One of the defining characteristics of Universal Orlando is that it offers many more adult-oriented distractions than the Mouse House. The atmosphere of both Universal theme parks – and the nighttime entertainment magnet known as CityWalk – is exciting and energetic. Seen as both a pro and a con depending on who you ask, Universal has no qualms placing their bars and adult beverages out in the open and all around their resort.
With the recent additions of The Cowfish, The Hopping Pot, and Duff Gardens, I am reminded of all the wonderful outdoor bars that Universal Orlando offers. There is something very calming about sipping a cold drink while soaking up the outdoor atmosphere – the fun and excitement is all around, yet you can take some time just to chill.
Here are our picks for Universal Orlando’s top five outdoor bars.
#5 – The Watering Hole
Located deep in the dense vegetation of Jurassic Park, you’ll find an unpretentious-but-well-equipped outdoor bar. This little walk-up counter-service-style venue offers beer, wine, and a selection of specialty cocktails and is located almost exactly midway through Islands of Adventure, making it a great halfway point no matter which direction you started your adventure from.
The one downfall of this location is that it is a walk-up counter, which means that there’s no seating at the bar – although there is plenty of shaded tables and chairs. Additionally, it is tucked away a little, so while it does offer a quieter spot to drink, it also lacks a bit of atmosphere.
#4 – Duff Gardens
As this addition to Universal’s bar scene was being built, I wondered, “Why would they build a Duff Gardens and a Moe’s Tavern?”
Well, now I know: while both venues have essentially the same beverage lineup, the atmospheres are very different. Duff Gardens is a completely open-air, long, rectangular bar offering panoramic views of Universal Studios Florida. Rich woods and red bricks coupled with flat-screen TVs make this feel like a manly bar.
Duff Gardens reminds me a bit of the outdoor bar areas of some of the nicer Miller’s Ale Houses you’ll find around town. High-top chairs surround the bar, and the smiles of friendly Duff beer men and women wait to welcome you.
However, it is the views that really make this location worth the visit. Patrons can gaze happily at the gorgeous London waterfront and take in the sights of the Knight Bus, Grimmauld Place, and the Muggles coming and going through Diagon Alley’s secret entrance, all while surrounded by the silliness of Springfield USA.
#3 – Chez Alcatraz
A quaint, nautical rotunda sits unassumingly in the heart of the San Francisco backlot of Universal Studios, just off the main walkway. With Bruce the Shark on its right, Disaster on its left, and the sprawling Springfield across the lagoon, there are splendid views all around.
(Although I should probably note that, despite Chez Alcatraz being a few feet away from the lagoon, air circulation is a bit stagnant here, leading it to feel extra warm at the bar.)
A limited food menu is offered, but the small selection is made up for by better-than-average options, such as house-made potato chips and the Margherita Flatbread.
A full bar is definitely available, and I recommend the Frozen Mojito (so refreshing) or the Bloody Mary – an appropriate drink when you’re nestled between a ferocious shark and a disaster waiting to happen.
<script async src=”//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js”></script>
#2 – The Cowfish
The Cowfish already touts an impressive – albeit massive – menu full of flavorful taste combinations that are a foodie’s wild dream. The drink menu is also impressive and boasts some very creative and classy cocktails. This culinary sensation is made even better with not only two outdoor seating areas, but a substantial outdoor bar, to boot.
Hands down, The Cowfish’s outdoor bar is one of the largest within Universal Orlando. There is plenty of seating around the bar itself, as well as a clever countertop with seating that faces out towards the Red Coconut Club and Bob Marley’s A Tribute to Freedom.
The full menu of The Cowfish can be ordered outside. What better way to enjoy the unique tastes offered here than to dine out in the fantastic central Florida weather among the vitality of CityWalk? (Pro tip: just like the restaurant itself, this outdoor bar is very popular, so the earlier you get here, the better.)
This venue is a great way to wrap up your day of adventure or kick off an exciting night in CityWalk.
#1 – Lone Palm Airport
I tried hard to justify one of Universal’s other outdoor bars as the winner of my top five, but I just couldn’t do it. In my book, nothing beats the Lone Palm Airport, which is part of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.
Sit under a thatched roof at the tiki bar with colorful stools or grab one of the high-top tables and chairs nestled in white powdery sand under the shade of palm trees. Either way, you’ll be steps away from one of CityWalk’s most iconic features: the real-life airplane owned and piloted by Jimmy Buffett, the Hemisphere Dancer.
Guests are welcomed by friendly bartenders and the best views of both Universal Orlando theme parks. In fact, the Lone Palm has one of the most panoramic, sweeping views you can find. The roar of the Incredible Hulk and the excited screams of its riders carry through the wind over to the bar – that, in the evening, is joined by live music from the Porch of Indecision.
In short, a visit to the Lone Palm is the perfect level of tropical relaxation amid the thrill and excitement of the theme parks.
Honorable mention – The Hopping Pot
In the midst of the enchanting, whimsical Diagon Alley is The Hopping Pot. Welcoming Muggles, witches, and wizards seeking Butterbeer, specialty draft beer, or a Diagon Alley signature beverage, this walk-up bar is perfect for quenching your thirst.
The rustic wood details and the painted advertisements in the surrounding area add a wizarding atmosphere. While there is no seating at the Hopping Pot counter – thus making it difficult to count it as an actual bar – there are some nice tables and bench seating right out front, allowing patrons to sit and drink in all the details.
If The Hopping Pot did have traditional seating right at the bar, it would probably be higher on my list. Additionally, the only alcoholic beverage offered here is beer – although, it has to be said, the selection of beer is nice and flavorful, and it includes two specialty brews that can only be found in Diagon Alley. Finally, if the food offerings were expanded beyond just potato crisps and Cornish pasties, this location would be hard to beat.
Even given these limitations, The Hopping Pot is the perfect spot to grab a drink and enjoy all the magic that the Wizarding World has to offer.
I hope you enjoyed my top five outdoor bars at Universal Orlando. Make sure you take some time to chill on your next visit to Universal Orlando and raise a glass to adventure!
Want to learn more about Universal? Check out the top five ways to start and end your day at the parks.
Share your own favorite drinking holes with like-minded adventurers in the comments below.
Planning a vacation to Orlando?
Want to skip all the work and just price out a vacation to Universal Orlando? We’ll find the best deals for you – for free (seriously.) Learn more, or check out some of the current deals:
- – Halloween Horror Nights 25 Hotel & Ticket Vacation Packages
– Wizarding World of Harry Potter Vacation Packages
– 2-Park Getaway at Universal Orlando