Chris and I love staying in the Universal Orlando Loews Hotels and Resorts. With our Universal Orlando Annual Premier Passes, we receive discounts on our room rate, as well as food and merchandise. (To clarify, this isn’t an ad, but we really love our trips to Universal!) The convenience of the resort hotels to the parks and CityWalk make it difficult to stay anywhere else. Over the past few years, we’ve been able to try out each of the Loews Hotels. On our most recent trip, we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort.
Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Atmosphere and Aesthetics
The Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is themed around rock-n-roll and the well-known Hard Rock Café brand. Upon arrival at the hotel, a palm-tree-lined drive greets you and guides you to the California-mission styled hotel. (It’s easy to imagine you’re a world-famous rock artist returning home to your estate fresh off of a European stadium tour.)
I’m going to start with this: the smell they are piping into the Hard Rock lobby is one of the best hotel smells I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It’s spa-like and clean, with a hint of masculine notes. However, it wasn’t overwhelming but present enough for me to notice while donning my COVID-19 mask. Is this how rock stars smell? I’ll probably never know. But I felt like this was worth mentioning. Little details like this are what elevate an average hotel stay into something that feels a bit more luxurious if you ask me. (We all know that Disney folks love to talk about their favorite hotel-smells. Looking at you, Polynesian Resort.)
The hotel’s aesthetics are modern and lounge-like. Somehow, it manages to strike a balance between edgy and relaxing. Think lots of leather-like textures, hip artwork, chrome, and black metal, with a few splashes of bold color strategically placed. It is worth a few minutes of your time to look at the memorabilia adorning the walls of the common spaces and The Velvet Bar. The collection contains many pieces from members of rock royalty— David Bowie, Prince, James Brown, Lady Gaga, Steve Aoki… Do I need to continue? Make sure you give yourself about 30 minutes to walk around and look at these pieces!
Hard Rock Hotel Orlando Rooms
The rooms at the Hard Rock are deceptively spacious, and I found the bed to be quite comfortable. I was pleased that the bathroom contained a small sink separate from the larger vanity outside of the bathroom door. Clever details like the height of rock stars on the mirror and a drumstick wall sculpture carried the rock-n-roll theme into our room. My only complaint: the room felt dark. So dark that I sat directly in front of my window to do my makeup. Aside from that, we were happy campers!
We stayed in a deluxe king room on the sixth floor. Our room included a mini-fridge, coffee station with k-cups and a king sized bed.
We had the pleasure of visiting at the start of the holiday season. As a result, we were able to see some of the Hard Rock’s Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree in the main lobby was beautiful. Garland was hung throughout the hotel and musical instruments cleverly adorned other decorative pieces.
Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort Amenities
The pool area at the Hard Rock is impressive and easy to access from the lobby. The walk-in pool has private cabanas available for rent and a poolside bar (The Beachclub) with food service. A purple neon guitar slowly spins to complete this rock star fantasy backdrop. I love details like this!
The complimentary water taxi makes for a short trip to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk. Because the Hard Rock is the closest of all of the resort hotels to the park entrances, walking may be your fastest bet to make it to the park opening in time to be first in line to ride Hagrid’s Magic Motorbike Adventure first. The walk is full of lush greenery, and the tree canopy makes for welcome shade during the summer months.
Like all of the Universal Resort properties, the Hard Rock has well-landscaped grounds. For example, it even has a butterfly garden that makes for a scenic shortcut on the walk to the parks. We did not have the opportunity to visit the spa due to COVID. However, it is worth noting that under normal circumstances, one is available.
Dining Options at Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort
Our second night at the Hard Rock was after a long day at Disney’s Epcot. The drive from Epcot to the Hard Rock was roughly 17 minutes– you can easily access Disney parks in addition to Universal!
After our day at Epcot, we were exhausted and hungry. We decided to try out The Kitchen located on the ground level near the pool entrance. We were pleased with how quickly our food was available (this felt especially important after walking 10+ miles in the parks all day!) The menu was not extensive but did have options that would make most crowds happy. Chris chose the half-pound burger with bacon and cheese. (Please note that cheese will cost you $2, and bacon will run you an additional $3!) I chose the steak tostadas from the appetizer menu. It was plenty for my main course, and I only ended up eating two of the three served. If you are looking for dinner on-location, the Kitchen is worth your consideration.
Emack & Bolio’s Marketplace
Located next to the Kitchen is Emack & Bolio’s Marketplace. I was unaware of this, but Emack & Bolio’s is a Boston-based ice cream shop with “rock n’ roll roots.” According to Emack & Bolio’s website, “Bob Rook, a music lawyer, started E&B as a place that musicians could go to after their gigs to mellow out and satisfy their midnight munchies. Some of the group that Bob has worked closely with are: Aerosmith, Boston, The Cars, U2, James Brown, and Al Green.” Very on-brand that they are in the Hard Rock!
This bodega-like shop has grab-and-go options like pastries as well as a small menu of quick-serve sandwiches, coffees, and breakfast options. Pantry items like beer and wine, room snacks, and drinks are also available. The vanilla ice cream milkshake was so good that Chris had one two nights in a row. If you are flying in, this would be a suitable option for room snacks if you want to browse or satisfy a random craving… or to live out your rock star lifestyle with an ample selection of booze to enjoy poolside.
In addition to these options, the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort offers a fine dining experience in The Palm restaurant, should you find yourself looking for an elevated dining experience or a top-notch steak while on your vacation.
If you decide that you’d prefer to go off of the hotel grounds but don’t want the hassle of driving, the water taxi will take you directly to CityWalk. CityWalk has a variety of dining options at various price points including, Antojitos, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, Moe’s, Starbucks, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., VIVO Italian Kitchen, and more. My personal favorite it The CowFish, a burger-sushi fusion restaurant know for their “burgushi.”
Another CityWalk favorite is Voodoo Doughnuts. Based on the original store Portland, Oregon, Voodoo Doughnuts is our favorite stop on our departure day. We love grabbing a box of their doughnuts and enjoying one with a strong cup of coffee before bringing the rest home with us.
The Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Boutique
Last but not least, the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando has a rock-and-roll boutique carrying apparel, souvenirs, and park-necessities should you forget to pack an item. It’s worth stopping in to browse this shop.
I personally fell in love with this very rock-and-roll feather jacket that made me feel like a cross between Penny Lane from “Almost Famous” and Marla from “Fight Club.” Ah, remorse.
The Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is a great option when visiting Orlando. Personally, I believe this hotel would be a great choice for families with teenagers and preteens, music lovers, or guests wanting to stay as close to the parks as possible.
If you enjoyed this review of the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort and want to read another park hotel review, check out my post on Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.