2013 was an incredible year for the Universal Orlando Resort, and while 2013 is coming to a close, we have our eyes set on 2014 and beyond. New and exciting attractions, hotels, restaurants and themed lands are on their way.   But before 2014 begins let’s take one last look back at the top stories of 2013, and really appreciate how much has changed in the past 12 months.

Transformers The Ride Opens

When 2013 started, the Transformers the ride show building was nothing more than a big blue box.

Transformers the ride show building at Universal Orlando
Transformers the Ride, January 2013

Transformers Building February 2013

In February we finally began to see the themed elements that would be added to the giant blue box.

Transformers Show Building February 2013

In March the Supply Vault store opened and the characters from Transformers began meeting with guests

Transformers meet and greet at Universal Orlando March 2013

By April, the marquee was added to the attraction, and the exterior theme was almost complete.

Transformers Marquee at Universal Orlando April 2013

By May, Universal began teasing the opening of the new attraction. They had Megatron crash through a building in downtown Orlando

Megatron attacks downtown Orlando in May 2013

Then in June, Universal was ready to open this new mega attraction.  Transformers The Ride: 3D was ready for park guests. With an amazing show, the ride was soon credited with a 20% boost in attendance at the Studios park when compared with the same period last year. A smashing success!

Transformers the Ride 3D gets ready to open at Universal Orlando
Transformers the Ride 3D gets ready to open at Universal Orlando
Steven Spielberg and Optimus Prime walk the red carpet
Optimus Prime meets Optimus Prime at Universal Orlando
Jets, tanks and explosions mark the grand opening of Transformers at Universal Orlando
It was a truly grand opening for Transformers The Ride: 3D

Springfield USA

Springfield USA was another project which was completed rapidly in 2013. At the beginning of the year, the old quick service food location had just been gutted and the steel for the future facades was just being installed.

Springfield USA in January 2013

February saw those marquees begin to get some themed elements.

Springfield USA themed elements February 2013

In March we got our first glimpse at what Moes Tavern would look like… squeals from nerds were heard all over the world.

Moes Tavern at Universal Orlando March 2013

In August, Springfield was finally completed with the Kang and Kodo’s Twirl N’ Hurl. It’s hard to believe that at one time the Simpson’s ride was a standalone attraction. Now it presides over an entire mini-land, Springfield USA.

Springfield USA at Universal Orlando
Springfield USA at Universal Orlando
Kang and Kodos Twirl N Hurl opens to the public

And just when we thought Springfield USA was complete, Universal added a fun “Simpson’s Couch Gag Photo Op” where guests are inserted into the famous opening scene.

Simpson’s Couch Gag scene at Universal Orlando

Diagon Alley – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter 2.0

2013 was the year that we saw Diagon Alley go vertical. In January we were excited to see ride track being installed inside the show building.

Gringotts Ride at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Ride Track being installed into the Gringotts Ride Show building

Diagon Alley from the Simpsons Ride in January 2013

Then  in February, just like Magic… Diagon Alley started to go vertical!

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando February 2013
Diagon Alley going Vertical

We also finally got our first glimpse at what the Hogwarts Express Station at Hogsmeade was going to look like.

Hogwarts Express station at Hogsmeade - Universal Orlando
Hogwarts Express station at Hogsmeade – Universal Orlando


In April the London Facade and Diagon Alley became a mess of steel. It was hard to distinguish one building from another, and it was the first time we caught a glimpse of the Hogwarts Express tracks.

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando April 2013
Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando April 2013


May saw some refinements.

Diagon Alley Universal Orlando May 2013

Hogwarts Express train tracks first glimpse May 2013

We also took another ride in the MiceCopter to get a better look at the construction going on at Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando May 2013 Helicopter shot
Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando May 2013

In June the Hogsmeade Station for the Hogwarts Express finally began to take shape thematically.

Hogsmeade Station for the Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando June 2013

In July the London Facade really began to take shape as the exterior of the buildings began to be enclosed.

London facade for Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando July 2013


By September they were really starting to look like buildings with windows and doors.

London facade details emerge at Universal Orlando September 2013


And we squealed with glee as we caught the first glimpse of the Hogwarts Express Trains.

Hogwarts Express trains September 2013

And then a few weeks later, the trains were on the tracks.

Hogwarts Express trains on the tracks September 2013

In October and November more details were visible on the facades at London.

Details on the facades in London at Universal Orlando

At the end of November, we finally saw color being applied to the London facades concealing Diagon Alley

London Facades begin to get painted

And in December we have seen details and embellishments added, as they begin to apply the finishing touches that will transport guests to London

London facades getting more details December 2013

Diagon Alley in December of 2013 at the Universal Orlando Resort


While most of the CityWalk construction is new, in August we saw the kickoff of the reimagining of CityWalk here in Orlando, with the Pastamore quick service location closed, and torn apart.

Pastamore quick service no-more August 2013
Pastamore quick service no-more – August 2013

We also saw the South American restaurant, Latin Quarter, close

And in September the Endangered Species store, and the old Master Card office were torn out to make way for what will be Starbucks and Coldstone Creamery.  And the location that was Latin Quarter, began to take shape as Antojitos.

Endangered Species store facade torn out
Antojito’s taking shape at Universal Orlando

In November, a few short months after beginning construction, the Red Oven Pizza Bakery opened in the old Pastamore space. It has received great reviews and is a delicious and affordable addition to CityWalk.

Red Oven Pizza Bakery at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk


In December the Antojito’s facade finally came out from behind wraps . . .

As soon as the scaffolding came down, Universal quickly began painting a bright and wild color scheme.


The old Shrek meet-n-greet was torn down in February, and a new meet-n-greet opened with an improved Shrek costume.

Shrek meet and greet opens at Universal Orlando 2013

Over at Islands of Adventure, at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we saw the construction of a stage. The new stage was opened, then closed, then re-opened, to host the Tri-Wizard cup and Frog Choir performances.

the first version of the performance stage at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Version 1 of the performance stage March 2013

Universal Unveiled the “ScreenPlay” App that brought movie posters on construction walls to life, in an amazing and exciting way!

Jurassic Park Screen Play poster at Universal Orlando April 2013
Jurassic Park Screen Play poster at Universal Orlando April 2013

Over at the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure, we saw themed games of chance open up, to mixed reviews.

Jurassic Park midway opens at up Islands of Adventure

And in November we got an exclusive sneak peek of the Mardi Gras floats that will be in the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Parade in 2014

Mardi Gras 2014 concept art
Mardi Gras Parade floats artwork 2013

Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast Fan Meet up

Lee and Tracey, the hosts of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast, crossed the pond from England in August and made their pilgrimage to the Universal Orlando Resort, where we held the first ever Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast meetup.  Fans of MiceChat and the UUOP showed up to challenge each other at Men In Black and then took on the Kitchen Challenge at the HardRock hotel, where Universal Orlando was kind enough to have Universal Creative’s Russ Dagon speak to us. We were given an extra special sneak peak into Cabana Bay and construction projects at the Universal Orlando Resort.

Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast fan meet up at Universal Orlando
Hunter, Lee and Tracey enjoying a Flaming Moes
Hunter, Lee and Tracey enjoying a Flaming Moes
Getting ready to take on the Kitchen Challenge at the HardRock Hotel at Universal Orlando
Getting ready to take on the Kitchen Challenge at the HardRock Hotel at Universal Orlando
Russ Dagon sharing the vision and insight into what Cabana Bay Beach Resort will be like

It has been an incredible experience covering the Universal Orlando Resort for you in 2013.  I truly appreciate everyone’s feedback, and I wanted to take a moment to say how grateful I am to Dusty and Fishbulb at MiceChat.com for giving me a place to share my love and appreciation for the Universal Orlando Resort.  I also want to thank Lee, Tracey, Darren and Hunter for creating the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast (which became a member of MiceChat’s MicePod in 2013), which has been a great place for fans of the Universal Orlando resort to hear untold stories about the resort and the people who built and operate the parks and attractions.  I also want to give a special thanks to the Universal team, who have been great with working with us here at MiceChat.com and giving us access to the incredible people at the Universal Orlando Resort.  I most importantly want to personally thank you, our readers. We are extremely thankful that you have shown up to read us every week, commented on our articles, liked and shared this column with your friends and have helped us grow from a small weekly readership in the thousands to a huge following in the tens of thousands of weekly pageviews.  It is because of the wonderful feedback I get, that I am excited to visit the Universal Orlando Resort every week, so that I can come back and share it with you right here on MiceChat.  I can’t want to share what’s about to happen in 2014. It’s going to be an absolutely blockbuster summer for Universal as the Wizarding World expands. And I promise to cover it all for you in detail.

Now it’s time to sit back and listen to the special holiday version of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast, celebrating its 1 year anniversary on the MiceChat MicePod Network.  Please remember to subscribe to us on iTunes and Stitcher.

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  • Park Hopper

    Thank you very much for all your hard work. I have really enjoyed seeing Diagon Alley steadily rise up over the year in your articles. You are my go-to spot for news on the Universal Orlando Resort. Thank you again and I wish you a spectacular 2014!

  • fnord

    Nice recap. This is my favorite column on Miceage nowadays, as none of the Disney
    parks seem to have anything major on the burner. I’ve visited the Wizarding World and
    it’s the best themed area I’ve ever experienced. The Diagon Alley expansion looks amazing,
    with two built from scratch Potter rides and a knockturn alley walkthrough.
    But if the Hogwarts Express trains include the corridor and costumed actors, I predict it
    will be the star attraction, as it will be for all ages.

  • mainejeff

    Thanks for your reports this year Eric. 2014 is going to be an incredible year at UOR…….looking forward to it!

  • OprylandUSA

    BTW, that new Shrek rubber head was designed by Jim Henson’s creature shop. When the original was designed, the case for the entire costume was so big, it wouldn’t fit in a Boeing 737’s cargo bay. It’s not technically “new”. It’s been around for a while. Universal just upgraded from the cheap model to the expensive model that DreamWorks uses for photoshoots and premieres – another sign that Comcast is investing in the parks.

  • Malin

    I would like to wish you a Happy New Year Eric and thank you for all your hard work and contributions this year. While I’m sure Transformers will be a highlight for many it won’t full into my highlights because of seeing it first in 2012 at the Hollywood Park. For me this year the two stand out highlights were Springfield and Horror Nights.

  • Country Bear

    Nice review Eric. Hard to believe this all happened in the span of a year.

    Thank you for your consistent hard work and effort to bring this article to us every week. I look forward to every new article you bring us, along with pictures and video. Universal Orlando is the most exciting place to be right now as far as theme park development goes. I envy you every time I read your article because you’re there covering it and I am far, far away only reading about it. Thanks for keeping me/us in the loop.

    Keep up the great work!