Cabana Bay Beach Resort isn't just the largest of the four hotels now on Universal Orlando property — at 1,800 rooms, 38 acres and a price tag of some $206 million, it's one of the most massive lodgings in all of O-Town. (Click here for our full review of the hotel.)
Universal's first value hotel is also exhaustively, puckishly themed, a throwback to the loopy Space Age, road-trip America from the good ol' days between 1958 and 1962, an age of uplift before things got sticky.
Construction is still going on, including a lazy river and wings of 1,200 standard rooms. If you want to spend the night, family suites are relatively affordable, about $250. But theme-park fanatics should drop by even if just for a quick, curious peek. Herewith, three must-see "mod" touches at Cabana Bay Beach Resort:
1) The Bayliner Diner With the bonus of an era-appropriate soundtrack gamboling from speakers (Ray Charles, Dave Brubeck), and an IMAX-size mural of 'toony tourists in all their camera-happy glory, this 600-seat eatery doles out kitsch, tuna casserole and, a la Disney's Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios, old films running on a loop. (I had breakfast with Lucy and Desi. Good company.)
2) Galaxy Bowl This neon-swirled 10-lane alley sits on the hotel's second floor — right next to the equally winky Jack LaLanne Fitness Center. You don't have to be a guest to bowl; Universal knows Cabana Bay is going to draw a whole lot of lookie-loos this summer, especially when the second Harry Potter land is unveiled.
3) The Swizzle Lounge At Universal and Disney, "value" resorts are no longer scaled back; you can't cut corners anymore. The Mouse House's Art of Animation is a wonderland of innovation, and Cabana Bay aims to wow, as well. That goes for the yowza lobby, with its NASA-inspired centerpiece of palms seemingly rocketing into space and the retro fizz of the Swizzle Lounge, which will seduce many guests whether they're checking in or out. Try the cucumber gimlet and keep an eye out for the suave ghost of Cary Grant.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.