Yes, Disney World and Universal Studios are party spots and have an exciting nightlife all their own. Therefore, it takes something special—something outrageous and forward—to make Orlando nightlife stand out from the family-friendly atmosphere that permeates the city in daytime. There is much to look at here in the way of bars, nightclubs, and live shows. You will find that most of the activity is centred among four primary areas: Downtown Disney, Pleasure Island, City Walk (Universal) and Downtown Orange Avenue.
Disney World doesn’t do half bad in terms of brightening the night with adult entertainment, with their own clubs of House of Blues, La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil, and the Comedy Warehouse. Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom club and the Latin Quarter keep Universal Studios hip, while the Disney's Coronado Springs RIX has plenty of VIPs and visiting celebrities.
The Richard Petty Driving Experience lets you experience firsthand the adrenaline rush of the Daytona 500 or the Indy 500 race, as you ride around in a NASCAR race car after a “crash course” on how to control the little devil. You can choose to shotgun race yourself or ride along with a NASCAR pro. It’s definitely an adults-only ride you won’t find anywhere near a theme park.
While hotel chain bars might not be as raucous as an independent nightclub there is one definite advantage: much more lavish surroundings with spa treatments, rooftop bars and lounges, and the glamour that only a billion dollar chain company can bring. The top of the Palace Lounge of the Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa has a particularly lush view of scenery—you peer down from a 27th storey floor!
Nothing makes beverages more enjoyable than absurdist humour, so branch outside of the bars and head over to the comedy clubs. Laughs are all but guaranteed with celebrity drop-ins like Jay Mohr, Mo'Nique, Carlos Mencia, Pauly Shore and others at hot locations like Orlando Improv Comedy Club and Dinner Theatre. SAK has occasional celebrity visits but also some of the hottest young comics on the circuit and is where many hot comedians start their career.
Downtown Orlando has many clubs to choose from, such as The Social a club known for live music, and the dance club Tabu. However, the best reviewed Orlando clubs and bars are on the outskirts of Orlando, and give you good reason to come a few miles out of your way.
Jazz Tastings in the Village Plaza in Maitland features live music six nights of the week accentuating sax, piano, and talented Jazz singers. The staff has earned great reviews for making newcomers feel welcomed. Enjoy wine, snack tapas, desserts, but best of all real Jazz music.
The Wine Room in Winter Park is a wine connoisseur’s dream, with self-serve, portion-controlled Enomatic wine dispensers that expedite the wine tasting, and minimise waiting lines. Staffers are wine experts and can recommend great sample wines within your budget. You can pay as you drink with a debit wine card and enjoy any of the 150 bottles on hand.
The Matador is a short distance away from the downtown area, in Ivanhoe, but still offers an experience worth the drive. The interiors are velvet upholstery, like something out of royalty. Vintage furniture lends the bar a nice ambience while the craft-cocktails will help you feel cosy in no time.
The Independent Bar has a unique sensibility all its own, with its welcome-all attire code, (a nice contrast to some clubs that have strict dress policies), as well as an eclectic mix of music that can range from vintage rock to even a Mac & Cheese “cheesiest music mix” theme night. It is also an under-21 club so no “young adults” are excluded from the party, even while over-21 partiers can still make use of alcohol-only bars.
One80 Grey Goose Lounge can rival any hotel’s scenic lounges, with its own city-viewing floor under the Spire Tower. There is music, live entertainment, guest DJs, go-go dancers and best of all, cheap drinks called Grey Goose cocktails on Mondays.
Arguably the best substances experience one can have in Orlando after dark is at the Kush Ultralounge, which not only provides wine and beer but also a hookah lounge. Ambient lighting, music and videos only complement the fragrant smoke. In addition to smokes there is also an oxygen bar for easier breathing.
Orlando is always ready to prove itself as a city of “sin”, as opposed to just the theme park capital of the world. While there are no shortages of strip clubs in the city, including favourites Dancers Royale and Rock Hard Revue (a show for ladies and gay fellows), there is actually plenty of eye-opening performances going on at more mainstream clubs.
Mad Cow Theatre puts on Broadway-calibre shows as well as dramatic plays and even intimate cabaret performances. This downtown location is has a wide variety of entertainment that will soothe your soul and address your intellect.
Parliament House is actually a nightclub, but it has also earned a reputation for its gay entertainment and self-admitted “trashiness”, which has earned it a loyal following. The club often sees celebrity appearances by Chaka Khan, Lady Gaga and hosts the Miss Gay Orlando Pageant. In addition to the drag shows, shameless dancing and drinks, there is also onsite lodging for sleeping the rush away, or for whatever other reason one might require lodging at a nightclub.
The Venue in Ivanhoe Village is much more risqué than your average club, featuring edgy art and performances and burlesque shows from the likes of VarieTease a local troupe. Expect cabaret style seating, pre-show cocktails, comedy acts, and art expositions that challenge the mind.
Finally, if you want something truly wild and representative of American perversity, and don’t find the strip clubs alluring, then boldly go where most dare not tread. The Woodshed Orlando, described as a pansexual playground, features some bawdy entertainment the likes of which more lax overseas countries can appreciate, given the United States’ strict commercial codes regarding adult entertainment. The Woodshed is a member’s only club, though membership is open to the public and filling out a form will keep you a member for one year’s time.
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