The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel already has a rep for giving guests a taste of la dolce vita – the sweet life. Its quarterly Harbor Nights event (Friday, October 18; 6:30-9 pm) will be serving it up in the form of exemplary Italian fare, fine wine and live jazz.
Opulence abounds at this Universal Orlando Resort property; its design and the resulting ambiance conjure the splendor of the Italian seaside village for which it is named. The Harbor Nights event is open to the public (tickets are $45 online, $55 at the door) and affords attendees Italian indulgences via its wine tasting – some 15 varieties will be pouring – and cuisine selection.
On-site venues Mama Della’s, Trattoria del Porto, Splendido Bar & Grill and Sal’s Market Deli are among those bolstering the menu. Decadent shrimp gnocchi, colorful Andalusian paella with a variety of meats and pumpkin ravioli that gives a nod to autumn, among other culinary delights, will tempt diners' palates.
Harbor Nights captures the essence of the Mediterranean — Photo courtesy of 2013 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.
Live jazz further sets the already-festive mood you’ll find under the twinkling lights of the hotel’s Harbor Piazza and those who enjoy a nice cigar will find the hand-rolled variety available (and included in the price of admission).
Little-known fact: Universal’s free water taxi service is open to every guest – hotel, theme park or otherwise. Lengthen your Harbor Nights experience by coming early or making the evening last all night long.
Self-parking at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is included in the Harbor Nights ticket price. (FYI, Valet is not, but many opt for it, which can sometimes cause a back-up at a given event’s end. Those who self-park often speed their departure.) If you like, come early and hop the water taxi for a leisurely ride to Universal CityWalk and do a stroll or – if you’re enterprising – shop-around. Hit up the Fossil or Endangered Species store. Check out the racks at Fresh Produce, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, the NASCAR Café or the Universal Studios store and get a little early holiday shopping done. And all while avoiding those pesky CityWalk parking fees.
Relaxing (but regular!) ferries run to and from CityWalk and Universal's on-site hotels — Photo courtesy of Loews Hotels
Friday is still a working weekday for most, of course. But also a weekend night. Harbor Nights closes down at 9:30 pm, but the hotels and CityWalk are still rife for exploration. Set out on the water taxi post-event – the boats run until 2:30 am – and hit up CityWalk for a little nightlife or just to walk off the hearty evening meal.
If the event’s jazz primed you for music, perhaps a little live reggae at Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom or a pop-in to Pat O’Brien’s piano bar are in order. For a little more intimacy and romance (not to mention weekend getaway reconnaissance) you might check out one of Universal Orlando Resort’s other hotels, as well.
The Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Bar offers up rock-star chic in a sexy setting while the Orchid Court Lounge & Sushi Bar gives romance a Polynesian infusion by way of South Seas drinks and exotic décor. And a moonlight boat ride back to Loews is the perfect finale.