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.
Between the Swan and Dolphin hotels and Epcot, Disney’s BoardWalk (no admission required) is a lesser entertainment district that’s no match for the cocktails flowing at Disney Springs area. It can be reached from Epcot’s International Gateway side entrance, but if you park at Epcot, be careful because once the park closes, you can’t cut through to the parking lot. At the very least, BoardWalk is a scrubbed-down idealization of 1930s Atlantic City that makes for a pleasant backdrop for an evening stroll on the water. Most visitors grab an ice cream and stick around for a half-hour or so. Its two clubs thump along, sometimes in lonely desolation, although patronage depends greatly on what conventions are staying at the adjoining hotels.
Disney Springs is more about food, cocktails, and entertainment and not about clubs, but a notable exception is The Edison, new in 2017. It adapts a concept that originated in an abandoned electrical substation in downtown Los Angeles, where dance floors and cabaret acts share space with rusty, century-old equipment. The Disney version, while still steampunk and free-spirited, is more about contortionists and palm readers than burlesque—but it’s still a touch saucy and not for kids. Beyond that, there are tons of places to drink, including bars in pretty much every sit-down restaurant, highlights include Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar (lots of rummy drinks looesly themed after Indiana Jones’s plane pilot), Dockside Margaritas, the waterfront Lava Lounge at Rainforest Cafe, and an outdoor slushie bar attached to Splitsville Luxury Lanes. Nearly all the major Disney Springs restaurants have their own bars, too—STK Orlando’s upstairs bar being one of the more high-minded.
Universal Orlando’s 30-acre nightclub mall CityWalk is found in the front yard shared by both Universal theme parks. Drinks are strong and the liveliness is bolstered partly by regular concerts at its Hard Rock Live venue, but it could use a refresh and some pertinence. There is no charge to enter the common area, which is a boon because that allows anyone to tour around before deciding whether they want to pay to enter any clubs. Buying a $12 CityWalk Party Pass ($15 if you want a movie ticket at its AMC Cineplex, too) from any of the kiosks at the complex grants you unlimited admission to any and all of them on a given night; the clubs usually open after 9pm and are otherwise $7 a pop. Some of them serve food during the day and turn into nightspots late, and others open only in the evening. All Universal park tickets with multiday admission automatically come with one Party Pass. Finally, there’s a package that buys a prix-fixe dinner at four of CityWalk’s restaurants with a ticket to the Cineplex for $22. Many clubs only admit patrons 21 or older because drinking is permitted outdoors anywhere in CityWalk.
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.
A Night Out -- Several of the higher-priced Disney resorts -- including Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Wilderness Lodge, as well as the Polynesian Resort -- have supervised kid care, usually from 4 or 4:30pm to midnight daily ($11.25 per child 4-12 per hour, dinner and activities included; tel. 407/939-3463). Disney also offers in-room sitters through Kid's Night Out (tel. 407/827-5444). The Walt Disney World Dolphin, an "official" resort, offers a supervised child-care program as well.
The Performing Arts
While Disney occasionally hosts classical music acts, you'll usually have to go downtown to get a taste of the traditional arts.
Disney does not turn into a pumpkin when the sun goes down, offering plenty of nighttime entertainment, including laser-light shows, fireworks, IllumiNations, and Fantasmic!. There are also two distinctly different dinner shows worthy of special note, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Disney's Spirit of Aloha, and a third show that's an occasional player. Note: While they offer family-friendly entertainment, don't expect haute cuisine. The food, though good, takes a back seat to the show.
If You're Lucky . . . -- Mickey's Backyard BBQ (407/939-3463; www.disneyworld.com) is offered at Pioneer Hall at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn allow you onto their home turf to have a thigh-slapping time and a feast in a covered outdoor pavilion. Expect Mickey and his pals to join you for a meal that includes barbecued pork ribs, chicken, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, baked beans, mac and cheese, watermelon, beer, wine, lemonade, iced tea, and dessert. $57 adults, $33 kids 3–9. Thurs and Sat (also Tues, Fri in peak season), Mar–Dec, but the weather plays a big factor and shows are canceled at times, so call ahead. Advance Reservations are accepted up to 180 days ahead. Payment in full is expected at the time of booking.
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.