My family and I always enjoyed an afternoon at Festival Bay Mall, but we enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons. Though Festival Bay was a fun place, it was far too quiet for a mall. My children loved going there because they were amused at the feel of having one million square feet of generally open space to themselves. I really did expect to see a tumbleweed roll through there eventually. I always thought it was a beautiful building – it was just so barren. What was there was great – it just needed more. Empty shops teased with dramatic floor-to-ceiling draped screens depicting what it would look like… if businesses occupied the spaces. It was eerie, to say the least.
Then came the announcement of an overhaul. I was anxious to consider the stereotypical mall shops that would soon be taking up residence in Festival Bay. Malls aren’t really my cup of tea, but I was glad to see the potential of this space being realized. Much to my surprise, the plan for the renovation was more elaborate than simply filling “dead” space between the hold-out anchor stores. Festival Bay Mall would be reborn as Artegon Marketplace, an entirely new shopping and entertainment experience.
Along with Festival Bay’s remaining anchors: Bass Pro Shops, Cinemark Theater, Fuddruckers, Book Warehouse, Ron Jon Surf Shop, and Shepler’s Western Wear; Artegon ushers in new favorites unlike any you’ll find in neighboring malls, outlet centers, and flea markets. In some ways, Artegon combines the flavors of all three, which is part of its one-of-a-kind appeal.
We were on-hand for Artegon’s Grand Opening on November 20, and we returned last week for a closer look. There’s no denying that the Festival Bay facelift was a giant leap in the right direction, and an important ingredient in the current wave of improvements and additions to the I-Drive district.
Artegon owners, Paragon Outlet Partners, have introduced Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill as a new anchor. Toby Keith’s is 20,000 square feet of country-loving, food, drinks, music, and fun. Between Toby Keith’s and the freshly-painted Fuddrucker’s, Berghoff German Beer Hall is set to open early in 2015. This will occupy 20,000 square feet of space, with an additional 5,000 square feet devoted to an outdoor beer garden. Future anchor tenants include Revolutions Eat, Drink, Rock, and Bowl – a bowling complex with a modern twist, Radbourne Skatepark – which will occupy the 50,000 square feet that once was Vans Skatepark, and Gods and Monsters – one of the world’s largest comic book shops, featuring a Sci-fi gaming lounge.
My son always loved the jump-oline attraction at Festival Bay. It looks like Artegon has given this concept an upgrade as well, in the form of two new, substantial attractions. Sky Trails, a 47 foot tall ropes course, is already up and running, while Sky Zone indoor trampoline park will be opening next year.
As if this wasn’t a worthwhile smorgasboard of entertainment already, Artegon has kept another Festival Bay favorite – Putting Edge Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf. Yes, we have a lot of mini-golf venues in Orlando, but this one is air-conditioned, all-original, and covered in glowing, neon paint. Top that!
Artegon Marketplace’s bright, open, spacious environment is climate-controlled, all indoors, and easy to navigate. The anchors form the perimeter border, and the “Village” fills in the center. Interactive directories provide detailed information and locations on the shops, with the Village area laid out in well-marked aisles. Spaces range from 100 square feet – 10,000 square feet.
The Village consists of over 165 local artisans, crafters, collectors, and more – providing consumers the opportunity to connect with an extraordinary new segment of Orlando’s creative minds and unconventional entrepreneurs. Demonstrations and samples are around every corner, and you’re not likely to see the same items twice. “Unique” is the theme. The only way to truly understand what The Village is all about, is to see it. Here’s a very small sampling of some of the highlight shops and merchandise I encountered on my most recent visit…
Swings & Things - B9D & B9I
Greenleaf Henna - B7H
Live Edge Concepts - A4I
South Pacific Islander Art - B6B & B6C
Touch of Florida - B8E
R 'n' R Record Shop - B7J
La Lure Jewelry - B8A
Dechoes Resale - A7A & A7B
Erix Art - A3A
Carver Dan's - B4C
Speaking of local representation at the Marketplace – The Daily City has set up a pop-up shop at Artegon, and is said to be establishing a monthly stop on its popular Food Truck Bazaar route for the complex.
Throughout the month of December, carolers and holiday performances are scheduled to appear at Artegon, with a promise of more events to take place in the future.
Artegon Marketplace offers 5,800 FREE parking spaces. This is a rare, and hot advantage for prime real estate like I-Drive. Free wi-fi is another notable perk. Located at 5250 International Drive, Artegon is adjacent to Premium Outlets International. Convenient to Universal Studios, the Orange County Convention Center, and the primary tourist strip, Artegon is stop #2 on the I-Ride Trolley North route.