Universal Orlando Resort recently announced that parking is free after 6 p.m. While that doesn’t help you if you’re heading out to the theme parks early, it’s a boon for locals who want to enjoy the CityWalk shopping and dining district. If you’re not familiar with CityWalk, it’s the area that you walk through from the parking garages to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, but it’s also packed with its own amusements.
There’s no admission charge for CityWalk, although you have to pay to park, even if you’re not going into one of the two theme parks. However, with the new “free after 6 p.m.” offer, you can head over for dinner and a stroll without paying a dime, other than whatever you spend at the restaurants and stores.You can also catch a movie at the theaters or play a round or two of miniature golf. The only catch is that it’s not valid during Halloween Horror Nights, which is a mere seven months away. It’s a real treat as a local to be able to hop in the car and head over for a quick nosh.
I’m a big fan of most of the CityWalk dining venues there, but I do have three favorites. I’ve loved Cowfish ever since it opened, and it’s my go-to after a night of scares at Halloween Horror Nights or a general visit to Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. Sushi and burgers are a winning combination, and I love their tuna appetizer and the decadent milkshakes that I always top my meal with. They have some great Bento Boxes that allow you to try a variety of good things all it one sitting, and be sure to customize your own animated fish while you’re waiting for your table or before you leave.
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
Speaking of decadence, that brings me to another big favorite: Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. They have insanely delicious shakes, too, and a full menu that works in chocolate in creative ways. The bread is to die for! While Cowfish has the namesake aquatic creature swimming in a tank in the diningroom, Toothsome has its proprietor, Penelope, and her steampunk robot assistant, Jacques, who you can meet if you pay a visit. See them here in the media presentation from the restaurant’s opening:
NBC Sports Grill and Brew
Last but not least, if you’re just in the mood for a burger or some other good old-fashioned bar food and a nice, cold beer, the NBC Sports Grill and Brew is the perfect spot. I love the wide variety of beer; even when I’m not hungry, I’ve been know to stop in for a brew or two. Look at all of those delicious dishes in the video below that you can wash down with your choice of beer:
CityWalk has plenty of other great places to eat, but those are my top three. Now you can try them out for yourself without paying a parking fee. Just be sure to arrive after 6 p.m. and the parking is on Universal.