The story was covered nationwide on the Today show, who built up the anxiety by reporting a thunderstorm was moving in, much to the amusement of the crowd of media standing in the courtyard in front of I-Drive 360. In fact, there was a light sprinkle and nothing more, but it was enough to make the structure of the wheel wet and Wallenda commented at one point that his shoes were soaked through. But his walk proceeded unimpeded and, from our vantage point on the ground, he made it look effortless. We could hear his dialogue with the Today show as he mentioned there were gusty breezes, but not overpowering, and that his biggest challenge came from having to duck under the wheel’s supporting structures. When he reached the walk’s ending point he climbed onto one of the structures and gave us all a big wave.
As Wallenda ascended an emergency ladder into one of the Eye’s capsules for the return journey, he encountered the only snag of the walk as the ladder folded onto his hand. Was he fazed by it? A little bit. But being a consummate professional, he simply told the Today show, “I try to stay as calm as possible because once you get scared the adrenaline takes over and it can become very dangerous.”
He then rode on top of the capsule all the way back down to the ground, and even took a selfie as he went. His demeanor was that of a man who was confident, relaxed and, frankly, having fun.
“This was a dream of mine,” Wallenda said. “I’m living out what my family has done for over 200 years. To be able to fulfill these lifelong dreams is an awesome feeling of accomplishment. I hope that I’m bringing pride to all of my family through what I do and really shining the light on those seven generations. I’ve got 15 other family members that currently walk the wire. It’s not just Nik Wallenda. This is about all my family. We’re carrying on a legacy. My great-grandfather said, ‘Life is on the wire and everything else is just waiting’ and for our family, that’s the way we live.”
Then it was the media’s turn. One of the big questions Orlando has had since the wheel was first announced was, “What you can see during the flight?” London has the advantage of a view across history, looking out over such icons as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral. But Orlando isn’t without its icons; as our capsule ascended, we could see Downtown Orlando, Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, Hollywood Studios’ Tower of Terror, Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, Kraken at SeaWorld, and even a sneak peek at the construction in progress at Universal Orlando’s upcoming water park. Our flight had hazy weather to contend with, but, on a clear day, we’re told it’s possible to see as far as the Kennedy Space Center on the Atlantic coast, and the massive Vehicle Assembly Building.
After our journey (which was both thrilling and relaxing), we returned to the terminal to see the completed Sea Life Aquarium. Our last visit was for the filling ceremony, as they began filling the massive tanks that would soon be home to more than 5,000 sea creatures, including fish, sharks, rays, sea turtles, eels, jellyfish, and even a Giant Pacific Octopus. Here is what the tanks looked like then:
And here is what they look like now:
The aquarium lives up to its promise as a fully-engaging family experience, with plenty of hands-on opportunities and some fun characters who impart ocean-orientated facts and info in a fun, kid-centred way. Highlights include a walk-through 360-degree ocean tunnel with a fantastic up-close view of the sharks and rays and a Rockpool experience where guests can touch starfish, hermit crabs and sea anemones.
Want to delve into the ocean experience even deeper? Try one of the backstage tours. The Behind the Scenes Tour costs an extra $5 per person for 20 minutes backstage and includes a visit to the second-storey viewing area over the main tanks. The Discovery Tour lasts 60 minute and involves helping keepers feed the fish and an interaction with one of the divers for $25 per person.
If you follow our blogs, you will remember our first visit to Madame Tussauds, also in the same terminal as the Orlando Eye and Sea Life Aquarium, and if you’re like us you may have noticed the most important person when it comes to Orlando history was missing. But not any more. Walt Disney has been added to the line-up, and he has quickly become one of the most popular photo ops at the museum.
Finally, the I-Drive 360 complex is nearly ready to debut a real curiosity in the form of Skeletons—Animals Unveiled!, in its own storefront just to the right of the main terminal. We had a sneak peek at the museum, where more than 400 animals—or, more accurately, their bones!—have been articulated in group settings such as domestic dogs, African animals, hominoids, and pathology with mutations.
There is a fascinating (if slightly creepy) display featuring the beetles that clean the bones, and a fantastic gift shop with both fun and educational items you’re not likely to find elsewhere. Skeletons is open daily 10am-10pm, $20 adults, $13 children ages 3-11, under 3s free. Not part of the 3-attraction Orlando 360 ticket.
I-Drive 360 is easily a half-day or more experience, ideal for rainy days, the heat of summer, or an evening along I-Drive. Single tickets to the Orlando Eye, Madam Tussauds and the Sea Life Aquarium are available, or you can save with a 3-attraction combo ticket. Even better, book your Orlando theme park tickets with Attraction Tickets Direct before 25 June, 2015, and get all three for free!