Best Guide to Fun at Universal Orlando CityWalk
When you're ready for some fun after dark, be sure to visit Universal Orlando CityWalk. CityWalk Orlando is a vibrant 30-acre open-air entertainment complex that offers excellent live music and shows, tons of delicious restaurant options, and plenty of shopping, whether you are looking for the perfect Universal mementos, character keepsakes, or some epic board shorts and surf swag. And it's all served up by Universal Orlando in their trademark theming, excellent entertainment, and a fantastic lineup of dining venues. CityWalk is not just for after dark: they are open daily and are a perfect place for a light lunch, some shopping, or to catch some live entertainment.
Admission to the complex is free, and CityWalk Orlando lets you get a little more of Universal without paying for pricey park tickets. The parking after 6 pm is free almost every night! (Some holidays and Halloween Horror Nights are exceptions.) If you're staying at one of the official Universal Orlando Resort hotels, parking fees will never apply. So save that dough for some more adventures!
Our guide brings you some of our favorite entertainment and eats - and some tips for getting the most out of our visit to CityWalk Orlando. Channel your inner rock star with a live karaoke appearance, backup band and all, at CityWalk's Rising Star, or chill out with a relaxing complimentary water taxi ride to some of the luxurious Universal resorts and back.
With dozens of clubs and restaurants, you can plan on seeing some hot entertainment. Some of the entertainment may be separately ticketed and require proof of age of 21, but there's still plenty to do.
We'll start with our favorite - CityWalk's Rising Star. Every evening, Tuesday through Sunday, you can step on stage and live out your entertainment dream with a live band and backup singers. Imagine the roar of the crowd now! If you're there on Sunday and Monday, you can still do your thing, but you'll be accompanied by recorded tracks instead of the live band. The atmosphere is always that of a rock concert, and the cocktails are great, so no need to take the stage to have fun.
Live music-lovers know they can depend on Hard Rock Live to "bring it" when it comes to super live concerts, with some of the best names in rock, country, and pop. This location is the world's largest Hard Rock Cafe. Take in all of the classic memorabilia surrounding you at Hard Rock, from the famous Elvis suit worn in Viva Las Vegas to Buddy Holly's black glasses. Enjoy live music on the Rock Bar Patio Friday and Saturday nights from 7 pm to 10 pm. The great news is that Hard Rock is also super kid-friendly, so have no fear. Try the Legendary Burget or order steak, wings, fajitas, BBQ chicken, salads, or more. The music videos play non-stop throughout the restaurant, and the collection of artifacts from legends like The Beatles and Bob Dylan will give you a lesson in rock history!
For more live music, check out the recreation of the King of Reggae's house for music inspired by the legend Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom. The Jamaican and Caribbean fare and live reggae are served in a replica of his home, designed in conjunction with his family. You'll view historical memorabilia, black-and-white photos, and video monitors that showcase his life and career. Enjoy the island flavors and his spirit of love and freedom.
If high-energy dance music and high-octane cocktails are your things, check out the groove, a multi-level dance club with VIP seating and a balcony overlooking Universal CityWalk. This spot is very popular with visitors and locals alike. They have several themed full-service bars and a pulsating wall of video screens. If you're feeling posh, upgrade your experience with VIP Service for an elevated experience, including exclusive seating, table service, a dedicated server, and express entry to the club.
Another favorite is the Red Coconut Club, a tropical and trendy bi-level club that features DJs, bands, bar snacks, and a party vibe that runs until 2 am. They have a plush ultra lounge and two levels of music in this chic and happening spot. Add one of their signature martinis or something from their extensive wine list to get the party started. "Sophisticated but casual," says it all.
If you're looking for an activity that's more family-friendly or more active than a club or bar, check out Hollywood Drive-In Golf for a unique and fun experience. Try an "out of this world" golf experience when you play through two themed larger-than-life mini-golf courses, "The Haunting of Ghostly Greens" and "Invaders From Planet Putt." You'll meet up with monsters in a haunted house, aliens in their flying saucer, and a 30-foot robot. The courses are based on vintage horror flicks, little green men and all. Cutting-edge special effects immerse the players deep into the films.
Regardless of what you may be craving, CityWalk is sure to provide the perfect option. Go All-American with Hard Rock Cafe, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, or NBC Sports Grill and Brew. But, if the islands are calling you, go tropical with something from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville or Bob Marley's A Tribute to Freedom.
If you're feeling International, explore Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, a taste of Italy at VIVO Italian Kitchen, or Asian at Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar.
Those looking for a themed experience that brings adventure and flavors like only Orlando can will want to visit Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant and Market. In Bubba's words, "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea." Bubba Gump serves seafood and lots of Southern favorites like award-winning baby back ribs and fried chicken. The restaurant is rustic and sits at the entrance to CityWalk. You'll have a chance to test your knowledge of the movie and Forrest Gump and browse merchandise inspired by the film.
Bigfire brings open-fire cooking to the center of this restaurant. The fare is elevated American with steaks and seafood cuisine, where the flavor is enhanced with various woods. For dessert, roast your s'mores right at your table with an assortment of graham crackers, chocolates, and marshmallows. The vibe is the “family around the fire at a lakeside summer house.”
The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar offers a unique experience focusing on fusing two very different products on their menu - fresh and innovatively prepared sushi and burgers from meat that has never been frozen. They will whip up a spiked milkshake or a premium sake. The appetizers are tasty and plentiful for sharing, and the salads are entree-sized and scrumptious. Try out a bento box with a mini-burger and a choice of sushi roll and three sides.
If you have sweets on your mind, stop by Voodoo Doughnut, a shop with its own cult following that serves sinfully good creations like their signature originals, the Dirt Doughnut, the Memphis Mafia, and the Bacon Maple Bar. It is offbeat and awesome, and as their tagline says, "The magic is in the hole."
Another one for the sweet tooth is The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. This full-service restaurant, bar, and confectionary offers classic dishes like steak and seafood and plenty of options for the grand finale. Their creations use gourmet chocolate, artisanal milkshakes, and amazing sundaes. The theming is the 19th century, and it's a fantastical experience.
If you came to shop, you are in for some unique opportunities. When it comes to Universal merchandise, the new Universal Studios Store is now the anchor of CityWalk and offers a premier retail experience. It is 8,300 square feet of retail adventure offered in an elevated setting.
Get your surf on at Quiet Flight Surf Shop or go for some ink at Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company. Character tattoos, anyone? Get stocked up for your endless summer with beach, surf, and skate essentials from top sports brands like Billabong, Vans, and Quicksilver, or bring home a new surfboard or skateboard.
When you are ready to get away from it all and have a quiet moment or want to tour three of Universal's most elegant resorts, take the relaxing free water taxi that runs between CityWalk and Loew's Portofino Bay, Royal Pacific and Hard Rock Hotel. The service starts 30 minutes before the theme parks' opening and runs until 2:30 am all year long.
CityWalk Orlando - Summing it all up
CityWalk offers a fantastic opportunity to have a Universal experience with great shopping, fabulous themed dining, and plenty of Universal Orlando CityWalk level entertainment. Access to the 30-acre entertainment complex is free, and so is the parking after 6 pm. So stop by for lunch, dinner, or just dessert and catch some of the great entertainment for an experience you won't soon forget. Know before you go and check out our tips for the Best Time to Visit Universal and The Best Time to Visit Florida.
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