Florida Guide > Universal Parks
Universal City Walk
Universal City Walk is Universal’s answer to Downtown Disney and Disney’s Boardwalk. It too is set around a lake and has a mix of restaurants, clubs, cinema screens and shops.
Unlike its Disney rivals though it’s not located in a separate area away from its parks but is the gateway to Universal from the vast multi story car parks. Parking is currently $11 but usually, although not always free after 6pm. City Walk comes into its own once the Universal parks close. It has a far more adult feel to it than its Disney counterparts and is spread over 30 acres.
There is a 20 screen cinema just as you enter the complex showing the latest movies. There are 11 restaurants including the Hard Rock Café. This is the largest in the world and seats 600 with a 3, 000 seat concert hall. From the outside the building resembles the Coliseum in Rome but with a car bursting out of the side! Inside this shrine to all things Rock and Roll has a 1959 pink Cadillac revolving over the bar.
Our favourite eating place here though is Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom. Great for both vegetarians and carnivores with its tasty Caribbean food. It’s a recreation of Bob Marley’s Jamaican home with the bar and eating area set round a courtyard where live music is played nightly.
Another themed restaurant is Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville where his very impressive seaplane, the Hemisphere Dancer, a 60’ Albatross aircraft, has come to rest beside the lake. There is no doubt that City Walk is visually impressive even without the spectacular lighting effects at night.
Most of the restaurants also have live music and dancing. After dinner at the Latin Quarter for example you can learn the Merengue or Salsa. The Groove though is purely and simply a dance club for the young and single who are into techno, house and hip hop.
Several shops here sell clothing, much of it expensive, Tommy Bahama being one example, also on sale is the usual souvenir fare.
If the pace of City walk becomes too much, you can stroll through the stunning landscaped grounds that lie beyond the famous Universal globe. Continue round the lake past the Hard Rock Hotel with its guitar fountain. Go through the well lit tunnel where one of the water taxis may float by, walk around a corner and prepare to be truly astounded. Ahead of you lies the Portofino Bay Hotel, a faithful recreation of the famous Italian port. Sit at one of the waterside piazza cafes and drink in the magical atmosphere. It has to be one of the most beautiful and romantic places in Orlando. If you time your visit right, you may be entertained by the nightly live opera recital that can be heard drifting across the lake from the Hard Rock Hotel. If you don’t feel like walking back then a complimentary water taxi is the perfect end to the evening.
City Walk is loud, brash but quite stunning visually and has an electric atmosphere. In contrast and just a few minutes walk, the Portofino Bay Hotel seems a world away, don’t miss either!
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