Take a dino selfie at the new Raptor Encounter in Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic Park (photos and video by Seth Kubersky)
While Disney was loudly kicking off their Coolest Summer Ever promotion with bicoastal 24 Hour parties, Universal Orlando quietly opened a new attraction over Memorial Day weekend with little fanfare, as the new Raptor Encounter debuted in the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure. Conventional wisdom says that, while Universal makes excellent thrill rides, Disney dominates the meet and greet experience. But much like the Transformers meet and greet in Universal Studios Florida, this innovative dinosaur photo op flips that expectation upside down.
The new Raptor Encounter is located outside of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, in an unused area that was formerly the entrance to Triceratops Trail, a long-defunct walkthrough attraction. Guests approach a fenced-in holding pen that has been built to contain a live velociraptor, who has been trained just well enough to pose briefly for photographs between snaps and screeches.
Yes, The Three Broomsticks may be the best quick-service restaurant at Universal Orlando Resort, and, yes, a lot of Broomsticks’s impressiveness is due to its immaculate theming, which is arguably in a league of its own.
But Mythos differentiates itself in a number of key ways, from the small (it’s a table-service eatery rather than a counter-service one) to the large (instead of being based on a pre-existent intellectual property, it has the double duty of creating another world for guests to inhabit from scratch while simultaneously transporting them there). When added together, it becomes quickly apparent that Islands of Adventure’s premiere venue is also its most immersive one, and that, indeed, Mythos takes top thematic billing at the entire resort.
What, exactly, is in a theme, and how does it impact your culinary experience? Let’s find out.
As of April 9, 2015, all Universal Orlando guests wishing to ride the resort’s major outdoor roller coasters must deposit all loose and metal objects in a locker before entering the queue. Mandatory airport-style security screenings, including walk-through metal detectors and handheld scanning wands, will be used to ensure that no prohibited items — specifically phones, keys, coins, cameras, and selfie sticks — are carried onto the attractions.
Without further delay, here’s a selection of my latest shots of the every-accellerating construction on IOA’s new King Kong attraction, as seen from guest areas around Toon Lagoon, Thunder Falls Terrace, and Camp Jurassic.
A quick recap: IOA offered early entry hours from the time the first Harry Potter land opened in 2010 until last year. Once Diagon Alley opened last summer, both parks opened for early park admission until the summer season ended, at which point only Universal Studios Florida was opened. This made sense, as most guests are primarily interested in the new Diagon Alley, and early park admission was the best time by far to experience Escape from Gringotts without a lengthy wait.
A Celebration of Harry Potter 2015 is on the horizon. Potterheads, Muggles, and everyone else are anxiously awaiting its arrival much like young little witches and wizards waiting their turn to cross onto platform 9 ¾ for the Hogwarts Express on their first trip to Hogwarts. This event officially debuted last year and seems to be a new annual tradition (we hope). This year’s A Celebration of Harry Potter will take place January 30 – February 1, 2015.
Much in the same vein as Disney’s Star Wars Weekends, A Celebration of Harry Potter brings together celebrities from the movies, special shows and Q&A sessions, and exclusive exhibits. What’s more, it brings in a nice hefty revenue stream for Universal Orlando and Loews Hotels as vacation packages with special benefits are sold at a mind baffling rate. But what if you weren’t able to snatch up one of those enticing packages? You can still find ways to revel in the celebration.
Last year I decided not to purchase any of the packages and went about the whole thing very casually. No planning, no forethought, just showed up…. And I got nothing accomplished (though I still had fun). Here now are my tips, just keep in mind, this is based on my experience last year. Some things may be changing this year, but I am confident the same tips will apply.
…in which our intrepid couple travels outside the Disney bubble and lives to tell about it.
Step 1 – Transportation from Walt Disney World to Universal and Park Tickets
While planning for a particularly long vacation to Walt Disney World, my husband and I decided to squeeze in a day over at Universal Orlando Resort to try out a one-day / two-park touring plan of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Instantly we were faced with the question, “How do we get there?” We were planning on taking Disney’s Magical Express from the airport and would not have a car while on vacation. Would we dare to use the public transportation and hop a bus? We had seen a harrowing,(although hilarious) YouTube video of a British couple who took this route. It didn’t work out so well for them, and they splurged for a cab ride on the way back. Yes, busing was out of the question. We were on a time limit and didn’t have the three hours it took these poor folks just to get to the park. Well, with rental car and busing out of the question, that left us with a taxi.
We did our homework and priced up the fares using the Mears Transportation website. It didn’t seem too terrible, and this is really what we were leaning towards, until I read in the fine print that even if stuck in traffic, the meter is running. We wanted to be on the roadways during rush hour traffic. This probably was not a good plan either. Well, what to do? Do we just forget about Universal? No! Where there is a will, there is a way. And after more research we discovered that some of the travel agencies that sell tickets also sell transportation packages. Now we’re talking!
Construction — or as we say here, Kongstruction — for the officially unannounced (but increasingly obvious) Project 340 continues to advance at an amazing rate. As you can see below in my latest Kongstruction photo update, the framework for this new ride’s show building is beginning to loom large over the land of Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure.
Kongstruction progress is full steam ahead at IOA’s Project 340 (photos by Seth Kubersky).