Legend has it that Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel was once owned by a great Rockstar who fell from fame and had to convert his California-esque mansion into a stunning hotel where guests could experience living the Rock and Roll lifestyle. Now, while we cannot attest to the accuracy of this legend, we can confirm that staying at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel will let you live out your wildest Rockstar dreams! From seeing the greatest memorabilia the music industry has to offer (including iconic clothing from the likes of David Bowie and Tom Jones) to listening to epic songs by the pool all day – even when swimming underwater with their infamous underwater speakers!
As you approach the hotel the only word that comes to mind is “grand”: from the tall palm trees lining the driveway to the sprawling front lawn and guitar-statue fountain, this hotel really screams “California Rockstar Mansion”. To top off the Rockstar service, the valet team enthusiastically greet you and help you with your luggage. Of course, if you’d prefer, there is also a self-parking option at the hotel.
The lobby has a very Las Vegas-esque feel as you first walk in - it is open but not too busy with a lobby bar that leads out to a lovely open balcony overlooking the pool. The walls were decorated with timeless memorabilia pieces and portraits of Rockstar’s faces; when we visited these included Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift, but we were told they often change and update them so be sure to look out for who you see! The lobby bar was a great place to lounge after / during check in but once a month it hosts ‘Velvet Sessions’ featuring some great artists. ‘Velvet Sessions’ aren’t announced far ahead of schedule so checking the hotels Facebook page while you are staying there is the best way to see what’s on and purchase a ticket.
The rooms are spacious and homey with plenty of room for a family of 4 and their luggage. One unique aspect of all the Hard Rock Hotel rooms at Universal Studios is they feature a mirror with the heights of various famous Rockstar’s including Adele, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and so many more! Measuring ourselves against this cool mirror was definitely a highlight of our room! The Hard Rock Hotel is also special as it offers guests the chance to stay in a Club Level room, granting them access to the Club Level lounge including free breakfast, drinks, and dinner options. This was a great help when it came to stocking up for the theme parks as we were able to eat a big breakfast and take some of the food/ water with us to avoid paying the higher park prices for lunch. Upgrading to a Club Level room is something we would recommend as in the long run it really saved us money, and we would advise speaking to your Travel Agent before booking about this option! The rooms also come with a mini fridge for storing drinks and foods, awesome wall art made of drumsticks, and each room has its own unique scent!
Dining at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel was a delicious experience with multiple restaurant choices. The Kitchen, called so as according to legend this was the original Rockstar owner’s own kitchen, offered a variety of dishes including club sandwiches, burgers, calamari and more! The Kitchen also has a great outside seating area that was a lovely backdrop for our lunches and dinners. Plus, it is right by the pool so dining here worked fantastically on our relaxing pool days. For a special treat, The Palm is an exclusive steakhouse known for its high-end dishes and clientele. Due to its popularity, dining at the Palm requires planning and seating walk-ups are unlikely so be sure to enquire/ book early! The Beachclub is a great option for poolside dining and snacks that can be ordered and enjoyed right from your lounge chair, and Emack & Bolio’s Marketplace offers amazing smoothies and coffee along with award-winning ice cream!
The pool area at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel is one of my favourite Universal Hotel pools as it is open, surrounded by palm trees and offers live music from select DJs! Lounge chairs are available in abundance around the pool and for those days you really want to live the Rockstar life, private cabanas including sofas, lounge chairs and a flat screen TV can be rented to provide the ultimate relaxation hub. The pool area also includes a waterslide, 2 Spas (one is adult only), a children’s splash pool, beach volleyball court, and to top off the entertainment each night you can catch a movie while lounging around the pool. The hotel also offers a complimentary gym (with a sauna and steam room) where you can work up a sweat – if you have the energy after those long days at the Universal theme parks!
Getting from Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure couldn’t be easier; the Hard Rock is the closest hotel to City Walk and you can walk there through a dedicated walkway. If you don’t fancy walking, there are also shuttle busses that take you to City Walk and Volcano Bay. You can even get to City Walk from the Hard Rock Hotel by water taxi, but we preferred the walk as it was short and very scenic.
Now for the reason many people choose to stay at the Hard Rock – the extra benefits it offers guests while visiting Universal Studios Orlando theme parks. Guests staying at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel will get Express Passes included in their stay that they will be able to use at Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure to skip the regular lines! We have found Expresses Passes to be super helpful when visiting in peak season such as school Half-Term times, Summer school Holidays, Easter school Holidays and from November to January over the Christmas period. Guests of Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel will also benefit from Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ which features some of Islands of Adventure’s most popular rides, including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which can attract long queues. Even better, when staying at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel you can use your Express Passes to make the lines even shorter!
Another benefit Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel guests will receive is priority seating at many of the Universal Studios Orlando restaurants in City Walk. All you have to do is show your Universal Hard Rock Hotel room key to the hostess and they will prioritise a table for your party. Finally, you can shop-till-you drop at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando and your merchandise will be delivered, free of charge, to your room!
We really enjoyed our stay at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel and even though it is on the more expensive end of the spectrum for Universal Resort Orlando Hotels, it felt very luxurious and we believe that the addition of the Express Passes made our stay worth the extra money!