HO HO HO and Happy Holidays!  We are back with the last Universal Orlando update for 2013.  Today, we will take a quick look at the major projects in the resort with a big Harry Potter announcement coming and we examine what Christmas at Universal might look like next year. We even have a bit of Wet N’ Wild news. So grab your eggnog and let’s take a spin around the Universal Orlando Resort.


The new Mexican Restaurant concept in CityWalk, Antojitos, is getting a splashy rainbow paint job.  With a great nighttime lighting package, this will be an exciting new addition to CityWalk.










Starbucks and Coldstone Creamery

The ground is finally ready for cement to be poured at the location for the new Starbucks and the Coldstone Creamery.  The rest of the construction should move quickly, allowing these venues to open by Summer of 2014.








A Celebration of Harry Potter

From January 24th – 26th, Universal Orlando Resort will be hosting a Celebration of Harry Potter, with stars from the film coming to the Universal Orlando Resort to do Q&As with fans, panel discussions, Wand Master class, plus get get a look at Pottermore and a special Wizarding World of Harry Potter Expo.

To kick this event off on January 23rd, the Universal Orlando Resort will be hosting a webcast, where they will be making big announcements about the second phase of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We will be covering this event extensively,

Hogsmead Station for the Hogwarts Express

Construction is moving forward on the Hogsmead station for the Hogwarts Express, where main station is now topped off, and themed elements have begun to be applied.








Diagon Alley

Over at the Studios, the London facade for the Wizarding World phase two continues to get beautiful embellishments, details and coloring as we are beginning to enter the last big phase this massive project. We cannot wait for the construction walls to come down so that we can more closely inspect these beautiful facades.










Christmas at Universal Orlando

The Christmas event at Universal Orlando has been an incredible value-add to day guests and annual pass holders.  Recently, Universal Orlando sent out a new survey about changes they might be considering for the event next year.  While these surveys are never 100% accurate, they are a good indication of some of the business strategy behind the scenes that impact park guests.









The survey offers up options with various intellectual properties that guests might be interested in experiencing: Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, ELF – staring Will Farrell, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Elf on a Shelf, Radio City Christmas Spectacular staring the Rockettes, Jack Frost, a Charlie Brown Christmas, White Christmas and …. Holidays in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Which of these are things you’d like to experience?

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With this survey they also asked questions about creating an after hours separate ticketed event for Christmas, similar to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, and Christmas Town at Busch Gardens.  While this is just a survey, it is interesting to know what ideas are being debated as Christmas 2013 comes to an end, and we head into 2014.

New Slide Coming to Wet N Wild

Universal Orlando recently filed papers for a new trademark on a waterside that will be coming to Wet N’ Wild in Orlando.  The name that has been chosen is “Aqua Drag Race.”  We have heard rumors of something new coming, and it looks like they have settled on a name. With a name like that, we hope they’ve scheduled Ru Paul to do the ribbon cutting at the grand opening.

Aqua Drag Race

There is so much coming to the Universal Orlando resort in 2014 to be excited about. Not too many months left to wait.

Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast

Now I would like to invite you to listen to the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast staring Lee, Tracey, Darren and Hunter as they bring you the latest breaking news from all the Universal Studios parks from around the world!

  • jcruise86

    Aqua drag racer sounds cool!

    The rainbow paint job in City Walk looked ugly, but temporary to me. Hopefully it’s just a clever, inexpensive way to call attention to the addition.

    Harry Potter expansion is most exciting. I look forward to your coverage of that and going there myself after it opens. The incoming kids coaster at Disney World is depressingly dwarfed by comparison, and Avatar and other Iger promises seem too abstract at this moment. Step it up, Disney. 17 million at the MK a year is still impressive, but all this coasting could reduce attendance in the long track.

  • CaptainAction

    This is all amazing. Universal has pulled out all the stops. I’m so happy to have a theme park company who not only appreciates my families business but really couldn’t be fighting harder to earn it.
    I’ve been on several of the Disney blogs and it seems as if the WDW folks have turned a corner and are just now starting to realize just how much they have and are being taken for granted by the WDW leadership. Seems the WDW Magic Handcuffs have finally awakened the senses to how WDW has become all about themselves the last 8-10 years.
    There are only a couple of folks left defending WDW’s current guest treatment. The kiddie coaster is really all anyone can point to as anything for the guests and this coaster has had so few castmembers working on it due to cheap budgeting by WDW that it may be over 3 years in the making by the time a guest is allowed to ride.
    The freedom of new attractions, lands, ground breaking state of the art attractions, value resorts with ammenities of WDW delux resorts, etc. all being attempted and completed in less than 18 months!
    Well, nobody can honestly compare the efforts of these 2 companies today.
    Our family will be there checking in to Universal in less than 1 week and we really are excited to see all the new things since our last visit just 8 months ago.
    Can’t wait to see the Universal success bring massive changes to WDW leadership when they finally wake up having been handed their own rumps. Of course, with the greed and self centered attitudes of this current WDW leadership, it could take another 5-6 years.
    Meanwhile, thanks, congratulations, and our vacation dollars to Universal!

    • Country Bear

      Good post CaptainAction. I suspect we’re in very good company with your thoughts.

      Merry Christmas!

      • CaptainAction

        Merry Christmas to you and yours Country Bear!

    • martinjbell1986

      I expect that once the budget consuming My Magic+ at WDW is finally complete we’ll start seeing more worthwhile investments. The competition will be good for the park visitors of both parks. Were planning on visiting Universal for the first time next year but everyone that we know there keep telling us that Universal is still only a 2 day experience at the most. Would be interested in hearing what to do there that would take up more than 2 days of our 2-week vacation.

      • CaptainAction

        I can give you an idea of what we do as a family at Universal. We spend a day at Universal, a day at Islands, and now I think we will spend a day at all the Harry Potter lands at both parks.
        We usually stay at the Portofino and will spend the better part of another day enjoying the resort and amazing pool near the health club. My wife and I like to hit the health club for a workout a couple of times while we are there. The club is very nice.
        We all like the Sci Fi themed mini golf courses in Citywalk and I think there are several new things we will want to explore that are opening this new year.
        We love the movie theater at Citywalk. It is gigantic and almost never very crowded so we usually save a couple of movies to see while we are there.
        My kids love the pizza at Sol’s restaurant at Portofino. We also like to ride the boat over to Royal Pacific and shop and have brunch. They have unique items at the different hotel stores unlike WDW.
        We all love to eat at Monster Cafe and Mel’s at Universal more than once and I think we will all want to try some of the new offerings at the Simpson land.
        We like to go back for a second butter beer at WWOHP and ride all our favorites again over a day and a half.
        If you want to visit WDW, avoid the parks with extra unmagic hours as they are drawing all the WDW resort guests anyway and the other parks are less crowded.
        This allows you to take advantage of the stay more save more rate at Universal resorts but Annual Pass still seems to be the best discount for us. Join the Loew’s First program and get nice gifts in your room and amazing upgrades for free.
        There are fun things all over the parks you miss when running straight to the rides.
        We are never more relaxed at a theme park then when we are here and skipping lines with the resort room key pass.
        We like to slow down and soak it all in rather than rush around.
        Hope this helps.

  • Country Bear

    Thanks for your usual awesome reporting Eric!

    It’s hard not to get excited about all that is happening at Universal Florida. Certainly even the strongest Disney fan can’t help but look at what’s happening and be a little excited too. So much activity in just about every area of this resort demands your attention. I am only too happy to give it.

    The progress of the Diagon Alley buildings is amazing. It’s hard to believe that you report on this every week and there are noticeable changes each time. The level of detail just keeps increasing. I really think Universal has a solid plan going forward and they seem very committed to carrying it through. I find it interesting that they are doing less talk about what’s happening, and more building (read: actions speak louder than words). I know they will promote the heck out of this once it’s completed, but it’s kinda cool that the momentum is really building (literally) as fast as the buildings are. You just can’t look at the scale of this construction and not be engaged. That is exactly what creates loyal fans and makes them plan vacations. 2014 is going to be a Universal year!

    To our friends at Disney, please: less talk, more action.

    Have a wonderful Christmas Eric and thanks for keeping us in the loop.

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    Every time I see that Dueling Dragons coaster, I’m struck by just how ugly that thing is. Here they are building this gorgeous Hogsmeade Station…and the rest of Hogsmeade is so gorgeous too…and Diagon Alley is going to be the most amazing thing ever built in a theme park. But then there is this cheap-looking steel coaster (and the ugly Hippogriff coaster too). I wish and wish and wish that Universal would rip out these cheap-o coasters at some point and build two new rides that blend into the HP environment better. I think those coasters are eyesores and they really take me out of the theming.

    • CaptainAction

      If you can constantly gripe about the coasters, I’m wondering if you have ever ridden them?
      The Hulk is my favorite coaster. I love standing on the bridge which runs through the middle of the coaster and watching the guests faces as they enjoy the ride.
      It will be amazing to fly all around the Hogsmeade Train Station “like a dragon”.
      I know you only like coasters with dirt all under the railings but I’ve explained this to you before.
      Dragons don’t fly on the dirt – they fly in the air.
      The Hippogriffs don’t fly along the dirt ground – that would be called running. Hippogriffs fly in the air. The Hippogriff gives wonderful views of WWOHP and so will the Dragon when things are complete.
      You seem to only think of the coasters as a spectator on the ground which makes me think you aren’t appreciating them as a rider. Have you ever experienced these coasters?
      If you only have this one gripe with Universal then I’d like to here your list on complaints with WDW. If you are this picky then your WDW list must be a mile long.

      • thebear

        On this sight you are only allowed to say negative things about WDW. If you don’t like a particular aspect of Universal keep it to yourself. They’re not allowed to do anything wrong. I feel that every park has things that they could do better, make look better, etc. I hope more people go to Universal so things will be less crowded at WDW. I have been to Universal many times, including 2 days last June. Had a nice time, stayed at the Portofino Resort. Front of the line pass and early access were nice. That being said, we are returning in February and my kids (17 &15) haven’t said anything about visiting Universal (except my daughter wants to get butter beer and leave). I wish we could be allowed to like what we like and not have it be a contest where everything has to be compared and put down.

    • Tielo

      @BradynBradleysmom You can be a Grinch all you want about the coasters but even Disney could and wouldn’t cover these huge structures up. They are to big. Universal is offering something different, these coasters are different. Universal isn’t Disney and never will be so there is no point in comparing them and wishing one would be more then the other is contra productive because it will never happen and that is good, it results in diversity.

      On the Hippogriff coaster, that theming is actually amazing. Walking close to Hagrid’s cottage, hearing him inside, is amazing. Its also fun to greet the Hippogriff and see the castle and Hogmeade from another perspective. The whole thing is better and more tastefully themed then the Goofy coaster at MK or Primeval Whirl at AK.

      Looking at the tranches that are dug and room for trees and the completely enclosed station I’m sure you will hardly get a glimpse of the coaster and if you do maybe you could marvel at it’s engineering.

  • solarnole

    I’m shocked and disappointed that Disney would build a brand new area themed to a cheap and tacky Circus in the middle of their signature park. Dumbo sucks now that it is by a mini highway instead of the castle. The steel Goofy Circus coaster is such a tacky and cheap eyesore. The Circus area ruined new Fantasyland for me and made me miss Toontown.

    I thought the whole point of Disney parks was to not be a cheap and tacky circus carnival. A park that costs $95 to get in should have anything that looks like a cheap and tacky circus. Whats next an area themed to cheap and tacky road side attractions with carnival rides? Universal is following Walts standards better then Disney itself now.

  • Freddie Freelance

    The paint on Antojitos looks like the 1980s threw up all over it; I hope jcruise86 is right that it’s only temporary. Universal has been doing so well in theming and placesetting that choosing a color combination like this for real would be a real step backwards.

    • Tielo

      I’m with you and don’t like the colours (they are off-putting) but I’m afraid they are exactly as the artwork offered so I’m afraid we are stuck with it for now. I’m sure enough people will complain and they’ll paint it in a nice colour. What we are left with is a great eatery because I really dig what they are going to offer.

      • jcruise86

        Tielo, your “off putting” is polite. I’d go with hideous, aggressively ugly, or Freddie’s “looks like the 80s threw up all over it”. Maybe a talented artist made it look interesting in a small, impressionist drawing, but someone at Universal (maybe the great Steve Burke himself) needs to say that the emperor’s clothes take garish to a level never before seen. That paint job gives color a bad name. Somewhere a rainbow is crying.

      • CaptainAction


        Looks like Steve handing WDW their rump has hurt your feelings, huh?

        You aren’t tired of seeing 3 years of update photos from the c-ticket Dwarf coaster?

        I think you should turn your hurt feelings toward the lazy WDW execs. That’s where your pain really originates.

        Enjoy the WDW Magic Handcuffs.

  • FarFromHome

    The “splashy rainbow paint job” appears to be the colors of the Mexican flag.

  • DuckyDelite

    Thanks for another great update. I can’t believe how fast they are moving on Antojitos. Didn’t they just announce it a few weeks ago?

    I hope Uni does not add a Holiday overlay upsell. I plan on going in early December next year and was hoping to be able to enjoy the parks all day. I hope I don’t have to bother with additional ticket purchases and time management.

  • danielz6

    In my opinion, everything going on at universal Orlando these days is the most exciting stuff happening in the theme park world since Disney Sea opened in 2001.

  • Bb5

    You couldn’t have said it better Tielo… Bradley&BradleysMom (or whatever) comments the same exact thing on every Orlando Parkhopper about Dragon Challenge. Universal and Disney both offer some of best themed parks in the world, but a Universal differentiates itself from Disney with rides such as Hulk and the Dragons. I find this difference to be important. What fun would it be to basically have two Magic Kingdoms in Orlando, if Islands of Adventure only offered tame, but well themed coasters. I like the blend of wild coasters (there are only 3 in the entire resort, mind you) and immersive dark ride experiences that you can find in Islands of Adventure. And of course some of the greatest water rides ever created.