After a year filled with closures and capacity restrictions, large crowds returned to the Orlando attractions for the 2020 holiday season, and Universal Orlando was ready to welcome them with a brand-new hotel. Dockside Inn and Suites, the second phase of Universal’s value-priced Endless Summer Resort, finally opened on December 15, following months of delays, and we paid the new property a visit just before New Year’s Eve, in order to bring you a photo tour of this family-friendly hotel.
Like the original Surfiside Inn and Suites across the street, Dockside Inn and Suites is situated at the corner of Universal Boulevard and International Drive. Although located outside the boundaries of Universal Orlando’s main campus, both Endless Summer properties are nearly as convenient to Universal’s theme parks as the other on-site properties—and they include most of the same perks.
Dockside Inn sports 2,050 rooms, featuring the same configurations as seen at the 750-room Surfside Inn next door. However, in addition to being larger and newer, Dockside Inn’s public areas are decorated in a slightly more upscale style than those of its older sibling. Think of Dockside Inn as a coastal Contemporary Craftsman cottage, while Surfside Inn leans more towards shabby chic beach shack.
Dockside Inn Entrance and Lobby
Dockside Inn and Suites makes a dynamic first impression, with the hotel’s name spelled out in super-size sans serif letters above the entryway.
Inside the lobby, check-in is located to the right, while the center of the room is devoted to seating. Warm wood tones and natural light make the lobby feel more cozy than the monumental ceiling beams might suggest.
Outside of the lobby, common areas like hallways continue with colorful murals and modernist decorative touches that make Dockside Inn much more stylish than competing budget motels.
Dockside Inn Dining and Shopping
You can’t call yourself a resort without offering restaurants and retail, and Dockside Inn ups the ante on Surfside Inn’s already solid offerings with an impressive slate of eating and shopping options.
As soon as you step inside the lobby, you’ll spot the ubiquitous Starbucks, which steams and stirs up all your seasonal favorites.
Right around the corner is the slick Sunset Lounge, whose design pays tribute to vintage VW vehicles.
Bars can also be found beside each of Dockside Inn’s two swimming pools. Cocktails are named after extinct Wet ’n’ Wild attractions and can be served in giant plastic “Bubba Tubs” that hold 32 oz.
When you’re hungry for something more substantial, head back inside to Pier 8 Market, Dockside Inn and Suites’ food court. Building on the dining areas found at Surfside Inn and Cabana Bay, Pier 8 offers a wide variety of entrées at all three mealtimes for surprisingly low prices.
There are self-service and grab-and-go options, including alcoholic beverages and an automated milkshake machine.
There are also multiple open kitchen stations preparing hot food, from burgers and pizza to baked pasta and fish sandwiches.
The standout entrée at any time of day is the fried chicken and waffles, served as a sandwich or in a bucket. You can top them with maple syrup, spicy BBQ sauce, or (our favorite) bourbon bacon “slopping sticky” sauce.
Like most of the other Loews-operated hotels, Dockside Inn has its own themed souvenir mug, which can be refilled at Pier 8 Market’s Freestyle dispensers. These machines also give out free filtered water, even without an activated Freestyle cup, unlike the dispensers in the parks.
Pier 8 Market’s dining area is even nicer than the food court, with a spacious and sophisticated look.
After you have satiated your appetite for food, you can satisfy your shopping urges at the Universal Studios Store in the the main lobby, where you can pick up branded keepsakes of your stay.
Dockside Inn Pool and Amenities
If you want to take some time off from the theme parks, Dockside Inn has plenty to keep you occupied. Even though they are classified as value hotels, both Endless Summer properties have a full complement of included amenities, starting with their swimming pools.
Dockside Inn has two pool complexes. Neither offer water slides or hot tubs, but you will find small patches of sandy beach, a splash pad for the kids, and plenty of chairs to lounge in.
If you want to work up a sweat before your swim, there’s a small but well-stocked fitness room featuring high-tech exercise equipment.
A game room may provide kids with a different kind of workout.
Finally, when you are ready to say farewell to Universal Orlando and return home, airline boarding passes can be printed out in a quiet corner of the lobby.
Transportation to Endless Summer Dockside Inn and Suites
As you can see, Endless Summer Resort’s new Dockside Inn looks far nicer than competing off-site motels, and with nightly rates starting well under $100, you may be tempted to pick it over Universal Orlando’s pricier properties. The good news is that, with the exception of the free Express Passes included at the three Premier hotels, Dockside Inn guests get all the same benefits as other on-site visitors, including daily Early Park Admission.
The even better news is that the free bus transportation between Endless Summer and the main Universal Orlando campus is exceptionally efficient. Travel time from Universal’s parking hub to Dockside Inn takes only 7 minutes, with Surfside Inn being a couple of minutes closer.
Busses circulate constantly, with a new one dispatched as soon as each vehicle is filled. Even during the busiest week of the year, the wait time for a seat was less than 5 minutes.
Experience the commute from Universal Orlando to Endless Summer Resort Dockside Inn and Suites in this POV video of the entire bus ride:
While Endless Summer’s bus service can be even quicker than walking from some of Universal’s more expensive on-site hotels, some guests may still want to attempt making the trip by foot.
It is approximately 1 mile from Dockside Inn’s pedestrian entrance to Universal Orlando’s parking hub security checkpoint, and the walk will take 20-25 minutes, depending on the traffic signal at International Drive.
Although walking to Universal Orlando’s attractions from the Endless Summer Resorts is certainly doable, we don’t recommend it for families with small children. You must walk along this I-4 overpass, with only a short barrier between the sidewalk and speeding cars, and navigate one crosswalk with no stoplight.
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.