Harry Potter goes vertical and Optimus Prime appears for guests in today’s Orlando Parkhopper.  Yes, Universal Orlando Resort has begun meet and greets with the transforming robots and it has proven to be wildly popular.  Not far away, the Springfield expansion continues to grow as Moe’s and Krusty Burger get a little closer to opening.  Finally, we take a good look at the Transformers show building and run over to Islands of Adventure for the latest news there.  It’s a full update so let’s get to it!


Just like some magical spell right out of a JK Rowlings novel, buildings have sprung up left and right at what will eventually be London, Diagon Alley and the 2nd phase of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We can begin to see what will eventually be the Leaky Cauldron, Gringotts, Kings Cross, and more.  Backstage, large cement footers for the Hogwarts Express train have been installed  between where JAWS once was heading towards Hogsmede.


Along with the Supply Vault opening, Bumble Bee and Megatron began greeting guests outside of Transformers.  With huge lines to meet these characters, it is clear that once Transformers opens we can expect HUGE lines for this highly anticipated attraction.

Supply Vault a Second Look:

Taking another look at the newly opened Supply Vault gift shop, we can see where the Transformers Ride will exit into this gift shop.  With two clear exits, it should be able to allow guests to easily flow out of the building.


With the fast and furious construction schedule (remember this past July this was just a hole in the ground) we haven’t really had a moment to take in the new and massive addition to Universal Studios.  With the exterior mostly finished, we took some time this past Saturday to get photos of the Transformer’s building from around the park.  What are your thoughts on this new addition? Does it fit?


Even without an official announcement of the Simpson’s expansion at Universal, some walls have come down as the construction for the Duff Gardens area have expanded, and we are beginning to get a feel for what Moe’s and Krusty Burger will look like.  The painting is far from over, so we cannot judge just yet, but things are looking very promising, and we are excited for this area to open!

In front of the existing Kwik-E-Mart, the path gets a little tight.

Moe’s is really going to be fun.

Krusty Burger


MiceChat was recently invited to experience Mardi Gras once again, but this time not as a member of the audience, but as a participant on one of the parade floats.  Guests at Universal Orlando can sign up to be on a float, Annual Pass members can enter a lottery to ride and American Express Card Holders also have their own float to ride.  I have been to Mardi Gras at Universal more times than I can count, yet I have never ridden a float, or thrown beads.   The experience was simply INCREDIBLE, and brought a whole new level of love and appreciation for Mardi Gras!  If you have gone to Mardi Gras at Universal before and are looking for a new way to experience the parade, you MUST find yourself on a float throwing beads to thousands of people! (Sadly we were unable to take photos of our experience, from the float, however please enjoy the photos of Mardi Gras performers)


Spring Break is kicking into gear here in Orlando, and you know it is busy when the line to buy an Express Pass has a 30 minute wait!


Universal pulled down the entire sign for the Trading Co. in the Port of Entry as they examine what failed and re-engineer the sign for safety and durability.


Dudley Do Right’s Rip Saw Falls opened to guests after a monthly long refurbishment which fixed some of the cosmetic issues we had discussed on here months prior.


Vertical construction on the Hogwarts Express Station continues, as they begin installing large support columns for the track that will connect both the parks.


Theme details can be spotted on what will soon be the new Automated Ticketing Kiosk at the entrance to Islands of Adventure.   Hopefully this addition will cut down on some of the longer lines we have seen at the ticketing windows.


Construction continues as Cabana Bay Beach Resort moves forward towards its March 2014 opening! Reservations are being accepted for stays beginning on March 31, 2014.  There are two types of rooms at the resort. Guests can choose between a standard hotel room (from $119/night) or a 430 square foot “family suite” which sleeps six (from $174/night).  There’s also a seven night package from $47 per person per day, which includes hotel AND tickets to the Universal theme parks!

 Hopping the parks of the Universal Orlando Resort has now concluded for today.  We look forward to returning next week with more news and photos on the progress on the Harry Potter, Springfield, transformers, hotel and anything else we happen to spot. Thank you for reading!

  • Trumpet

    Great Update Eric

    Construction in theme parks is fantastic, and gets me excited for the uncoming porojects. The Harry Potter expansion is looking great. The large scale wil help to have a emersive environment, and i cannot wait to explore it. Also, the Hogwarts Express is going to be fricken’ awsome. Just the idea of having a steam train in the parks makes me excited. Does anyone know if this will be a real steam locomotive or a diesel or electrive locomotive. Either way, I can’t wait.

    In my opinion, the Transformers building does not fit in with the detailed streets, but the showbuilding is detailed with the furnishings that make it look like facrtory in New York. Maybe, it needs to be aged to really blend in, but I am still excited about it. The walk around characters are great, and despite seeing them in Hollywood, I cannot wait to see them walk down a New York Street. (It will look like it is the end of the world!)

    However, Springfield is going to be the icing on the cake. it will be fantastic to visit Springfield this year. i cannot wait to get a souveneir mug from Moe’s. I will then have all of my beer in it forever.

    Thanks Again Eric


    • Eric Davis

      Thank you again Trumpet for reading! I think with time I will forget the Transformer Building is even there. Who knows maybe with time they will tweak the exterior a bit. OVerall though I simply cannot wait until Transformers opens.

      Springfield is going to be off the hook! It is going to immersive and fun and crazy!

  • Malin

    Another great update Eric.

    I don’t have a problem with Transformers or its blending in with the other buildings. Would feel much more strongly if Disney tried something like this but I’m more open when it comes to Universal. Universal has a Studio theme but are at least trying to create themed areas and zones within that structure. And the Transformers building looks well themed.

    • Eric Davis

      Malin… Let me introduce you to Disney Hollywood Studios, the most disjointed theme park around! lol

      I understand where you are coming from, and over all USF could use some thematic story tweaks, but it isn’t that bad! lol

  • DizneGreg

    Why is it that Universal seems to always want to hide what they are doing until the last minute, when everyone knows already? Why not release some artist renderings of the new Harry Potter area? Why not start that massive publicity bonus early? I just don’t get it. I guess Universal just wants to be different from Disney any way they can.

    • DLFan1995

      Same could be said For Disney’s Avatarland

    • Eric Davis

      It has a lot more to do how projects are designed and planned with Universal Creative and how Universal wants to prevent people from delaying their trips to the Universal Orlando Resort.

      If they announce long in advanced when something is going to open, that actually deters people from booking their vacations. Universal’s marketing department doesn’t want you to delay your trip, they want you to BOOK NOW! Same with Disney and another other tourism based company.

      So it benefits them on the business end to wait until the last possible moment to announce it with enough time to build moment, and anticipation. It is a tricky equation.

      And as far as Universal Creative is concerned, their projects are A LOT more fluid that Imagineerings. They have a greater ability to tweak, remove, add items than Imagineering once things get green lit.

  • Great update. From some angles, the Transformers building looks OK, but it really messes with the theme of the NY streets. Not terrible, but I’m not thrilled with the outcome.

    What I am really excited about is the vertical construction at Potter 2.0. Some of those buildings look massive!

    Thank you Eric.

    • Eric Davis

      Yeah I think in the end this will just be something we all get used to.

  • Gregg Condon

    Great update Eric. I think the Tranformers building looks fine, don’t have an issue with it at all.

    It’s just amazing how quickly things happen at Universal Orlando, it’s gotta be quicker than any other park that I can think of. Not sure I can remember a park that had 3 existing substantial projects going on simultaneously that were happening so quickly. I guess the DCA transformation is the only thing that would come close. But the Universal parks were already great prior to these changes not just fixing an existing park.

    • Eric Davis

      I am constantly flabbergasted by how much is changing, and how much work can be completed each week. When I was going back through my pictures of Tranformers, I was looking at my July 2012 photos and had to remind myself… it was just a hole in the ground! How insane is that!

      After Springfield and London/Diagon Alley are open, as of right now there are big plans to keep on going with the Kid Zone having a big bulls eye on it.

  • jcruise86

    Prediction: in 2015 or 2016 Universal’s Islands of Adventure will have higher attendance than Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

    They’re closing in and have the momentum. With the mostly stagnant Magic Kingdom resting on its 17 million a year, and the very stagnant EPCOT, AK & Studios,
    Universal’s far more ambitious (at least recently) two parks will continue to gain.

    I wish Universal would build an even better Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood so Southern California would have another excellent theme park.

    • jcruise86

      THANK YOU, Eric!
      Great work!

    • Eric Davis

      Nothing would make me happier right now than to have a Universal beat some of the Disney parks in attendance.

      I have said this before in the forums, but Universal is not looking to be the most visited parks int he world. They want to be the BEST parks in the world that people pay the most money to visit, and spend the most money at.

      And I support a business model like that, that is based on quality.

      • Gregg Condon

        Universal does need to come up with more park-specific merchandise before the “park that people spend the most money at” thing happens.

        We were very sad on our visits to USO that most merchandise was stuff we could buy in Hollywood. Disney is obviously pretty guilty of this as well.

        I’m assuming HP has changed that a bit?

  • flynnibus

    going vertical? Are we supposed to be ignoring the gringot’s building that has been up for months now?

    • Eric Davis

      Maybe I should have titled it “a lot more is vertical” lol

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  • cruise

    Great update… there is more going on in just one of Universal’s parks than anywhere at Disney so these are always exciting to read.

    The Transformers building looks okay from some angles, and terrible from others. I think it ruins the view down the New York Street. This was a real missed opportunity in my opinion. What I can’t wrap my head around is why the building had to look the same from every side… I think they could have gone for a more urban feel on some of the sides to make it fit better, but that’s just me. The attraction will be a GREAT addition though, especially since nothing significant was removed to place it. I’m making my third visit to the resort this summer and can’t wait to experience it.

  • Country Bear

    Does anyone know how tall (stories) the Gringots Bank building actually is? It’s hard to make out from the pictures. It looks like 5 stories anyway?
    Thanks for the great reporting Eric!

    • Eric Davis

      I believe it is 60 – 70 feet tall

  • lighttragic

    Any word on if a flat ride is coming to the simpsons area?
    Some photos suggest more than just food buildings

    • Eric Davis

      I will be discussing this in this next week’s parkhopper. Or before that it will be in the next episode of the MiceChat podcast!