If you are looking for an exciting nightlife venue, then Universal CityWalk is the place to go.
Universal CityWalk is a collection of nightclubs, bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues like the Blue Man Group all within one area. It opened in 1999.
Some of the clubs also serve food and some of the restaurants have live entertainment so there is something for pretty much everyone.
Most restaurants open around 11 am for lunchtime trade whilst a few do not open until the early evening. They typically stay open until around midnight or even later.
The clubs open between about 4 pm and 2 am though the dance clubs don’t open until 8 or 9 pm.
Most of the clubs and restaurants are built along a single street called The Promenade with a few others located between the entrances to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.
In total there are around six table service restaurants, six clubs/bars and three entertainment venues:
- NBA City - restaurant and bar devoted to basketball
- Hard Rock Cafe - largest Hard Rock Cafe in the world with an amazing collection of rock and roll memorabilia
- Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville - a mixture of Floridian and Caribbean cuisine
- Latin Quarter - Mexican styles restaurant and nightclub
- Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando - gourmet New Orleans cuisine (reservations essential)
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Company - southern style shrimp, themed on the film, Forrest Gump
- Blue Man Group - avant garde performance art from “off broadway”
- Hard Rock Live - rock convert venue with an 1,800 to 2,500 capacity
- AMC Universal Multiplex - Cineplex complex with 20 separate movie theatres showing the latest films
- NASCAR Sports Grille
- Pat O’Brien’s Bar - duelling pianos, New Orleans cuisine and the famous Hurricane cocktail
- Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom - reggae club straight out of Kingston, Jamaica
- the groove - high-tech disco, occasional Teen Nights during the summer
- Rising Star - karaoke bar with a live band
- Red Coconut Club - 1950’s Las Vegas dance club
As well as the table service restaurants, there are also a number of quick service restaurants. Alcoholic drinks are available throughout CityWalk and photo ID will be needed for anyone under 30 (the legal drinking age in Florida is 21).
CityWalk Admission and Special Tickets
There is no admission charge to CityWalk itself but most of the nightclubs have a separate $7 cover charge though usually this does not take effect until 9 pm in the evening.
Rather than paying a cover charge for each club, you can buy a one day CityWalk Party Pass which then gives you free admission to all the clubs though some special events still require a further charge. Note that many of the Universal theme park tickets include complimentary CityWalk nightclub access.
As well as the CityWalk Party Pass, you can also buy:
- Meal and Movie Deal which combines a movie ticket at the Cineplex and a meal (except Emeril’s)
- Meal and Party Deal which combines a meal (selected menu) and nightclub pass or
- Party Pass with a Movie which is the final combination of a nightclub pass and a movie ticket
Getting to Universal CityWalk
CityWalk is part of the Universal Orlando Resort and sits between the parking garages and the two theme parks, so rather cleverly for Universal, you have to pass through it each time you visit one of the parks.
If you are staying at one of Universals’ resort hotels, then a complimentary water launch drops you off by the main Plaza.
Like the parks, parking is in the parking garages but if you visit after 6 pm in the evening, then the parking is free. Also if you are just going to one of the restaurants for a meal, then you can get free valet parking (with restaurant validation) which covers you for two hours.
History of Entertainment Venues in Orlando
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the happening nightlife place in Orlando was the redeveloped Church Street Station district with bars, clubs and restaurants like Rosie O'Grady's and the Cheyenne Saloon.
Disney’s Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney opened in 1989 and gradually took over. Church Street Station went into decline and several subsequent attempts to revive it have failed.
Unexpectedly in 2008 Disney closed down all the nightclubs and comedy clubs in Pleasure Island. It is believed Disney intend to make Pleasure Island a more family-orientated venue but as yet, they have not made any announcements regarding its future.