After a day of play at Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, don’t head straight back to the parking lot. There’s more fun to be had at Universal’s CityWalk, the newest nightspot for tourists in Orlando. This 30-acre entertainment complex is a good place to unwind from park hopping or to kick it up after a day of sleeping in at the hotel. From themed bars and restaurants to shops to running through water fountains, there’s a little something for everyone at CityWalk.
In addition to restaurants and clubs, there is always something going on out on the streets. Cooking demonstrations, trivia contests, and local festivals are just some of the events taking place at CityWalk during the year. The small stage next to CityJazz houses live entertainment in 20-minute doses. The water fountain in the middle of the complex is a great place for kids to splash and cool off. Take advantage of photo opportunities in front of the lighted industrial "waterfall."
If you’ve got kids with you, but still want to partake of some adult beverages, send them over to the Universal Loew’s Cineplex. With 20 screens and several snack bars and arcades, your kids will be occupied for hours.
No trip to anywhere in Orlando is complete without paying visits to the gift shops found in every venue. Pick up a shirt or a shot glass from each bar you visit, just in case you don’t remember where you were the next morning.
Enter the world of R&B and soul in the Motown Cafe, located at the entrance of CityWalk. As you enter the restaurant, you’ll find yourself surrounded by memorabilia of Motown’s greatest. Stay downstairs for an American meal amongst the Jackson 5 costumes and wax statues of the Supremes or head up the lighted Stairway of Success to the Promenade dining area and the Big Chill Lounge.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to eat and dance to the singing group Motown Cafe Moments. Featured on the Motortown Revue Stage, this group performs all of Motown’s classic hits during their 20-minute shows.
Karaoke night offers up the opportunity to pretend you’re Diana Ross or Stevie Wonder. Take karaoke a step further upstairs at SuperStar Recording Studio where you can make your own video or CD to take home. If you're not the performing type, sit in a booth with a group of friends and pretend you're Berry Gordy looking for the next big star. Relive your dream of being a Solid Gold dancer out on the dance floor in front of the floor level stage. Regardless of who you are, Motown Cafe is worth a blast to the past.
BOB MARLEY: A TRIBUTE TO FREEDOM
Take a trip down to Jamaica without leaving CityWalk by visiting Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom. The restaurant is a replica of Marley's Kingston home and feels like a home. Smells of authentic Jamaican cuisine and incense fill the open-air restaurant. Live bands play familiar reggae standards from the gazebo stage. The dance floor in the middle of the room allows reveling in the freedom to dance and find your own island groove under the stars. Retreat to the bar upstairs to observe the groove of others.
Celebrate Bob Marley’s spirit and message of One Love through music. Many design details, from the tile roof and green wooden window shutters outside, have been supervised by the Marley family themselves, to ensure accuracy.
Mix the Marley atmosphere with Florida's weather and you'll swear you're jammin' in Jamaica. When you leave, don't forget to thank the host for letting you into his home. Bob Marley can be found in front of the building in bronze statue form.
If reggae and R&B aren't your cup of tea, grab a mug of brew over at Pat O'Briens. While you won't find a dance floor to practice moves from Riverdance, you can do what the Irish are most famous for, drinking. Pat O'Briens in Orlando is an exact replica of the original landmark bar in New Orleans. With three bar rooms and New Orleans style appetizers, you won't mind the lack of authentic Irish music.
The Main Bar contains a large flat screen television for viewing the game du jour and drinking. The Patio Bar is perfect for a romantic and relaxing moment away from the dance crowds. Gaze up at the sky or admire the fountains, which spout water and fire. Stop by the Piano Bar to hear the dueling pianos play all-time favorites and provide lounge style entertainment. While in there, don't forget to look up at the decorative beer steins festooning the ceiling.
Pat O’Briens is a nice bar for sitting all night, chatting up tourists, and getting sloshed. It’s a great way to pretend you’re from Ireland. With security beefed up as much as it is these days, it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with your fellow bar mates. Slainte!
Take your evening down a notch and chill out at CityJazz, one of the more upscale venues at CityWalk. A tour around the place will introduce you to unique memorabilia of the biggest names in jazz. Some examples of the rare personal belongings include Ella Fitzgerald's performance gowns, Dave Brubeck's glasses, and Miles Davis' high school diploma. Behind the bar is an impressive display case full of instruments from Glenn Miller, Sonny Rollins, and Maynard Ferguson.
You can enjoy live music from both the legends of jazz and some of the hottest rising new stars. You can pay tribute to the giants of jazz enshrined in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame®. Pick a table in the back of the room and feast on appetizers including Sevrugs Caviar, assorted sushi, duck potstickers, escargot, and Oysters Rockefeller. Then burn off the calories by getting down on the small dance floor in front of the stage.
CityJazz is a great place to get away from the bustle of the outside entertainment. Enjoy live entertainment and develop a greater appreciation of America’s most important art form.
The Latin Quarter is more than just a hot nightspot. When they open the doors to the general public, the Latin Quarter is a museum, a restaurant, and a dance studio. How convenient! Hop on the Latin culture bandwagon and party like they do.
In search of fine Latin cuisine? This is the right place to go. The dishes are as spicy and hot as the dancers. Delicacies are picked from Central America, South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. If you’re seated near the kitchen, you can watch the chefs prepare your meals. The lighting and ambience gives the feeling less of being in someone’s home and more of being in an upscale eatery.
The stage and dance floor play host to dancers and musicians ranging from Salsa to Merengue to Mariachi. At any time during the course of your meal, a group of dancers put on a brief show to enhance your dining experience. After each performance, the dancers are available for impromptu dance lessons to guests.
Latin Quarter makes for a fine dining experience if you’re not daring enough to shake your maracas in front of strangers. Fans of Latin music will enjoy the spirit of the place.
Wedged between Pat O’Briens and Latin Quarter is CityWalk's only straight up dance club, the groove. The nightclub has an eclectic mix of modern technology and classic decor from five eras. Roaming through the nightclub you'll discover a Vaudeville stage from the 1890s and numerous theatrical posters from that era, you'll find bars reminiscent of a speakeasy from the Roaring '20s, plus posters and theater chairs from the early days of cinema, and you'll encounter furniture and fixtures that take you from a '60s flashback to a '70s discotheque.
The dance floor is the perfect place to show off the moves you learned at the Latin Quarter or invent some steps of your own. Sneak off to the darkened corners and theater chairs for a little action with your date. Take a break from the jumping dance scene in one of the three lounges. Visit the Red Lounge to heat things up, the velvet chairs and flame-covered walls will help. Check out the Blue Lounge if you’re into the high-tech retro feel. Or give peace a chance in the earthy Green Lounge.
the groove is definitely the place in CityWalk to mingle with strangers and make new friends. It’s also conducive to large groups. Just stake out one of the lounges and hang there all night long. Go to the groove and get into your groove.
JIMMY BUFFETT’S MARGARITAVILLE
Overlooking the waterfront is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. The atmosphere here is more laid back and will make you feel like you’re sitting in the middle of his greatest hits album. This isn’t the place to kick up your heels or get your swerve on, but you can definitely see some sights.
Upon entering, the scenery goes from fast-paced entertainment to lazy island fun. Margaritaville is what it must be like to be inside Jimmy Buffett’s head. The walls are filled with nautical decor and Buffett memorabilia. The stage built to look like a rustic island hut, houses classic rock cover bands performing nightly.
If hunger is what ails you, grab a table and order Caribbean, Cajun and fresh Florida fare sampled by Jimmy himself. You may think you’re reading his album cover instead of a menu, but some items are named after his famous songs like Cheeseburger in Paradise. Stick around long enough and watch the volcano atop the Volcano Bar erupt with fresh Margaritas to enjoy.
True Parrotheads will adore this restaurant; others may enjoy it for a while and move on. Don’t worry about that lost shaker of salt, there’s more in the adjoining gift shop.
Content on this site was originally written by Katharine Miller between 2000-2015. Many feature articles and interviews were published in print and on websites that no longer exist. Katharine is reproducing her written material here for portfolio and archival purposes only. Links and credits to clients and original publication will be included where possible.