When most people hear Orlando, they usually think of Mickey and Minnie before dance music and margaritas. But just because Central Florida's days are dominated by the family-friendly theme parks, doesn't mean there isn't plenty for adults to do after the sun goes down. A large variety of restaurants, nightlife, live music venues, and festivals attract young and old alike from far and wide who want to blow off a little steam. It isn't quite the "city that never sleeps," but there's lots of life to be found by staying up late in Orlando. Keep reading to find out the basics about Orlando nightlife.
For most tourists today, the epicenter of Orlando's nightlife is located at Universal Orlando Resort. CityWalk, a free-to-enter pedestrian mall connecting Universal's parking garages and theme parks, combines restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and dance clubs all in one convenient location. This nightlife complex is an attraction not only for out of town visitors, but for Orlando locals too. Here you will find restaurants including the Hard Rock Cafe and Emeril's along with bars such as Margaritaville and Pat O'Brien's.
Entertainment offerings are headlined by the Blue Man Group, an AMC IMAX 3-D cinema, and the Hollywood Drive-In mini-golf course. Or be part of the show yourself at the Rising Star karaoke club. Part of the appeal of CityWalk is the fact that everything is in one place; you can go from dinner right to dancing without having to jump in a taxi. Certain clubs require a modest cover charge after 9pm, which is waived for certain theme park ticket-holders; buy an all-access pass at the guest services windows if you plan on visiting two or more venues in a night.
Walt Disney World's Pleasure Island was once the area's after-hours hotspot and famous for the fabled Adventurer's Club and Comedy Warehouse, but in 1995 it was rebranded and became part of Downtown Disney. Today, there are evening options throughout the sprawling retail complex. On the night where you just want to see a movie, head over to the 24-screen AMC movie theater, where you can get food and drink service (including alcohol) while you watch with their new "Fork & Screen" seating.
When you feel like splurging on a meal, check out Wolfgang Puck Cafe , Bongos Cuban Cafe or Raglan Road Irish Pub. House of Blues hosts a regular calendar of big-name musical talent in its intimate concert hall, and Cirque du Soleil's custom-built circus tent-styled theater is as stunning as the show inside. Both Bongos and Paradiso 37 both boast extensive Latin-accented bar menus. Finally, the new Splitsville Luxury Lanes houses 30 bowling lanes, pool tables, and bars; the second floor is off-limits to kids on weekend nights. There are also many special events, like the annual Festival of the Masters art fair, that take place at Downtown Disney; you never know what you're going to find on any given night.
International Drive is best known for outlet malls, discount hotels, and the massive Orange County Convention Center, but it is also home to some nightlife that you might not expect. Feel like live music? Be sure to check out B.B. King Blues Club at Pointe Orlando, which is also home to the Improv comedy club and a giant-screen IMAX. Travelers that love piano bars will want to visit Howl at the Moon, and Cafe Tu Tu Tangofeatures flamenco dancers and tarot readers along with delicious tapas and sangria.
Beyond the theme parks, Orlando itself is also home to a variety of nightlife. While bars, restaurants, and clubs aren't as concentrated as they are in CityWalk or Downtown Disney, there are still some great, affordable options. Church Street Station isn't the one-stop nightlife mecca some may remember from the 1970s and 80s, but it has seen a resurgence with the recent opening of new bars and restaurants.
Popular dining destinations on Church Street include Hamburger Mary's ///and the Dessert Lady, with top bars being Latitudes, Big Belly (known for nickel beer on Wednesdays), and Chillers. A couple blocks away across Orange Avenue is the Wall Street Plaza , site of Wall Street Cantina, Slingapours, and several other youth-oriented watering holes. The Thornton Park and Milk District neighborhoods east of downtown feature independent eateries (like The Social Chameleonand Dexter's) and eccentric bars (The Falcon, Spacebar) worth seeking out. You'll find cheaper prices and value for drinks when you get away from the resort areas.
From comedy shows to billiards halls, Orlando has every type of nightlife you could imagine. Sometimes the best nighttime entertainment can be found right in your rental. After an active day, nothing might sound better than curling up in your cozy rental and watching a movie. The perfect night in Orlando can take many forms, from ordering a pizza and eating dinner in your pajamas to putting on your best outfit and hitting the nightclubs. The choice is up to you.