Whether you are a long-time Walt Disney World guest looking to switch theme parks on your next trip or you are visiting Orlando for the first time, planning a visit to Universal Orlando Resort poses a lot of questions. In this article, we will cover CityWalk, compare it to Disney Springs, and help you avoid crowds.
What is CityWalk?
CityWalk is Universal Orlando’s dining, shopping, and entertainment district. It is comprised of 11 full-service restaurants, over a dozen counter service restaurants and snack stands, half a dozen shops, live entertainment, theaters, and clubs.
Where is CityWalk?
CityWalk is sandwiched between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks. All guests must pass through CityWalk when arriving and leaving the two theme parks. CityWalk is accessible by walking paths, boats, and buses from Universal Orlando hotels.
How Does CityWalk Compare to Disney Springs?
At first glance, both seem similar but there are two big differences between them: size and location.
Disney Springs is a sprawling 120 acres over three districts while CityWalk is a compact 30 acres, roughly the same size as Disney Springs Marketplace District. This means fewer shops, restaurants, entertainment, and people can fit in there. Example: CityWalk has 11 full-service restaurants while Disney Springs features 21 options. Shopping is more prominent at Disney Springs with dozens of shops while CityWalk mostly features gift shops for the parks and restaurants.
Second, Disney Springs is not located within walking distance from the theme parks or most resorts and must be reached by car, bus, or boat (from select resorts). Compare this to CityWalk which is located immediately outside of the two theme parks and within walking distance from the parks. This makes CityWalk a great place to escape the theme parks during the afternoon and to grab a quick bite to eat.
Both CityWalk and Disney Springs offer live street entertainment, movie theaters, and have a signature stage show (Cirque Du Soleil Drawn to Life in Disney Springs or Blue Man Group in CityWalk, although these shows have been paused during the COVID-19 pandemic). One aspect CityWalk beats Disney Springs is with nightlife by featuring several clubs, live-band karaoke bar, and a large live concert venue.
Table Service Restaurants
- Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food (Casual Mexican)
- Bigfire (Steakhouse)
- Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom (Jamaican-inspired)
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant & Market (Chain seafood)
- The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar (Burgers and sushi, oddly it works)
- Hard Rock Cafe Orlando (Chain American food)
- Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville (Chain American food, but island style)
- NBC Sports Grill & Brew (Brewpub/sports bar)
- Pat O’Brien’s (Irish/New Orleans)
- Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (Over-the-top American)
- VIVO Italian Kitchen (Fresh Italian)
Quick Service Restaurants
- Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches (Fresh sandwiches)
- BK Whopper Bar (Fast food chain burgers)
- Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar (Sushi)
- Hot Dog Hall of Fame (Assorted styles of hot dogs and mustards)
- Lone Palm Airport (Supplemental bar to Margaritaville)
- Moe’s Southwest Grill (Fast food Mexican chain)
- Panda Express Gourmet Chinese Food (Fast food American-Chinese)
- Red Oven Pizza Bakery (Neapolitan pizza)
- Starbucks Coffee (Coffee, pastries, light food)
Food Carts & Snacks
- Cinnabon (cinnamon buns and deserts)
- Cold Stone Creamery (ice cream with crazy toppings)
- Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt (frozen yogurt)
- Voodoo Doughnut (Crazy donuts)
- Auntie Anne’s (pretzels)
- Coke Icon Cart (drinks and quick snacks)
- Dippin Dots (ice cream… of the future!)
- Dockside (Bar)
- Hub Cart (Fresh margaritas)
- Shoreline (Bar)
- Hard Rock Shop (Rock inspired merchandise)
- Hart & Huntington Tattoo Shop (Tattoos and tattoo merchandise)
- Quiet Flight Surf Shop (Clothing)
- Toothsome Chocolate Emporium (to-go candies and treats)
- Universal Studios Store (Theme park merchandise)
Entertainment and Clubs
- Cinemark Theaters (Movie theater)
- Blue Man Group (Live comedy/music show)
- Hard Rock Live (Rotating live concerts)
- Hollywood Drive-In Golf (miniature golf)
- Pat O’Brien’s (nighttime)
- Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom (nighttime)
- Fat Tuesday (Bar)
- Red Coconut Club (Club)
- Rising Star (Karaoke bar with live band)
- the groove (Club)
TouringPlans users give the CityWalk establishments positive reviews. Their favorite table service locations are Vivo, Toothsome, and Bigfire while their favorite quick-service locations are Breadbox, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, and Red Oven. For snacks and treats, our readers loved Voodoo Donuts, Cinnabon, and Cold Stone Creamery.
Cinemark Theaters recently received a large refurbishment of the theater making it a good place to catch a movie. Hollywood Drive-In Golf is fun but expensive; if you are looking for miniature golf consider getting an Uber to a location on I-Drive. Blue Man Group is a fun, rambunctious, and colorful show that combines music and comedy; it comes with my personal recommendation.
CityWalk is the most crowded in the evenings starting at roughly 6:00 p.m. until two hours after park close. Fridays and Saturdays are the most crowded with locals and conventioneers milling around the clubs. We suggest visiting CityWalk during lunch for shopping, or eating an early lunch. Most establishments open at 11:00 a.m. with the exclusion of Starbucks, Cinnabon, and Voodoo Donuts which open with CityWalk in the morning.
COVID Note: Restaurants are running at a reduced capacity, and shops are socially distanced. Limited outdoor seating is available at Cowfish, Margaritaville, NBC Grill & Brew, Toothsome, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Red Oven, Starbucks, Lone Palm, BK Whopper Bar, Moe’s Southwestern Grill, Panda Express, and Fusion Bistro.
Do you have questions about Universal Orlando Resort? Leave your questions and comments below!
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