The Wheel at ICON Park Orlando (previously known as the Orlando Eye) observation wheel is the centrepiece of the newly opened ICON Park (formerly I-Drive 360) entertainment complex. At 400 feet it is nearly as tall as The Coca-Cola London Eye and offers visitors a fantastic view of the surrounding area.
Originally operated by the Merlin Entertainment Group as the Orlando Eye, it opened in early May 2015 and in July 2016 was renamed The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye before being rebranded ICON Orlando and then The Wheel at ICON Park Orlando.
You can buy tickets at the door or you can purchase in advance for a specific date/time window.
On entering the attraction, there is a photo opportunity. Then after you finish your ride you will be given the chance to purchase a souvenir photo book containing your photos.
After the photos, you watch a short 3D Imax style film about Central Florida including both sights, sounds, smells and water spray!
Interestingly, there are mentions of the various theme parks like SeaWorld and Universal as well as Legoland Florida (another Merlin attraction) but not a word about Walt Disney World!
After the film, you move outside to board the constantly turning observation wheel.
There is not a lot of time for everyone to board the air-conditioned cabins but staff are on hand to assist. If necessary the wheel can be stopped to help less able guests board and wheelchair and electric scooters are allowed.
Each of the 30 air-conditioned capsules hold up to 15 people and there is plenty of room to move around or sit down. A personal tour guide points out the various landmarks as the wheel makes its 20 minute revolution. The expanses of glass give you a full 360 degree vista over Central Florida.
As part of the Coca-Cola branding, four of the capsules were upgraded to “Surprise and Delight” capsules with additional Coca-Cola branding, a soda cooler and selfie sticks you could borrow to take photos. It was the luck of the draw as to whether you were allocated to these particular capsules, you could not specify them when boarding.
The ride is very smooth and quiet as it is moving so slowly so you should not suffer from any kind of motion sickness but be aware that when your cabin reaches the top of the wheel, you will be around 400 feet above the ground.
Landmarks visible from the top of The Wheel at ICON Park Orlando include:
- downtown Orlando
- the giant Lockheed Martin plant
- the Orange Convention Center
- all the attractions along International Drive including Fun Spot, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, the new Universal hotels on the former site of Wet n’ Wild, SeaWorld and Aquatica
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- the Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain at Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- Spaceship Earth at Disney’s Epcot
- Cirque de Soleil and the Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs
- and on a very clear day, you are supposed to be able to see the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center; one of the largest buildings in the world
However with Orlando’s predominantly a flat landscape, it is not as exciting a view as say the view of historic London from the top of The Coca-Cola London Eye and many of the familiar tourist landmarks are not that distinct as they are quite a distance away and the heat haze can hamper the view.
With a lot of luck and a following wind, it would be cool to witness a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center, from the top of The Wheel, especially at night.
At night the wheel is illuminated and lately has shown support for a number of events both worldwide and locally. You can even pay to have The Wheel give you and your party a baby gender reveal.
Other Merlin Attractions and Tickets
As The Wheel is part of the ICON Park complex, you can also visit one or more of the Merlin attractions on International Drive:
As well as a regular ride ticket you can also purchase a VIP ticket which gives you priority boarding and a glass of champagne as you ride.
When originally announced the Orlando wheel was going to be 425 feet tall but was subsequently reduced to 400 feet. It was built by Intamin, well known for their roller coasters.
For reference The London Eye is 443 feet tall and has 32 passenger capsules each with a capacity of up to 25 people.
As well as Orlando and London, there are other observation “Eyes” in Blackpool, England and Sydney, Australia.