10 magical Orlando bars and restaurants to have a theme park-like experience without the high price of admission
Orlando is known for its theme parks, and the city's flair for fantasy extends to local eateries.
These include movie, fantasy, and horror-themed bars, and even one with dozens of free arcade games.
Here are 10 themed bars and restaurants recommended by a local to add to your Orlando must-sees.
I've lived in Orlando for the last 13 years and have found the best places to have a theme park-like experience without the high price of admission.
As a 13-year resident, one of my favorite things about Orlando is how the theme parks' flair for the dramatic influences our lifestyles and local businesses.
I've found that the city has a distinct selection of themed bars that cater to residents and out-of-towners alike, from video game bars and Prohibition-style speakeasies to a bar that's Halloween-inspired year-round.
Some of my favorite themed watering holes are popular among locals, and a few are closer to tourist hotspots near the theme parks.
All are open to the public and, based on my experience, have warm and welcoming atmospheres.
I like to head to Bellhop for a 1920s-themed escape from nightlife crowds.
Bellhop is a coffee and cocktail bar in downtown Orlando on the first floor of the old Angebilt Hotel, which opened in 1923.
Now, the building houses offices and retail, but Bellhop's decor still pays homage to the glamorous 1920s. The bar has ceiling-high columns covered in gold tiles, floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains, tufted sofas, and an accent wall made of vintage suitcases.
It's open in the morning for coffee, and serves drinks in the evening, including wine, beer, and signature cocktails. On a recent visit, I enjoyed a cocktail called Just In Thyme, made with chamomile Mezcal, sherry, velvet falernum, blackberry, and thyme.
Due to its central location and loungy atmosphere, for me, it's a sophisticated escape from downtown Orlando's generally raucous crowds.
Cocktails & Screams is a campy, horror-themed bar inspired by scary movies and shows.
To me, visiting Cocktails & Screams in downtown Orlando feels like entering an evil scientist's dungeon, but in a fun way.
Inspired by scary shows and horror movies, the bar is filled with fake skeletons and cobwebs, projections of dancing ghosts, and posters from classic horror movies.
One seating area is styled after "The Addams Family," with black and white furnishings and a fake stuffed polar bear. Another section has a 1980s-style living room set and a "Stranger Things" mural, complete with the iconic Ouija-style alphabet painting and string lights from the Netflix show.
The drink menu has themed cocktails with names like The Jekyll & Hyde and Samhain. My favorite is Scarlet Fever, a bubbling blood orange margarita served with fresh juice and a hibiscus flower.
For free arcade games and a dose of '80s nostalgia, I go to 1UP in downtown Orlando.
Located just a few steps from downtown Orlando's Church Street Station, 1UP is a two-story, '80s-themed bar with free arcade games like Dance Dance Revolution, Pac-Man, Tron, air hockey, and many others.
I love coming here for the decor too, which includes vintage TVs, pendant lights made of cassette tapes, a Lego accent wall, and a bar plastered with old Rolling Stone magazine covers.
Near the back of the bar, I like to order pizza from the Turtle Van, a food truck-style nook inspired by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I often perch in the loft, decorated in a Barbie Dreamhouse theme, while enjoying my go-to tequila-spiked Kool-Aid cocktail called "Ohh Yeaah," which comes in a single-serve pitcher.
Getting into Hanson's Shoe Repair, a slyly hidden speakeasy, is an adventure on its own.
The experience of visiting Hanson's Shoe Repair can be difficult if you're not in the know. The speakeasy requires a password for entry, which visitors can learn by calling ahead or checking the bar's Twitter account, as the password changes daily.
Once you know the code, be prepared to wait. During my last visit, on a Saturday at around 8:30 p.m., I waited in line for 35 minutes.
On that visit, I sat in the outdoor patio, but there's also an intimate indoor area. I tried the Pancho Villa, a delicious, smoky Mezcal margarita that made my wait in line worth it.
I think Hanson's is an excellent stop for anyone who has patience, doesn't mind drinking in close quarters, and is looking for high-quality cocktails with a touch of adventure.
I think gaming fanatics and trivia night enthusiasts would love Player 1 Video Game Bar.
Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall just off I-4 near Disney World, Player 1 is a video game-themed bar that serves craft beers, ciders, meads, and sake, as well as a small food menu and non-alcoholic craft sodas.
In my opinion, this bar is a dream venue for gaming fanatics since it has dozens of vintage arcade cabinets, plus gaming consoles like Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and more. Most games are free to play, though some more popular consoles come with a modest hourly fee.
The bar regularly hosts events like themed trivia nights, anime markets complete with cosplaying staff and customers, and holiday celebrations.
For swanky, steampunk-inspired vibes at Disney Springs, I like The Edison.
Located at Disney Springs, the public dining and entertainment complex near Disney World, The Edison is a steampunk-inspired, multi-story bar and restaurant with live entertainment.
The first time I visited this spot, I met up with a couple of friends for after-dinner drinks, and we all enjoyed the swanky, romantic atmosphere. I've also visited during the afternoon and noticed a much more casual vibe.
Brick walls are accented with riveted metal pipes and beams, artwork displays are made of gears, clocks, and cogs, and a striking central staircase impressed me with glass sides and bronze banisters.
The bartenders wear newsboy caps and suspenders and serve inventive house cocktails, including my favorite, a drink called A Dame'll Sting Ya, which is made with gin, ginger liqueur, lemon, cranberry, and honeycomb. There's also a separate "high roller" cocktail menu of drinks like the $38 Cristóbal's Revenge, which has Flor de Cana 18-year aged rum.
In my opinion, the cocktails are more theme-driven than the food menu, so I recommend coming here for a drink and planning your meal elsewhere.
For a fun and creepy setting that feels like a movie set, grab a drink at Vault 5421 inside a post-apocalyptic bunker.
Vault 5421 is one of my favorite hidden gems. It's located at the back of an award-winning comic shop, Gods and Monsters, on the tourist-heavy International Drive near Universal Studios.
The bar is designed to look like a post-apocalyptic bunker, with dark lighting and spooky props. The bar's walls are covered with nuclear waste signs, crude drawings, and taxidermied wildlife.
I love coming here with my husband, who is a huge fan of comics, and we both appreciate the bar's divey atmosphere and friendly staff. I usually grab a beer, save him a seat, and take in the decor while he browses the shop. The bar menu has a large selection of craft beer, wine, sake, and mixed drinks.
Because this spot is located near the touristy part of Orlando, I think it's convenient for visitors looking for a unique outing close to the theme parks.
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar is a casual spot that I think is great for families and fans of Indiana Jones.
Located in Disney Springs, Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar is a family-friendly bar designed to look like an airplane hangar. It's inspired by Jock Lindsey, the fictional pilot from the "Indiana Jones" films.
During my first time here, I noticed the bar's airy and easygoing vibe. For instance, I saw plenty of families relaxing after what I imagined was a long day at the theme parks.
Because of its small bites menu of mini burgers and chicken wings, I think it's a good spot for lunch or a light afternoon snack and pick-me-up drink. On my last visit, I sat at a high-top table and ordered a specialty cocktail called Reggie's Revenge, a neon-green concoction served with an orange slice.
If space allows, I recommend sitting inside so you can enjoy the ambiance. There's also patio seating outside that overlooks the lake and nearby boardwalks.
ICEBAR is a freezing venue that's fun for taking unique photos and going out with friends.
ICEBAR, just like it sounds, is a bar made almost entirely from ice. Its central location on International Drive makes it convenient for corporate events and out-of-town visitors. It's also a popular option for locals like me looking to try an unusual date night or birthday get-together.
The bar requires tickets for entry, which can be booked online. Inside, the venue is split into two sections: ICEBAR, the main freezing room, and the Fire Lounge, a larger regular-temperature space with a dance floor. Food is only available at Fire Lounge, but both bars serve up a signature cocktail menu with drinks like the Polar Mojito and Snow Cosmo.
While I haven't made it to ICEBAR yet personally, it's high on my list for a future night out, thanks to friends who've recommended it.
For a peaceful drink and great food away from crowds, check out Enzo's Hideaway Tunnel Bar.
Enzo's Hideaway Tunnel Bar is an underground, Prohibition-themed bar and restaurant in Disney Springs.
Inside, there's a brick tunnel that leads into a spacious dining area with a concrete floor and red booths, wooden tables, and a bar with retro signs.
The menu is classic Italian with fresh pastas and desserts, and also a long list of scotches and rums.
I last visited Enzo's on a weekday afternoon. I sat at the bar and ordered the burrata Caprese appetizer and a blue mocktail called the Amalfi Coast, which was refreshing.
Like many of these bars in Orlando, another thing I love about Enzo's is how the staff embraces the Disney spirit.
For example, I asked the bartender about the restaurant's backstory on my recent visit.
She kindly told my fellow patrons and me an in-depth and convincing tale about the restaurant's founders, Maria and Enzo, a pair of adventurers who fell in love and decided to open a restaurant and uncovered the hidden rum runner tunnel in the process.
When she was done, a gentleman at the bar asked, "Is that true?" Our bartender winked and responded, "This is Disney — we only tell true stories."
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