It’s a big update from Universal Orlando Resort this week as details have been released about the upcoming Hogwarts Express attraction. Plus, Starbucks has opened at CityWalk and other venues are getting closer as construction moves forward.  We finish this article with a new episode of the Unofficial Universal Podcast.


The Sushi-Burger fusion restaurant Cowfish is moving forward now that the upstairs Starbucks location has closed, and the exterior construction has begun in front of the old Pastamore location.  Downstairs will be the new Italian eatery, these should open midsummer.




No time was wasted closing the Starbucks upstairs and walling off the entire area around it.



The downstairs Starbucks has now opened, and is a beautiful industrial chic design. Guests no longer have to take the slow escelator ride to get their caffeine fix in the mornings.








Plugs have been installed under all the benches to allow guests the ability to recharge.




Outside, a lot of seating has been added which makes this once under-used entrance for the Endangered Species Store a place that guests can truly enjoy.

World’s Greatest Hotdogs

Around the bend and across from Antojitos, the building that will soon house the World’s Greatest Hotdogs as now been painted a teal color, and the old Galaxy Bar front has been gutted.




Diagon Alley

Inside Universal Studios, Diagon Alley has hit another milestone.  The front walkway has now been walled off as they begin to add the themed elements that will be on the water front.








Universal is currently building a berm here, where the show building, and non-themed areas will be hidden by trees and foliage.  Hopefully that works and we won’t be able to see the backstage areas once Diagon Alley opens this Summer.








This path is very narrow, but this is great progress as we get ready for this amazing land to open!

Hogwarts Express Details Revealed

Universal recently released some additional details along with some art of what guests will see while riding the Hogwarts Express, from London and Hogsmeade

Since the very first Harry Potter film, every fan has dreamed of taking the same classic journey Harry Potter did aboard the Hogwarts Express.  And this summer – they will get to live it.

Today, Universal Orlando revealed never-before-released details about theHogwarts Express experience that will debut as part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley – the all-new, magnificently themed land opening this summer.  The train will connect the new land in Universal Studios Florida with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure – allowing guests with park-to-park admission to enjoy a real journey aboard the iconic locomotive.

Never before has this been done – creating an actual train ride experience to connect two spectacularly themed environments.  The Hogwarts Express experience combines powerful storytelling, live special effects, lifelike animation and state-of-the-art technology to take riders on the journey of a lifetime.   Guests will enjoy two completely different experiences depending on whether they’re traveling to Hogsmeade or London.

Once seated in the cabin, guests will be able to look out their windows as an incredibly authentic and magical adventure unfolds before them.  They’ll see Hagrid come alongside the train on his flying motorbike, Buckbeak the Hippogriff swoop gracefully over the black lake, the Weasley twins on brooms and up to their usual antics, the Knight Bus swerving through London traffic – and other special moments and surprises.

Universal’s Creative team has been working closely with Warner Bros., Stuart Craig and the production team from the Harry Potter films to create a sensationalHogwarts Express experience that the entire family can enjoy.  The Creative team has gone to great lengths to ensure the experience is true to the books and films. Everything about the train is authentic – from the paint and the materials used to build it….all the way down to the whistle.



The station for the Hogwarts Express in Islands of Adventure is really coming together now.






The entry gates for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are moving forward to accommodate the new Hogwarts Express. You can see the new gates taking shape below.





The following are promotional images for the Hogwarts Express.




This ride will be enjoyable for all ages, and guests will experience a different story from London to Hogsmeade and Hogsmeade to London.  We can’t wait to experience this attraction when it opens this summer!

That wraps up this weekends update, we will now leave you with a new episode of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast where they talk about Universal Studios Singapore, along with news from around the Universal Orlando Resort:

iTunes | Direct Download | Stitcher Radio

  • jcruise86

    Thank you for an excellent update, Eric!

    In the battles of 2-park resorts,
    both U Orlando’s City Walk and Disneyland’s Downtown Disney just got nice, new Starbucks. Is Disneyland’s better or did Andy Castro’s update just score with unusually beautiful night shots?

    U Orlando’s London area looks more impressive and far more interesting to me than the risk-averse Paris area opening soon at Disneyland Paris. I don’t think that Paris benefits from the shrunken upper floors as Disneyland’s Main Street USA does. Paris itself is grand, and this park’s closeness to the similar yet a thousand times more impressive real thing will have Parisian critics saying WTH!? (what the heck?) in French (sacre bleu or quel dommage? I learned most of my French from Lumiere) , though are they worth trying to please? Of course, all will be forgiven if the new trackless Ratatouille ride equals Pooh’s great Tokyo attraction.

  • CaptainAction

    Man, I wish Universal would just quit trying!
    I wish Universal would quit trying to build new things we haven’t experienced before!
    I wish Universal would slow down and just make 1 new C Ticket attraction every 10 years or so!
    I wish Universal would stop building 3 E Ticket attractions in less than 2 years!
    I wish Universal wasn’t building a value resort with a lazy river and wave pool and suites w mini kitchens for less than WDW value resorts cost without even a slide at their pool!
    I wish Universal wasn’t developing new ride systems we’ve never seen before!
    I wish Universal would stop this new immersive theming that’s better than any theming at WDW!
    I wish Universal wasn’t BEGINING construction on ANOTHER E Ticket attraction RIGHT NOW at Jurassic Park Island!
    I just wish Universal would quit trying so that I wouldn’t have to be so embarrassed for the WDW execs of the last 10 years!
    I’m running out of excuses for WDW!
    I’m running out of petty criticism and nitpicking of Universal’s efforts!
    WDW please hurry up with “Soarin’ Over Avatar” for a 2021 opening!

    • Country Bear

      Always amusing CaptainAction!

      • CaptainAction

        Hi Country Bear!

    • Malin

      I think it takes him the entire week to come up with these tiresome post’s. Because nothing in it relates to Eric’s article. He just copy and paste the same rubbish each week when the Park Hopper gets released. Much to the amusement of one or two people.

  • LoveStallion

    Man, all the HP stuff looks awesome. I’ve yet to even visit Universal’s Orlando Resort. It is a true travesty that my wife does not love theme parks the way I do. 🙂

  • Erik Olson

    “Never before has this been done – creating an actual train ride experience to connect two spectacularly themed environments.”

    Except in 1955, when Walt Disney had an ACTUAL train connecting a number of spectacularly themed environments. And in many of the parks that came subsequently. Does Hogwarts offer views of coaster pilings on the ride between these two fantastical, totally immersive environments? Like Knotts, Universal has a really big problem with sightlines. Seeing a coaster looming over the New York sets in Orlando does little to help in the suspension of disbelief. The sun doesn’t rise and set in Universal’s pants.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Does seeing a train in Tomorrowland or a monorail over Buena Vista Street really upset you?

    • MainSt1993

      It sounds like you won’t actually be looking out of train windows, but rather watching some new high tech 3-D screen. As such, you won’t see the backstage area that you travel through.

    • Tielo

      Dear Eric,
      Yes Mr Disney had a classic train with theme park cars behind it riding around 1 park.
      Universal is building a train that is 1 to 1 a replica of a real train and it goes from 1 theme park to another theme park and the ride is actually an attraction and not just a ride. The 2 different area’s in the 2 parks are from the same IP. All of this hasn’t been done before.

      Sure Disney got a Nemo show in AK and an “amazing” dark ride in Epcot. A Little Mermaid show in the DHS and an “amazing” dark ride in MK. The lost goes on but non of them are connected by a themed ride in the theme of the ip.
      But you are right, the train ride at AK is a beauty and there is so much to see.

      • Internitty

        Some people seem to miss the point, to do the same thing Disney would need to send a train from Magic Kingdom into Animal Kingdom or EPCOT, Disneyland into DCA – how about Autopia runs from Disneyland into Carsland 🙂

    • LoveStallion

      That’s the nature of the beast whenever “real” coasters are involved, which is a big reason why Disney mostly avoids serious coasters. Either they stick out because they are so tall or a park has to spend a fortune to try and theme something so beastly, which is unlikely to happen.

    • Country Bear

      I LOVE Universal Florida but I agree totally with your comment about the coaster tracks in New York Street. They completely remove the suspension of disbelief. I think it was Universal Creatives one big slip. But I like where they are going now.

  • TCadillac

    @CaptainAction Does your daddy or mommy work for Universal? If so, they are doing a spiffy job as opposed to that icky, wittle Mine Train thingy at you know where.

  • Silverglove

    I think they just confirmed what we’ve been assuming for months. You will not see said coasters. I’m guessing the windows have been replaced with 4k monitors that will provide the “view” from park to park. I can’t imagine they would go through the trouble to watch support beams go by. And yes, Disney goes land to land, but I believe they never had park to park.
    Really looking forward to this.

    • LoveStallion

      You could argue park-to-park if you went with EPCOT to transit hub (change trains) to MK. Right? RIGHT??? 🙂

  • TheBig2na

    We can’t just enjoy something at Universal without bashing WDW? We can’t appreciate something new at WDW without bashing all of the things that aren’t there? I don’t know why anyone would spend so much time and devotion to something they detest. If you don’t enjoy something don’t waste your time on it, even if you loved it in the past. Things change, people change and if something comes along, don’t waste your time and energy on it. This is not a go away and leave Disney alone argument, just a better way to spend your time. When numbers begin to drop, the mouse will poor money into the parks to wow the public. With the corporate culture they currently have they are going to be very slow at releasing funds. But people keep going. So why when they have shareholders would they change. Until there is another creative genius in charge, we will be left with money men.

    Something I have been wondering with the Disney Parks in the US is that it seems that the money flows in waves to each coast. there were decades where the West coast complained like the east coast has been for the past decade. Is the tide about to change? Who knows. Will money flow like it used to into any of the parks? Who knows.

    I’m really hoping that UO continues what it is doing. Hopefully they can start pulling hotel occupancy and gate numbers away from the mouse. a third theme park would probably really change the landscape. Another hotel set to break ground shortly, a few more rides in the next few years, Diagon Alley. They are going for it and I hope they get their rewards and turn the Orlando market on its head. Competition is good for all of us theme park enthusiasts. I have a feeling the next decade will make Orlando and Hollywood into huge battlegrounds since Comcast is putting money into both of their resorts and pushing the mouse harder than anyone ever has. I say have at it.

    • jammer9050

      ^^^ this

    • CaptainAction

      The best hope for those who love WDW is for Universal to do well.
      Bashing Universal doesn’t help WDW.
      We aren’t as much bashing WDW. We are bashing the WDW execs.
      Walt wouldn’t put up with any of them.

      • TheBig2na

        No one knows what Walt would have done to be fair. His time was a long time ago. The world has changed and corporate greed runs the world. Not too many companies around that run like Disney did 50 years ago. No one would love to see a new ride every 12-18 months at WDW more than me and in that respect I understand your frustration with the slow moving timelines of every project. I’ve never understood the 3-4 year timeline on everything they build, especially now that UO has shown it can be done in half that time or less.

        Not sure if the first few lines are a snarky response or not but I would say they are fairly accurate in my humble opinion. The better Universal does the better the mouse will have to respond if they lose market share. Why anyone would bash Universal is beyond me. I have never understood the UO VS WDW brigade. We can love both and I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t.

        UO is on fire and anyone who isnt appreciating what they are doing is missing out. Im not a Harry Potter fan but the ride and surrounding area is amazing. Cant wait for Diagon Alley. I’m holding out the same for Avatar, another movie I wasnt in love with, but if the ride and Pandora are spectacular, whats not to love? A good ride is a win regardless of its theme or movie tie in. I won’t bash the mouse for it before its built. If it’s garbage I won’t go on it again.

  • Erik Olson

    I don’t detest Universal, but don’t know why so many are so very adversarial. I was a vendor to Universal for years (in California) and think they’re doing really amazing work. They will be using monitors for windows on the train, which will provide the immersive experience described. My last visit to Universal was five years ago and they’ve made many, many changes to the parks since then. I plan to return to check it all out for myself. I’m sure I’ll be impressed. These are two different companies and Universal is beginning to chase a younger demographic. Competition is good. Spewing endless disdain – bordering on hatred – for Disney or any of their competitors is an odd investment of one’s time.

  • Country Bear

    Another great update Eric, thank you.

    The news always seems to be exciting from Universal this last couple of years. I think they are really earning their stars now. Hopefully all of this development will be paying off for them handsomely as well. It would be difficult to believe it wouldn’t pay off.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how they complete the theming and “hiding” of the show buildings and back stage areas in the studios park, as well as the coaster tracks in IOA (which seems like it might be a bit of a challenge). I’m optimistic they will make it work as they have certainly proven themselves with recent projects.

    Universal continues to amaze me with the pace that they are able to build things and get them opened. There’s a lesson here for someone I’m sure.

  • CreepyMonkey

    Fantastic update as always Eric. Really enjoying where UO is going. Hope to see more of this out in California.

  • Instidude

    I plan on making it to Universal one day, but still visit WDW regularly.

    My biggest concern about the direct that theme parks are not utilizing their own content. It makes for great attractions (or potentially great in the case of Avatar), but then there is little return to Universal or Disney’s film divisions. Universal already is supporting Disney with Marvel characters and WB with Harry Potter. At least Disney now own Star Wars/Indiana Jones, and are they planning a partnership with Cameron as a result of Avatar?

    So, as nice as the attractions are, I have to lean toward the approach of Disney on some of their expansions, and proposed expansions, because it helps the entire company, and not just drive theme park attendance.

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