Universal Orlando Resort

PotterWatch: Zonko’s Closed, London Waterfront Walls, & Hogwarts Express Details on Friday

by on March 13, 2014

Zonko's Closed and more Wizarding World news in this week's PotterWatch (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Zonko’s Closed and more Wizarding World news in this week’s PotterWatch (photos by Seth Kubersky)

In this week’s edition of PotterWatch, we head into the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando‘s Islands of Adventure on the day before Zonko’s closed, then check out the new construction walls along the London Waterfront in Universal Studios Florida. Finally, we’ll tell you when you can hear fresh details about the Hogwarts Express, and share new information on early entry for Universal Orlando resort hotel guests.

Zonko’s Closed

For the first time, a significant component of Hogsmeade Village has disappeared. Zonko’s Joke Shop, one of the original shops at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, permanently closed its doors this week. It will reopen in the coming months as an extension of the adjoining Honeydukes candy shop, which is usually overcrowded.

 

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Complete Guide to Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2014 UPDATED

by on March 12, 2014

Universal Studios Mardi Gras 2014 guide

Universal Studios Mardi Gras Grand Celebration starts on Feb 8, 2014.

Today we tackle one of my favorite theme park topics: the annual Universal Studios Mardi Gras Grand Celebration. Universal Studios Mardi Gras holds a special place in my heart because, back in the late 1990s when I worked in Universal Studios Florida’s entertainment department, I was a talent supervisor for the parade, and got to walk with it nightly. (I’ll never get “Iko Iko” or “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” out of my skull.) So I’m thrilled to share Touring Plans’ complete guide to Universal’s bead laden bacchanalia, bringing you all the info you need to laissez les bons temps rouler!

[UPDATED 3/12/14: Scroll down for late-breaking news on the Mardi Gras extension and rescheduled Robin Thicke concert!]

Background

Mardi Gras originated in the religious observation of “Fat Tuesday” (the literal translation of the name), which is the day before “Ash Wednesday” on the Catholic calendar, and the start of Lent’s 40 days of dietary restrictions. People would bid “farewell to flesh” with a “carnivale” where they would indulge in the meat and drink they were about to forswear. Mardi Gras is the New Orleans, Louisiana, variation on this tradition — which is echoed in other cities from Venice, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Over the centuries, the religious significance has been stripped away, and most Mardi Gras revelers attend for strictly secular reasons — namely, epic quantities of booze, beads, and bare breasts. About 20 years ago, Universal took a look at the festivities and said, “This will make a fine family friendly event,” and amazingly it is — minus the bare breasts, of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s inauthentic; much as Universal partnered with Macy’s for its holiday parade, Universal engages Blaine Kern Studios, the same company that’s been building floats for the real deal since 1947, to create the park’s parade platforms. And musicians and recipes imported from the Big Easy add to the French Quarter feel. Of course, the real Bourbon Street doesn’t have concerts from big-name recording artists after each parade, much less a high-speed roller coaster cruising by in the background.

 

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PotterWatch: Hogsmeade Station Construction, Zonko’s Still Open, Leaky Cauldron Food

by on March 5, 2014

Welcome back to the latest irregular installment of PotterWatch, our mostly-weekly series of photo updates observing Universal Orlando‘s progress on their Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansions. I’ve been off for the pass couple weeks exploring some attractions on the opposite side of the country, but I’m happy to be back in Florida with a few exciting advancements in the Potter universe. This first PotterWatch of March 2014 features Hogsmeade Station construction, the continued existence of Zonko’s, and yet another look at Diagon Alley’s London facade, plus some tasty new Leaky Cauldron food photo leaks.

Hogsmeade Station Construction

In the last edition of PotterWatch, I shared the first photographs of Island of Adventure’s Lost Continent carnival games buildings after the games had been removed. Shortly after that posting, the buildings themselves were removed, and the entire area immediately outside Hogsmeade Village was more or less demolished.

Hogsmeade Station construction PotterWatch leaky cauldron food

Hogsmeade Station construction continues near where the Lost Continent games were demolished. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Now, the entire entryway to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Lost Continent has been walled off, turning Sindbad stadium into a cul-de-sac. Guests wishing to enter Hogsmeade must traverse through Jurassic Park, just as they did during 2010 when the area was first under construction.

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Universal Orlando Construction Update: CityWalk Starbucks and Cold Stone Unveiled

by on March 2, 2014

It’s amazing what a difference a few hours makes at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk complex these days. Just a few short weeks ago we were reporting on the opening of Antojitos Authentic Mexican restaurant, which has already seen some menu tweaks along with long waits for tables on weekend nights. Now, we’re happy to bring you the first photos of the facades for the new CityWalk Starbucks Coffee and Cold Stone ice cream shop, which were hidden behind construction walls until the first of March.

This is what the area under the CityWalk escalators, which originally held the Endangered Species store, looked like on the last day of February as guests exited Universal Orlando’s parks:


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SATURDAY SIX: Our Six Favorite Snacks at Universal’s Mardi Gras

by on March 1, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Our Six Favorite Snacks at Universal’s Mardi Gras. Last week we wrote about the reasons we think Universal’s Mardi Gras Grand Celebration is one of our favorite events on the theme park calendar. Great live music, a terrific parade and a fun party atmosphere combine to make a unique experience at the park, but we here at the Saturday Six look forward to one thing more than anything else….the food! This week we’re going to look at six of our favorite snacks that come out during the party.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version. Also, for a comprehensive run-down of the event and a list of all the upcoming dates, check out Seth Kubersky’s Complete Guide to Mardi Gras 2014. But enough of that jibber jabber, on with the food!

# 6 – Beignets

Beignets

Beignets

If you are going to do a New Orleans-style party right, you better have beignets. Topped with enough powdered sugar to put you straight into a diabetic coma, this Mardi Gras offering brings a little bit of deep fried Louisiana love to Orlando. If anyone tells you there is something better than snacking on beignets while watching the Mardi Gras Parade, they’ve clearly been bewitched by Dr. Facilier. ($4.25)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons To Check Out Universal’s Mardi Gras 2014

by on February 22, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Reasons To Check Out Universal’s Mardi Gras Grand Celebration. The Universal Orlando Resort knows how to throw a party and Mardi Gras is their wildest celebration of the year. Universal’s Mardi Gras brings in big name musical acts, authentic New Orleans food, and a party atmosphere like no other and on top of it all the price is included in the price of regular admission.  If you need more reasons than that to attend, here are an additional six.

Please remember to click on any picture to see the full size version.

IMG_2374

Daughtry (photo courtesy of Chad Evetts)

# 6 – The Concerts

The music acts that Universal books for the Mardi Gras Grand Celebration are second-to-none in the theme park concert world.  While the Epcot Flower Power series of concerts will be featuring acts like Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Village People and Chubby Checker – people  you may have literally heard a thousand times before – this year’s Mardi Gras concert lineup includes a mix of classic and contemporary artists. Daughtry, Barenaked Ladies, Weezer and The Roots are just a few of the musical acts that will be headlining this year’s event. There’s also country stars like Gavin Degraw, classic rock groups like Foreigner and Lynyrd Skynryd, and even a Christian rock band with Skillet. Whether it’s Nelly, Collective Soul, or Huey Lewis and the News, you can pretty much count on Universal delivering an act you want to see perform.

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Robin Thicke cancels Saturday’s concert at Universal’s Mardi Gras Celebration

by on February 21, 2014

MardiGrasLogoThe Universal Orlando Resort is reporting that pop singer Robin Thicke has canceled his scheduled performance at Universal’s Mardi Gras on Saturday, February 22nd but has agreed to reschedule for a future date. The Mardi Gras grand celebration on Saturday will continue as scheduled at Universal Studios Florida with Mardi Gras themed food (including beignets and the King Cake) available in the French Quarter Courtyard, a performance by an authentic New Orleans band, and the must-see parade.

 “I never want to let down my fans but I have unfortunately lost my voice and cannot perform tomorrow night. I have been looking forward to going to Universal Studios in Orlando, and am very sorry that my concert there tomorrow now has to be canceled. I apologize to everyone.” – Robin Thicke

Thicke, known for the popular song Blurred Lines, also canceled a performance in Atlanta that was scheduled for tonight. It is unknown at this time whether or not Thicke will return during this year’s Mardi Gras event as the rest of the dates are already booked up with music acts including Weezer, Nelly, and Huey Lewis and the News.

Concerts on the main stage will continue on Saturday, March 1st at Universal with Collective Soul being the featured act.

CLICK HERE for Seth Kubersky’s Complete Guide to Universal’s Mardi Gras 2014 and be sure to check back tomorrow as the SATURDAY SIX will also be covering the event.

 

 

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Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 Parade Video and French Quarter Food Photo Gallery

by on February 19, 2014

Opening night at Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 parade food (photos & video by Seth Kubersky)

Opening night at Universal Studios Florida Mardi Gras 2014 (photos & video by Seth Kubersky)

Fat Tuesday may not arrive until March 4, according the the Catholic calendar, but Mardi Gras is already in full effect at Universal Studios Florida. Opening night on February 8 of Universal’s Mardi Gras 2014 celebration included a concert by American Idol star Daughtry, and the premiere of new Jules Verne-themed floats in the 2014 Mardi Gras Parade. Even intermittent rain didn’t diminish the considerable crowds who came out for Mardi Gras 2014‘s damp debut, though slick streets did ground the stiltwalkers.

Derek Burgan will be back in the coming weeks with a couple Mardi Gras-themed “Saturday Six” columns, but until then I wanted to bring you a virtual taste of the festivities.

First, a quick correction to our earlier Complete Guide to Mardi Gras. The original parade route map published on Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras Parade page was incorrect (it has since been fixed). The parade actually makes a loop, entering and exiting at Esoteric Gate near the Horror Make-Up Show. Here is the corrected map (click to enlarge; the Mardi Gras Parade route is the red dotted line):

Mardi Gras Parade Map

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PotterWatch: Lost Continent Games Leave, King’s Cross Gets Named, Hogwarts Express Testing Begins?

by on February 12, 2014

It’s been chilly and wet in Central Florida lately, but that hasn’t stopped progress on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. For this week’s edition of PotterWatch, we’ll start with the recent removal of Lost Continent games in Islands of Adventure, then take a look at the latest Diagon Alley construction in Universal Studios. Finally, we’ll finish with the newest rumor about Hogwarts Express testing.

Lost Continent Games and Hogsmeade Station

Let’s begin in Islands of Adventure at the border between The Lost Continent and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

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Universal Orlando Cabana Bay Pedestrian Bridge Construction Begins

by on February 11, 2014

Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge

All photos by Seth Kubersky

The first phase of Cabana Bay Beach Resort opens on March 31, 2014, and while Universal Orlando‘s first value-priced hotel will have plenty of amenities (like a 10 lane bowling alley) it won’t have water taxi transportation to the theme like the original three Loews-operated resorts. Universal will provide bus transportation from Cabana Bay to the main parking hub, but many guests will find it quicker and more convenient to walk to the attractions. In order to accommodate them, construction began last week on a new Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge, which will permit safe passage across Hollywood Way at Adventure Way.

 

This bridge sparked a bit of controversy in Orlando last year when the city council voted to fund the project’s $9 million dollar construction cost from a special taxing fund in the name of “public safety.”

Universal Orlando Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge

This corner will soon be the site of Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge.

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