Live Like a Rock Star at the Hard Rock Hotel

Bonnie Godas

The Hard Rock is a name that most of us are familiar with, especially if you love rock n’ roll. I had only known it as a restaurant with amazing music memorabilia, but recently I experienced the hotel aspect of this world famous institution.

Two week ago, my daughter and I had the opportunity of visiting Universal Studios and stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Let me tell you, for someone who has a passion for music, I was in rock n’ roll heaven. This place is incredibly fun, friendly, and contains a treasure trove of musical history.

Since the time we arrived, I was amazed at the treatment we got and the attention from all the employees to make our stay memorable. Tara was the first woman we met, a wonderful concierge who was so helpful with everything from getting tours to borrowing a refrigerator and portable fans. I’m sure I drove her crazy, but she never flinched, she just smiled (a lot); a welcoming sight for someone like me who was burned out by this Boston winter.

The Hard Rock Hotel has just about everything you need. It features a workout room, two restaurants, the Velvet Lounge, an Emack and Bolio’s, a Hard Rock store, 12,000 foot heated pool complete with built in JBL sound system speakers that let you hear your favorite tunes under water, and $1 million of music memorabilia that features everything from Elvis Presley’s white suit and Elton John’s boots to Madonna’s dress, Eddie Vedder’s outfit, Bono’s hat and glasses, and my favorite, a Jimi Hendrix stage outfit featuring a guitar Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones gave to Hendrix as a gift. There is also a concert on the last Thursday of each month called the Velvet Sessions held right in the main lobby of the Hotel.

When visiting Emack and Bolio’s, we had the pleasure of meeting Josephe and his brother Franklin. Josephe gave us great ideas of where to eat and Franklin introduced my daughter to the very talented pastry chef Amanda Owen from one of the two main restaurants called “The Kitchen,” who took us back to her prep area and showed us these incredible pastries that were laid out on a cutting board shaped like a guitar. Two days later, she surprised us by sending up a whole platter of beautiful deserts that were presented on a bed of purple m&ms and decorated with a chocolate owl. We also ate dinner there two nights, complete with an appearance by Homer and Bart Simpson and a magic show. You know, you can never get enough of the Simpsons!

The architecture of the Hard Rock is majestic, represented in a Southern California design and built to look like a musician retirement home. That is why the main restaurant is called “The Kitchen.” Steven King, the vibe manager of the Hard Rock, had also mentioned that the specific design of this hotel, also similar to Floridian architecture, was to purposely resemble the front cover the Eagles huge album (yes, an album, remember those?) Hotel California, released in 1977.

Later on, we met the wonderful and incredibly knowledgeable Eugene Schnee, VIP concierge who has been at the Hard Rock for a number of years and obviously has a true passion for what he does: making people smile and feel welcome at the Hotel. He told the story of the Hard Rock, which originated in London with two guys named Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett. A signed guitar given to the restaurant by Eric Clapton started the ball rolling. Soon, many musicians wanted to get in on it. Since then, the Hard Rock has become a huge success. Eugene also mentioned a gentleman named Dan Bernstein, who is responsible for all the memorabilia at the Hard Rock. Can you say dream job?!

Eugene first showed us the Club Seven room, which has a lounge and recreation area complete with refreshments, great views, and a wide screen TV. Of course there is more memorabilia in this room, like gold albums and vintage backstage passes that I never got tired of looking at.

Then, as a special surprise, he took us up to the suite where the “beautiful and famous” people stay, and since my daughter Charlotte likes the Jonas Brothers, who stayed there, we had to check it out.

The room is called Graceland, named after Elvis Presley’s home. That had amazing memorabilia, too: photos of Elvis, a sound sensitive shower, and a gorgeous piano. Also, each guest that stays in this room usually signs the guest book, and someone in particular that was important to Charlotte signed the book too- the Jonas Brothers. Okay so I can’t blame her-I had a big crush on Peter Frampton!

When we left to go home we got yet another tour; this time at the Hard Rock Café, which is a five minute walk from the hotel and located right outside the gates of Universal Studios at the Universal Studios City Walk. This café has the largest collection of Rock and Roll memorabilia of any Hard Rock Café in the world. A very friendly guy, Joey Mazzant, who gave us a most informative and awesome tour, welcomed us. Although we were pressed for time, we saw so much-everything from rare Beatles photographs and art to artifacts from the famous plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper fifty years ago on February 3, 1959. There was also a room primarily in white showing tribute to John Lennon featuring a piano where the keys were signed individually by numerous artists. Joey even showed us Hard Rock Live, a huge music venue that holds concerts and is located right next to the café. He also showed us backstage where the band and their entourage hang out before the show which contained an interesting and eclectic collection of everything from a life size Statue of Liberty, a torn curtain that was hanging during Pink Floyd’s (original) Dark Side of the Moon tour, and Gwen Stefani’s “thrown.”

So my recommendation is this: if you love rock and roll, you have to stay here. Tell them I sent you. You will not be disappointed. And of course it’s pretty cool that Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure happens to be right next door. It’s also pretty cool that it was about twenty degrees warmer every day.