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.
In February we finally began to see the themed elements that would be added to the giant blue box.
In March the Supply Vault store opened and the characters from Transformers began meeting with guests
By April, the marquee was added to the attraction, and the exterior theme was almost complete.
By May, Universal began teasing the opening of the new attraction. They had Megatron crash through a building in downtown Orlando
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!
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.
February saw those marquees begin to get some themed elements.
In March we got our first glimpse at what Moes Tavern would look like… squeals from nerds were heard all over the world.
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.
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.
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.
Then in February, just like Magic… Diagon Alley started to go vertical!
We also finally got our first glimpse at what the Hogwarts Express Station at Hogsmeade was going to look like.
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.
May saw some refinements.
We also took another ride in the MiceCopter to get a better look at the construction going on at Diagon Alley
In June the Hogsmeade Station for the Hogwarts Express finally began to take shape thematically.
In July the London Facade really began to take shape as the exterior of the buildings began to be enclosed.
By September they were really starting to look like buildings with windows and doors.
And we squealed with glee as we caught the first glimpse of the Hogwarts Express Trains.
And then a few weeks later, the trains were on the tracks.
In October and November more details were visible on the facades at London.
At the end of November, we finally saw color being applied to the London facades concealing Diagon Alley
And in December we have seen details and embellishments added, as they begin to apply the finishing touches that will transport guests to London
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Universal Unveiled the “ScreenPlay” App that brought movie posters on construction walls to life, in an amazing and exciting way!
Over at the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure, we saw themed games of chance open up, to mixed reviews.
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
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.
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.