Hospitality Hive

Updates, opinions, and news for anyone working in Orlando's Hospitality community

I Drive 360 Orlando – Top FIVE Know Before You Go

   This is part one of a two part post about Orlando’s newest – and definitely the highest – attraction, the soon-to-open I Drive 360 Orlando.  This will be my preview post, and then I’ll follow up after opening with first impressions and fun stuff from the grand opening events.

From this angle, 400 ft. in the air doesn't look too bad, right?

From this angle, 400 ft. in the air doesn’t look too bad, right? [front view at entrance to I Drive 360 Orlando]

Yes, it’s true.  Some of us are able to get in before the crowds and take a ‘spin’ around. But no, when I use the word spin I’m not referring to having been on the ride already because technically, well, it’s not quite ready and seriously, who wants to risk their lives just for the sake of scooping a story?  Not the HH Maven, although during my days at USF we were privy to many opportunities to ‘ride the rides’ before the flood gates were open to the masses.  But I digress with that little share because this post is not about a [now] 25 year old attraction.  This is a preview post about the latest and greatest attraction that Orlando has to offer, The Orlando Eye.

I know you’re already thinking I’m a lucky gal, right?  Well, yes, I’ll go ahead and agree with you because I’m not going to lie.  It’s a really cool thing to be able to take a hard hat walk-through while the place is still empty and in advance of an estimated 2 million visitors (year one estimate) coming from every nook and cranny of the universe to see what all the fuss is about.  But beyond the ‘cool’ factor I should also point out that I do make my living as a planner so, among other things, that means I like to know details in advance because how else can a planner avoid near disaster if she isn’t properly informed?  Lucky for you I’m happy to share what I was able to learn about the I-Drive 360 which is the official name of what most people will refer to as The Orlando Eye.

So, for all you other planners out there, here is my list of Top FIVE Things to Know Before You Go which will be after the grand opening date of May 4, 2015:

  1. Parking – FREE as in F.R.E.E. , and they are serious about it because they built a 1600 space parking garage.
  2. Timing – the ride itself is 20 minutes for a full rotation, but add another estimated 15-45 minutes to cover the time it will take to get from the parking garage to the ticket booth, snaking through the normal cue, viewing the 4D Pre-Flight Cinema Experience (with multi-sensory blow-your-mind effects), and then finally boarding.  Admittedly no one should be shocked at this process because we’ve already had years of experience with it at every other attraction, right? Also, each pod will hold up to 15 passengers.  DAILY HOURS are currently set at 10AM-10PM daily Mon-Fri, with a midnight closing on Saturday & Sunday, but expect that plenty of the surrounding restaurants and nightclubs will keep spinning even later for your night time enjoyment.
  3. Pricing – I think you’ll be surprised at the affordability of this one with prices starting as low as $18.00 for online advance purchase adult tickets where you choose the date and time.  For complete pricing go to Orlando Eye Pricing for all the details.
  4. Photo Opps – plenty, and yes, there is an official concessionaire inside the terminal building for those super duper perfect-pose memorable ones.  But, also make sure to pony up to the anchor portion of the ride to snap a selfie because it was cleverly built into the overall architecture of this building.  Sure to be ‘coming soon’ to a FB post Twitter and Instagram account that you have connections to and beyond.  Very cool.
  5. Extra Stuff – more than you can imagine at this point, and definitely more than you will want to absorb or explore in one visit.  (Hey, don’t blame me, that’s the point of building an expansive complex, right?  Gotta get everyone to come back again!) More restaurants, nightclubs and food outlets than I could possibly mention in one blog post, but also a number of stand alone attractions that are worth the extra time and admission prices like Madam Tussaud’s Wax attraction, a Sea Life Aquarium,  and Skeletons:  Animals Unveiled, which will showcase, um, you guessed it,  the inner sanctums of over 400 animals from around the world.  Bones + Animals= Awesome Educational Entertainment.


So there you have it.  A peak at what to plan on when entering Orlando’s newest attraction area.  Oh, and one more really cool thing.  At the base of the entrance will be an orchestrated water fountain show set to music and color changing lights with show times currently scheduled daily at the top and bottom of the hour.   Why?  Because it’s Orlando and we LOVE this stuff, right?




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You Be the Judge – It’s Not JUST a Pie!


TRUE CONFESSION:  I’m writing this at the end of a weekend wherein I taste-tested over, um, gulp, 27 different pies. 

There, I said it, and yes, I’m a pie butt, albeit this past weekend I was officially one for a very good cause.  You see, I was honored/happy/over the moon when I recently found out that I had ‘made the cut’ (oye-now starts the pie puns. . .) to be an official judge at the recently completed National Pie Championships sponsored by the American Pie Council, whose purpose is “committed to preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting America’s love affair with pies.”

Yea, there really is, and you betcha, I really was!

APC Judge sign

First, a little background on this contest, aka the NPC.  It began in 1995, is open to amateur, professional and commercial bakers, and since about 2002 has been held right here in Central Florida.

Oh, what’s that you say?  Enough with the boring details? Well, okay. Now that I’ve escaped (somewhat) from my pie-sugar-coma, I’m going to share some of the amusing photos I snapped during this wonderful experience.

Tools at our judges table - lots of forks, water, and crackers for between the pie bites.

Tools at our judges table – lots of forks, water, and crackers for between the pie bites.



APC choc carmel dream unveiled

Well this doesn’t really need much of an explanation, does it?


APC Pie Learning Center sign

And let me tell you that being a pie judge isn’t as easy as it sounds.  The whole experience left me with a new appreciation for being a judge of just about anything, including but not limited to people accused of crimes. . . cheer and dance competitions. . . talent shows. . .and well, pies.  I quickly found out that these people do take their pies very seriously, and therefore as a judge I felt an obligation to also do the same.  So I began my judge’s journey by calling on a friend who had previously walked the path to pie heaven and asked for some advice.  She offered this, “Take small bites.”

Is there such a thing as a 'small bite' when it's a chocolate bomb?

But, is there such a thing as a ‘small bite’ when it’s a chocolate bomb?


Turns out that was excellent council.  I also did further homework by reading the “Official Judging Guidelines” which outlined some of the many details we had to consider with each and every pie we inspected.  The short list included three main areas for judging strategies:  1] First Impressions (this is where the whole pie was presented to us for viewing), and 2] A Closer Look (a healthy slice was cut and then both the whole pie and the slice were presented to us again for the viewing for an inside/outside look), and 3] Overall Impression wherein we had to answer questions like, ‘was it memorable, and would you purchase it?’  In between the big categories came the good part – the sliced piece was shared among the judges and graded on flavor, mouth feel, crust consistency, aftertaste, and so much more.  This is where that mantra, “take small bites” kept running through my head.

Chocolate Smore Dream Pie, judging the slice by it's looks.

Chocolate Smore Dream Pie, judging the slice by it’s looks was easier said than done.

Oh, and did I mention that my particular category was chocolate cream pies?  Well, now you know, and just to be clear I didn’t even attempt to calculate my calorie intake during this intense undertaking.  Let’s just put it in the ‘extremely high but not yet reaching insulin shock’ category. And for the most part, each pie was delicious in their own unique ways whether it be through their filling, toppings, or crust variations.  (Well, except for maybe those labeled NSA –  no sugar added – but even those weren’t altogether terrible.)  See for yourself how tough this assignment got:


Plus, I spent some time with the APC Executive Director, Linda Hoskins, who claims that she’s not a student of the ‘art of pies’ despite her admission to making over 75 pies in one year alone, “just to get the hang of it.” She also gave me this great quote when asked what being at the helm of this organization means to her: “It’s about more than just piesIt’s about bringing families and people together over something fun and wonderful to bake and eat.” 

Well if that doesn’t just make you want to go out and pick some blueberries then roll out the pie dough I don’t know what would!

And even though National Pie Day was back on January 23, it’s never too late to start planning for next year.  As for me, now that I’ve conquered chocolate cream pies and all their variations, fingers crossed for apple crumb, pumpkin or maybe even a tasty key lime next year!

If you can't find a pie you love here, then you must be a cake lover!

If you can’t find a pie you love here, then you must be a cake lover!


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Do You Like Free?

I know I do, and this week I’m sharing an awesome website about all kinds of things that happen in and around Orlando each week, and many of them are free as in F.R.E.E.  I know it’s hard to believe given that we live in the land of [yawn] $100 per day tickets to you-know-where [sigh], but maybe that’s what makes this information even more sweet.  We all know there are hidden gems in and around OTown, and I’m always happy to share news about any of them that I can.  So check out this website called, appropriately, Orlando at Play, and tell me you don’t just love the areas that scream “FREE Events”?

I’m waiting. Are you channeling the love?

Okay, maybe screaming is a bit of an exaggeration (and it should also be noted that not entirely everything is free – surely your mother already told you that, right?), but you’ve got to agree that there are lots of great performances to chose from and overall, this provides a whole lot of pretty sweet offers.  Check out some of the listings [below] from the 5 Days of Free Events, April 10-15, sponsored by the UCF School of Performing Arts  which includes their departments of performing arts, music and theatre.  Don’t be discouraged when at first glance you see ‘buy tickets now’ buttons because you have to do a little work and click through to find the free parts.  The UCF School of Performing Arts is generously offering these five special days with an incredible variety of performances, and did I mention that many are presented at no charge?  Nada.  No moola. Complimentary, aka FREE:

5 Days of FREE Eventsat Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center                         UCF Celebrates the Arts

6:00PM A Day of Gaming with FIEA 6:00PM Courtyard Movies
7:30PM Icarus at the Edge of Time 7:00PM Simply Dance: UCF Dance Showcase
with Brian Green and Kate Mulgrew 7:00PM High School Band Invitational Concert
11:00AM Animated Shorts 6:00PM Courtyard Movies
12:30PM Civil War Voices: Orlando Rep & UCF Choirs 7:00PM Night of Percussion
2:30PM Collide Contemperary Music Series 7:00PM High School/Middle School Chorus
4:00PM Feature Film and Shorts Invitational Concert
4:00PM UCF Chamber Ensembles
6:00PM Theatre UCF Showcase
6:00PM Courtyard Movies
8:00PM Shakespeare Swings! A Cabaret
10:30AM Civil War Voices: Orlando Rep & UCF Choirs 1:00PM Open Rehearsal of
1:00PM Simply Dance: UCF Dance Showcase Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s Tosca
3:00PM UCF Wind Ensemble & Symphonic Band 6:00PM Opera Master Class
4:00PM Theatre UCF Showcase
6:00PM Courtyard Movies
7:00PM UCF Choirs with Theatre UCF Dancers
So, what are you waiting for?  Now you have no excuse for not getting a little culture in your life this month because, well, not only are most of these artistic offerings FREE but also because the FREE part should make it all the more attractive for you to attend an event that could be a little outside your normal wheelhouse of comfort which might be, oh I don’t know, maybe that easy chair in front of the wide screen in your living room?WARNING:  If interested, get off that couch now because some of these shows are already sold out but will accommodate those willing to wait-in-line and grab seats of those naughty no-show people. (And FYI, normally, this Hospitality Maven doesn’t approve of being a no-show, but hey, when it works in my favor I go with the flow.)

Civil War Voices?  Shakespeare Swings! A Night of Percussion?  I mean, come on, let’s  stop complaining about the high cost of performance events and patronize unique things like this, not just because they’re free but because a whole lot of people have put forth a whole lot of effort to offer all these great events in the hopes of enriching your lives, one talented performance at a time.  That’s right, someone out there believes that an art-enriched life is a happier one (hello, anyone with me on this one?), and since we already know that we live in/near/around the (get ready, you know it’s coming) ‘happiest place on earth’, let’s do our part to keep those musical toes a tappin’ and magic wands a wavin’. ( Forgive me.  Sometimes I can’t help myself.) Make sure to sign up for Orlando at Play, which is brought to your inbox weekly courtesy of United Arts of Central Florida.  I’m obviously a fan and hope you will be, too because this is a true show of hospitality right here in our own backyards.

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