Welcome to a busy week for Orlando ParkHopper! With Independence Day celebrations, Cabana Bay Beach Resort construction, Diagon Alley rising magically in the former JAWS lagoon, the completion of Springfield USA, and MiceChat meet-ups scheduled, we have no time to waste! Let us take you around the Universal Orlando Resort for a quick rundown on the Universal Orlando news!

4th of July Crowds

Every year, big crowds descend on Orlando for the 4th of July.  Often touted as the 2nd busiest week in Orlando, right behind Christmas, this week is when queues are supposed to be full, and parks are generally overflowing.

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While big crowds did descend on Orlando, heavy rain showers during the week dampened what was supposed to be a high energy period for the parks. With the usual afternoon rain extending into late evening hours, many guests either left the parks early or didn’t arrive at all. Guests who braved the storms were rewarded with short ride times.


Yet, even with the reduced crowds, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and Transformers The Ride: 3-D still posted triple digit wait times!


Hogsmede Hogwarts Express Station

Even with the Holiday week, construction continues unabated on the Hogwarts Express station – now sporting more roof and details!  The size and scale of this building is impressive, but dwarfed by its companion on the other end of the line in the Studios park.






Trashed Trash Cans

Over in Seuss Landing, some of the stunning and beautifully themed trashcans are beginning to show some very visible wear. While some may not think this is a big deal, they are so beautifully themed that it’s a real shame to allow big tears in the paint to remain visible. It really lessens the magic of the area, especially since they can easily be moved backstage and repainted.




Over in the New York section, the facade for the Priscilla Hotel for Sing Young Ladies from the 1967 Universal movie “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” staring Julie Andrews, is currently getting a face life and will return soon.





Diagon Alley

Over in Phase 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the London Facades in front of Diagon Alley are getting more interesting by the day.  With sheet rock up on the far right building, we can anticipate the full front enclosure by the end of summer.















Lard Lads Donuts

This week, Lard Lads Donuts received it’s final color treatment along with windows.



Duff Gardens

Next door to Lard Lads, Duff Gardens is receiving its final touches. With beautiful brickwork and industrial smokestacks, this outdoor venue is going to be a hit with adults whenever it opens this summer.






Kang and Kodos Ride Testing

Ride testing continues at the new Kang and Kodos Spinner, with Universal Creative testing the arm reach and ride system.


Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Construction continues at breakneck speed at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, with the Lobby building and guest facilities building near completion. The main supports for the parking structures now built as well.  There is a lot of work to do as they prepare for a March 2014 opening, but at this pace, it looks like they are going to make it!

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It’s simply amazing how quickly this project has come together.

Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast Meet-up

For the fans of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast, you likely already know that Lee & Tracey (hosts of the show from the United Kingdom) will be crossing the Atlantic as they make their pilgrimage to the Universal Orlando Resort this August. The entire UUOP crew will be having a meet-up at Universal Studios on Friday August 23rd, 2013 starting at 4pm. Check out the Facebook page for additional information or to answer questions you might have! UUOP Event. This will be THE event of the year for fans of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast!

MiceChat Halloween Horror Nights Meet-up

This October, MiceChatters from the West Coast will be descending on Central Florida, and will be holding a MiceChat Halloween Horror Night Meet-up.  Stay tuned for details, but save the date of October 17th and get ready to be scared . . . together. Join our Halloween Events email list to be notified of all of our Halloween Events as they are announced:

That wraps up this weeks update!  But if you are looking for more Universal Orlando news, gossip and information, click the play button below, and enjoy the latest Unofficial Universal Podcast with Lee, Tracey and Darren!

Have a great week everyone!

  • Trumpet

    Great update Eric

    The summer is looking good for USO, and with all of the upcoming projects, they are in full flow of becoming the destination resort for Florida. I know many people will say that WDW is the destination resort for Florida, but the table have been turned and the quality of attractions USO have, and the quick turn around of new attractions being built make me more excited than ever! I remember reading that Universal films become dated quicker and less relevant. That is true, butt I think you will find that they are replaced with something popular, such as the former attractions where Despicable Me is today. I think they also cater for a wide variety of guests and there attractions are for everyone. Now I know Walt Disney said that he wanted attractions for everyone, but how many teenagers have you seen in the New Fantasyland? It does not appeal to them. Also, I from pictures and videos, I really hope that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is on the thrill level as what Universal is creating at the moment, otherwise, it could be seen as lacklustre…

    Thanks Again Eric


    • KingEric


      I really need to have you guest write an article for me sometime!


      • Trumpet

        I will be more than happy to write an article when I visit next year! I complete review of the transformation of the past 5 years, and a comparison to its competitor down the road!

    • a-mad

      Actually, I saw a lot of teenagers at New Fantasyland when we were there… including my 12-year-old and her older teen cousins… and they had a fantastic time there – one of the highlights of our trip, to be honest (which included a visit to USO). So before you make a blanket statement like “it doesn’t appeal to them”, perhaps you should ask some teenagers who have been there… or better yet – visit it and see for yourself.

      • Trumpet

        I think what I mean is that I am a student at sixth form, going on to University this year. I think that New Fantasyland looks fantastic, and full of life, but where I stand is that there is nothing in the expansion that screams to me to get on the next plane from the UK to visit. Now, if there was a mega E ticket attraction, such as Potter Land, now that makes me really excited for next year. I will even get my tickets very soon. From my research as a visitor, Disney have to cater for all age groups, but older teenagers, such as 17-18 year old who want a thrill of a great coaster. The Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster fit the bill perfectly, and I am not saying that every ride should be a white knuckle experience. However, the attractions that have been built are not the most exciting, in my opinion. Here is a list and there age groups:

        The Little Mermaid Ariel’s Undersea Attraction – young children
        Story Time with Belle – young children
        Dumbo – young children
        The Great Goofini – young children (I doubt I will get in the vehicles)!

        The rest are restaurants, which are fine, but take up a large amount of real estate and money. WDW have no shortage of land, but they did not expand beyond the berm. In my opinion, this makes WDW lack the new attractions and the enjoyment of visiting these new additions. They do not make me want to visit at the moment. I will wait until 2014 when the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is open, but hopefully, it will not be dwarfed by the large expansion down the road. For me, this is where the bid for tourists money will be won or loss…

    • a-mad

      I respect your opinion, Trumpet – and I understand your excitement over what is happening at USO… I’m excited as well – they are truly raising the bar, and our experience at USO, while perhaps not as positive as our experience at WDW – was still really great.

      You do perhaps sell the normal tourist short, however… and that includes teenagers. Many of us on this board are theme park enthusiasts who have a great interest in the inner-workings of rides, theming, cutting-edge technology, etc. – so of course we are going to be extremely interested and very critical when it comes to management decisions of all the parks. We represent a very vocal, but ultimately rather small % of the general population that visits the parks.

      The normal tourist, however, and I’ll put my next of kin in that category… perhaps sees things differently. More than once on our visit to USF, I had one of the “moms” in our group (a 43-year old mother of 4 – from 18 to 9 years old) make the exclamation – “is there anything here for families to do together!” out of frustration. I tried to dissuade her compliants by bringing up Shrek, Despicable Me (which some didn’t go on because of motion sickness), and Terminator… but was ultimately unable to truly satisfy her (or others) frustration. I experienced less of this at IOA, by the way…. But I compare that to our overall experience at WDW – and the difference was unparalleled. All of us (and that includes the teenagers!) loved all the offerings at New Fantasyland – Little Mermaid, Dumbo, and esp. Enchanted Tales with Belle (if you can believe it…its not just for kids!) and the amazing Be Our Guest restaurant. We talked about it the entire trip – and still talk about it today when we look at pictures. Unfortunately, Shrek 4-D, Despicable Me and Twister were pretty much forgotten by the end of our trip.

      This is where your comment on your first post “their attractions are for everyone” is not entirely true. There were so many things we couldn’t do together at USF, whereas there were many, many things we could do together at WDW… including EVERYTHING at New Fantasyland.

      I understand your love for what is happening at USO… and I share that enthusiasm – but instead of making blanket statements that assume that every tourist would obviously take “this experience” over “that experience” or that there is nothing for teenagers to enjoy at New Fantasyland – you really have to understand that not every tourist or visitor thinks like most of us on this site. One person’s :”Transformer’s” could be another person’s “Enchanted Tales with Belle”… and if the latter had ended up with unsatisfactory approval ratings, or plummeting wait times, I would perhaps think otherwise… but it hasn’t (and having experienced it… it won’t)

  • FarFromHome

    I have a question for you, Eric. Do you have any idea how the Hogwarts Express train ride will work? Is it just gonna have 1 train going back and forth, or does it go on a loop? Does that mean it goes backwards one way? Wouldn’t this make a very long wait?
    Any ideas?
    Thanks for your wonderful coverage.

  • KingEric

    Hey FarFromHome,

    That is a great question, and one that I could probably write in more detail in a future update. The Hogwarts Express will work similarly to a funicular where there are two trains on either end, and a bypass in the center that will allow for each train to pass each other, and then merge back onto the single track.

    The seats on the Hogwarts Express will work like train cabins seats do where the seats face each other. So no matter which direction you are going one will be facing forwards and the other backwards.

    • FarFromHome

      Thanks for your quick reply. That pretty much answers my question, but I look forward to more details in the future.

      I did notice the track splits/doubles in one of the pictures, but it didn’t look big enough to accommodate 2 trains going by in unison. I’m assuming that means you can board the ride from either park. I’m just worried that if I go next summer, I’ll spend most of my time just waiting to get on this 1 ride.

      • I think the capacity will be OK. It looks like there will always been one train loading in each station with two trains on the track (one coming and one going). Since the trains will be large, that should make for good capacity.

        You will be able to board the ride from either park. But the experience will be different each way. This is a very clever attraction.