Universal Orlando Update – CityWalk Refurbs and Diagon Alley

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Features, Orlando Parkhopper, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios

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Published on February 18, 2014 at 2:00 am with 24 Comments

Time for a another stroll around the Universal Orlando resort with a full update of what is happening with the big CityWalk changes, and we look at all the other large projects happening around the resort.  Grab your Nimbus 2000, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover today.

CityWalk

We have a full update at CityWalk as this redevelopment hits it stride, and most of the facilities are now in various stages of construction:

Coldstone Creamery

The new ice cream shop in CityWalk is entering it’s final stages, as they get ready to open along with the Starbucks next-door.

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Menchies

The Candy Store has closed down, and has been gutted, and will soon be transformed into the frozen yogurt franchise Menchies.

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Bread Box

A favorite of Universal employees, Cigars, has closed, along with the TCBY that was next-door.  Inside, the stores have been gutted and are being prepped for construction of what will soon be a chic sandwich shop.

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Vivo

What was Pastamore, is demolished, gutted, and now ready for construction.  The floor above it will be CowFish, but will open after Vivo opens.  There is a lot of construction that will be taking place as they build out the front of the restaurant, and build a 2nd story, along with a grand entrance for CowFish.

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World Famous Hot Dogs

Across from Antojitos will be World Famous Hotdogs, where guests can sit outside, listen to the live Mariachi Band next door and eat some of the world’s best hotdogs.  Currently they are cleaning up a lot of the staging area that was used for Antojiots as they get ready to build some of the large fixtures that will be used for this area.

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Over at the studios we take a quick look around the park

 Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley gets more beautiful by the day.  The London Facade is nearing completion and will really give guests a true sense of place.  This addition, coupled with the new Springfield area directly across from the lagoon, has dramatically elevated this side of the park.  Once the detail work is complete, they will move the construction walls closer to the facades, and then close off access to the walls by the lagoon as they will be repaving that area and installing some great London props.

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Refurbishments

Across the park in the San Francisco and New York streets, refurbishments are continuing as facades are wrapped behind printed scrims allowing for minimal impact on the guest experience.

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Guest Services

In the front of the park, the guest services window is closed as they begin to update this area to better accommodate guests.

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Employee Parking

Behind the park, the Team Member parking structure continues to move forward at a dizzying pace.  In just a matter of weeks it has gone from a flat lot to a 4 story tall structure.

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Hogsmeade Station

The games in the lost continent have now been demolished.  Guests are now being funneled through a walled corridor that is reminiscent of the Springfield construction.   Beautiful themed details have been added to the top of the Hogsmeade station, with a Weathervane now topping the structure.

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That wraps up this weeks update! We now leave you with another great episode of the Unofficial Universal Podcast with your hosts Lee, Tracey, Darren and Hunter as they explore all the latests, news, rumors and information about the Universal Parks from around the world.

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About Eric Davis

By day, Eric is in Marketing and Social Media. But on the weekends, he's a theme park addict. Eric is a frequent contributor to MiceChat's Orlando Parkhopper columns and tends to focus his efforts on what's new and what's news at Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

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24 Comments

Comments for Universal Orlando Update – CityWalk Refurbs and Diagon Alley are now closed.

  1. Nice update! Do you know if the existing train at the entrance to Hogsmeade will be removed once the new station (with a “real” train) opens? It would seem sort of strange to have them both there, but it is a popular photo spot

    • Somewhere on here, I had read that the train is staying put, but I couldn’t find which article it was in.

  2. Thanks for the update, Eric!

    When Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express open, Universal COULD raise the price of their 2 and 3-day park hoppers to $5 or $10 more than what Walt Disney World charges for their 2 & 3 day park hoppers.

    Would this be a clever PR/financial move or a foolish one?

    (I asked this on a thread too.)

    True or not, it could be a statement that, “we currently have a superior product,”
    but these parks are already pretty expensive and having a fresher wonders for the same or a slightly lower price might help inspire millions of tourists to spread the word and raise Universal Orlando’s attendance.

    • ^ ^ P.S. Of course, the Hogwarts Express will also make Universal’s ONE day park hopper and the front of the line passes more popular for those WDW visitors who just want Potter. Universal could charge $199 for one day park hoppers with two or three front of the line passes, just to punish and make big bucks off of WDW’s most faithful fans. :)

      • When I was at Universal in October 2012 the front-of-the-line passes didn’t include Potter. Did this change?

      • ^ ^ Stamphead, I thought hotel guests were allowed to go in the faster lines on the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey Hogwart’s ride once. (Per day? I don’t know.)

      • Forbidden Journey is does not have an express pass line. Hotel guests get into the parks up to an hour earlier than day guests, but that is it.

      • If I don’t deem the cost of a Park Hopper ticket for Universal cheap enough for the day then I simply won’t visit on my next trip. Although UK visitors usually get some good rates and deals. We were offered Horror Night Passes last year before the US and don’t have to stay in one of the hotels to take advantage of early access to WWOHP.

  3. I have always wondered why theme parks have such high entrance fees. To me you want people in the door and then let them overspend on everything else. Obviously I don’t run one of these bad boys so my logic may be off but I look at the butts in the seats logic. the more people you get in the door the more money they will spend. but if attendance is still going up along with prices what do I know?

    • If theme parks did not have high entrance fees, the parks would be like Six Flags or Magic Mountain…where gangs of teens run around causing trouble. The high fees keep the teenagers out and reserve the parks for families on vacation or working adults who save up to have a special time there. The high fees mean it costs a good amount to go in, so people’s mentality going in is that they do not want to do anything that would get them thrown out of the place or banned from it.

      • That is the best explanation I have ever heard. Keep it classy in there. Its a shame it costs so much but if it tends to keep it more family friendly it is a good idea. twice the price of my local theme park which is a very good quality one, but its an amusement park, not a theme park.

  4. Great update. Really like hearing about the Citiwalk changes.

  5. Oh yeah, well we have almost completed the near 3 year construction of our 7 Dwarf Mound kiddie coaster at WDW and the cars swing sideways for part of the 58 second ride!

    I don’t like the way Universal’s new resort, or London, or Diagon alley, or the Simpson’s Springfield Land, or Hogsmead Train Station look.

    And most of the new rides like Transformers were built first at another park so they don’t count.

    And I don’t think the Hogwarts Train will be a good ride because it’s only movie screens.

    And I think the Gringot’s Ride will have too many movie screens to be a good ride.

    And Forbidden Journey just doesn’t do it for me.

    I think a new WDW parade will cream all this junk at Universal. Just give me great theming in the restrooms, a Dumbo ride next to the other Dumbo ride, and WDW can call a C Ticket Attraction an E Ticket Attraction when they build one every 5 years – and I’m happy. WDW kicks Universal’s rear with this awesome strategy.

    This will save time for all the WDW can do no wrong folks – your welcome.

    • ^ ^ Funny!

      But you left out the most exciting development in the history of outdoor entertainment: Magicbands. Don’t you get all of the ways this will maximize the revenue from each guest?

    • Funny indeed CaptainAction!

      • Dang guys! How could I forget the Magic Handcuffs! Sorry.

    • Thanks for going to the effort but the WDW crowd make a point and then move on to more important matters. Shame some Universal fans have such a hard time doing the same when it comes to the endless criticism of WDW. You would think these people wouldnt have the interest or time to complain about WDW when Universal is building all these thrilling new rides ;)

  6. ^ ^ Funny!

    But you left out the most exciting development in the history of outdoor entertainment: Magicbands. Don’t you get all of the ways this will maximize the revenue from each guest?

    • ^ ^ Please pardon our pixie dust! My duplicate post will be removed right after the abandoned Peoplemover track at Disneyland is.

      • they could make the track a bonus for those staying at the hotels – resort guests can use the walkway in the sky to avoid crowds.

  7. Universal is such a conflict. They have pooled incredible talent and treasure to bring to life the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter, but then they do a half fleshed out Springfield and act proud about opening a Cold Stone Creamery. I feel like a lot of their “improvements” are of the grade of a regional theme park, and they’re getting a lot more credit than they deserve. Suburban chain restaurants do not create an immersive themed experience and don’t deserve top dollar prices. Sure, Disney has been guilty of this as well (remember the *magic* of McDonalds fries?), but they didn’t build a marketing campaign out of it.

    Universal does deserve the Most Improved award, but they’ve still got a ways to go before they can truly go toe to toe with The Mouse.

    • I was thinking about Downtown Disney and how that area has just flourished over the last few years. While Universal has been opening new restaurants and shops and improving the whole entry plaza, Disney has been….closing every facility in their “Downtown” area and announcing a number of plans for a refurb and not building them. They are doing exactly the opposite of what Universal is doing. I loved Downtown Disney but it’s a graveyard now. Universal has been action, Disney has been talk.

      I assume by your comments that you are mostly comparing Universals CityWalk?

      I’m not saying Universal is perfect (I don’t think anyone is saying that here) but they are building new and unique experiences, rides, areas and adding more “theme” to their theme parks. I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but Universal barely marketed their Springfield renovation/improvement. They knew it wasn’t a big deal for most people so they were cautious about how they sold it. Disney was in full marketing mode with the Jingle Cruise as a delightful overlay worthy of another visit to their park. I believe there is a general consensus that the Jingle Cruise was a nice touch, but it certainly wasn’t worthy of all that marketing as a new attraction. When people were oversold on it, they rejected it (not because it wasn’t a nice addition) but because they were misled on the scale of the improvement. That is an excellent example of an oversold marketing campaign. Universal has not done that.

      Regarding the “regional theme park” comparison, let me ask you this. How often would you visit your regional theme park if they added a new ride only every 3 – 5 years? Chances are that’s how often you would visit, every 3 – 5 years. It’s not Universal that is doing that to you, but rather our friends at Disney. Judgement on theming aside (their new areas are equally well done in most peoples opinion), our friends at Disney aren’t even keeping pace with most regional theme parks. Universal is committed to ongoing expansion for the next 5 years with a new attraction every year.

      Regional theme park? I think not.

  8. Thanks for the usual great update Eric!

    Things are moving along at a brisk pace. It’s all looking very exciting. Universal is keeping all of us theme park junkies loaded with excitement. It’s exciting that when Universal closes something, they open something else in its place…and in record time. It really forces you to keep looking at them. Love that.

    Keep the great news coming.

  9. I think the changes to City Walk are much more exciting right now then the entire Diagon Alley expansion. I just wish more changes and options were being created for the Parks and not just outside. Reminds me of Disneyland Paris where all the decent restaurants are located outside the parks and not inside. Resulting in Guests being forced to leave to find a edible meal.