Universal Islands of Adventure
Locals have been watching the construction with great anticipation, and now Universal Orlando Resort has treated us to a photo and some more info about the upcoming King Kong attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. While I’m not *personally* a fan of giant things screaming in my face, I know many people are, and are excited about this upcoming attraction. (What can I say, I prefer my giant creatures to be magical dragons.)
I do love a good immersive attraction, however, and the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye attraction in Disneyland is one of my all-time favorites. I also am a mega-fan of the Wizarding World attractions in both Universal theme parks, so I’m willing to give this a try when the gates open this summer. Until then, here’s the official release from Universal with the details they are willing to share today:
Soon, you will be transported to an island shrouded in mystery and legend. It is a lost world where adventure – and the unimaginable – will challenge you in unforgettable ways.
When it opens this summer at Universal Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure, Skull Island: Reign of Kong will bring the next generation of the King Kong legend to life. You will be thrust into an exotic world filled with the menacing, the intense – and the wildly entertaining. A powerful storyline, a stunning 3D experience, innovative technology – and the unexpected – will pull you into one of Universal Orlando’s most massive adventures yet. This is a multi-dimensional experience filled with surprise – all wrapped into what will be one of the longest Universal ride experiences ever created.
More first-ever details will be released soon. But today, Universal Orlando unveils details about the incredible journey guests will experience.
The adventure begins as you set out to explore an island rife with prehistoric creatures of unknown origin –and the legend of a beast still undiscovered. You find yourself at a campsite of the 8th Wonder Expedition Company, the research team leading your adventure.
Once beyond camp, the menacing terrain shows signs of a native presence; beating drums draw you toward an ancient temple. Moving deeper into the ruins reveals a lost shrine – and proof you are not alone. You ignore warnings to turn back.
You board a specially designed expedition vehicle that will take you deeper into the island. Mysterious sounds pierce the air and you hear chanting. And then – you confront an enormous temple wall, complete with carvings and images that seem to pay homage to something you cannot quite comprehend. The temple’s massive wooden doors slowly open, revealing a labyrinth of caves.
Inside the caves, you meet your expedition leader – and suddenly find yourself in the midst of a raging struggle between creatures of incomprehensible size and ferocity. Then, as those creatures turn on you, there is an even more enormous, earth-pounding presence – bigger, closer and more overwhelming than you can possibly imagine. It is Kong. But is he friend or foe?
More details about “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” will be revealed soon. To stay up-to-date on all the latest news, visit universalorlando.com/
How does it sound? Mysterious? Menacing? Will you be willing to brave Skull Island this summer? What are you most looking forward to if so? I’ll update more news here as it’s released. Until then, let’s all work on our Fay Wray screams, okay?
Universal Orlando Resort held a live webcast this morning, complete with 3 stars of the Harry Potter films, to share details, concept art and a peek into the newest section of Universal Studios Florida: Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I am beyond excited to experience this new area first hand, and after seeing today’s webcast, I do not think I will be disappointed.
Seeing inside the Hogwarts Express and hearing that it will pass by modern day London, with a view of the Knight Bus before passing through the brick wall to Diagon Alley was a treat. The list of shops and places to eat inside Diagon Alley is perfect and they even brought Knockturn Alley over to stay true to the films. I’m just thrilled about all of these details and cannot wait for summer 2014 to travel to Diagon Alley in person! It was also fun to have my submitted question asked and answered on the webcast. I asked how they decided which iconic elements of Diagon Alley to recreate in the park and they said with so many amazing iconic themes to work with, they listened to fans and what they wanted and made sure to stay true to the films – and it definitely looks like they did. Here is the full webcast, recorded live by my friend and YouTuber The Big Fat Panda: (my question is at around the 20:00 mark, but Mark messed up and said iconographic my mistake 😉 )
“Never before has a theme park created a guest experience like this: you climb aboard the Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade and moments later arrive at King’s Cross Station – where the wonders of London and Diagon Alley unfold before you. And it is all real.
With this summer’s opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment will bring even more of Harry Potter’s adventures to life inside a new, magnificently themed area that includes a revolutionary attraction experience, as well as all-new themed shops and dining.
The two companies today revealed first-ever details about the new area and the one-of-a-kind adventures it will offer the whole family. The spectacularly themed environment will double the size of the sweeping area already dedicated to Harry Potter’s adventures at Universal Orlando, expanding it across both Universal theme parks.
And – just like in the books and films – guests will be able to travel between the two areas aboard the iconic Hogwarts Express.
Universal Orlando launched a global phenomenon when it opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at its Islands of Adventure theme park in 2010. That area includes the iconic Hogwarts castle – which houses the groundbreaking Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction – and the village of Hogsmeade. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be located within Universal Orlando’s second theme park, Universal Studios, and will create new experiences based on the signature areas of London, Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley.
Universal’s creative team has been working closely with Stuart Craig and the production team from the Harry Potter films to make the new area as authentic and spectacular as possible – just as it did with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
The vision for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is unprecedented, with Universal Orlando creating the world’s first centrally themed, multi-park experience.
After arriving at King’s Cross Station aboard the Hogwarts Express, guests will pass through London and the iconic brick wall archway from the films into Diagon Alley – a bustling, wizarding hub within a Muggle city. There will be shops, dining experiences, and a new ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey that will take theme park attractions to a new level.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will give visitors the exciting opportunity to:
- Board the Hogwarts Express and journey between London’s King’s Cross Station (located in Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade Station (located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The journey will be filled with views of London and the British countryside – as well as a few surprises. Park-to-park admission is required.
- Experience a groundbreaking new, multi-dimensional thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts,which will place riders in the middle of an incredible adventure as they navigate their way through the perils of the Gringotts vaults
- Witness the magical experience of a wand choosing a wizard at Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, one of the wizarding world’s premier wand shops
- Discover the darker side of magic in Knockturn Alley, the darkest of dark places that features Borgin and Burkes – a shop specializing in the Dark Arts that will offer a wide variety of Dark objects, such as Death Eater masks, skulls, and other sinister items
- Explore some of Diagon Alley’s famous shops, including:
- Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a vibrant shop featuring novelty items, magical jokes, and toys inspired by the books and films that will amaze the mischievous child in everyone
- Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, where guests will find a variety of wizardwear from Hogwarts school uniform ties, scarves and jumpers, to authentic wizard’s robes and character costumes
- Magical Menagerie, which features a collection of plush animals, such as owls and Hippogriffs
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, where guests can grab wizarding essentials such as telescopes, binoculars, armillary spheres, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses
- Quality Quidditch Supplies, offering a wide assortment of apparel and equipment including Quidditch sweaters, brooms, Golden Snitches, Bludgers, Bludger bats, Quaffles and more
- Scribbulus, featuring authentic writing implements and products such as feather quills, ink and inkwells, bookmarks, journals, parchment paper, seals, stationery sets and postcards
- Enjoy traditional British fare that includes favorite dishes such as fish and chips, bangers and mash and more at the Leaky Cauldron
- Visit Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for frozen treats in a variety of tantalizing and unique flavors such as strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice-cream and many others
- And more!
More details about the unique experiences that can be found in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be released over time. For more information about the area, visit www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter.
What do you think? What are you most looking forward to at Diagon Alley? I think it’s wandering the shops for me, dining at the Leaky Cauldron, and of course, escaping from Gringotts! (okay, so everything!)
While I’ve been to New Orleans before, never during Mardi Gras, and it’s certainly not a destination with a family reputation. With that in mind Universal Orlando Resort has been bringing Mardi Gras to central Florida for years now. One of the highlights is the Mardi Gras parade, where guests receive beads from the passing floats – a favorite for kids in the crowd. This year’s parade takes guests on a journey through the earth’s different ecosystems with elaborately themed floats including: bayous and swamps, rainforest, coral reefs, the deep blue sea and Polar Regions. Every year, the parade’s hand-crafted floats are built by Blaine Kern Artists – the same company that designs the floats for the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
Universal also puts together a French Quarter Courtyard, where guests can enjoy authentic New Orleans bands every night before the headliner concert. Since 2006, more than 20 bands have traveled straight from The Big Easy to Universal Orlando to perform Blues, Jazz and Zydeco music for partygoers – adding to the authenticity of Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration. The French Quarter also features delicious Cajun cuisine, including jambalaya, gumbo, beignets and much more. We were able to sample the gumbo, jambalaya and beignets and they were pretty darn good! Spicy and authentic!
In addition, there are headline bands performing each Friday and Saturday, which is included in the price of park admission! We saw Big Time Rush, which was very well-received by the local tween crowds. Speaking of crowds, this is one of two caveats I have for families heading to Universal Studios Florida for these events. We had been here for the Christmastime events, with Mannheim Steamroller performing. Let’s just say there are a few more people in the park to see Big Time Rush vs. Mannheim Steamroller. When we arrived at 4:30, guests had already staked out their spots for the concert at 8:30 after the parade. We had to make our way from the lakefront area where we’d seen the wonderful parade to the stage area for the show and trying to maneuver through the crowds – with strollers, was pretty scary. While I can appreciate the amazing value of a free show like this, when it’s geared toward families, better crowd control and exit pathways could be worked on.
The second issue I had was with the amount of alcohol being served. This isn’t so much a Universal issue as I had the same report during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. Seeing employees walking around selling jello shots just gives off a different vibe, however. I get that it IS Mardi Gras after all, an event not exactly known for teetotaling. I don’t pretend to shield my children from the realities of adults on vacation, but that much alcohol in any environment makes me uncomfortable, and it is billed as a “family event”
That said, the little kids show we were treated to when we first arrived was super cute, with costumed characters dancing to zydeco music and throwing beads at the end. The kids in the audience all loved it and it was a great way to get them introduced to the music and excitement of the event. I think overall it’s a super fun event for families and adults alike, maybe just plan to get the stroller-set home after the parade.
Here are the remaining performers and performances for Universal’s Mardi Gras:
Mardi Gras Event Dates
Headliners (performing in the Music Plaza)
New Orleans Bands (performing in the French Quarter)
|Friday, March 16||J. Cole||Lil’ Brian & The Zydeco Travelers|
|Saturday, March 17||Sugar Ray||Lil’ Brian & The Zydeco Travelers|
|Friday, March 23||Hot Chelle Rae||J.J. Caillier & The Zydeco Knockouts|
|Saturday, March 24||B.o.B||J.J. Caillier & The Zydeco Knockouts|
|Friday, March 30||Plain White T’s||Soul Project|
|Saturday, March 31||Prince Royce||Soul Project|
|Saturday, April 7||Cyndi Lauper||Rockin’ Jake|
|Saturday, April 14||KC & The Sunshine Band||Big Al & The Heavyweights|
You can see the rest of my photos from the evening at my Flickr account!
I was provided entrance to Universal Orlando Resort and dinner for my family and myself on the night we attended, but this in no way affected my review or opinions contained herein. Thanks to Universal Orlando for a great night.
More information about Universal Orlando Resort may be found at UniversalOrlando.com.