“Orlando has changed over the past 15 years,” Corey says, munching on sushi. We were all having dinner at Suki Hanna, a sushi restaurant in Orlando’s Hunters Creek neighborhood. More specifically, we were enjoying the $21.95 per person unlimited sushi buffet. Unlike most buffets, this one is made to order. You mark your selections on a dedicated menu of buffet items—all are included in the price of the buffet. You have your choice of soup, salad, chicken or pork katsu, shrimp or chicken tempura, sweet potato tempura, and several different sushi rolls. You can try them all, as long as you don’t order more than you can eat (there is a surcharge for this). The sushi here is great, and it’s at a great price. The specialty rolls are the most fun to try—my favorite was the Superman roll.
Conversation moved from work to food to Orlando nightlife, and I got an earful of great Orlando recommendations from folks who live there. Corey is my friend’s cousin’s boyfriend. He was born in Orlando, but he is struggling to think of places he enjoyed visiting when he was growing up. This is when he utters the statement, “Orlando has changed over the past 15 years.” There were a lot less people living in Orlando then, and there weren’t as many options for affordable entertainment. Disney’s Pleasure Island was practically Orlando’s only nightlife option 15 years ago. Universal’s CityWalk wasn’t even there until 1999. Now Pleasure Island has closed its clubs, and everyone goes to CityWalk for a good time after 10 pm.
The excitement of the bright lights makes you feel like you are on vacation. The locals line up at Fat Tuesday‘s daiquiri bar with their souvenir cups. Refills are cheaper. Your cup can go clubbing with you, too. The policy in CityWalk is that you can take your drinks from club to club without problem or penalty.
There are currently five nightclub/bars clustered together on CityWalk’s second floor: The Groove, Red Coconut Club, Marley’s, Pat O’Brien’s, Marley’s, and Rising Star. Each of these nightclubs has its own specialty: The Groove is a multi-level dance club; Red Coconut Club is a lounge featuring signature martinis and drinks; Pat O’Brien’s is a clone of the New Orlean’s original bar, featuring their famous Hurricane drink and a Bourbon Street theme; Marley’s is dedicated to Reggae music performed by live bands; and Rising Star is a karaoke bar. As much as I wanted to visit them all, I really only had time for one—Rising Star.
Rising Star is a karaoke bar with a twist: you get to perform with a live band. You can get up there and sing your amateur heart out while real musicians accompany you on drums, bass, guitar, and keys. They even have backup singers.
Orlando really has changed over the past 15 years. As much as I love going to Disney World, I really enjoyed experiencing Orlando like a local. The number of things to do keeps growing with the years.