Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville is home to the best outdoor bar at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk, and it just got better. The Lone Palm Airport Bar is an oasis beckoning passersby to come and sit in the shadow of the real life Hemisphere Dancer airplane, put their toes in the sand, and soak up the sunshine state of mind. There are some great details to be found here and the place just beckons to be the site of fun, cheerful gatherings. All new, upgraded chairs and dining tables appeared at the Lone Palm, prompting me to share my love for this pinnacle of tropical relaxation and a Parrot Head’s paradise.
The big deal with the new chairs and tables…
I am sure for the vast majority of guests, the new tables and chairs at the Lone Palm are no big deal. For me, however, someone who clocks at least 2-3 visits a month to Margaritaville’s Lone Palm, the new furniture does change the feel of this place.
The furniture at the Lone Palm has gone through a few evolutions in the Margaritaville Cafe’s 16 year history at Universal Orlando. This is the third version of furniture that I am aware of. Intially the tables and chairs were very low to the ground and basic. A very rustic, island feel.
Then the tables were replaced with sturdy reinforced recycled plastic. Backless barstools with a wide base replaced the chairs. This is what I am used to and this is what I miss. The stools were very easy to maneuver, making it very easy for patrons to reconfigure the area to be more comfortable in order to socialize and gather.
The new furniture is visually appealing to say the least. It makes one heck of an impression,… but it is not practical. The chairs do have very comfortable, sunken, adirondack style seats, however, they do force you to sink in and slouch which makes it difficult to eat or talk with your friends. This is further complicated by the long arm rests which cause you to sit even further away from the table. There are umbrellas at every table now, which is a nice touch, but does make the area feel a little closed in.
When my party and I visited we all commented on how difficult it was to carry a conversation and how hard it would be to eat had we ordered food. I noticed the emblem on the back of each chair: Eagle One. I looked up the company, they specialize in commercial outdoor furniture. Don’t get me wrong, it is a quality product. It just feels like whatever executive that signed off on this configuration hasn’t spent much time at the Lone Palm.
The good news is, like the tables used previously, the furniture is made from recycled plastic so there is a nice eco-friendly component.
Perhaps I will get used to it, but during my visit I felt a little sad that the place that has become some comforting to me no longer feels comfortable.
The Hemisphere Dancer
The good news is the main feature, the Hemisphere Dancer still stands proudly at the Lone Palm Airport. I simply adore the fact that Jimmy Buffett’s actual airplane is here in my hometown, Orlando. I feel so priveledged that I get to sit under its wing nearly anytime I wish. You can walk up, touch it, geek out over it.
There are many stories and legends about the Hemisphere Dancer. The most well known is discussed in Jimmy’s song “Jamaica Mistaica.” In short, Jimmy flew the Dancer down to Jamaica and was fired at by the Jamaican authorities. You can see the patch where some of the bullet holes are on the starboard side, somewhat near the nose.
One thing I will miss about the former backless stools is pushing the stool up against the Dancer and leaning up against her.
You can’t beat the view
On one side of the Lone Palm’s turf, you have the entrance to Islands of Adventure. The beautiful water taxis pass through Buffett Bay and into the main lagoon. It feels exotic and tropical. On the other side you have a panoramic view of CityWalk as well as the entrance to Universal Studios, including the iconic Universal globe. This is yet another feature that makes this my favorite outdoor bar at Universal Orlando.
I also suggest sitting towards the back on the Lone Palm area, facing Hard Rock Cafe on nights when Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular happens. You’ll catch a nice view of the fireworks all while nestled in a tropical getaway.
Overall, the Lone Palm is still the best place to truly kick back and relax at Universal’s CityWalk. The new set up will take some getting used to for regulars like me, but it is nice to see this treasure being reinvested in as CityWalk continues to grow and evolve. As long as the Dancer is there, a cold Landshark or margarita can be savored, then Parrot Heads will continue to “phlock” to the Lone Palm Airport Bar.
P.S. – The adirondack chairs that sit out front of the cafe have been repainted. They are the same chairs that were there previously, just with a fresh new coat of paint. There were a lot less there when I visited last, but I would guess they are still being worked on and will be back to their full numbers soon.