Whether you're looking for something to do the night you arrive at Universal Orlando or are wondering where to book a dining reservation after the parks close for the night, Universal CityWalk has it all. This dining/shopping/entertainment district is so much more than just the place you walk through to get to the theme parks. Universal Orlando's "Epicenter of Awesome" is home to delicious and unique cuisine, must-have merchandise, frogciting activities and more. All of the bright lights and big signs may seem a bit overwhelming if you've never been, so I've put together a list of everything you can't miss to make things a little easier. Without further ado, here are our top 10 spots you must hop to at Universal CityWalk!
The Top 10 Spots at Universal CityWalk
1. Hollywood Drive-In Golf
You can't miss it! After you pass security and step on the moving walkway toward CityWalk, you'll see a menacing haunted house and monster on your right and a giant alien robot on your left. That is Hollywood Drive-In Golf — two state-of-the-art 18-hole courses inspired by classic drive-in theaters of the 1950s. Choose from "The Haunting of Ghostly Green" for some supernatural spooks or "Invaders from Planet Putt" for some sci-fi silliness ... OR opt for a "double feature" and play all 36 holes!
Day or night, you'll experience cutting-edge interactive elements and surprising special effects (that I won't spoil here), but once the sun sets, LED neon-edge lighting illuminates the course and makes for a truly chilling experience! Tadpole-friendly and perfect for families who love a little friendly competition, this putt-putt course scores a hole-in-one!
2. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
If there's one restaurant at Universal you need to eat at (at least once!), it's The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. This steampunk-themed eatery offers a ton beyond chocolate (which I'll get to in a moment). Whether you're coming here for lunch, dinner or brunch — which is served all day — there's truly something for everyone on this menu. Choose from a delicious array of salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, waffles, french toast and more, all with a signature Toothsome twist. While you dine, you may even get a table-side visit from Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome and her robot companion, Jacques.
You must (and I mean must) save room for dessert, though. The pièce de résistance here are the Instagrammable and insanely delicious milkshakes and sundaes that you can either order from your table or the walk-up counter on the first floor if you've chosen to dine elsewhere. At the very least, stop by the confectionary, also on the first floor, and grab a box of bonbons or macarons. (Remember, calories don't count on vacation!)
3. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
Giving an entirely new meaning to "surf and turf," The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar goes where no restaurant has dare gone before. Introducing ... Burgushi, "a cutting-edge fusion of sandwiches made with sushi stuff, and sushi crafted with burger stuff." Yes, it's real. And it's real good. However, if your palate isn't that adventurous, there are plenty of delicious fusion specialty sushi rolls and black angus burgers (my favorite is the Black & Brie) to indulge in here. You could even opt for Bento Boxes that feature both burger and sushi (not combined) if you want a bit of both. Not to mention some seriously sweet spiked and hand-spun milkshakes! With its fun and quirky atmosphere and colorful decor, this east-meets-west eatery is definitely one of the most unique options in CityWalk ... maybe even the whole of Orlando.
4. Voodoo Doughnut Orlando
If you see fellow frogs walking around your hotel or CityWalk with big pink boxes, this is where they got them from. Voodoo Doughtnut originated in Portland, Oregon and is a cult-favorite for a reason. This doughnut shop serves up more than 50 different kinds of delightfully weird, sinfully delicious doughnuts.
Try the iconic Voodoo Doll with raspberry jelly and chocolate frosting, Maple Bacon Bar with maple frosting and bacon on top or Portland Cream with Bavarian cream and chocolate on top. Go for something more fruity such as the Blueberry Cake, Mango Tango, Guava Colada or Grape Ape. Dare to be adventurous and order the Ring of Fire, a chocolate cake doughnut dusted in cinnamon sugar, cayenne pepper and topped with a dried red chili pepper. Or be spontaneous and order a specialty doughnut only available for a limited time. Whatever you get, be sure to snap a pic on the big Doughnut Throne out in front so you can brag to your friends back home!
5. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville
Volcano Bay isn't the only place you'll find a volcano on Universal property. Enter Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, a laid-back oasis serving up tropical sounds, island vibes, savory seafood and Burgers in Paradise. Come for the food, stay for the live music, indoor palm trees, suspended airplanes, stilt walkers making balloon animals (which keeps the tadpoles endlessly entertained) and the volcano that literally erupts with margaritas! Oh, and speaking of margs, there are several different varieties to satisfy any tequila lover, plus other rockin' boat drinks both frozen and on the rocks. Remember, Parrotheads — it's 5 o'clock somewhere.
6. Universal Studios Store
No one likes carrying heavy bags of merchandise around a theme park. (Take it from the frog who's usually doing the carrying.) The Universal Studios Store — conveniently located on your way back to the parking lot — is your one-stop shop for all things Marvel, Minion and magic. (Yes, there is an entire room in here solely devoted to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with shirts, tumblers and wands galore!) While you and your tadpoles can spend hours in here just debating what souvenirs to get, it's always worth popping in at least once during each visit since there's always something new. Line at the Tribute Store too long? No worries! Stock up on holiday merch here.
7. Universal Legacy Store
While you'll find a lot of similar items here that you will at the Studios Store, the Universal Legacy Store is absolutely worth mentioning because of what else you'll find here: collections remembering the beloved, extinct attractions of Universal Orlando Resort. Missing your favorite man-eating shark? Getting nostalgic over a certain ghoul-busting gang? Want to turn back time at 88 miles per hour? You can find mugs, shirts, candles and more devoted to these retired rides in here — along with set pieces, props, costumes and other memorabilia from Universal Orlando's long and storied history, including the motorbike driven by the Harry Potter cast on the opening day of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure! This store is a heaping dose of nostalgia that I can spend all night getting lost in.
8. Antojito's Authentic Mexican Food
Tableside guac, anyone? Antojito's is one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in all of Orlando. Enjoy classic made-from-scratch Mexican street fare including tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, nachos, chimichangas and tamales while you listen to a live Mariachi band on select nights. Don't froget to wash your food down with a specialty margarita, ice-cold cerveza or nonalcoholic agua fresca. This lively cantina offers a spirited dining experience that will make you think you stepped south of the border. In here, every night's a fiesta!
9. Vivo Italian Kitchen
I don't know about you, but the words hand-made pasta, fresh-baked bread and wood-stove pizza just make my mouth salivate. I'm of the belief that you can never go wrong with Italian cuisine and VIVO is a testament to that. Order a glass of wine and watch as culinary artists prepare heirloom family recipes right before your eyes in the semi-open kitchen. Choose from family favorites such as Margherita pizza, lobster ravioli and fettuccine Alfredo or go for something a little more adventurous such as the infamous Squid Ink Seafood pasta. Whatever you pick, you can rest assured knowing your meal will be fresh, authentic and full of delicious flavors.
10. NBC Sports Grille & Brew
WIth nearly 100 high-definition TV screens streaming nonstop sports coverage, dining tables that you can play foosball and shuffleboard underneath and healthier options alongside classic bar favorites, NBC Sports Grille & Brew is our pick for the most family-friendly restaurant at CityWalk. (Although, for frogs 21 and over, there are over 100 bottled and draft beers served here, as well as local brews, unique imports and hard ciders.) Order a Base Loaded Burger or some Championship Winning Wings but I recommend starting with the Large Warm Soft Pretzel for the whole family to share. No matter where you're seated, be prepared for a sports-dining experience like no other.
What's your favorite restaurant in CityWalk? Your favorite store? Let me know in the comments below!