We are back.  This week we say RIP to Halloween Horror Nights 23, as spooky decorations are removed and Christmas decorations pop up throughout the Universal Orlando parks.  We also take a look at all the other projects around the resort. We’ll share news on the currently scheduled date Diagon Alley should open and much more.  So put your Santa hat on and let’s get ready for another funtastic Orlando ParkHopper update.

Jurassic Park Games Now Open

In Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure, the new dinosaur games have now opened. Whether you love or loath games of skill in the theme parks, these new games have a nice level of detail and seem to add a bit of new energy to the Jurassic Park area.



Hammond’s Hot Shots

A basketball game, that gives a nice nod to the founder of Jurassic Park, John Hammond, with a fun take on the Air Jordan logo.





Training Zone

Next to Hammond’s Hot Shots is the Train Zone, which houses two games, the first being Target Training and then the DNA Sequencer next door.  Both are standard games, that have been given Jurassic Park themes.





iNGen Egg Nursery

The iNGen Egg Nursery is probably the most unique game, where the player selects 3 Dinosaur eggs, then chooses 1 egg of the 3 eggs to have scanned. After placing it in the scanner, you find out if your egg contains a small, medium or large dinosaur, which then correlates to the size of prize you win.









Dino Dash Up

The last kiosk is the Dino Dash Up, that  uses water guns similar to the spitting dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.








The new games area, similar to the games area in Springfield USA, has been thoughtfully designed and an attention to detail is apparent.

Seuss Trolly Train Ride Down

This past week the High In The Sky Seuss Trolly Train Ride went down for refurbishment. Which is great news for the Seuss Landing area, which we have recently pointed out needs more refurbishments.






Hogsmede Station for the Hogwarts Express

The Hogsmede Station for the Hogwarts Express has begun exterior detailing.









Saturday, November 2nd, represented the last night of Halloween Horror Nights 23.  With a great line up and amazing Scare Actors who gave it their all from the first day until the last, HHN 23 was a huge success and brought big bucks for Universal Orlando.





Diagon Alley

On the most recent conference call Steve Burke, the CEO of NBC|Universal, said that Diagon Alley would open in “Spring.” With the extended Mardi Gras 2014 schedule we can expect big spring break crowds when this immersive new land finally opens.  With the applications now in, interviews will be happening all throughout November and December with training beginning after the new year.  Steve Burke said that Wizarding World expansion would open after the Cabana Bay hotel opens on March 14th, 2014.























Christmas Decorations and Holiday Celebrations

With HHN now in the bag, Christmas decorations are rapidly going up at both parks  Both parks will again have their individual Christmas celebrations, shows and events.


Universal Studios: Once again will host the Macy’s Holiday Parade and will have Mannheim Steamroller playing on select nights throughout December, along with a Barney Holiday show and the Blues Brother Holiday show.

Islands of Adventure: Will host Grinchmas, where guests can meet the Grinch, see the Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular with music by Mannheim Steamroller.  Guests can also dine with the Grinch & Friends at Circus McGurkus

The great thing about the holidays at the Universal Orlando Resort is that it is included with your daily park admission or your annual pass.



The new restaurant in CityWalk is coming together rapidly. The sign is already on the building.








The Don Quixote facade is beginning to take shape with aSpanish mission theme. the scale is unlike the other facades in CityWalk, giving us a glimpse at what the future of CityWalk may hold.












The Starbucks new location on the first floor of CityWalk is ready for construction to begin, now that the Endangered Species Store is now extinct.



That wraps up this weeks update.  We have a special episode of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast with Binaural audio from all 8 houses at HHN 23 along with news, rumors and updates with your hosts Lee, Tracey and Darren.

  • Trumpet

    Great Update Eric

    Despite they are carnival games, I really like the Jurassic Park Games, they fit the area really well, and are nicely themed.

    Also, Potter Land is so close, with about 6 months away! That is awesome! Hopefully, this opens before WDW’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster (which would kind of add salt to the wound). The detail looks great in both parks, and to set the record straight, the two coasters next to it will not be visible from the station. You will hear them roaring, but that is all.

    Before the comment section begins to erupt into a war AGAIN! We need to address what the WDW bashing is all about. The main problem is the speed in which WDW build anything. It has taken WDW longer to build a hill in which a mine coaster will travel in, compared to USO building Potter land. Also, it looks like all of the expansion will open at the same time, unlike New Fantasyland. Another thing is that the experience will be unique, unlike New Fantasyland’s cloned Mermaid. Unique restaurants, shops and attraction, make it the premier resort in Orlando.

    Also a nice turn around of attractions. Someone last week said that WDW is a museum of attractions, and they are right, nothing old has been taken out of the park, and while it might be controversial to remove a beloved attraction, change has to happen. People have to grasp this soon, not just the men in suits, but fans as well, as Jaws (the film) was so passed its sell by date to be classed as relevant. A good attraction, but not worthy of space today, with Potter an international brand, of British origin, and with 7 books, 8 films and more to come, it is a perfect franchise to build apon, and this is definitely on a flash in the pan! (like many think it is).

    Thanks Again Eric, and I look forward to the opening of the area, it will be magical (which WDW is starting to lack, as of recently).


    PS. please make the comments civilised. Once Malin starts stating that WDW is superior, everything kicks off. Its his opinion let it be, but I think he needs to state the facts that USO have, in his words, “brought it”.

    Even though it is a USO update, I invite Malin to tell me his thoughts of these points.

    1. Aging attractions in WDW
    2. Abandon Spaces at WDW
    3. New Fantasyland and the clone of Mermaid
    4. When AVATAR Land will start construction, and will it be on time.

    Many Thanks,

    A Theme Park Nerd

    • Malin

      Trumpet I’ll send you a private message with my thoughts. I feel its a bit unfair to Eric and his article to derail the comments section with comments that will result in yet again more Disney bashing by the same group of individuals.

      • Trumpet

        Thanks, I looks forward to reading them.

        I am not trying to get at you, I am just interested regarding your thoughts.

        As always, everyone has their opinion, and I respect yours, as with anyone in the WDW VS USO debate.

        So thank you.

      • Malin

        Absolutely and I always find your comments fair and balanced Trumpet. Reason why I wanted to respond to your comments in private and away from the public forums.

  • seenoevil

    I guess there’s no way to know what’s going on with the Gringott’s attraction? If all of Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express AND a coaster are done by Spring 2014, then the Mine Coaster really should be ashamed of itself.

    • CaptainAction

      Very true.
      In Walt’s day they built all of Disneyland in less time than it has already taken to build the Seven Dwarf Mound Train. WDW quit building mountains about 10 years back in the middle of not completing the Yetti ride. Then they left the Yetti broke for the last several years and instead put in a $7 strobe light.
      Universal wil have built multiple new lands and unique E ticket attractions before WDW can complete a simple kiddie coaster on a mound.
      This is not your father’s Disney.

  • Big D

    I have a question about the games. Are they rigged, like at carnivals? For example, do they overinflate the basketballs and make the rims a weird oblong shape so that the ball barely fits through?

    • Malin

      I would like to say don’t be so ridiculous Universal is a highly respected company but then again how often do you see people win. I certainly don’t spot many people carrying those tacky toys around the parks.

    • CaptainAction

      My 10 year old son played several games on our last visit in the new Simpson’s Land at Universal. The hosts had him play each game until he won a prize. Really friendly and nice. He got a collection of Simpson’s plush characters.

  • Malin

    Another great update Eric, it won’t surprise you to read this but yeah I hate the games. I like the old energy and vibe of this area of Jurassic Park. This just reminds me of Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama.

    I really wish Universal would take advantage of social media to update us more on Diagon Alley. News and concept art would be great and would help to count down the days until spring 2014. Right now all the fun and excitement for Diagon Alley is coming from your weekly column each week.

    Sad to see Horror Nights over for another year. How awesome would it be to keep one of the mazes open all year like the House of Horrors in Hollywood. I’ll miss the An American Werewolf in London maze the best this year in my opinion. With the continued success of the Walking Dead and talk of a spin off you have to question what involvement the series will have next year.

    Will be keeping an eye out on your Christmas coverage since the plan for next year is to visit during early December. But quick observation how awesome would it look if Diagon Alley was dressed up for the Holidays.

  • Gregg Condon

    Glad there’s a “sort of” opening date for Potter 2.0. Which means everything should be in full swing if we get out there in late August next year .

  • Country Bear

    Very exciting update Eric, thank you. Hope you had a great holiday!

    Glad to see we now have a date to work with for opening of this new area so that I can plan my vacation and my first stay at the Universal Resort. I am almost giddy about this expansion as it is epic in scale. I usually also book a Universal VIP tour when we arrive because you get exposure to backstage experiences and I’m hoping Harry Potter will be a part of that now.

    I’m also glad to hear that the coaster track will not be visible as you wait for the Hogwarts Express. Universal is obviously considering all of these theming details and it’s such great news to see.

    Universal seems to be heading in the right direction on all fronts. I love this!

    • CaptainAction

      Country Bear,

      I hope you guys have a great time at your Universal Resort. Just a couple of hints which I wish someone would have told us about before we stayed.
      Royal Pacific and Portofino Bay are Loews Resorts and if you join there Loews First Club there are some great perks. You might be able to join before your stay. If you can then you should receive a welcome gift free each time you stay. We have received free cd’s of the resorts music along with sand buckets and shovels for kids to keep and play with at the beach pools, white chocolate covered strawberries, giant cookies and a pitcher of milk, fruit baskets, giant snack food baskets, etc.
      As you stay at the Royal or Portofino, each check in will count toward free room upgrades and $100 meal credits for your family to use in the resort restaurants. We can now upgrade from the 450 sq ft Portofino room to a 900 sq ft suite for free. The suite has 2 giant full baths and is really great for our family of 5.
      The $100 meal credit can be used at restaurants at either resort. We can use it at Sal’s Market at Portofino for about 4 dinners. In the evenings at Portofino, the singers come out on a balcony overlooking the bay and sing a few Italian songs. Sal’s has outdoor seating as well as another restuarant next to it. The buffets at Royal Pacific and Portofino are nice as well.
      The best discount on rooms we have found is with the annual pass to Universal. It’s worth buying one annual pass just for the discount. We can usually get the suite now for about $174 per week night and $225 on weekend nights in off season.
      Never stayed at Hard Rock but there plan doesn’t integrate like these two do.
      By the way, we always are excited and we get up early to check in the hotels before the early opening park hours. You get a whole extra day of skipping lines and perks this way.
      We love to buy annual passes for the whole family and the second trip is pretty inexpensive for what we are getting.
      If you buy your annual passes with an AMEX card and keep your receipt, your whole family can use the AMEX Lounge at Unversal for free. The lounge is between Shrek and Monster Cafe. The lounge is a great place to relax and have free bottled water, free kettle chips, free granola bars, etc. You only need your receipt the first time you check in. The lounge is free to use as much as you like,
      Hope there was something helpful to you here. Have a great stay.

  • almandot

    Okay hold on just one minute here. The Jurassic Park games look themed very nicely. But the water squirt game has a head of a dilophosaurus. That thing should open its jaws and squirt water right back at you if you don’t win!

  • danielz6

    Personally I find the Dino games to be cheesy and not a good fit in that land. Universal is on the cutting edge of the theme park industry and has nearly matched Disney with awesome new attractions like Forbidden journey and transformers. But they do things like this which seem very “old” Universal imo. I expect more from universal now that they have set the bar so high for themselves. I know the justification is well Jurassic park is a theme park so its entirely plausible that they could have carnival games in the park. But I say they could also have a carousel there in the middle of the land by the same logic, but obviously that wouldn’t be a good choice for this land.
    I can’t wait to see if they plan on adding the Jeep adventure. That would give Dino land in Animal kingdom some serious competition.

  • whamo

    I’m a Disneyland guy, but I read this article because Jurassic Park sounded interesting. Personally, carnival games and dinosaurs don’t mix in my opinion. I don’t like the ones they have at California Adventure either. You have to take the good with the bad. And most of Disneyland is good.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Diagon Alley looks to be so darned good that I’ll forgive the Busch Gardens faux pas that is the Jurassic Games area. Ick, infinity.

  • ChrisNJ

    I’m not a fan of carnival games in theme parks, but they are going to be there so glad Universal themed them wonderfully. I’ll actually stop and take a look at them thanks to these great photos and descriptions.

    If Islands is going to have carnival games then Jurassic Park is the best section to put them in – remember in the book/film it was a dinosaur theme park complete with restaurant and gift shop – so games make sense.

    Great update. Really love the detail and excellent photos!

    • Malin

      Jurassic Park from the movies was always going to be a park similar to what Discovery Cove is today only with Dinosaurs. A one of a kind experience. You don’t see midway games at Discovery Cove. So for me it doesn’t make sense. Also fans of the movie will walk through the gates to Jurassic Park and the first thing there will see is Carnival Games. It’s not exactly a great way of building up the excitement.

      • MickeyFickey

        If you read the books, John Hammond was all about making money in any sense that he could. If you look at the new games from the book standpoint, they fit right in and are logical. If you view them from the movie standpoint (which I personally think you should), they do NOT fit. I’m not a fan of them, personally and can think of numerous different places Uni could have put them that would have fit better than JP. I feel they add the wrong kind of energy to JP. Sadly, they’re there now, so in that spirit, I’m glad they at least themed them decently. They could have been SO much worse (now-removed Flintstones games at USH or the awful Toon Lagoon games between Marvel and Toon, anyone?).

      • CaptainAction

        Carnival games aren’t for us adults gentlemen.
        Imagine being 12 and under and having the chance to play a well themed game with a chance of winning a dinosaur.
        That is who these games are for. Not 30 year old men.

  • Orlando71

    I never thought chester and hesters dino rama would have a rival

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