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---- THE LATEST NEWS ----
(1/29/2024) Universal Orlando Makes Mardi Gras Concert Replacement Update
(1/27/2024) ECTO-1 Seems Poised To Make A Return To Universal Orlando
(1/19/2024) 2024 Mardi Gras Concert List Posted
(1/7/2024) Universal Legacy Store Closing Today (MORE...)
(12/29/2023) Get Ready For Mardi Gras 2024 (MORE...)
Volcano Bay Rehabs - These dates are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate as refurbishments are subject to change.
Ko’okiri Body Plunge - NOW CLOSED through Feb. 14
The Reef - NOW CLOSED through Feb. 14
Tot Tiki Reef - Feb. 9 through Feb 16
Click Here to read the full Screamscape review of Halloween Horror Nights 29
VOLCANO BAY IS NOW OPEN - Read the official Screamscape Review!
LOWES Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando - Read the official Screamscape Review!
General Resort News - (1/29/2024) As part of the fallout of a failed concert performance in Nashville, Elle King has been removed from Universal’s Mardi Gras concert slate and replaced with Nessa Barrett.
(1/19/2024) Universal Orlando has released the list of free concert performances taking place at this year’s Mardi Gras event.
Feb. 3 - Walker Hayes
Feb. 10 - All American Rejects
Feb. 17 -
Elle King Nessa Barrett
Feb. 18 - KC and the Sunshine Band
Feb. 24 - Barenaked Ladies
Mar. 2 - DJ Khaled
Mar. 9 - Ava Max
Mar. 10 - Queen Latifah
Mar. 16 - Luis Fonsi
Mar. 17 - Zedd
(12/29/2023) With the end of 2023 coming upon of very rapidly, it’s time to look ahead to what Universal Orlando has set to take place next in 2024. As per the usually schedule, the next big event will be Mardi Gras season, which is now set to take place from Feb. 3 to Apr. 7, 2024. This will include the return of the traditional Mardi Gras Parade with a fleet of authentic floats from New Orleans, along with a wide variety of special foods and adult beverage options throughout the park. Oh, and don’t forgot the annual Mardi Gras Concert schedule, featuring big name performances on the Hollywood stage in Universal Studios Florida, all included with the price of your daily admission.
I’d expect all the exact details will be released sometime early in January, so stay tuned!
(12/15/2023) Universal Orlando sent out a reminder that they will be hosting a variety of New Year’s Eve festivities in both of the theme parks as well as within CityWalk that night,
According to the press release, “This year’s in-park celebrations are expanding to include festivities in both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure – allowing guests to ring in the new year by enjoying unparalleled theme park thrills and exciting entertainment. In addition to experiencing popular attractions across both parks, guests can revel in festive décor, dance along to music by a live DJ and enjoy special appearances by beloved characters. And as the clock approaches midnight, guests can join a special countdown that will culminate with colorful confetti blasts and other celebratory elements. Access to the festivities is included in theme park admission and will take place at Universal Studios Florida’s Music Plaza area and Universal Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry area, with both theme parks remaining open until 1 a.m.”
Universal CityWalk will also host a special countdown to midnight that will culminate with tons of confetti to ring in the new year. Guests will also encounter additional festive entertainment – including music by a live band and DJ – as they make their way around the electrifying entertainment complex. Plus, Bigfire – one of Universal CityWalk’s original concept restaurants – will feature a special menu from midnight to 1:30 a.m. to commemorate the new year (reservations are encouraged and can be made online or by calling 407-224-3663).
(11/25/2023) Apparently the Red Coconut Club in Universal CityWalk has been given a new Christmas holiday makeover to replace the previous Halloween makeover. The site was relaunched as the Green & Red Coconut Club for the 2022 holiday season, and it looks like they’re about to do it again this year. So far I haven’t seen anything official from Universal just yet about when it will open, so keep your eyes peeled when passing nearby.
(11/12/2023) If you are visiting the Universal Orlando theme parks this holiday season, take note of how your experience entering the parks is changing this year. Universal has now installed their new facial recognition scanner terminals at the entry of their Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks. This has resulted in the removal of the old traditional turnstile entry points, and serves as a replacement for the old biometric finger scanner system as a way to improve the entry process. We’ve been reporting for quite some time now that Universal was going to use this technology from day-1 at their new Epic Universe theme park, and that they’ve already had it in use in China since they opened Universal Studios Beijing.
For now use of the facial recognition system (or Photo Validation as they call it) is optional, but as they move forward, I would expect that it will soon simply become part of the normal experience. For those who refuse to use it, the inconvenience factor of standing in a line (possibly a long one) just to show your photo id and proof of admission to a human is likely to be enough of a deterrent to entice you to use the new system.
As for the future, the use of the system at the Beijing park links your face to not only your admission ticket, but also to virtual queue systems at the attractions and can even be linked to your credit card for food and merchandise purchases. While much of how the system will be implemented into the new Epic Universe park is still unconfirmed, early reports claim that the central hub of the new park that runs between the parking lot and the Helios hotel might remain as a free access area. Meanwhile admission into the central hub attractions, such as the Starfall Racers roller coaster, as well as access through the portals into the four themed lands would make use of this new facial recognition system. Admission into the attractions for those without admission will be refused, and for those who slip past the scanners, I’ve heard that there will be team members automatically alerted by the system who will find them and direct them to the exit until they purchase an admission ticket.
(11/7/2023) While the amusement news world has been focused on the Six Flags / Cedar Fair merger, Universal Orlando quietly raised their ticket prices. While the old price for a one-day / one-park admission previously ranged from $109 to $159, the new price is now between $119 and $179. A One-Day / Two-Park ticket is now $174 to $234, an increase of between $10-20 from the previous prices.
(10/15/2023) While we’ve been telling you for quite some time now that when Epic Universe opens it will feature an admissions system that will use facial recognition software at the various entry points to determine who belongs in the park and who doesn’t. Now it seems that some of the first test units have arrived and are being tested out over at Islands of Adventure, and I’ve been hearing it is coming to the Studios as well, if it hasn’t already. Look for signage in place describing the new system as a Photo Validation system that should scan and admit guests into the park far more quickly than the old fingerprint scanner.
(10/13/2023) With Universal Orlando now deeply focused on the construction of their new Epic Universe theme park, one might be wondering what they will do to continue to draw attendance at the main Universal Orlando resort parks between now and then. So far, it sounds like 2023 has been a pretty good year for Universal Orlando, but so far the only big draw that is officially on the drawing board for 2024 is the Dreamworks land at Universal Studios Florida. If you follow our rumors, then you also know that it seems that the same park appears to be working on a large-scale new night show on the lagoon as well, but that has yet to be announced.
From what I’m hearing, Universal Orlando is also a little concerned that it may not be enough to prevent an attendance decline in 2024, combined with the worry that many potential guests may opt to hold off on a visit next year to wait for Epic Universe to open in 2025. Universal has apparently aired those concerns in their latest guest survey they are emailing out where they float a number of possible ticket and resort hotel deals to see what would entice guests to still visit in 2024.
Options being considered range from packages with free tickets for kids, free food with a number of nights in a resort, and even heavily discounted vacation packages for visits in 2024 if you also pre-book a visit to Epic Universe in 2025. As I said, this is just ideas floated in a survey, so there are no special offers available at this time. Still, Universal has made some fantastic offers in the past, so when the time is right, I’d count on seeing some really special offers for visits next year.
(1/7/2023) Universal Orlando is now involved with the plan to build a SunRail route from the Orlando Airport to the Orange County Convention Center. Universal has pledged to contribute 13 acres of land to be used to connect the route and build the Convention Center Station, as well as said they would support the operation and maintenance of this station. Of course this only makes sense, as the same station will also be able to service Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park now under construction right across the way from the convention center.
The plan will make it very easy for both residents and tourists alike to travel between the two areas, as well as being able to remove some unnecessary vehicle traffic from the congested highway between the airport and tourist corridor. For now they have named this new expansion as the “Sunshine Corridor”.
2024 - New CityWalk Developments - (1/7/2024) According to the local news, today is your last day to visit the Universal Legacy Store in Citywalk. Universal has also confirmed that the location is leaving to be transformed into ‘an exciting new experience for guests.”
Again, the latest rumors pointed to this actually being an official preview center for the new Epic Universe theme park set to open soemtime in 2025.
(12/24/2023) According to a post at Universal Parks News Today, the Universal Legacy Store in CityWalk is rumored to be shutting down in order to transform the location into a preview center for the new Epic Universe theme park. According to the report, a number of the large-scale props that were once set-up inside the location have already been removed.
2025 - New Universal Pop-Culture Celebration Event - Rumored To Be In Development -
(1/27/2024) With the return of the Ghostbusters IP to the silver screen, it appears that Universal has also taken a keen interest in bringing the franchise back into the theme parks. Long time guests of Universal Studios Florida will fondly remember that Ghostbusters was a Day-1 attraction for the theme park when it first opened in 1990 with the Ghostbusters Spooktacular live action special effects show. The former attraction space was later remodeled into the Twister attraction for many years and has now become the Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon, many guests have been wanting to see the Ghostbusters brought back to the park in one form or another. In fact, back when Universal was development a theme park for Dubai, that unrealized park’s New York area would have featured a Ghostbusters themed interactive dark ride. (Fun fact: the land would have also featured a copy of the Incredible Hulk coaster, but with a Men In Black theme instead, with the launch tunnel propped up on a giant crashed UFO…)
Back to the subject at hand, it according to an article posted by GhostbustersNews.com it seems Universal has purchased the pieces of a 1959 Cadillac from a classic vehicle collector with the goal of creating a new ECTO-1 star vehicle. The vehicle was previously cut in half for display, with the front half already having been shipped to Orlando and the back half to arrive soon. The vehicle pieces in question are not the exact “Miller-Meteor” model of car used for the original ECTO-1 in the movie, but should be similar enough to allow for Universal to custom create their own version of ECTO-1 for the theme park.
The better question is… just what does Universal have planned that they would need a new ECTO-1? While the parks have always had a collection of movie-replica star-vehicles on display, they were typically limited to vehicles attached to the IPs of current attractions, with the exception of a few Back to the Future themed vehicles that remain on display. While it would be nice to see a new Ghostbusters themed attraction in the theme parks, there are no short-term plans to do so from what I’m told. Maybe long-term, but they’ve got to get Epic Universe up and running first.
So what else could this be for? Lets just back several months to a story I posted about Universal planning a new Pop-Culture Celebration Fan-Fest event for the resort. The idea was to create another annual celebration event to fit into the calendar between Mardi Gras and the Summer season, taking inspiration from the “Universal Cool Japan” events. Instead of video game and manga themed attraction, Universal Orlando would revisit popular icons and IPs from their own past attractions slate such as Beetlejuice, Jaws, Back to the Future… and yes… Ghostbusters. One such element that was rumored for this very event would see Ghostbusters face-characters introduced to roam sections of the park with an ECTO-1 replica.
It definitely sounds like something fun is in the works!
(9/16/2023) Consider this a long term rumor about a concept that was in development by Universal to create another popular festival style event at Universal Studios Florida to take place sometime in the late spring following the Mardi Gras event until the start of the Summer season in June.
Currently the Universal Orlando resort has a pretty stacked slate of projects to fill their calendars. Following the busy summer season they’ve got Halloween Horror nights taking over all of September and October, the annual Christmas holiday events in both parks running from mid November through to New Years, followed by Mardi Gras in early to mid spring. According to the long term rumors from Screamscape sources, the parks may be looking to fill that last gap between Spring Break and Summer, and the early inspiration for this may have come from Japan.
Over the past several years Universal Studios Japan has put on a series of successful events featuring temporary attractions and displays throughout the park under the “Universal Cool Japan” event banner. The event celebrates an ever changing slate of Japanese Pop Culture icons including live action monsters like Godzilla, popular anime characters, Japanese video game series worlds and characters, and even the occasional musical performer. Universal Cool Japan blends a bit of digital fantasy and the wacky worlds of anime with a touch of Kaijui and horror influence to create a mega event all of their own that has developed a strong following.
According to my sources, Universal Orlando is looking to create their own such event that could premier as early as Late Spring 2024, but will do so by creating one made up entirely of American themed pop-culture themes, including some rumored throwbacks to Universal’s own film and theme park history. The popularity of the annual Tribute Stores in the park over the past few years has served as a test of sorts to determine things that really are popular with Universal guests.
While I don’t know everything that Universal has up their sleeve for this proposed event, the idea is to bring back some interesting iconic characters and themes, not only from Universal’s back catalog, but some themes that were once popular parts of the early Universal Orlando experience. Early concepts talked about bringing some characters back to the park for live performances, such as Bettlejuice’s Graveyard Revue on a stage, or to have the Ghostbusters roaming the park in Ecto 1. Anyone else remember the live street performance where the Ghostbusters would chase down Bettlejuice who in return would possess them and make them dance to songs like “Day-O”? How would you feel about the chance to experience a return of Back To The Future: The Ride? Just not inside the original attraction building (The Simpsons) but instead a temporary setup using the simulator bays of Race Through New York? Want to experience the terror of Jaws in a new throw-back attraction? While Universal can’t bring back the old Amity Island area, I’ve heard it has been pitched to re-program the Fast & Furious immersive tunnel scene to create a virtual shark attack sequence.
The end result is to create a special event that is a fun throwback to celebrate popular characters and film characters from the past that once had a tie to Universal Studios theme parks in one way or another. This could also result in the displaying of a lot of classic vehicles from Universal attractions making appearances for guest photos, which is something Universal has always done well with long-term displays of vehicles like the BTTF Delorean, Jurassic Park jeeps, the Blues Brothers squad car, Mystery Machine and more. I’ve already mentioned Ecto 1, but what about some fun 80’s Universal throwback vehicles like KITT or the A-Team van or a little Miami Vice vs Fast X? It’s all for fun… but with Universal Creative being heavily focused on finishing up the Epic Universe theme park by 2025, it sounds like Universal’s live entertainment creatives may be ready to try something new and fresh in the near future.
Early 2025 - Universal Stella Nova and Universal Terra Luna Resorts - (12/9/2023) According to the latest reports, Universal’s two new medium sized hotels under construction next to Epic Universe will open in early 2025. The “Universal Stella Nova Resort” is slated to open in January 2025 and the “Universal Terra Luna Resort” will open a month later in February 2025, with each resort adding an additional 750-rooms to Universal Orlando Resort.
Before you start booking your trip now, know that Universal’s new “Epic Universe” park is now expected to be open just yet when these hotels open. The park is on track to open sometime in 2025, but if I had to guess it would be a Spring / Summer timetable for that.
So why open the new hotels so early?
Hotels can open in a variety of ways, but you might see this as almost a sort of “soft opening” giving Universal time to open the resorts before the park while finishing up any final checklist of items that still need to be done. It also gives them time to hire and train all the staff they need to get things up to 100% by the time Epic Universe is ready to open so they can hit the ground running.
It is also good to remember that unlike the rest of the Universal Orlando Resort, these two new hotels are located very close to the Orange County Convention Center which hosts a ton of very large conventions year round. While many of you are aware of IAAPA that takes place there ever November, there are so many other major events that take place there that the Stella Nova and Terra Luna Resorts will likely prove to be quite popular with the convention crowd, especially the Megacon Orlando crowd, which would be expected to take place in early February 2025. Other major tradeshows that drop in regularly to the OCCC include InfoComm, the International Builders Show, Surf Expo, Global Business Travel Assoc. Expo, ICAST, Kitchen & Bath Show, and about 15-20 others. Essentially the OCCC is home to a non-stop revolving crowd of convention and expo attendees, so I’d expect these two new hotels to become very busy whenever there is a big show going on.
(11/9/2023) According to Theme Park Insider, a website for the new Stella Nova and Terra Luna Resorts (from Loews Hotels) went live briefly by accident, before being taken down once again. But… not before some details and images were grabbed and spread across the internet. According to the post the website listed the opening of the Stella Nova first on January 21st, 2025 (which would be ahead of the likely opening date of the Epic Universe theme park) but it is also very likely that any dates right now would simply be placeholders until actual dates are determined. A number of promotional images showing off the look of the two new Universal Resorts, both inside and outside, were also posted.
Based on the images, the overall look of the lobby areas almost seems to be a hybrid concept of Universal’s Endless Summer and Aventura resorts. I haven’t stayed at the Endless Summer yet, but the artwork showing off a room layout also reminds me a bit of the Aventura rooms, just with more color to them, making it seem more inviting and less sterile than Aventura’s Apple Store inspired mostly-white everything look.
Future Expansion Thoughts - (12/18/2022) With the first North American version of Super Nintendo World set to open in Hollywood in February, followed by an expansion of the original in Japan the following year and then a full sized clone as part of Universal’s Epic Universe park in 2025, you may be wonder what’s next in development for Universal and Nintendo?
Previously a number of projects were rumored to have been discussed and some initial designs worked up that were to spread out and use other Nintendo related IPs, with the lead projects seemingly attached to Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda games. Some kind of Pokemon attraction was long rumored for Universal Studios Florida a long time ago, back when the first Super Nintendo World was just starting design and construction in Japan, but before things got too far along, all the spin-off North American projects were said to have been put on hold by the corporate office. They already knew they were dedicated to make new lands/attractions in Hollywood and Orlando at this point based on the Super Nintendo World coming to Japan, but wisely they wanted to see how actual guests would react to the first one before committing to other projects based on Nintendo’s other non-Mario based IPs.
All has been fairly quiet on the Pokemon side of things ever since, though there has been a persistent rumor claiming that the amazing Spider-Man dark ride at Universal Studios Japan would close at the end of their current IP contract period and be transformed into some kind of Pokemon or possibly even Detective Pikachu themed dark ride. Considering that the first Detective Pikachu film was deemed enough of a hit that a sequel was announced as almost a sure thing by Legendary Pictures before the first one even opened in US theaters, converting the urban environment inside and out of the existing Spider-Man attraction building in Japan would be an easy fit. So perhaps the next question would be… could this same thing happen in the US parks?
The closing of Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure, as things currently stand, isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, as the current Marvel IP deal Universal has locked in place for as long as they want to pay for it does come with some interesting caveats. The way it has been explained to me is that the deal actually requires Universal to maintain the entire Marvel themed land in its entirety… so in other words, Universal isn’t allowed to close down just Hulk or the Spider-Man ride and keep the rest of the land. The deal is essentially an all or nothing deal, and the removal of any one of the original attractions would be cause for the entire deal to collapse as a violation of the terms.
This is why we’ve only seen Universal upgrade and/or rebuilt the existing attractions exactly as they they were created. Spider-Man was upgraded with all new and improved animation and improved projection technology, but the story of the ride was kept exactly the same. The Incredible Hulk coaster was re-built exactly as a clone of the original, with only minor thematic improvements made to the trains and queue experience that still kept the same basic concept of the original story for the ride. Even Doctor Doom’s Fearfall went through some mechanical updates and upgrades over the past few years (remember when the crowns were removed from the towers?) only to be put back together to offer the same ride experience as before. So essentially the entire Marvel Super Hero Island is locked up like a time-capsule and unable to make any additions or major changes without the approval of Marvel… and with Disney now owning Marvel, you know that isn't ever going to happen. So Disney is just biding their time and accepting payment from Universal each year for the use of what they have, knowing that eventually one day Universal will drop the land once they are done with it and Disney will get full theme park rights to Marvel back again.
So coming back to Epic Universe once again, the question is, should Universal keep all of the various Nintendo IP’s in the Epic Universe theme park, or should they be be planning to following the Wizarding World exactly and drop different Nintendo based IPs as new attractions and lands of Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure? Without a doubt spreading out the Wizarding World attractions between the two existing parks has proved to be a huge hit with guests and been a very profitable venture for Universal Orlando, so much that we’ll see a third Wizarding World as part of Epic Universe.
With that in mind, I’d think it would be only a matter of time before Universal pulled out some of those old plans and looked into eventually dropping other Nintendo IPs into Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Since Universal isn’t likely to build another similar ride system in Universal Studios Florida, as they already have Transformers, it sounds like the fate of Pokemon may be locked up until Spider-Man’s days are over or they come up with an entirely new concept. This leaves Nintendo’s other major IPs open for development, such as Metroid and Zelda, but between them Zelda is the one most likely happen. We know Universal Creative has already roughly designed a couple of Zelda based concepts in the past, and is rumored to be sending out some guests surveys right now just to feel out their audience about the idea of building a land or attraction(s) based on the Legend of Zelda IP.
So what was Universal looking to do previously? As I said, they had a couple of ideas in the fire at different points. One was simply a conversion of an existing Island of Adventure attraction… Poseidon’s Fury. The idea would have seen a new front entrance placed in front of the existing attraction, bringing guests into a castle building that would eventually lead them down into the the dark cavern passageways below the castle, which would really just be the existing entrance pathway into Poseidon’s Fury. From here the basic attraction concept would have been exactly the same of Poseidon’s Fury, leading guests from chamber to chamber for a live-action walk-through adventure story, including the unlocking of a magical doorway and passenger through the water vortex that would lead to a final epic battle sequence between Link and Ganon in the main show chamber. So yeah… same attraction, just some new theming and plot.
Another concept Universal dreamed up is kind of neat and was going to take advantage of some new ride hardware patents they filed for a few years ago. The gist of the hardware was that guests would enter the attraction as your typical slow-moving boat ride themed to the world of Zelda. The ride experience ahead would be anything but that, as the boats would be designed so that they could perform some interesting manuverse we haven’t seen before on a boat ride. This includes the ability to encounter some kind of obstacle in mid-stream that could cause your boat to rotate and begin flowing down the river backwards or even sideways. This could also involve the possibility of loading onto some kind of unseen underwater trick-track that could cause the boat to slide down a small hill sideways, perhaps with a change of direction at the bottom. The biggest trick of them all however would have been the transformation of your “boat” ride into a flying vehicle.
Imagine this as the set-up… your boat would encounter a villain, creature or obstacle that would knock you off-course, and instead of moving down the peaceful waterway, you find yourself rapidly approaching the edge of the biggest waterfall you’ve ever seen. This is no flume drop… this is a straight down plunge to your very doom, and there seems to be no way to avoid it, so hang onto your loved ones and prepare for the end. Unknowst to the riders, and hidden behind their view, your boat has now been placed directly under a new track system up in the dark rafters, and a device that may look something like a set of rotating fork-lift arms attached to the track will quietly drop from the ceiling and insert those forks into slots built into the base of your boat. Just as riders think they are going over the falls, instead the boat would magically lift up into the skies and enter an entirely new portion of the ride experience as you fly over the magical land of Zelda.
Now that sure sounds like a fun ride concept to me… but again… where to put it? Should Universal add Zelda to Islands of Adventure or somewhere at the original Universal Studios Florida theme park?
(8/3/19) Universal’s EPIC UNIVERSE was announced as the name of their next theme park coming to Orlando. All information and history about the rumors and development of this project have now been moved to an official EPIC UNIVERSE page for future reporting. Head on over and check out our complete breakdown about what was announced and what we think we know about this new park based on all concept artwork compared to the various rumors. (CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE NEWS ON EPIC UNIVERSE)