July 8, 2008 at 3:37 PM
Prior to owning a vacation villa in Orlando almost all of the hotels we used to stay in were on and around International Drive. It still holds an attraction to me, much more than the 192, everything looks newer, more so the Plaza end of the drive, which is from Sandlake road heading South towards the Convention Center.
I have seen huge changes to the "Drive" over the years way back when Universal Boulevard was known as Republic Drive and there was little or no construction on it. Since then there has been a boom in hotel and condos springing up everywhere. One of the attractions for me when staying on the drive was that fact that it was easy to leave the car back at the hotel if we wanted and take a stroll to nearby restaurants and shops.
The Pointe Orlando shopping area has seen a few major changes. When it was first built it was a welcome addition for tourists and shoppers with it's Muvico multi screen cinema and many shops and restaurants including Tommy Hilfiger, Armani Exchange, Foot Locker and many more. Restaurants such as Dan Marinos, Johnny Rockets and Hooters were great places to eat but the crowning glory was the arrival of the huge anchor toy store FAO Shwartz with it's gigantic Teddy Bear, Barbie's shoe and toy soldier. Within a few years things started to change and FAO Shwartz closed their doors for financial reasons and some of the other stores and restaurants closed too, including Dan Marinos, relocating a little further away in Dr Phillips. Pointe Orlando has now had a rebirth and is now back to it's former glory with some new venues too. BB Kings Blues Club, The Capital Grill and Redrock Canyon Grille to name just a few.
On the old Mercado site as well as Universal Boulevard there are new Condominium Hotel Towers. Is this the next generation of hotels on the I drive area? These condos will be privately owned but you will be able to rent many of them. Which is better for the families visiting Orlando. The hotels will still do ok with all the delegates and trade show visitors to the now completed huge Orange County Convention Center. To me this was always a bit of a downside staying in hotels close to it as they tended to be more orientated for the business traveller and not so much to the annual vacationer.
I Drive offers so much especially for those that do not have a car and will always have a special place in my heart but for me staying in a vacation home takes a lot of beating!
By Steve Sewell