Orlando’s downtown nightlife has certainly evolved over the past two decades. While Downtown Disney and Universal CityWalk tend to attract primarily tourist crowds (as well as local residents accompanied by their out of town friends) more travelers are discovering the downtown venues that Orlando residents have enjoyed for years, and with each passing year there are even more entertainment options available.
In recent years, the state of the art Amway Center has become the anchor of Orlando’s downtown nightlife. Located right next to Interstate 4, the Amway Center is home to the Orlando Magic NBA team as well as all of the major concerts that come into town.
Not only is the interior of the Amway Center a dazzling display of electronic signage and jumbotrons complete with upscale lounges, executive suites and a kids’ play area, but there are dozens of bars and restaurants just a few steps away along Church Street, so basketball fans and concert goers can have a bite at nearby Hamburger Mary’s before the big event if they choose to skip the concession stands.
View more pictures of the Amway Center in Orlando
Church Street Station used to be Orlando’s main nightclub scene before Disney World’s Downtown Disney and Universal Studio’s CityWalk began to corner the market on the local nightclub scene. The original Church Street Station is now reserved for private events, but the area immediately surrounding Church Street Station is just as lively as ever, especially with Amway Center just down the block.
Some of the best known bars and nightclubs in the Church Street area include Chillers, Big Belly, Latitudes, and the Rok Room featuring the VIP Ultra Lounge. For the 21 and up visitors who want a night out on the town at an Orlando venue that does not have stroller parking, there are plenty of establishments to choose from, and Orlando’s warm weather makes it easy to go pub crawling on a Saturday night without worrying about carrying a heavy coat around.
Just a few blocks away from Church Street is the Sak Comedy Club on Orange Avenue. Game show host (and improv expert) Wayne Brady is the Sak Comedy Club’s most famous graduate, and this live entertainment venue prides itself on offering improv that is accessible to an all-ages audience.
Sak Comedy Club’s improvisational comedians are also known for creating special skits for individuals based on information provided several weeks in advance (visit the Sak website for prices and details). Not only does the guest of honor get to enjoy a “this is your life” performance in front of a live audience; he or she will also receive a DVD of the personalized skit to enjoy for years to come.
View more pictures of Church Street
Just a few blocks east of the Church Street area is historic Lake Eola. This is where local residents and visitors enjoy outdoor dining just about any time of the year (after all, this is Florida) and pedicabs ride past the newly renovated fountain in the middle of Lake Eola.
Lake Eola Park hosts a number of events year-round, including concerts, fundraising events, a Sunday farmers’ market and Orlando’s Fourth of July fireworks display. Paddle boats are available for rental in Lake Eola as well, and one of the most popular natural attractions in this part of downtown Orlando are the Lake Eola swans. Don’t feed these graceful creatures bread or popcorn—they actually prefer a vegetarian diet.
Restaurants near Lake Eola include 310 Lakeside, Hue Restaurant and Cityfish. Throughout the nearby Thornton Park neighborhood most of downtown Orlando, visitors will be pleasantly surprised to find independently owned eating establishments as opposed to the chain restaurants that tend to populate the attractions area.
View more pictures of Lake Eola
Downtown Orlando is where residents live, work and play, and it just might be Orlando’s best kept secret. In the years since Disney World and all of the other local theme parks put Orlando on the map for domestic and international travel, The City Beautiful is ready to entertain a much broader audience.