20 of My Favorite Things To Do at Universal CityWalk

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CityWalk is a little bit like Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island in that there is temptation everywhere with many food, drink, shopping and entertainment options.

Is it free to walk in Universal CityWalk?

Yes. Although depending on how you get there, you might have to pay to park.

And while walking in may be free, don’t be surprised if you walk back out with your wallet lighter.


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What is the difference between Universal Studios and Universal CityWalk?

Universal Studios Florida is the theme park. You must have a ticket. CityWalk is an entertainment complex associated with Universal.

Both have shopping and restaurants, but CityWalk doesn’t have rides. 

CityWalk Street with Visitors Sunny Day
CityWalk is smaller than Disney Springs but is similar in concept (photo by Daniel Munson/HeyOrlando.com)

Is Disney Springs the same as CityWalk?

It’s a similar basic concept. Disney Springs is the Walt Disney World version of CityWalk. 

The biggest differences are that Disney Springs is much larger, but not it’s directly adjacent to any theme park. At Universal, you must enter and exit the theme park through CityWalk – for the most part.

Read Also: Disney Springs vs City Walk, Comparing Restaurants and Things To Do

What is there to do at Universal CityWalk?

There’s only one thing we can do here. We’ve got to rank the Universal CityWalk Orlando experiences. 

But one caveat. I’ve ranked things like CityWalk restaurants based on the food. This isn’t that. This is based on experience.

For example, while the food may be better at say Bigfire, the experience is better at Bob Marley, where they have live music and Caribbean food. So, let’s break it down. 

CityWalk's Cinemark Movies Exterior
If you have the time, go see a movie while at CityWalk (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

20. Go to the movies

I would only do this if you have time to also explore CityWalk and the parks. Do not give up valuable CityWalk experiences just to go to the movies. 

But there is kind of something magical about seeing a great movie in a good theater while you’re on vacation. Bonus points if the movie is something featured in Universal parks. 

Portland Cream at Voodoo Doughnut
The Portland Cream Voodoo Doughnut (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

19. Get a mobile order from Voodoo Doughnut

You see people carrying the pink boxes all around CityWalk. They guard them closely because there is treasure inside. You do not – see what I did there – know how good a donut can be until you’ve had a Voodoo Donut.

Get a mobile order and then sit out overlooking the spectacle that is CityWalk. Soak it all in while you enjoy a taste of the dark magic.

Hollywood Drive-In Golf at City Walk Universal
Try some mini golf and a meal while at CityWalk (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

18. Play at the Hollywood Drive-in Golf

There are better mini golf courses in Orlando, but there are few places where it’s easy to incorporate mini golf into a great night out.

Maybe play before dinner or after dinner before drinks – you work out the logistics.

But I think 18 holes of mini golf followed by some sushi and a burger at Cowfish and drinks in Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville is a pretty good night on the town. 

CityWalk Boat Approaching Pier
The boat ride is a relaxing way to travel at CityWalk (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

17. Take a boat ride

There are several Universal Orlando Resort Hotels along the canal way at the Universal Complex.

For example, we had dinner reservations at Mama Della’s Ristorante at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. The meal was great – as was the resort’s Italian theming.

But the boat ride was an exceptionally chill way to get to the resort and back to the park. Build time in your trip to go explore the wider Universe at Universal. 

NBC Sports Grill & Brew Universal CityWalk
NBC Sports Grill & Brew Universal CityWalk is especially fun for watching sporting events (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

16. Take in a sporting event at the NBC Sports Grill

Ideally, you’d time this with a major sporting event. I wouldn’t choose this experience just for a regular dinner.

However, give me a big college football game or something like World Cup Soccer where the whole place is paying attention. Then, you’ve got a good time. 

Universal Legacy Store Exterior CityWalk
Do some shopping at the Universal Legacy Store at CityWalk (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

15. Shop at the Universal Legacy Store

I usually don’t like to shop inside theme parks. Sure, there’s some level of souvenir work that must be done, but once I step inside a park like Universal’s Islands of Adventure, I don’t want to spend too much of that time shopping even if I’m staying in a Universal Resort when I can have the stuff shipped back to the hotel. 

However, at a place like CityWalk, I’m happy to relax and shop or go out and listen to some live music and have a drink while the rest of my group shops. 

The only exception? Specific land merchandise. Call me crazy, but I want to buy my Wizarding World of Harry Potter merch inside the Wizarding World if possible. 

Rising Star Karaoke Entrance City Walk
Experience karaoke while eating pizza at Rising Star Karaoke (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

14. Catch some karaoke at CityWalk’s Rising Star

Here you can enjoy some Red Oven Pizza Bakery pizza pies and specialty cocktails while listening to others live out their American Idol-style dreams. 

Better yet, get up there and chase your own dreams with backup singers and a live band – on select nights – and belt out your favorite songs in this rockin’ karaoke experience. 

Universal CItyWalk's Margaritaville
Spend an evening listening to live music at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

13. Listen to live music at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville

Listen, sometimes I can be hard on the culture that has arisen around the mythos of one James William Buffet.

But let’s be clear. I am not entirely immune to man’s charms. There are certainly worse ways to spend an evening than drinking slightly watered-down cocktails and listening to live boat music on a warm Central Florida evening. 

Hart & Huntington Tattoo Co. CityWalk
For a souvenir that lasts, visit the Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

12. Get a tattoo at Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company

There are souvenirs and then there are souvenirs. You don’t have to get a Universal themed tattoo here.

But you COULD get a Universal-themed tattoo here. These talented artists are among some of the best in the world.

City Walk Universal's Bob Marley
Reggae live is a great experience at Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

11. Listen to some reggae at Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom

I am not the world’s foremost advocate of reggae music. I like it, but I don’t love it.

On the other hand, I also don’t get to run across live reggae all that often. Something changes when it’s right there in front of you. If this is about the experience, you might as well do something you haven’t done before. 

10. Universal’s Great Movie Escape

Even though I like a good challenge, I am not a big fan of the escape room craze. I spent the better part of a semester in college unlocking the riddles of the computer game Myst – getting into my obsessive-compulsive nature and frequently becoming so frustrated that I wanted to toss the whole dang thing out onto the street.

Therefore, the idea of bringing that frustration to the real world of Universal’s CityWalk does not sound like a good time to me.

However, a lot of people really like being exceptionally frustrated in groups, and the Great Movie Escape offers Back to the Future and Jurassic World-themed escapes to stay with the whole Universal vibe. 

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Universal CityWalk
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Universal CityWalk (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

9. Recite ‘Forrest Gump’ lines as you walk past Bubba Gump Shrimp

If you like Bubba Gump, more power to you. I’m not here to say the food or experience is bad. But I do find it so very perplexing. Anyway, I can only do a few decent imitations. 

I can do Sean Connery saying, “It tells me Goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them,” from Indiana Jones III and I do a credible Forest Gump saying “I’m not a smart man. But I know what love is,” while putting my hands on my hips.

Anyway, the kids love it as we walk past Bubba Gump with me talking to them like they were Lt. Dan. 

“I got you some ice cream.” Certainly, they’re not embarrassed at all. 

Cold Stone Creamery CityWalk Sign
Stop for some delicious ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

8. Get some ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery

Speaking of ice cream, Stone Cold Creamery is about a two-minute walk from Bubba Gump. It’s perfect. 

Universal Globe and Tourists
Stop for some great photos at the Universal Studios globe (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

7. Get a picture with the Universal Studios globe

Universal lacks the gigantic icons that its rival Disney offers for great picture-taking.

But the spinning globe, right across from the entrance to Universal Studios, is a must-stop for pictures. 

CityWalk's Hard Rock Cafe Lobby
The entrance to the Hard Rock Cafe in CityWalk (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. Experience the Hard Rock Cafe

As a card-carrying member of Generation X, it was ingrained in me at a young age that Hard Rock Cafe is cool. I’ve been to Hard Rocks on both sides of the Atlantic, including the original in London.

Also, I’m enough of a dad that I like walking around the restaurant like it’s a museum and checking out the rock and roll memorabilia.

You haven’t really gone full-scale dad until you call out across a crowded restaurant to tell them you’ve found a Les Paul used by Keith Richardson while simultaneously complimenting a family on their selection of appetizers. 

Antojitos Empanadas in CityWalk
Antojitos’ empanadas were quite good (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

5. Eat at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food

Sometimes a great meal is an experience. This is a great meal. 

Read Also: 15 Best Restaurants at Universal City Walk, Ranked

4. Get your picture with the welcome sign

On a walkway right at the entrance to CityWalk, there is a sign welcoming you to the resort.

It’s perfect for picture taking. In fact, the sign was taken down for months and many speculated that it was gone for good because the tourists were blocking the entrance path as they stopped and took or posed for pictures. But it’s back, baby. Bottleneck away! 

two tall milkshakes with full toppings over a jar
Enjoy a meal or dessert at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (photo by Daniel Munson/HeyOrlando.com)

3. Enjoy a meal at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen

This place is like a steampunk Willy Wonka without the morality lessons delivered by Oompa Loompas or an eccentric candy maker.

Also, the food is quite good. Don’t pass up on the milkshakes or the desserts. 

sushi from cowfish in citywalk
Try sushi or burgers, they are both excellent at Cowfish CityWalk (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Get a sushi roll and a burger at Cowfish

I’m not saying you have to try the burgushi, but I will say – despite some issues with the staff – Cowfish had the best burger I’ve ever had, and the sushi rolls were good, too.

A great place with a unique menu? That’s an experience in itself. 

Pat O'Briens Entrance CityWalk
Pat O’Brien’s has great Cajun food, but the dueling pianos make the visit truly worthwhile (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. Check out the dueling pianos at Pat O’Brien’s

This is a New Orleans-style favorite with great Cajun food and pasta, but the real experience is the dueling pianos. Sure, people are going to request a lot of Billy Joel or a lot of Elton John, and that’s fine.

But when some genius asks for the right song combined with the right mood – maybe something you wouldn’t think of as a piano classic – the whole place can be rocking.

What is your favorite thing to do at CityWalk? Let us know in the comments!

Photo of author


John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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