I’m a geek when it comes to hotels, and while some people don’t like changing properties once they arrive in their place, I’m totally down for that option if it means getting to check out somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere equally as cool. Which is how on our most recent trip to Orlando we found ourselves hopping on over to the Hard Rock Hotel following two blissful nights at the Loews Portofino Bay.
The great thing about all the on-site properties surrounding Universal Orlando Resort is that each offers a different experience. Cabana Bay is perfect for bachelorette parties or families with small kids or people like me who just love the kitschy vibe, while Portofino Bay is ideal for couples wanting a quieter experience. Hard Rock Hotel, on the other hand? It was made for Millennials and those looking for a more social atmosphere.
I absolutely loved it here.
From the moment you walk into the lobby, you’re immersed in a full rock ‘n roll scenario. Murals of Steven Tyler, Gwen Stefani and other rockers adorn the walls, and plush seating and splashy colors abound in the communal spaces. Justin Timberlake tunes pulse through the lobby. Music paraphernalia fills the hotel shop.
The guest rooms themselves are a breath of fresh air, too. Each of the 650 rooms is a bright white with whimsical attitude woven throughout, evident in the bold patterns and the graphic designs on the linens. BE NICE, one pillow warned me. QUIET, PLEASE, said another.
On the mirror, there are markers, noting the heights of some of my favorite artists. Who knew I fell right between Queen B and Bob Dylan in terms of stature?! Adele, on the other hand, still has two inches(and change) on me.
Though I married a Gen Yer, I’m right on the cusp of the Millennial generation and found the Hard Rock Hotel enchanting, sexy even. Sexy enough to jump on the bed, I might add (see previous statement about being a Millennial).
Location-wise, Hard Rock Hotel is the closest of the properties to the parks themselves. At just a five-minute walk, it’s definitely the most convenient for those who want to go back and forth to Universal and Islands of Adventure throughout the day.
We’ve spent so many days within the parks in the past five years that we wanted to explore more of their surrounds; thus, we were perfectly fine riding our roller coasters in the morning—we got to utilize both that Express pass and hour of early admission to Wizarding World that Hard Rock Hotel guests receive—then grabbing lunch along CityWalk (usually at Bread Box) before spending the rest of the afternoon at the pool.
Speaking of the pool, there was live music daily. And, like, really good music, too. I’m from Nashville so you just have to trust me on this one—the talent Hard Rock employs is legit.
At 12,000 square feet, the pool is hardly crowded ever, and another fun immersive music feature was the ability to hear the music while under water. That’s right, as you’re kicking around beneath the surface, you can hear the live music as if it’s being played down there with you. It’s wild! I’ve never seen (or rather, heard) anything like it.
Having been to all of the CityWalk restaurants, we spent one night in at Hard Rock Hotel having a casual bite at the Velvet Bar. The lounge also hosts the Velvet Sessions featuring such past performers as Cheap Trick and Joan Jett, but unfortunately we weren’t there during one of the live rock ‘n roll sessions. I didn’t snap any photos as it was too dark in there, but the food and drinks were on point, as were the service and design.
Speaking of on point, would you get a load of these bathrooms? No detail was overlooked in the design of this hotel, that’s for sure.
The final morning, instead of heading into the park, we went downstairs to The Kitchen for brunch. If you know me, you know that brunch is my favorite meal of the day—and something I never pass on while traveling.
The brunch is offered every day of the week—thank God; I hate going somewhere where you can only get brunch on weekends—and there’s the option to indulge in a full on buffet spread or order a la carte off the menu as we did. But as if the food itself weren’t enough, there was one major reason I wanted to do this brunch, and he’s the baddest nice guy you ever did meet.
Gru! Or more accurately, the character breakfast! Characters from Despicable Me/The Minions came around from table to table, greeting all the guests. And if there’s anything I like more than Gru, it’s Kevin, who also made a cameo. I showed him I ordered his favorite—banana pancakes, duh—and got a high-five in return.
Note: The Character Breakfast is only held from 8 to 11am on Tuesdays at the Kitchen, though Wednesday and Saturday nights also feature appearances by myrial Universal park characters.
Our Character Breakfast, followed by a couple more hours spent poolside (beer in hand), was the perfect send-off before checking out of our hotel and heading to the Orlando airport mid-afternoon.
And now that I’ve stayed at four of the five Universal properties, which is my favorite? Hard to say, but the Hard Rock Hotel may just take the cake.
I traveled to Florida as part of my #UORBlogSquad ambassador gig with Universal Orlando Resort. All opinions are my own.