For those of who you actually have the energy after a day at the parks and simply can't call it quits, Orlando has plenty of after-dark venues suitable for a night out on the town. That said, even if you're Orlando veterans and not first-timers (the ones most likely to overdo it), if you try to go-go-go from morning until night, you will be completely exhausted after only a few days and will end up needing a vacation after your vacation.
The success of Universal's CityWalk, a district filled with a variety of clubs, shops, and themed restaurants, shows that many visitors have the pizzazz to withstand life after a day of schlepping around the House of Mouse. But don't think Downtown Disney West Side, Pleasure Island (soon to be Hyperion Wharf), and the Marketplace (each filled with its own unique lineup of shops, themed restaurants, and attractions) are hurting for business. The clubs may have closed (a re-imagined Pleasure Island filled with upscale shops and trendy eateries is beginning to emerge, its appeal widened with every unique addition), but the shops and restaurants found throughout Downtown Disney are typically filled to capacity.
Check the "Calendar" section of Friday's Orlando Sentinel for up-to-the-minute details on local clubs, visiting performers, concerts, and events. Many of its listings are also online at www.orlandosentinel.com. The Orlando Weekly, published every Thursday, is a free magazine found in red boxes throughout Central Florida. It highlights more offbeat performances. You can see it online at www.orlandoweekly.com. Another good source on the Internet is www.visitorlando.com, operated by the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Quiet on the Set! -- The comedy, music, and multimedia theatrics of Blue Man Group have taken up residence in Orlando. This highly dynamic and unique group of wild and (at times) wacky performers wows audiences nightly at Universal Studios Florida at the Sharp Aquos Theater (previously Nickelodeon Studios), accessible from both Universal Studios and CityWalk. Park admission is not required for this separately ticketed show, which features two daily performances. Tickets for the show start at $74 for adults, $25 for children ages 3 to 9.
A Night at the Movies -- Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular, Universal Orlando's seasonal nighttime show, made its debut in the summer of 2006. This spectacular after-dark production immerses guests in the movie experience, projecting images from Hollywood's hottest hits across four tremendous "cinespheres" in the park's central lagoon. The scenes and images appear and change throughout the show, while 300 outdoor speakers ensure that the accompanying music is heard by everyone who's even remotely nearby. Lasers and special pyrotechnic effects add to the already amazing visuals.
Located between the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida theme parks, this nightclub, restaurant, and shopping district had its coming-out party in 1999 and competes head-to-head with Disney's Pleasure Island (soon to be Hyperion Wharf). It opens daily at 11am, but the hours of many clubs and restaurants vary, so call in advance if you're interested in a specific venue. Most clubs stay open until 2am.
At 30 acres, CityWalk (tel. 407/363-8000; www.citywalk.com) may be four times smaller than Downtown Disney, but it's the only remaining nightclub district now that Pleasure Island is in the midst of being "re-imagined," with its clubs closed for good. Alcohol is prominently featured here, as it's geared to an adult crowd; younger members of the family should always be accompanied by an adult if allowed to tag along. The nights can get pretty wild here. (Note: Some clubs won't allow anyone younger than 21 inside after a certain hour.)
You can walk this district for free at night or visit individual clubs and pay a cover. CityWalk also offers two party passes. A pass to all clubs costs $11.99 plus tax. For $15 plus tax, you get a club pass and a movie at Universal Cineplex (tel. 407/354-5998). Universal also offers free club access to those who buy select multiday theme-park tickets. There's also a Meal & Movie Deal option; for $21.95, you get entrance to a movie at the Cineplex and dinner at one of the CityWalk restaurants (select menu items apply); visit www.universalorlando.com for complete details.
Daytime parking in the Universal Orlando garages costs $14, but after 6pm self-parking is only $3. To get to CityWalk, take I-4 exit 74B (westbound) or 75A (eastbound) and follow the signs to the parks.
Taking Center Stage -- With a live band and backup singers, guests are invited to take to the stage and show off their talents (or, in some cases, the lack thereof) at Rising Star (tel. 407/224-3663), CityWalk's latest addition to its lineup of clubs. Replacing CityJazz a few years back, this karaoke club features a live band, backup singers, and a host to get things going every Tuesday through Saturday. On Sunday and Monday the music's recorded, but the backup singers and host are live. There's a cover of $7 (no charge to sing) and a full bar if you need to loosen up before taking the stage.
On the Go -- Fitting in nicely with the New Orleans theme of its next-door neighbor (Pat O'Brien's), Fat Tuesday (tel. 407/224-2236; www.fat-tuesday.com) serves up a selection of frozen drinks street-side (at CityWalk you can walk about with your drink in hand, and clubs and restaurants won't turn you away). Order drinks off the menu or mix and match your own concoction from a variety of prefab flavors that line the back wall of this walk-up bar (think slushy machine). Drinks run $7, refills $6 if you purchase a refillable cup, and liquid toppers $1. Specialties include the 190 Octane (a mix of grain alcohol, orange juice, and orange punch). Unlike most frozen drinks, these really pack a punch. Cherry Jell-O shots, beer, and soda are also available.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.