From New York to Paris and London to Barcelona, millions of visitors have sampled the sightseeing opportunities with this iconic company, and the Orlando version will add some significant new wrinkles to this tried-and-trusted formula.
Not only will Orlando’s buses offer the same hop-on, hop-off system of the big-city variety, they will also feature a unique Theme Park Express transport service that visits each of Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando multiple times a day.
It is all part of the latest transport initiative from long-running excursion company Florida Dolphin Tours (who also offer ATD’s Florida Adventure Tour and Miami Beach Getaway, among several others), and owner Andy James told us all about it.
“I have wanted to do this for about eight years,” he explained. “Just from riding on the open-tops in London and New York – and pretty much world-wide – it was an idea that really appealed to me. Then, from conversations with our customers and looking at how to get from International Drive to the theme parks cheaply and safely, we came up with the Theme Park Express. Having done transport here for 20 years, the city needed something to allow people to get from here to Disney and here to Universal without getting on public transport or shuttles or taxis.”
The sightseeing tours and Theme Park Express are also combined with a ticket for the popular I-Ride Trolley, meaning visitors to the area can take advantage of a comprehensive transport system linking the whole of this tourist corridor.
“Now, if you’re on I-Drive and want to go to Disney Springs or Epcot, you can. Or, if you want to get from Universal to the Florida Mall, or Gatorland, or Premium Outlets, we have the bus service for you. The hop-on, hop-off bus is our crown jewel. It is fully narrated for the history and facts of the area, and having the open-top buses as an option is very cool. We have 13 double deckers in all, in three configurations, so people can enjoy the type that fits their personality best.”
The full sightseeing tour works along a set route roughly every 25 minutes, with the full circuit taking around 1hr and 45 minutes (traffic permitting). It starts from Pointe Orlando on I-Drive (at the special bus stop next to the Copper Canyon restaurant), and heads north to International Premium Outlets and the Neiman Marcus department store at Mall of Millenia, before retracing its route back onto I-Drive for the Universal Orlando bus stop.
It then goes south again along Turkey Lake Road, providing stops at the excellent Dewey’s Sports Bar, Walmart and the big Westgate Resort backing on to Sand Lake. From there, it pulls in to SeaWorld and, back on I-Drive, to Floridays Resort and Vineland Premium Outlets. Next stop is Disney Springs before the bus heads back north, revisiting the Vineland Premium Outlets and returning to Pointe Orlando via the Sheraton Vistana Villages resort and Orange County Convention Center.
It makes for a substantial ‘slice’ of this busy tourist corridor, with quite a bit to see en route, especially the stretch of Turkey Lake Road going south from Universal, and 22 stops in all (from 10am-6pm daily). It also provides a grandstand view of I-Drive itself, pretty much covering the whole stretch that most visitors see, but with a unique vantage point.
We were able to sample the route from Pointe Orlando to International Premium Outlets (one of the biggest shopping magnets for British visitors!), on both the open-top bus and one of the covered, air-conditioned variety, and can definitely attest to the great view. As we nearly always travel by car, it was fascinating to get the elevated viewpoint of some familiar sights, which included a fascinating glimpse of the demolition of Wet ’n Wild water park, which is being cleared to make way for new hotels since Universal opened its fab new Volcano Bay park.
It was amazing (and slightly sad) to see the extent of the clearance work behind the construction walls, and to see such an iconic I-Drive location reduced practically to rubble. There is still a LOT of work to do for the site to be fully demolished, but hopefully the new development will be quick to replace it and provide some smart new alternatives to stay in this area.
Although it was quite a warm afternoon, the open-top bus was definitely a more comfortable option than its closed-top cousin, and it was fun to look down on so much of I-Drive. We can certainly see this being a popular choice for those just interested in sightseeing, but it also represents a great way to tour the area and take in all the essential shopping centres along the way.
There is then an additional bus route that goes straight from Pointe Orlando to the huge shopping magnet of the Florida Mall, and on to Gatorland. Yes, you can do it via the city Lynx Bus system, but it is much slower and you don’t get the double-decker vantage point.
The Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour is also well priced at $28/adult ($20 for children) for one day, and there are also tickets for three, five, seven and even 14 days at $50, $65, $75 and $100 ($30, $50, $60 and $80 for kids), which works out at great value for the full two-week option.
Finally, the Theme Park Express option, for direct transport from I-Drive to Disney and Universal, also has ticket varieties for 1, 3, 5, 7 and 14 days, and this works especially well in conjunction with the ticket for the I-Ride Trolley, which brings guests to Pointe Orlando to catch the Express.
All in all, this is an exciting and potential-rich possibility for transport in and around the main tourist areas, and not just for those who don’t like to drive. With the fully narrated sightseeing tour, you will see quite a bit more than you can from behind the wheel of a hire car, and you might even learn some fun facts about Orlando along the way!
For more info, be sure to look up City Sightseeing Tours.
Have questions? Join us on the Attraction Tickets Direct discussion forums, and be sure to tell us about YOUR I-Drive experiences!
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