We are back with a big update from Universal Orlando Resort. Grinchmas has popped up at Islands of Adventure and a brand new restaurant has opened in CityWalk, plus we have a resort-wide photo update for you!

CityWalk

Red Oven Pizza Bakery Opens and Review

It seem that just as soon as we start covering a new project at Universal . . . it finishes!  CityWalk’s newest restaurant has opened in the former quick service location for Pastamore. The new establishment is the completely redesigned Red Oven Pizza Bakery.  Serving only hand tossed pizzas and entree salads, this quick and casual location has an affordable and accessible menu. Salads range from $9 – 11 and pizzas  from $12 – 14.  When you enter the location you walk up to the register, order your pizza, salad and drink, then sit down and wait for your food to be taken to you.  Servers will refill your drinks, or bring you adult beverages if you feel so inclined.  The outdoor patio dining is comfortable, with fans above so that during hot summer nights the air won’t stop moving.

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I ordered the Fennel Sausage Pizza, that came with Panna, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Sweet Fennel Sausage, Scallions and red onions.  This is the best pizza I have ever had in Orlando hands down. I feel what Earl of Sandwich did for Sandwich joints at Downtown Disney, Red Oven Pizza Bakery has now done for Pizza at CityWalk.  The quality of ingredients, the price, and the atmosphere all work together to form a great experience to end your day.  If you are dining with two I would recommend you order 1 Entree Salad and 1 Pizza and split them both.  It is more than enough food, and you will end up taking it back to your room.

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Starbucks

Right next door to the Red Oven Pizza Bakery is the new location for Starbucks, where the concrete has been torn up, and utility work is happening. Soon, a new floor will be poured, and the Coffee Shop will begin to take shape.

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Don Quixote

The massive facade for Don Quixote is moving forward with the entire area around it now closed off as they have torn up the concrete in that area for utilities and improvements.  From the back of the Facade you can begin to see the outline for the Spanish Mission facade that will soon tower over guests in CityWalk.

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Next Area for Expansion

With all these projects moving forward, we have heard that there is a lot more on the way to CityWalk. The Alley Way to the 2nd story, that has long been a Universal Team Member secret with their favorite pub Cirgarz, is rumored to be on the chopping block along with the TCBY and the Candy store.  Universal has a new concept that they want to utilize that space, and while Universal Team Members will have to find a new pub to unwind at after a long day, the new concept will better serve day guests.

Trading Company Sign is back

After months of being missing, the Trading Company Sign at the entrance to the park has returned.  While this is a little thing, it is the little extra touches that make a theme park like Islands of Adventure a world class park.

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Grinchmas Takes Over Seuss Landing

It is that time of year, when Seuss Landing turns into Whoville for the annual Grinchmas Celebration which starts December 7th.  The trimmings are being added to the facades all around the island, and with some great little touches here and there, the island really transforms into a different place.  We can’t wait to bring you a review of the Grinchmas 2013 at the beginning of December.

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Hogsmede Station for the Hogwarts Express

If you remember a few months back, it seemed that construction had stalled on the the Hogsmede station, but now it is moving ahead full steam, with new details being visible just over the construction walls.  It won’t be long until we can really tell what the building is going to look like.  Spring 2014 can’t come soon enough!

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New Tablets for ExpressPass

One thing to note is that Windows Tablets have been taking over Universal Orlando.  First at the ticket windows, where they are used to better describe and illustrate ticketing options for guests, and now at every ExpressPass entrance.  These new tablets scan the barcodes on the ExpressPass, but also give the front line team members more information and quicker on the status of the ExpressPass, and where it has been used.

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Diagon Alley

The beautiful facades for Diagon Alley continue to get more and more details with each passing week. We’re excited about this project, what about you?!

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Hogwart Express Trains

We just can’t get enough of the Hogwart Express Trains.  They are just beautiful.  Spring 2014 needs to get here now!

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Lard Lads New Sign

When Springfield USA opened, our one critique was that the Lard Lads structure did not have a sign on it.  Sure it had the massive Lard Lad statue in front, however most guests enjoyed that as a photo-op without realizing he was the signage for the small donut shop behind him.   Universal has now added a sign that clearly displays that the structure behind the big boy has donuts and ice-cream for sale.

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Christmas at the Studios

Christmas decoration continue to appear at the studios with most of the major decorations on the buildings in the New York area. Hollywood sets will get their Holiday treatment next.  The Macy’s Holiday Parade will begin running December 7th.   If you have ever wanted to be in New York and watch those GIANT balloons come down the streets of New York? If so, you must take a trip to the Universal Orlando and experience the Macy’s Holiday Parade, along with Mannheim Steamroller live.

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That wraps up this weeks update!  We would like to invite you to listen to a new episode of the Unofficial Universal Podcast featuring your hosts Lee, Tracey, Darren and Hunter as they talk about all the latest news, rumors and history behind all of the Universal Parks in Orlando, Hollywood, Osaka and Singapore.