We are back this week with a jam packed look at Universal Orlando Resort. Scaffolding has finally come down from around the new Harry Potter London facades. This year’s Mardi Gras Concert lineup has been revealed. Harry Potter Celebration Weekend is next week and a big Wizarding World Announcement is coming.  Grab your wands, and let’s get ready to explore the Universal Orlando Resort.

Diagon Alley

Scaffolding around Diagon Alley has finally come down, and the new area looks amazing!  With beautiful detail, and massive scale, these facades are amazing replicas of their movie and real world counterparts.


























With the big Harry Potter reveal on January 23rd, we will be brining you more details on Phase 2 later this week.

A Celebration of Harry Potter

This January 24th – 26th Muggles and Wizards will take over Universal Orlando to celebrate the boy who lived.  Guests will be treated to a Q&A with cast from the film, a wand masterclass, panel discussions, behind the scenes of Pottermore, and a special one of a kind Harry Potter Expo.  For fans of the books and film, Orlando will be the place next weekend.


January and February is refurbishment time at the parks with lots of things getting some TLC before Spring Break and Summer Crowds.

Disaster is currently down for some maintenance.



In the New York area, the Lew Wasserman statue has been removed and the entire flower bed surrounding  it is also under wraps as they replace this area.


Temporary entertainment has been added in front of the Beetlejuice Grave Yard Review, while this show is down and getting reworked.





Islands of Adventure


Construction walls for the Starbucks at IOA have come down, a wooden Starbucks logo adorns the door.  With signs saying “opening soon,” we can anticipate this location to open at any time, making Starbucks invasion into Orlando theme parks nearly complete.







Hogsmeade Station for the Hogwarts Express

The Hogsmeade station for the Hogwarts Express, doesn’t look as far along as its counterpart in the Studios park.  The station is being enclosed now, with more detail on the way soon.










Rip Saw Falls Refurbishment

The Rip Saw falls refurbishment continues with the entire area getting new paint job and getting cleaned up.




Now, let’s take a look at CityWalk,  where the redesign of the this shopping and dining area has been moving forward at an impressive rate.


Antojitos’ exterior is almost complete with a few finishing touches remaining to be added, namely the weather vein, VW Bus, street carts and outside dining area.








World’s Greatest Hot Dogs

The World’s Greatest Hot Dogs stand is progressing slowly right now, but once Antojitos opens, we should see work accelerate here.




The entire Pastamore facade and entrance has been ripped out as prep work has begun to turn this first floor location into Vivo, the new Italian restaurant.



Universal Studio Store

The entire Studio store has been ripped out, and the massive sign that once dominated the building, has now been removed, and we will see the new chic sign soon.



Starbucks and Coldstone Progress

The Coldstone Creamery and Starbucks for CityWalk are getting walls now, and should be completely enclosed shortly.








Employee Parking Garage

Backstage, the employee parking lot has been torn up to build a 4 story parking structure for Team Members.  With the Universal Orlando Resort expanding aggressively, they must invest in their employee infrastructure to make sure they do not run into a parking issue in the future.




That wraps up this week.  Now enjoy the latest episode of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast with your hosts Lee, Tracey, Darren and Hunter.

  • fnord

    Does anyone know how the hogwarts express will turn around at the stations, or will it run backwards half of the time?


      I thought about that a while ago, and while it’s not a huge deal, I came up with an idea that would allow the train to always enter the station engine first.

      When the trains get the the point where they pass each other, they could both leave their ‘engines’ behind. After the passenger sections pass each other and get back onto the mean track, it would then pick up the other trains engine and continue into the station.

      This would add a lot of complexity for something pretty minor though.

      I imagine both trains face the same way, so it always enters one station forwards and the other backwards.

    • CaptainAction

      I do know it’s a cable car type system and the cables will pull each other as a system. It’s made by a Swiss company that builds ski lifts.
      I don’t think they ha ve made a decision yet as to whether or not they can send the trolley cart with the sweets by for all the guests or not.
      Windows (with video screens built in) will be on one side and perhaps the sweets trolley can stroll down the other side.
      The ride should take about 6 minutes and could be considered an E ticket attraction.

  • Lee Mallaby

    It will not turn round, it will just run backwards, but two trains will run at a time. It’s only a single track but splits in to two tracks in the middle so the two trains can pass each other. 🙂

  • gboiler1

    Too bad the architectural aesthetics are ruined by all the nighttime show clutter in the lagoon, etc.

  • Badgermann

    I think a few of the performers in front of BeetleJuice are members of VoicePlay, who recently competed in The Sing Off. I think three of the four are members of that group, and they were introduced on the show as working at Universal.

  • Country Bear

    Thanks for the update Eric.

    There’s so much progress in so little time. London looks amazing and the details are delightful.

    Would it be possible to get some photo’s of the progress of Cabana Bay in the future? I assume it is also moving at a blistering pace.

    So many exciting things happening at Universal. I look forward to your update every week.

    • CaptainAction

      Hi Country Bear,
      Saw one of your posts about using the VIP benefit at Universal Hollywood. Can you tell me a little bit about it and the benefits?
      We have never done the VIP Tour and we are considering it for our next trip.
      Thanks for any help understanding what it’s like.

      • Country Bear

        Hi CaptainAction,
        I did post a reply a few days ago but the article is probably past its prime now. Here’s what I shared:

        CaptainAction, the VIP tour at USH is thrilling. It’s difficult to convey how you feel as you enjoy it, but the benefits are many and it will stay in your mind forever.
        They start the day (early) with complimentary valet parking just 100 feet from the front gate then a greeting area that includes food items and beverages which sets the tone for the day. Everything is included with the tour. You then board a small tram with a maximum of 14 people and a very friendly and educated tour guide and head into the park. They do a lot of the normal tram things like Kong, Earthquake (we got to stay and watch it reset itself), backlot, etc. But it’s the level of immersion that is so appealing. We’ve done this three times now and each time has been remarkably different. Your tram actually stops on sets and you get to walk around and take pictures and experience them in your own way. Some of our past walk around experiences have included Western Town, Bates Motel, New York Street, War of the Worlds Crash Scene, Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives street), Sound Production Studios (with an actual demo by an engineer), Live Production Sets (Ghost Whisperer and a few others). You tour the props area, the set construction shops, wardrobe dept, etc. On one trip we were taken into the historic Phantom of the Opera Soundstage from the early 20′s.
        They feed you an amazing upscale lunch buffet (same one that the Universal Executives eat at) in a beautiful private dining room and they take you on most rides and shows with front of line access and reserved seating. When the tour is done, you can use front of line for the rest of the day at your own pace and get a 20% discount on all merchandise and food purchases.
        I’m not mentioning everything but the intimate tour is an awesome way to see the park and production studio. Most importantly, they make you feel like you are Hollywood elite and they ensure you have everything you want to enjoy the day. They really make you feel special. It’s not cheap at $200.00+ per person, but it was worth every cent to us, three times now.

        Hope this helps you with your planning. It was definitely worth it to us.

      • CaptainAction

        Country Bear,
        Thanks so much for your response. Thanks for taking time to describe the experience so well.
        The VIP Tour sounds amazing. I think I would pay $200 just to experience the Phantom of the Opera sets. Wow, very cool.
        I look forward to sharing your response with my family later tonight when we are all together. We may be in California later this year and I would love to work this into the budget.
        Thanks again.

      • ahecht

        It’s WAY more than $200/person. Prices start at $349/person now.

  • LoveStallion

    Good looking London! Could use a bit of distressing, though. It all looks a tad too perfect.

    I’m glad they used the real King’s Cross for the station and not its film stand in – St. Pancras (which is a MUCH more impressive station).

  • lawe

    Great update.

    Wow Kings Cross looks great. Be like a busmen’s holiday for me when I get out there next time 😉

  • angle

    Would you like some theme park in your Starbucks?

  • jcruise86

    Thank you, Eric and Micechat!

    I’m looking forward to our next Central Florida trip with a mix of
    –nostalgia for WDW (Carousel of Progress, the Peoplemover, the Hall of Presidents, EPCOT, etc.
    –and excitement over all that’s new at Universal Orlando.
    If it weren’t for Universal Orlando, we wouldn’t go.

    Based on Florida behavior, I predict Universal Hollywood opens its Wizarding World Harry Potter (which broke ground–what–8 months ago? ? ?) more than two full years before WDW opens its Avatar land and attractions.