The days of late nights in the parks are currently on pause. With a few exceptions, mainly on weekends, the Universal Orlando theme parks close around dinner time or shortly thereafter. If you’re used to spending your time enjoying the evening in the parks, you may be looking for other ways to spend your evening. Here are some ideas for how to have an enjoyable evening at Universal Orlando even when the parks close a little early.
- Universal CityWalk – dining and shopping
- Hollywood Drive-In Mini Golf
- Browse the park’s merchandise shops at the front of the park
- Bowling at Cabana Bay
- Stroll to Hard Rock Hotel if you’re coming from Universal Studios
- Stroll to Royal Pacific if you’re coming from Islands of Adventure
- Enjoy a boat ride to the Universal Orlando resort hotels
- Enjoy your resort’s pool
- International Drive
It’s practically impossible to find a more convenient way to keep your day going into the evening than by hanging around Universal CityWalk. You have to walk through CityWalk coming and going from the theme parks. You might as well make an evening of it. There’s plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops to keep you occupied. VooDoo Doughnuts and Toothsome Chocolate Emporium are must-dos if you want something sweet. BigFire is one of the newest restaurants and is receiving raving hot reviews. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe often has live entertainment, and serves up the best margaritas around.
A big highlight of CityWalk is the Hollywood Drive-In Mini Golf. It is wonderfully themed and has two very different courses. Both courses are full of delightful details and humor. It stays open until 10:00 p.m. and the nighttime lighting is fantastic.
If you’d rather stick around the parks a little longer, the main merchandise shops at the front of each park usually stay open after the official park closing. You’ll find a sampling of merchandise here that represents the main attractions at each park.
Over at Cabana Bay, one of Universal Orlando’s hotels, there is Galaxy Bowl. This bowling alley is full service with food and drink. The lanes are open to anyone, not just hotel guests, and it is open until midnight. The tricky part is getting there as it is not walkable from the parks, unless you’re willing to walk about 15 minutes or so. You can get on the Cabana Bay bus that departs from CityWalk, drive over (which involves a parking fee), or see about a ride-share service like Uber or Lyft. Cabana Bay is wonderfully retro themed and a destination itself.
Two other notable resorts on property are the Hard Rock Hotel and Royal Pacific Hotel. You can walk to either resort from the theme parks. From Universal Studios just hang a hard left at the big Universal globe and walk along the water to Hard Rock Hotel. There you can explore the grounds or grab a nightcap. If you’re departing Islands of Adventure then walk towards Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. To the right of the outdoor dining here you’ll see a sidewalk, which will wind around the water to Royal Pacific Resort. Speaking of resorts, don’t forget to make time to enjoy your hotel or resort’s pool at the end of a busy day in the parks.
If you’re up for venturing outside of Universal Orlando property, head to International Drive. This multi-mile stretch of road has a plethora of dining and entertainment. The portion of International Drive from Sand Lake Road and south down to the convention center is the nice stretch of I-Drive. My personal favorite destinations in this area are ICEBAR Orlando, Cafe Tu Tu Tango, ICON Park, and Pointe Orlando.
How do you like to spend the evenings when you’re on vacation in Orlando?