Universal Orlando Update – Looking to the Future

| November 16, 2013 | Reply

It’s time again to visit Orlando’s other theme park resort – Universal Orlando.   The activity is abundant around property as the resort continues a modest transformation and brush-up of its existing theme park infrastructure.  With a few projects complete, like the new Simpsons Springfield addition, more is on the horizon.  Let’s take a look at what’s new at Universal Orlando.

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Harry Potter Expansion – Diagon Alley Progresses

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If you haven’t noticed already (I’m not sure you could miss it), the Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios (Diagon Alley) is changing the skyline and landscape of the theme park.  The unfinished structures dominate the back of the park.  If you look closely you can even tell what some of the structures represent based on the concept art released by Universal earlier this year.

Along with the construction, we received word that the train which will transport guests between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village (The Hogwarts Express) has been lowered on to the track.  Expect this attraction to be the most popular between the two lands as most guests will want to be transported between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade like in the movie series.

New attractions slated for Diagon Alley are based on Gringotts Bank and the Hogwarts Express.  Also, new shops and a restaurant will be a part of the expansion.  An official opening date of the new London/Diagon Alley section of the park has not yet been announced, but it is possible it may be around the same timeframe we saw Hogsmeade open in June of 2010.

Universal & Warner Bros Partner to Host a Celebration of Harry Potter

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The weekend of January 24th – 26th 2014, Universal Orlando, in partnership with Warner Bros., will host a “Celebration of Harry Potter” event.  Announced back in August 2013, guests who booked a Celebration vacation package will receive exclusive benefits like reserved seating at these events, Q & A sessions with Harry Potter talent, a film tribute with Harry Potter talent, the art of “dueling” at a wand master class, and much more.  Celebration package guests will have exclusive access to a private evening reception at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The vacation packages sold out very quickly after Universal Orlando made the announcement about the celebration weekend back in August.

New Dining Outlets Coming to Universal Citywalk

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Red Oven Pizza Bakery

Replacing the space once occupied by Pastamore Marketplace (not the full service Pastamore restaurant), the Red Oven Pizza Bakery will open in the coming days at Universal City Walk.  Universal describes the Red Oven Pizza Bakery as a quick trip to Italy for authentic, artisan pizza made fresh while you wait.   “This is real pizza the way Italy intended.”

Rumor – Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar

Rumors have been swirling about what will take the place of the gutted Endangered Species store on the first floor of Citywalk.  A new rumor has surfaced pointing to North Carolina based Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar opening an establishment at Citywalk, however, we can’t confirm it’s where the Endangered Species once stood.  It is possible we may see other shops move before Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar opens.   This restaurant is famous for such items like Burgersushi and an Elvis burger.  More to come on this rumor.

Universal Orlando Replaces its Meal Deal Dining Plan with New Dining Plan

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Universal Orlando recently announced it is no longer selling its Meal Deal Dining Plan option to theme park guests.  Now you will be able to purchase what is called Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service.  This new quick service plan includes one counter service meal, two snacks, and one non-alcoholic beverage.  The cost of the plan is $18.99 plus tax per adult per day, and $12.99 plus tax per day (ages 3 – 9).

The full Universal Dining Plan is purchased with vacation packages and includes one full service meal, one counter service meal, one snack, and one non-alcoholic beverage.  The cost to add this to your vacation package is $45.99 per adult per day and $17.99 plus tax per child (ages 3 – 9).  For more detailed information about both dining plans, visit the Universal Orlando website.       

Universal Orlando’s Photo Connect Star Card Package Loses some Luster

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Universal Orlando’s photo package called Photo Connect Star Card has lost some of its value.  For $59.99 ($49.99 if you buy it in advance online), guests were allowed to collect all of their in-park and ride photos online and download them later.  This package was good for 5 consecutive days of park photos.  Unfortunately, the standard package has now been cut to 3 consecutive days.  This is probably not a good idea for a theme park resort who is trying to lure guests into staying beyond 3 days.

Universal’s New Cabana Bay Beach Resort Opening Soon

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Universal Orlando’s fourth onsite resort hotel, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort,  is currently taking reservations for stays beginning March 31st 2014.  The resort is themed after 1950s and 60s retro beach resorts.  The resort will feature two types of accommodations – value priced regular guest rooms that sleep 4 and 430 square foot, moderately priced, family suites that sleep up to 6.

The resort will open in phases beginning with the North Courtyard section on March 31st.  Later in 2014, the resort will welcome the South Courtyard section.   Resort amenities include 2 pool complexes with sand beaches and interactive water features, a themed lazy river, and a ten lane bowling alley,   Guests staying at this resort will not be eligible for the unlimited Universal Express ride access perk available at the other 3 deluxe onsite resorts.

Holiday Happenings at Universal Orlando

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Grinchmas

Beginning December 7th and running through January 4th one of Universal Orlando’s signature holiday events, Grichmas, will take place at Islands of Adventure.  The popular Dr. Seuss book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” comes to life.  It’s a live stage show featuring an original score by Mannheim Steamroller.  The show takes place on Soundstage 20 and is a part of the Grinchmas celebration that takes place inside the theme park.

Macy’s Holiday Parade

Another of Universal Orlando’s holiday events is the Macy’s holiday parade performed each day at Universal Studios theme park.  Guests will have the opportunity to see some of the same floats used in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade that’s part of the excitement in New York City.  Also, guests can experience bands from across America, a nightly tree lighting ceremony, and nightly themed holiday shows.  Check your theme park guide for specific times and entertainment.

Universal Orlando Constructing a Unique Garden Bridge

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Universal Orlando is teaming up with Green Roof Services LLC to construct a 3000 sq ft. Garden Bridge; the first of its kind in Florida.  The 145 foot long bridge will create and innovative connection between Universal Orlando developments.  The green bridge concept is to give guests the illusion of never leaving the resort while crossing over the busy Hollywood Way.  Selected ground covers, trees, and shrubs escort pedestrians to other portions of the resort without them even noticing that the busy highway is right below their feet.

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Since Universal Orlando cannot offer water taxi service to the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort, they’ve turned to this innovative pedestrian walkway so guests can walk to the theme parks and back to their resort hotel.  Construction of the bridge will begin in early 2014.

Universal Orlando Quick Hits 

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Springfield is Now Open

Guests visiting Universal Studios will be thrust into the world of the Simpsons.  You will be able to experience popular aspects of the hit cartoon The Simpsons, like a Duff Beer, a Krusty Burger, and Moe’s Tavern.

Transformers – The Ride 3D Attracts Guests and Spending

Comcast stated in their most recent earnings report that attendance and earnings were lifted in its theme parks partially due to the opening of its new Transformers ride in Universal Studios Orlando.  They went on to say this was the strongest quarterly performance of NBC Universal’s theme parks in its history.  The ride, similar to Spiderman, has been thrilling guests since it opened back in June.

Jurassic Park Rumor

The rumor calls for a refurbishment of the existing Jurassic Park River Adventure, a new attraction based on the lab scene in the original movie, and a general refurbishment of the island itself.  More to come on this rumor, but we should see it near completion when the new Jurassic Park 4 movie is released in the summer of 2015.

That’s it for now.  More to come as projects continue, announcements are made, and attractions open.  Stay Tuned!

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Category: Disney World

About the Author ()

Originally from Northeast Ohio and currently living in Central Indiana, Aaron DelPrince (ADP) is a 20 year theme park veteran who often visits the Central Florida attractions with his beautiful wife and daughter Kim & Anna. From dining, attractions, special events, and even runDisney races Aaron covers all aspects of the theme park and resort experience. In his free time Aaron enjoys working out and spending time with his family. You can follow along by friending Aaron on Facebook or reading more articles on our blog. I hope to see you in the parks!