Commonly overlooked as the gateway to Universal Orlando Resort‘s two theme parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, CityWalk is home to shopping, dining, and entertainment. It’s where visitors can go after the parks close since some areas stay open until 2 am, and where you can shop for souvenirs. This “epicenter of awesome” is home to New Years festivities and other events. It may not have any rides, but there is plenty to keep you entertained in this nightlife district.
On most nights, there’s some type of entertainment in the amphitheater, usually a hula hoop contest or some other family-friendly event. But that’s not all. Hollywood Drive-In Golf has two mini golf courses inspired by 1950s sci-fi films and is the perfect post-park activity. Universal Cinemark plays first-run movies with stadium seating and a full concessions stand, making it a good rainy day option. Hard Rock Live is the park’s 3,000 seat auditorium, bringing in big-name music acts as well as comedians and performers. As one of Blue Man Group’s worldwide locations, visitors can see this unique performance and even upgrade for a behind-the-scenes tour.
Food and Drink
There are two types of places to eat at CityWalk: fast to-go options and full service sit down. Fast options include BreadBox Handcrafted Sandwiches, Panda Express, Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Burger King Whopper Bar, Cinnabon, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Menchies Frozen Yogurt, Starbucks, Coldstone Creamery, and Voodoo Doughnut, my personal favorite. These are ideal if you’re running to or from the parks.
Full-service restaurants offer a variety of flavors. The Cowfish serves quirky burgers, sushi, and burgushi, their combination of the two, for lunch and dinner. Hard Rock Cafe has memorabilia from the past few decades of music, including costumes and instruments, and all day dining, one of the few at CityWalk. Italian dinner favorites are the draw at Vivo Italian Kitchen including wood stove pizza and pasta. Bubba Gump is a seafood chain inspired by the film Forrest Gump, complete with shrimp, ribs, and desserts. Grab a pint and a burger at NBC Sports Grill & Brew, with over 100 beers to choose from and as many screens with every game on. They have lunch and dinner and are the best place to watch Sunday Night Football. If you can, make a reservation at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. They emphasize decadent desserts like their milkshakes but also have flatbreads, sandwiches, and hearty entrees.
Enjoy authentic Mexican fare for dinner at Antojitos, including tortas, tacos, and fajitas. The restaurant also has an extensive selection of tequila. Named for the reggae legend, Bob Marley- A Tribute to Freedom combines live music with Jamaican fare for dinners like beef patties and jerk chicken. Pat O’Brien’s is open for lunch and dinner with Louisiana-inspired dishes like crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and po boys. While Margaritaville is known for its drinks, you can also chow down on fish tacos, burgers, and key lime pie for lunch and dinner.
After dinner, grab a drink at one of CityWalk’s bars and nightclubs, many of which stay open until 2 am. Red Coconut is a nightclub that resembles a vintage Vegas tiki bar, complete with DJs and live music as well as specialty martinis. Rising Star offers live band karaoke most nights of the week. Just like its New Orleans counterpart, Pat O’Brien’s becomes a piano bar at night with their signature hurricane drinks. Margaritaville serves, what else, margaritas at its indoor bars, to-go window, and Lone Palm Airport bar. They host live guitarists on the porch. Bob Marley’s hosts reggae bands and has a weekly ladies night. The Groove is CityWalk’s multi-level dance club with resident DJs. Fat Tuesday serves frozen daiquiris.
Don’t forget to visit the CityWalk stores. The Universal Studios store has the best souvenirs you’ll find in the park at the same prices so you won’t have to lug them around. The Island Clothing Co. has gear from tropical-inspired brands like Tommy Bahama, Quicksilver, and Honolua Surf Co. Quiet Flight Surf Shop sells many of the same lines plus Billabong, Roxy, and Vans. Hard Rock’s Rock Shop sells their signature t-shirts and other branded items. Fresh Produce, P!Q, and Fossil stores are also at CityWalk. And if you’re feeling inspired to permanently memorialize your visit to Universal Orlando, Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company is Orlando’s premier tattoo shop.
If you’re staying at one of the Universal Orlando hotels, leave the car behind and instead take the complimentary shuttle buses and boats. Buses arrive near the movie theater, while the boats dock by the NBC Grill. If you’re not, there is free self-parking after 6 pm, except during special events.
CityWalk is a great place to eat before going into the park since breakfast inside is limited. It’s fairly relaxed during lunch hours since many people stay in the park. If you want to eat dinner at one of these restaurants, go early or make reservations in advance, especially for Toothsome.
Many of the CityWalk venues charge a cover fee after a certain time of night, so grab a CityWalk Party Pass if you plan on staying out. Reservations are also available for groups. Nightclubs don’t open until 8 pm and don’t get going until at least 10 pm.