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CityWalk – Orientation to CityWalk

The layout and setting of CityWalk is ingenious. It is a 30-acre lozenge-shaped area plopped right down between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. It is impossible to get from your car to either of the parks, or from one park to the other, without passing through CityWalk. On top of that, a river runs through it — or rather a man-made waterway that separates most of CityWalk from the theme parks and links CityWalk to the Hard Rock and Portofino Bay Hotels, and the Royal Pacific Resort.

Most of the buildings in CityWalk are arrayed along the perimeter closest to the parking structures, facing in toward the waterway. To mask the backs of the buildings and their service areas, the park’s designers created an immense steel latticework that curves up and over CityWalk. The idea was that climbing vines and other plants would cover it in a camouflaging green cocoon. So far it hasn’t worked. Mostly what you see is the latticework.

There are three major streets: a straight avenue that leads from the parking structures, a curving boulevard that leads from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure near the waterway, and the Promenade that runs past the major nightclubs. Smaller streets wind between CityWalk’s few freestanding buildings; one of these is a zigzag stairway that descends from the upper exit of the Cineplex to the waterway. It used to be called Lombard Street and that’s how it will be referred to in this Chapter because “Zigzag Stairway with No Name” is awkward. Along the waterway runs an esplanade in the middle of which is an outdoor performance space for special concerts and other events. Also along this esplanade is a dock where you can pick up an elegant complimentary motor launch for the short trip to the resort hotels.

Smack dab in the middle of CityWalk is a large open space called simply the Plaza. On one side, a series of grass and stone platforms descends toward the water, forming a seating area for the performance space at water’s edge. On the other, a stage sits over a sloping, waterfall-like fountain. Here you are likely to see a band entertaining the passing crowd with high-decible cover tunes. From time to time you may see other off-the-wall entertainers — jugglers, stilt-walkers, and the like — roaming the grounds spreading smiles and good cheer.

Also in the Plaza is a street-level “fountain” consisting of several rows of hidden water jets that send up columns of water of various heights, at various times, in various patterns. It is seldom without a crowd of young kids and adults old enough to know better dodging and weaving through its liquid columns, getting thoroughly drenched.

With one exception, the nightclubs in CityWalk are located along the Promenade, which rises gradually from Plaza level, curving behind the Plaza, to the upper exit from the Cineplex. This clever arrangement makes the nightclub area a separate and easily policed enclave within an enclave. The exception is Hard Rock Live (a concert hall more than a nightclub), which is connected to the Hard Rock Cafe and lies across the waterway along a short walk that connects Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

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Universal Orlando 2011


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