Mommy Frog's Note: Hoppy news! After a temporary closure due to COVID-19, Universal Orlando Resort has begun a phased reopening, starting with Universal CityWalk. Hop over to catch up on all of the details you need to know about the safety policies in place before your visit.
Universal CityWalk Orlando is the self-proclaimed Epicenter of Awesome ... and we can’t argue with that! With a wide variety of restaurants, you can spend a good amount of time just trying to decide where to eat. If you're a froggy fashionista, be sure to stop by the stores. Looking for more of a low-key activity after exploring the parks? Catch a movie or play mini golf. Exploring CityWalk is a great way to add onto your already awesome Universal Orlando Resort visit! CityWalk is a hoppin’ spot, whether you’re making the most out of an adults-only vacay or you're there with your whole frog family. In this handy guide, I’m going to give you the low-down on all of the great dining, shopping and entertainment options you can find at Universal CityWalk Orlando.
Universal CityWalk Location
This dining, shopping and entertainment hub is located right at the center of Universal's Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. That means you could easily hop out of the parks for a bite to eat and then keep hittin’ the coasters! We also recommend CityWalk as a nightcap to enjoy a nice relaxing meal or window-shop before heading back to your hotel. We love that it gives you a little break and change in scenery, as well as a killer food selection. CityWalk is also terrific because it isn’t too spread out. There is a TON to do in a relatively condensed area without feeling crowded, so you don’t have to do too much walking. We’re usually worn out from hopping around the parks all day!
For those of you staying on-site at a Universal Orlando hotel, it's easy to make CityWalk part of your day. If you're staying at Universal's Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort, Lowes Royal Pacific Resort, Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel or Universal's Hard Rock Hotel, your water taxi to the theme parks drops you off right in the middle of CityWalk. For guests at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Hotel and Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Surfside Inn and Suites, you'll hop aboard bus transportation.
Parking at Universal CityWalk
Parking at Universal is fairly simple because the theme parks, Universal's Volcano Bay (Universal’s water park) and CityWalk share the same two main parking garages. Once parked, all you have to do is follow the signs toward the security hub that you go through before entering CityWalk and the theme parks.
There are a few different options that you can utilize to hop on a parking spot at Universal CityWalk:
- General: The lowest cost all-day option, general parking can place you anywhere between a five to 20 minute walk to the security hub. Arriving first thing in the morning or later in the evening gives you pretty good odds of snagging a solid spot.
- Preferred: For a premium, preferred parking guarantees a more convenient parking spot than is currently available for general parking. This still leaves some variation in where you could park, but will most definitely cut down on your walking time.
- RV/Bus: Oversized vehicles have an entirely separate parking area than the main garages — be sure to follow signs in order to get to the right place! RV and bus parking is only an extra $5 more than general parking.
- Evening: Did someone say … free?! During non-peak season, parking after 6 p.m. is free at Universal. During busier times of the year, you’ll still find discounted rates. If you’re visiting Orlando for other attractions and just want to make a brief appearance at CityWalk, this is the best time. Save that money and buy yourself a souvenir! (However, keep in mind that this isn’t the case during special events, such as Halloween Horror Nights.)
- Valet: At two different price points (two hours and under, or over two hours), valet certainly has its perks. You’ll be parked in a separate area super close to the CityWalk entrance and directed toward a less busy security station.
- Red Carpet Valet: Red Carpet includes all of the perks of regular valet, with even CLOSER parking and a promise that your car will be brought to you in five minutes or less. Even better? You get to cut the line to avoid waiting. Talk about a major time-saver!
Jot down your parking section and row number (i.e., King Kong 415). Don’t trust your memory, especially after a long day of shopping and eating! Another major error first-timers make is not paying attention to which garage they’re headed back into when leaving Universal. When you reach the security hub, it’s important to look for the signs and follow the proper path towards your designated section. Since the two garages don’t connect, you could end up walking in circles looking for your car.
Does all of this sound like a bit too much? Don’t worry! Being chauffeured by an Uber, taxi, cab or whoever you want is an option, as well. Currently, the pick-up and drop-off locations for ride-sharing apps are located on the fifth floor of the Jurassic Park section in the north parking garage.
The perk of the combined parking between Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and CityWalk is that you don’t need to drive between Universal destinations. However, should you find yourself wandering off-property around Orlando, simply keep your receipt and re-enter at no additional cost later in the day.
Yikes, did the battery die on the SUV? Have no fear, your Universal superheroes are here! Use the garage call boxes to reach an attendant for help.
And just in case you need to enter CityWalk as your destination in your GPS, here is the Universal CityWalk address:
6000 Universal Boulevard
Orlando FL 32819
Raving Universal CityWalk Restaurants
The Universal CityWalk sit-down restaurants offer almost every type of cuisine imaginable for an excellent experience with your frog squad. Whether you’re craving a hearty burger or exotic cuisine, you’ll be sure to find a spot that meets your needs.
Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food
Check out Antojitos for authentic Mexican street fare. This colorful building is a must-do photo-op, whether you’re stopping in for a margarita or a full meal. The live mariachi band is sure to spice up your night!
Bigfire is the newest addition to CityWalk's lineup of toadally awesome dine-in restaurants. It gives off major rustic, outdoorsy vibes, as if you're hanging out with friends and family at a lakeside summer house. American fare, such as burgers and steak, get open-fire cooking treatment with smoky smells and flavors. Be sure to leave room for s'mores!
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
“Run, Forrest, run!” to this home of Southern favorites just like Mama makes ‘em. Bubba Gump features a versatile seafood menu, as well as other down-home favorites — including gluten-free and kids menus. If seafood isn’t your thing, be sure to grab the award-winning BBQ ribs.
Hard Rock Café Orlando
A classic spot for an entertaining meal, Hard Rock Café Orlando will have you ready to rock (and hop!) with an excellent variety of dishes, accompanied by live entertainment. Music memorabilia takes center stage with a suit worn by Elvis himself, Buddy Holly’s famous black glasses and much, much more. Hard Rock offers standard dishes including scrumptious salads and sandwiches.
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
There’s no better way to get in the laid-back Florida spirit than by wasting away in Margaritaville. Jimmy Buffett’s restaurant is known for stacked burgers and tropical frozen drinks. Stop by the Margaritas To Go Surf Shack beverage window for a marg on-the-fly, or step inside for a tropical dinner and live music. This is one of our go-to Universal CityWalk restaurants when we're hopping with folks from out of town!
NBC Sports Grill & Brew
Out of all of the Universal CityWalk restaurants, if I had to recommend one restaurant for a big family with differing tastes, NBC Sports Grill & Brew would be it. This restaurant has a huge menu with a flavor for everyone ... from towering burgers, to Caribbean Mahi, to pasta and everything in between. And we mean everything! The portions are generous, and prices are reasonable. NBC Sports Grill & Brew is an absolute winner if you’re looking for an easy sit-down meal.
Transport yourself to New Orleans at Pat O’Briens, serving up Cajun favorites while dueling pianos play. Don’t forget to order some crawfish or a Sweet Bag of Beignets for a authentic Louisiana-style meal. Gulp down a Hurricane or two for the true experience!
The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
You won’t find a more unique restaurant at Universal CityWalk than The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. Where else can you find a sushi burger combo?! This Asian-American fusion restaurant has an excellent, unique burger selection, delicious sushi, and plenty of combinations of the two. Have you ever dreamed of Cheeseburgooshi? Just like the name suggests, all of your favorite burger fixins are wrapped up in soy paper and flash fried. The menu holds many other unique gems like this … and more simple selections if you just want a delicious burger or Bento box. It's a surprising family favorite, but the tadpoles love it.
The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
At Toothsome, the portions are big and the flavor is even bigger! Described as an eatery, drinkery and confectionary ... what more could you ask for? Toothsome boasts rich, indulgent plates from Chicken Bourguignon to Apple Pie Crepes. This 19th century steampunk-themed restaurant also offers an outrageous (in the best way possible!) array of milkshakes to-go or candy from the confectionary. Cross your fingers to meet Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome ... her milkshakes bring everyone to the yard! We have a full Toothsome review if you need more convincing.
VIVO Italian Kitchen
For a contemporary twist on Italian cuisine, stop by for dinner at VIVO Italian Kitchen. Hot pizza, pasta, bread and of course vino (wine) are sure to satisfy your palate.
Quick 'N' Easy Bites at Universal CityWalk Orlando
If you just want a quick bite to eat or you’re on a budget, Universal CityWalk has plenty of those options, as well. It can be an excellent break from the overload and overindulgence of vacation food. You can take your pick from quick-service eateries that are unique to the district, or find your favorite fast food chain.
Good things sure do come in pink boxes. This quirky bakery serves over 50 unique, fresh pastries daily. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, we feel pretty lucky that Voodoo Doughnut made its way to Universal CityWalk Orlando, the first and only (so far) East Coast location! Indulge in a triple chocolate doughnut topped with Cocoa Puffs, or opt for the vegan version of classic doughnut flavors.
Red Oven Pizza Bakery
Whether enjoying your meal on the covered patio or from the take-out window, Red Oven Pizza Bakery is sure to satisfy your pizza craving with its inventive variety of pizzas. The best part? They’re cooked in 90 seconds or less, so you can keep hoppin’ through your day!
Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches
This isn’t your average sandwich shop. Bread Box offers truly gourmet hot and cold options. My personal favorite is the Veggie Melt with Portobello mushrooms, avocado, caramelized onion, Swiss cheese, arugula, truffle oil and basil pesto. At a great price, this is a great low-key spot to feed your whole family.
Fusion Bistro Sushi and Sake Bar
Located on the second level above the movie theater, this walk-up bistro can be easy to miss, but don’t count it out. When you don’t want to wait for a table at Cowfish, you can still get your California roll fix here.
Hot Dog Hall of Fame
The Hot Dog Hall of Fame is likely the most distinctive under-budget restaurant at Universal Orlando. The name says it all — this spot offers a home run variety of hot dogs inspired by local favorites such as the “Washington,” which features coleslaw, buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing and celery salt. The theming is on par with the tasty dogs, offering stadium-style seating, artificial turf and bleachers! Universal knocked this restaurant out of the park.
If you just want something tried-and-true, CityWalk also has several restaurants you’ll likely already be familiar with, including:
- Burger King Whopper Bar: Burger King takes “Have it your way” to a whole new level at the Whopper Bar. You can build your own burger with over 20 toppings to choose from! This is a fun twist on your classic fast food.
- Cinnabon: A mall favorite, Cinnabon has been enticing visitors with its fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls for over 30 years. It’s worth splurging on extra icing!
- Cold Stone Creamery: With combinations such as “Birthday Cake Remix” (cake batter ice cream, brownies, fudge and sprinkles), your whole family is sure to be leapin’ for ice cream from this popular shop!
- Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt: Menchie's is a nationwide self-serve frozen yogurt shop with a huge selection of flavors and toppings. Yum! What a good way to cool down during those hot Florida days.
- Moe’s Southwest Grill: “Unlimited chips and salsa bar” is the bottom line here. Get delicious burritos, quesadillas, salads and more with the toppings of your choice at Moe’s.
- Panda Express: Find on-the-go versions of your Asian-inspired favorites at Panda Express. Leap and I never pass up our favorite, the cream cheese rangoons!
- Starbucks: Need I say more? Everyone’s favorite coffee shop will keep you fueled throughout your day.
Universal CityWalk Kid-Friendly Entertainment
If you didn’t get your fill of entertainment and fun at Universal’s parks throughout the day, there’s plenty more to see at CityWalk. From seeing stars on the big screen to mini golfing, your frog family will have a hoppin’ good time.
Blue Man Group
If you can’t decide between a comedy show, theater act or concert, buy your tickets to see the Blue Man Group for the whole package! This trio has captivated over 35 million people worldwide, and you’re next! Plus, you can get Blue Man Group discount tickets through your favorite frogs! The group will enthrall all of your senses and engage you from start to finish.
Bob Marley — A Tribute to Freedom
We be jammin’, man! You get much more than a normal dining experience. This restaurant is modeled after Bob Marley’s home in Kingston, Jamaica, and it’s full of artifacts, photos and video clips of our favorite reggae legend. Beyond the great Jamaican food is great entertainment — a live reggae band or DJ every night. After 10 p.m. however, it turns into an adults-only hot spot.
Hollywood Drive-In Golf
This one is a Frog Family must-do when we hit CityWalk! This interactive putt-putt course will keep your family having fun through all 18 holes ... or 36, if you want to do both courses. Choose from '50s sci-fi or horror movie themes, and keep an eye out for the quirky special effects throughout. You won’t find a mini golf course like this back home!
There’s no better way to chill out than with a movie after a busy day at the parks. Catch the latest blockbuster, family film or dystopian teenage zombie rom-com right at Universal CityWalk. If you go to a matinee showing (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), you will be reimbursed for parking if you purchase two or more matinee tickets.
Universal CityWalk Bars and Nightlife
If you need a night to let loose (without the tadpoles), Universal CityWalk is popular with tourists and locals alike for its bars and nightlife. It’s toadally worth getting a Party Pass, which lets you into select bars and dance clubs with unlimited access for $12 rather than having to pay the regular cover fee for each one. After a certain time, some venues require you to be 21 years or older, so don’t forget your valid photo ID to enter.
Fat Tuesday is your go-to place if you want to sip on some cocktails without breaking the bank ... or spending too much time waiting at a bar. This counter-service joint has two different locations at CityWalk — but Leap and I prefer the “upstairs” main location for its larger variety in flavors. You can get a 16 or 24 oz. frozen beverage and opt for a souvenir cup. Then, mix whatever flavors you want! Strawberry daiquiri + Piña Colada = PERFECTION.
Lone Palm Airport
Step onto Jimmy Buffett’s very own seaplane for a waterfront tiki bar to enjoy out-of-this-world appetizers and drinks. This Parrothead oasis offers classic and unique snacks, including Conch Fritters with Lava Lava sauce. Yes, please — after all, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!
Calling all dancing kings and queens! Head to The Groove for a multi-level dance club equipped with the latest music and lighting effects. If you want the VIP experience for a special occasion, opt for reserved seating and bottle service.
Red Coconut Club
CityWalk’s Red Coconut Club describes itself as “Vintage Vegas with a Tropical Twist.” I don’t think anything could sound better than that! This tiki-chic nightclub has one floor dedicated to dancing, and a second floor dedicated to dining. Check out the outdoor patio for an unbeatable view of CityWalk’s twinkling lights.
Feeling confident? Stop by Rising Star for karaoke, whether it’s your singing debut or just a stop on your tour. Be the star of the show with a live band and back-up singers for the ultimate singing experience! This is a great way to get out of your comfort zone on vacation and make memories that will last a lifetime. Rising Star has a shining menu with specialty cocktails (read: confidence builders) such as the Pineapple Orange Margarita.
Spectacular Shopping at Universal CityWalk Orlando
You may not think of Universal Orlando Resort as a major shopping destination, but you’d be pleasantly surprised! If the traditional theme park souvenir doesn’t speak to you, hop and shop around Universal CityWalk Orlando for a more practical mementos, including apparel and art pieces. Here is the lowdown on key shops and retailers.
What better way to remember the time of your life on vacation than with a gorgeous new watch? Fossil has nice, reasonably priced watches, wallets, jewelry and other accessories. Quality is Fossil’s middle name.
Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company
If you’re searching for the ultimate vacation souvenir, step into Orlando’s premier tattoo parlor and get inked in a shop known for its creativity, quality and cleanliness.
P!Q will most certainly pique your family’s interest. There is something for everyone in here! From unique pieces of art alluding to your favorite Netflix binge-watches, to hilarious desk accessories, you won’t want to leave here without picking something up for yourself or a friend back home.
Quiet Flight Surf Shop
I have to admit, my favorite part of this surf shop is the giant wave photo-op outside. Make your way into the store and you can shop all of summer’s favorite brands, including Billabong, Vans, Quicksilver, Volcom, Roxy, Oakley and Ray-Ban. Perhaps a new bikini or board shorts for your visit to Universal's Volcano Bay?
Rock out at the Hard Rock Café’s souvenir shop! You can find the Hard Rock logo on everything imaginable to remember your rockin’ visit. Take home a robe, pin, T-shirts and more.
Universal Studios Store
Didn’t feel like committing to buying and carrying around a certain souvenir in the parks all day? Look no further. You can pick up tons of unique Universal gear here before heading back to your hotel.
Top Universal CityWalk Orlando Tips
- There’s a bit of a journey between the parking garages and the security hub, which then leads to CityWalk. To help increase your pace, moving walkways are open to help you keep leapin’. When it comes to manners, treat the moving walkway as you would a highway. Slow walkers to the right, fast-paced people to the left … and always keep moving. Remember, no strollers. Don’t be the group holding up traffic!
- Try something unique. Sure, a simple dinner at Burger King’s killer Whopper Bar is a blast. However, we recommend thinking outside of the pond for your dining options. Instead, try the Red Oven Pizza Makery as a more unique, low-cost option.
- Don’t wait around. Are you just wanting a quick drink or snack? Skip the full-blown dining experience. There are plenty of great places where you can have fun without investing too much time or money. Pick up a milkshake at the walk-up order station at Toothsome, or head to Margaritas-To-Go Surf Shack to get that signature Jimmy Buffett beverage.
- Dine at odd hours. Eating lunch at 1 p.m. on the dot or dinner at 7 p.m. is a surefire way to get caught up in a long wait time. Try scheduling meals for irregular times — do a late lunch around 2:30 p.m., and dinner around 8 p.m.. This will allow you to use that wait time for better things!
- Make reservations. If you have your heart set on a meal at Antojitos, call ahead or reserve online to make sure you can get your fam a table without an extensive wait.
- Schedule a night out around your entertainment. Got Blue Man Group tickets? Be sure to time your evening wisely so that you can enjoy a great dinner with plenty of time to make it to the show. Whether or not you plan on hanging at CityWalk before a show, be sure to arrive two hours before showtime to allow ample time for parking, security and travel.
- Take advantage of dining and entertainment deals. For instance, you can enjoy a full-service meal that includes an entree, nonalcoholic drink and dessert at select restaurants, a Party Pass AND a Blue Man Group show for a combined discounted price.
- Plan, plan, plan. There are TONS of shopping, dining and entertainment options at CityWalk. Do your research on the options and figure out what would be best for you and your frog squad. CityWalk will overwhelm you with its splendor, so it’s good to have a game plan ahead of time.
- And plan efficiently. Think you’ll be spending big bucks at a certain shop? Save that for later so you won’t have to haul your bags around all day.
- Beware of weather. Just like at the parks themselves, Universal CityWalk Orlando is a mostly outdoor experience. If there’s rain in the forecast (which happens more frequently than you'd think), bring umbrellas, rain jackets or emergency ponchos. It is way better to be prepared than to have to duck out in a shop.
- Even beware of the GOOD weather. Again, CityWalk will expose you to all of the elements. The last thing your tadpoles need is to get sunburned while out shopping! Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated to keep the family hoppin’. There's a splash pad in the middle of CityWalk if the tadpoles get too hot and want to cool down.
- Note that a few of the bars, restaurants and clubs charge a $7 cover fee (some only after a certain time, usually 10 p.m.) and only allow adults 21 years or older. This includes The Groove, Bob Marley — A Tribute to Freedom, Pat O' Brien’s, Rising Star and Red Coconut Club. Out of those five spots, the only place where you can’t use a Party Pass is Bob Marley — A Tribute to Freedom.
- If you’re an annual passholder, use your discount. It’s easy to froget since you’re not in the parks, but keep your pass handy at Universal CityWalk. Many shops and attractions offer special pricing!
Whew — time to take a breath! Can you believe that there is so much to do right in the heart of Universal Orlando? It is most definitely worth spending a night — or even a full day — here. It is the perfect place for an escape, whether you want a wild night of karaoke and cocktails, or a laid-back afternoon full of fast food and shopping with the whole family.
What is your go-to agenda at Universal CityWalk Orlando? Do you have a must-try plate at a restaurant or snack you can't live without? What shop do you spend your green in? Share with us in the comments below!