Welcome back to the long overdue return of our Universal Orlando photo updates. Since so much has happened at the resort since our last update, this week’s update will primarily focus on the upcoming 2016 Sapphire Falls Resort, Skull Island Reign of Kong, and re-opening of The Incredible Hulk roller coaster. We’ll also take a quick look at 2017’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, as well as the Tonight Show and Fast & Furious attractions. Let’s get going!
Vertical construction has really taken off at the Volcano Bay site, now that we’re just one year away from the new theme park’s opening date.
This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
Even the most ardent Disney fans have become aware that there exists ANOTHER theme park complex in Central Florida that people visit from time to time, and some of you have probably even considered popping over there for a bit to see what it’s all about. Gatorland aside, however, let me tell you about Universal Orlando, which is yet another top notch theme park experience that you should consider. This article will hopefully provide you with some guidance as a first timer to help you get the most out of the experience.
Let me get this out there at the outset: I realize that there exists this whole “Disney vs. Universal” rivalry that exists in the fan community. I’m not really trying to steer anyone towards one park or the other, I’m just trying to provide enough objective information to help Disney fans that are considering going to Universal make an informed decision and plan for the best trip possible. Because I am writing this for those that are familiar with Disney, however, some comparison of the two is a useful way to go about it, as it provides some context. I’m sure some of the more passionate folks on either end of the issue will take some of these thoughts as a shot across the bow. Just know that I’m a fan of both places, I have annual passes at both places, and I’m honestly doing my best to be as fair as possible. Please keep that in mind before you fire off your scathing email or comment! So, without further ado, let’s jump in!
Indulge your sweet tooth in this Best Week Ever update of Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando (photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
I hope you set your alarm clocks this morning, because this Best Week Ever is up and at ’em before daybreak to enjoy one of my favorite theme park perks. Early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is usually restricted to Universal Orlando Resorthotel guests, but throughout January annual passholders were allowed to join to early morning crowds on weekdays. At the same time, Universal has made some tweaks to the way this popular option operates, so this past week I awoke ahead of the sun to bring you the Universal Orlando Early Park Admission update.
First, the big news about Universal Orlando Early Park Admission is that it is currently offered at Universal Studios Florida only. For most of 2015, Early Park Admission was offered only at Islands of Adventure during off-peak times, and at both parks during peak holiday periods. Early in 2016, Universal returned off-peak Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida only. While communications from Universal have been inconsistent about the future EPA calendar, we currently expect Early Park Admission to remain at Universal Studios Florida only until the Easter/Spring Break peak season.
Here are some other Universal Orlando Early Park Admission updates:
When Islands of Adventure opens for Early Park Admission, the Hogwarts Express usually begins operating 30 minutes before Universal Studios Florida officially opens. However, when Universal Studios Florida open early, the first Hogwarts Express train depart only a few minutes before IOA’s opening hour.
Got all that? Great! Now, let’s take a morning stroll around the parks.
Maybe you’re looking to take a foot off the (extremely) well-beaten path to get away from the crowds. Maybe you have an appreciation for the under-valued (or a defiantly contrarian attitude, generally). Or maybe it isn’t your first rodeo, and you and your family need an injection of something different and fresh at the parks.
Regardless of the reason, it’s time for you to enjoy the smaller, more neglected, and – let’s be honest here – less-polished offerings that Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld have to offer. It’s time to experience the Best Worst Attractions.
Terminator 2 3D: Battle across Time
Park: Universal Studios Florida Location: Hollywood Opening date: May 6, 1996
Until just recently, Universal Orlando Resort was quite obviously playing in the minor leagues: smaller crowds, smaller budgets, smaller attractions. All of that changed, of course, with the twin developments of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and new corporate parent Comcast, who has only been too happy to invest literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the resort. The result has been some of the best experiences – and some of the best theming – to be had the entire world over.
Say bye bye to BJ with our Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue closing day video. (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights may have been the most beloved attraction to close so far in 2016, but it wan’t the only Orlando fan favorite to fold this week. Over at Universal Studios Florida, audiences applauded the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue closing day cast as the boorish bio-exorcist and his monstrous bandmates went back into their tombs for the last time.
The closing day for Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue — also known in its latest incarnation as Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up — came on January 5, 2016, which was extended several weeks from the orginally announced ending date by “popular demand.”
For the final day, a special evening performance was added exclusively for annual passholders. Some super-fans lined up before dawn to secure wristbands for the final show, but there were still hundreds available from USF’s Studio Audience Center in mid-afternoon.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2015 (No Matter How Hard We Try). With this being the first edition of the SATURDAY SIX for 2016 it is time for our annual tradition of looking back at some of the most memorable moments of the past year. Now we already covered some of the great things that happened during the past 365 days, and some of the worst as well, so today let’s look at six theme park stories that fall into a different area. Events that are almost hard to believe actually happened, but we promise they did, and we’re here with the proof. So let’s kick it off with…
# 6 – Universal Bans Water Bottles
Bringing a Dasani into the park? You just may be doing some hard time! (photo by Matt Cleary)
Monday, February 16th. A day that will live in (theme park) infamy. This was the day when the Universal Orlando Resort mysteriously banned guests from bringing water bottles into the resort. No official reason was given as to why the new procedure was put into place, and after a huge social media outcry, the ban was lifted by Thursday. No advanced warning was given, so guests showing up to the parks found out at the security bag check at the parking garages that bringing bottled water onto property was not allowed. This caused lines at bag check to grow frustratingly large (which – as it turns out – was just foreshadowing for events later in year, but we’ll get to that later).
The day after Thanksgiving has become one of America’s most important secular holidays, as young and old celebrate capitalism by camping out for dirt-cheap televisions. I was also out there shopping on the big day, but in true Best Week Ever fashion I spent my Black Friday at Universal Orlando among the vacationing throngs.
I started my Black Friday shopping with a major purchase by renewing my Universal Orlando annual pass. After disconts, my Premier pass costs just under $1 per day. That’s a lot more than it was when I first became a passholder 15 years ago, but still a great value considering how quickly the parks has been adding new attractions.
Once inside Islands of Adventure, I was greeted by the still-jarring sight of the Incredible Hulk Coaster…or rather the lack thereof.
Terminator 2 3D is one of the oldest attractions remaining at Universal Studios Florida (right behind opening-day survivors E.T. and Horror Makeup Show) and rumors have swirled for years that the aging show would soon see its demise. But over Thanksgiving Week, Universal quietly debuted a new Terminator 2 3D preshow film, implying that T2/3D may be around for a few more years to come.
Following the Halloween season, Universal Studios Florida premiered four new street shows intended to entertain crowds in the absence of the recently closed Disaster and Twister attractions. It looks like Universal’s entertainment team wasn’t done yet, because you can add a fifth title to that list of new productions. Staged in San Francisco near the Chez Alcatraz bar, the new Fish Mongers acrobatic street show is so fresh that it isn’t yet listed in park map, but we were there during its debut week to bring you this front-row view of a full performance: