more details. 
   
Coca-Cola Orlando Eye is part of the $200 million entertainment destination located in the heart of International Drive. The 400-foot, iconic observation wheel is the centerpiece of this themed complex featuring a dynamic blend of attractions, restaurants, nonstop entertainment and shops. USA Today Travel named it the second largest observation wheel at 400 feet tall. 
  
Joining the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye as part of I-Drive 360’s unique line-up of attractions are world-famous Madame Tussaud’s, SEA LIFE Aquarium, Skeletons and Arcade City. Twice a day, visitors enjoy a $1.5 million water show set to music and color-changing lights. The complex offers free parking in its 1,600-space garage. www.i-idrive360.com
  
Mango's Tropical Café & Nightclub Complex opened its $40 million, 55,000-square-foot restaurant and nightclub providing nonstop live entertainment, dancing and dining. The Latin-themed restaurant and club is an expansion of the Mango's brand in South Beach and is the newest nighttime hotspot on I-Drive. www.mangos.com/orlando
 
Skull Island Reign of Kong, at Univeral's Islands of Adventure, provides a journey deep into a mysterious island, swarmed by enormous prehistoric predators. Check it out here. And also open: The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster. Check details.
 
Andretti Indoor Karting & Games opened September 28, 2017 with 140,000 square feet including multi-level go-karting, laser tag, rock climbing, zip-line, twelve bowling lanes and more. www.andrettikarting.com/orlando/
 
After over 20 years at their current location, Visit Orlando's Official Visitor Center moved September 2017 to the retail space next to Mango's Tropical Cafe this summer. With 6,000-square-feet and 30-foot ceilings, it is more than double their previous space. www.visitorlando.com
 
Staybridge Suites Orlando at SeaWorld had a September 2017 opening with 95 rooms on six floors. ihg.com
 
SeaWorld Orlando opened the new and improved Dolphin Nursery which includes underwater viewing, along with the new Flamecraft Barseaworldparks.com
  
Half Barrel Beer Project, a new micro-brewery and pub opened on Universal Boulevard north of Sea World at 9650 Universal Blvd. www.halfbarrelproject.com   
  
Pollo Tropical opened its first I-Drive location in July 2017. This 3,642-square-foot restaurant will be located near the north end of International Drive. pollotropical.com
  
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at SeaWorld opened a six-story, 181-room hotel, this July. ihg.com
  
Westgate Lakes added 25,000 square feet of meeting space and 25,000 square feet of restaurant/retail space within the existing parking garage. The two projects are part of “The Village Shops at Westgate Lakes,” which includes a steakhouse, Draft’s sports bar, marketplace, arcade and meeting/banquet space. Opened July 2017. westgateresorts.com
  
TownePlace Suites Orlando at SeaWorld completed a six-story, 181-room hotel in June 2017. marriott.com
 
Aquatica, SeaWorld's Water Park opened their brand new Pass Member Pavilion in May 2017. seaworldparks.com
 
Lockbusters Escape Game offers five uniquely themed escape adventure rooms. Opened May 26th. www.lockbustersgame.com
 
Breakout Escape Rooms Orlando is located in the Regency Village Shopping Center on Vineland Ave. Race against the clock with only your logic and wit to save you in one of their three rooms: "The Ringmaster's Den," "Game of Espionage," or the "Zombie Roadhouse." roombreakout.com/orlando
 
Visit Main Event Entertainment, a state-of-the-art bowling experience, at Pointe Orlando with 48,000-square-feet of space. mainevent.com
 
Pio Pio Restaurant, featuring Colombian and Peruvian cuisine, moved to its new, larger location which includes a full bar. www.mypiopio.com
  
The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen has opened at CityWalk. Read all of the yummy details here.
  
The World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's at the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road has re-opened and is the first in the country to have a newly-designed 22-foot-tall kids' jungle gym with slides and tunnels. Eight kitchens prepare more than 200 menu items. http://mcfun.com/ 
 
Hulk Hogan's Beach Shop lets visitors shop for shorts and sunglasses amidst Hogan's memorabilia and Hulkamania inspired keepsakes for purchase. Don't forget to get a selfie with the Hulkster life-sized statues. shophulkhogan.com
  
Homewood Suites Orlando Theme Park opened February 2017 with 134-rooms on 3.5 acres. homewoodsuites3.hilton.com
 
Caribe Royale All-Suite Hotel & Convention Center opened its brand-new Calypso's Pool Bar & Grille this January.  The dining oasis features a Floribbean style menu, specialty craft cocktails, a recreation patio and entertainment.  Guests can enjoy poolside al fresco dining, with a spectacular view of tropical waterfalls. www.cariberoyale.com 
 
Seabra Foods Market at Orlando Crossings Mall opened with 17,000 square feet of shopping space that includes a variety of ethnic products from Portugal, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Spain, and more. http://www.seabrafoods.com/
 
At Universal Orlando, Cabana Bay Beach Resort has expanded by adding a hotel tower with 399 retro designed rooms. Additional details here.
 
Plan ahead
Upcoming events at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center:
 AKC National Championship
Dec. 12-17   website 
 Central Florida Ballet / The NutcrackerDec. 14-17  website 
 
Hot off the press…
Preferred Hotels & Resorts, announces a new partnership with Rosen Hotels & Resorts as the group's three largest hotels, Rosen Shingle CreekRosen Centre, and Rosen Plaza, become fully branded members within the Preferred Hotels & Resorts portfolio. 
 
Orlando International Airport (OIA) plans completion of its $2.15 billion south terminal project for fall 2020. The project will coincide with major theme park expansions.
 
New overpass provides ease of travel for visitors
A long-awaited connection for both tourists and businesses along International Drive soon has opened. The Grand National Overpass, part of the $2.3 billion I-4 Ultimate project, connects Grand National Drive to Caravan Court and provides easier access between the popular retail and entertainment areas of I-Drive on the east side of Interstate 4 with the attractions and hotels on the west side for pedestrians and cars. The overpass includes pedestrian walkways and access ramps for both eastbound and westbound express lanes as part of the project’s overall effort to increase safety and mobility.
  
Check out I-Ride Trolley... the Fun Way to Get Around I-Drive!
As one of the most popular attractions in Orlando’s tourist corridor, the I-Ride Trolley Service has provided an affordable, fun and convenient way to transport visitors to the attractions, shopping, restaurants and accommodations in the International Drive Resort Area.

Fare: Single cash fare, $2.00 per ride; kids cash fare ages 3-9, $1.00 per ride; senior cash fare age 65 and over, $0.25 per ride. Unlimited ride passes are available: one-day pass, $5.00 per person; three-day pass, $7.00 per person; five-day pass, $9.00 per person; seven-day pass, $12.00 per person; 14-day pass, $18.00 per person.

Since it began in 1997, it has been considered the easiest way to travel, allowing visitors to park their cars, save some money and enjoy the ride. And it got easier with a fleet of trolleys equipped with a state-of-the-art automated vehicle location system (AVLS) known as NextBus. With Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking, NextBus technology provides predicted vehicle arrival information and live maps to visitors.

I- Ride Trolley
 information is available via the Internet, smartphones and text messaging. Each of the 105 Trolley stops provides a QR code that visitors may scan for access to a new mobile site - iDrive2Go.mobi - dedicated to the International Drive Resort Area. In addition, the trolley equipment includes security cameras on each vehicle, automatic passenger counters, automated stop announcement system, LED destination signage and LED exterior accent lighting visible day and night.

Go Mobile on I-Drive!
With iDrive2Go.mobi, guests find loads of options for dining, shopping or attractions on I-Drive. The I-Ride Trolley section provides “NextTrolley” information as well as maps and listings of what is near each trolley stop. Access to the mobile site is obtained by QR scanning, SMS texting or by simply going to iDrive2Go.mobi on a smart phone.

The trolleys operate from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. daily. Details along with downloadable maps may be found at http://www.iridetrolley.com
 
Coming Soon
Westgate Resort Condominiums anticipates a late 2017 opening date for a new eight-story, 80-unit condominium building. A second building, also eight-story, 80-unit is scheduled for completion summer 2018. westgateresorts.com
 
The Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando is undergoing renovations on its 176-unit property, including new stainless steel appliances, granite in all kitchens, crown molding, fresh paint, new furniture and TVs. Estimated completion is September 2017. www.wyndhamhotels.com
 
Lexus of Orlando to build a 175,000-square-foot showroom and maintenance facility. Expected completion this fall. www.lexusoforlando.com
 
The Hollywood Plaza Parking Garage to open as a seven-story entertainment and parking complex located directly next to Mango’s Restaurant & Nightclub. To include Circo Orlando, high-end Italian rooftop restaurant, 10 level, 880 space parking facility, 9,500 square-feet of ground level retail and office space. Opening fall 2017.
 
Topgolf Orlando expects a fall 2017 opening for a three-level, 65,000-square-foot entertainment center. Also: private event space and 102 climate-controlled hitting bays. topgolf.com/us/orlando
 
Air Force Fun Orlando Helicopter Tours at Orlando Crossings Mall is scheduled to 'take off' at Orlando Crossings Mall this November 2017. The 2,400-square-foot facility will include a two-story building with two helicopter pads. airforcefun.com
 
Starflyer-Vue at 360 will open the world's tallest spinning swing ride at 440 feet. The tower ride will reach speeds of 40 mph as riders reach the top and begin spinning. The ride will seat 24 passengers. Expected opening November 2017.
 
Residence Inn Marriott Universal Studios, plans a five-story, 145,000-square-foot, extended-stay hotel with 196 rooms. Expected opening is late 2017. marriott.com
 
I-Drive NASCAR will be doubling it's 5,000-square-foot meeting accommodations, adding more space and attractions to its gaming area and redesigning its bar and restaurant. Expected completion late 2017. idrivenascar.com
 
Cambria Hotel & Suites plans a seven-story, 140-room hotel. Expected opening in 2017. choicehotels.com
 
DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld has begun an expansion to include up to 40,000-square-feet of new indoor / outdoor space, which will bring their total meeting space to 100,000-square-feet. Completion in 2017. doubletree3.hilton.com
 
Las Palmeras by Hilton Grand Vacations has started their amenities expansion which includes plans for a new activity center, splash pad, two-story pool waterslide, expanded lounge seating and grass-covered event space. Anticipated completion in the second half of 2017. www3.hilton .com
 
Coming attractions and improvements in 2018 and beyond...
Under new management, the International Palms Resort & Conference Center, a 652-room property has shut down for a 10-month renovation. It will be rebranded as Avanti Palms Resort & Conference Center. Renovations include lobby, guest rooms, dining areas, pools & 20,000 SF of meeting space. Completion expected first quarter 2018. avantiresort.com
 
Vineland Pointe, a three-phase retail center along Daryl Carter Parkway, anticipates breaking ground in June 2017. Total of 69.41 acres and 447,500-square-feet of retail space, to include: Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls, Boot Barn, First Watch, Ulta Beauty, Midici: The Neopolitan Pizza Company, amongst others. Phase 1 opens spring 2018. oconnorcp.com
 
Hyatt House expects to open on I-Drive in June 2018. The $28 million property plans to have 175 rooms. house.hyatt.com
 
Universal Orlando Resort has confirmed their sixth hotel, the Aventura Hotel. The hotel will be 17 stories with an all-glass design, including a rooftop bar.The 600-room hotel is scheduled to open August 2018.
 
SeaWorld Orlando is ready to rush the rapids with Infinity Falls, the world's tallest river rapid drop coming summer 2018. seaworldparks.com
 
Fast and Furious: Supercharged is coming in 2018 to Universal Orlando. Buckle your seat belts and read about it here.
 
Uniq Hotel expects to open in 2018 with 21 floors, 354 rooms, a top-floor adult pool, nightclub and restaurant. www.paramounthospitality.com
 
Hyatt House Hotel started construction on their second Orlando location on Caravan Ct. It will be a 9-story hotel with 168 units. Expected opening in 2018. house.hyatt.com
 
iSquare Hotel and Mall Complex plans to include Capella Suites and Solis Orlando Hotel: two 23-story towers, 539 hotel rooms combined. As well as a 434,800 square-foot multi-level upscale mall, restaurants, meeting room and office space, 25,000 square-foot luxury spa, ice rink, rooftop infinity pool, heliport and seven-story parking garage. Expected opening: 2019. isquareusa.com
 
The Grand National 16.5-acre mixed-use project is underway on North International Drive. It will include 60,000 -square-feet of retail and restaurant space, along with a hotel. Bahama Breeze, Starbucks, Longhorn Steakhouse and U.S. Gift Factory are already confirmed. Expected completion early 2020. www.naproperties.com/projects/grand-national/
 
SKYPLEX Entertainment Complex will open with Skyscraper, the world’s tallest roller coaster at more than 500 feet. Also: SkyFall - a 450-foot drop ride, Skyfly - a 600-foot zipline, Skysurf Park, SkyLedge thrill experience, Sky Jump - 500-foot free fall dive attraction, Sky Plaza - retail & dining area, open-air promenade, indoor arcade, 450 room hotel, and go-kart track. Project size: 1.5 million square feet. Expected opening: 2020. mangos.com/skyplex
 
Awaiting details...
Universal's "Project 566" is the much anticipated development on the former Wet 'n Wild property. It will include two hotels, with a total of 4,000 rooms, pools, pool decks and pool bars, as well as three parking garages. blog.universalorlando.com
 
Super Nintendo World is coming to Universal Orlando Resort. This themed area will be expansive, immersive and interactive, filled with multiple attractions, shops and restaurants based on Nintendo's iconic games, heroes and villains. blog.universalorlando.com
 
SeaWorld Orlando announced a new Sesame Street land will replace Shamu's Happy Harbor play area by fall 2022. seaworldparks.com
 
Fun Spot America is planning an expansion to include new themes, incorporate new food & beverage partners, add coasters, water rides and much more. Visit fun-spot.com
 
Renaissance at SeaWorld is planning to add an additional 41,731-square-feet of new meeting space that would include a 16,503-square-foot ballroom. www.marriott.com
 
The Reserve at Shingle Creek Resort to add a 640-room, 16-story condo tower, walk-in pool and lazy river, additional golf holes, 133,000-square-foot operations building with parking, 36,000-square-foot laundry facility, 150,000-square-feet additional convention space and a multi-level parking garage. rosenshinglecreek.com
December 2017