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Family reunions - magical gatherings in the International Drive Resort Area

Reconnect. Celebrate cherished family memories. Enjoy being together. Make some new memories. Have fun. Laugh until you cry. This is what family reunions are all about.
 
There is no better place than the International Drive Resort Area. In the center of the best that Orlando has to offer for family gatherings…six of the world’s most famous theme parks (SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica Water Park, Wet ‘n Wild, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure), great restaurants, renowned shopping experiences, mega entertainment complexes, smaller family style attractions.
 
And there is so much that is new and opening soon! This is just a samplingto put on the schedule for your next reunion:
 
Orlando’s new $200 million entertainment destination and home to the Orlando Eye is open! Located in the heart of International Drive, the Orlando Eye’s 400-foot, iconic observation wheel is the centerpiece of this themed complex featuring a dynamic blend of attractions, restaurants, clubs and shops. USA Today Travel named The Orlando Eye the second largest observation wheel at 400 feet tall. Read about it here.
  
Joining the Orlando Eye as part of I-Drive 360’s unique line-up of attractions are world-famous Madame Tussaud’s, SEA LIFE Aquarium and Skeletons: Animals Unveiled! In addition, the complex includes restaurants, shops and entertainment venues: iCafe de Paris, Sugar Factory restaurant and upscale candy shop, Tin Roof live music bar, Cowgirls Rockbar Orlando country western bar, Paramount Fine Foods, Naru Restaurant & Sushi Bar and Tapa Toro. I-Shops retail and dining complex is home to BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, Cooper's Hawk Winery, Chuy's Tex-Mex restaurant, LongHorn Steakhouse and Walgreens. www.unicorpusa.com
  
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.

Ticket prices:
The Orlando Eye, $13 for children ages 4-11; $25 for adults
Madame Tussauds Orlando, $13 for children; $25 for adults
SEA LIFE Aquarium, $13 for children ages 3-12; $25 for adults
Online tickets bought in advance will be slightly cheaper for adults at the attractions. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the website here.
 
Diagon Alley  lets visitors explore more of the wizarding world than ever before at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Enter Diagon Alley from the streets of London. Dine at the Leaky Cauldron, see a wand choose a wizard at Ollivanders wand shop, and experience the excitement of a multi-dimensional new thrill ride inside Gringotts bank. Check here for details.
 
Mango's Tropical Café & Nightclub Complex has opened. The $40 million, 55,000-square-foot Mango's Tropical Café restaurant and nightclub is located at the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road and will provide nonstop live entertainment, dancing, dining. The Latin-themed restaurant and club is an expansion of the Mangos brand in South Beach and is open daily at 11:45 a.m. for lunch; 6 p.m. for dinner and dancing and closing at 3 a.m. Check for dinner show seatings and more at www.mangos.com/orlando
 
Opening in 2016 
Skull Island: Reign of Kong, a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional ride, plans a summer 2016 opening at Universal’s Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort. www.universalorlando.com/email-signup/skull-island-reign-of-kong.aspx
SeaWorld Orlando plans to open its Mako, a 200-foot-tall coaster opening this summer.  Named for one of the ocean's fastest known sharks, it will be Orlando's tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster, reaching speeds of 73 mph as it races along 4,760 feet of steel track. www.seaworldorlando.com
 
Universal Orlando Resort and Loews Hotels & Resorts plans to open the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort this summer. It will include 1,000 rooms and suites with a casual Caribbean theme, built around a lagoon and towerin waterfall. Visit www.universalorlando.com/Hotels/Loews-Sapphire-Falls-Resort.aspx.
  
Whether your family is looking for the thrill of the theme parks, playing on one of the area's golf courses or the endless selection of shopping and dining, the I-Drive area provides the perfect place for families to spend time together in Orlando's tourism corridor.
 
With more than 100 resorts and hotels of all sizes and offerings, accommodations are available to fit every reunion budget from exclusive resorts with spas to suite hotels to budget-minded properties. And they are all close to the fun and excitement with the I-Ride Trolley Service that will deliver you to almost any location in the resort area. Park the car. Leave the driving to the Trolley conductor and enjoy the fun way to get around International Drive! And taking the Trolley will save visitors dollars while traveling around the I-Drive Area.
 
It's a bargain: Single cash fare, $2.00 per ride; child cash fare, $1.00 per ride (ages 3 to 9 with paying adult); senior fare 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).
 
In addition to the theme parks and the new attractions, also consider family reunion fun at some of the area's other venues:
  
At Pirate's Dinner Adventure, live the pirate's life at this unique interactive dinner show!" Featuring a multi-million dollar, Broadway-styled musical comedy theatre, showcasing a swashbuckling, action packed adventure, and sumptuous Pirate's feast of Caribbean delicacies all on board an authentically replicated 18th century Spanish Galleon.
 
Experience 16 galleries of odd and unusual exhibits from around the world at Ripley's Believe it or Not! Orlando Odditorium where you'll find the most bizarre sights.
 
Head to Pirates Cove Adventure Golf for an adventure fun for the whole family equipped with waterfalls, mountain caves and pirate hideouts.
 
WonderWorks offers over 100 interactive exhibits fun for everyone at Orlando's only up-side down attraction!
 
Titanic the Artifact Exhibition lets visitors explore full-scale recreations of Titanic's most famous locales, including her Grand Staircase, First Class Parlor Suite, Veranda Cafe and Promenade Deck. Exceptionally trained historians in period costume portray famous Titanic notables such as Capt. Smith and Molly Brown, sharing stories of her passengers and crew during a guided journey.
 
Check out Dave and Buster's where you can Eat. Play. Win! Enjoy a variety of dining choices and interactive games. 
  
This is just the beginning of what the area has to offer. Check here for a complete list. 
 
It’s Not Just Dining! It's an Adventure!
Celebrating with family over great meals is a big part of any reunion. You will not want to miss the choices of themed, quality entertainment combined with great food and fun for the entire family! From the world's largest McDonald's PlayPlace (being rebuilt and transformed into the new "World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's." The almost 19,000-square-foot restaurant has welcomed millions of guests from all over the world since opening in 1976. Completion for the 19,000-square-foot restaurant is scheduled for spring 2016 but the current restaurant will remain open until that date) to dining with pirates, dining will be a memorable part of any family reunion. Many dinner theaters offer group discounts, so be sure to ask when planning your reunion.
  
All of the familiar restaurant chains that you have at home are located in the I-Drive area...along with many more.  In addition to the themed dining experiences, there are choices in family-style restaurants, fast food dining and an endless selection of international cuisines from which to choose. For a complete listing, go to Dining!
 
Don’t Forget the Camera…Theme Park Memories!
 
Be sure to check with the theme parks for discounted tickets for groups as well as special services such as catering, event and banquet space and assistance in event planning. Some parks even offer exclusive tours for groups.
 
Accommodations cater to families 
 
Most accommodations in the area have programs for family reunions and someone on staff to assist with your planning. Many offer discounts for groups so be sure to inquire when planning your reunion. Where to Stay?
 
Tips for planning your magical family reunion:
 
Form a committee to begin planning 12-18 months prior to the reunion. There are magazines devoted to family reunions that are very helpful. Special software programs may be found on-line to assist with the planning.
 
Select a date and a back up date. Check with family to avoid conflicts.
 
Determine how many people will be attending and how many rooms you will need.
 
Think about an itinerary. There are many attractions in the area that are perfect for reunions. Plan activities for the family to do together and also allow some free time for exploring the area. Consider the ages of all member of the family. Use this site to help decide activities and dining options.
 
Determine budget. Set up an account to keep track of expenditures.
 
Select an accommodation on I-Drive that is best for your family. Work with the reunion planner at the accommodation. Ask about group discounts for rooms and tickets.
 
Establish good communications! Everyone needs time to plan and budget for an out of town reunion.
 
Prepare guest list. It is a good idea to send “save the date” postcards as soon as possible with dates and location information.
 
Develop program. Book reservations. Inquire about group discounts at dinner theaters restaurants. And theme parks.
 
For a detailed list and schedule of when to implement planning, visit http://www.visitorlando.com/things-to-do/weddings/reunions-gatherings/
 
Prepare welcome bags: Sunscreen, program, disposable camera, Official I-Drive Visitors Guide, map of the area, info on the hotel, etc. Make it fun!
 
After the reunion: Make sure that you have collected all cameras! Prepare a newsletter of stories and photos. All of your great memories form the reunion. Be sure to include an updated list of contact information for each member of the family.
 
01/2016
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