2023 was quite a momentous year for Universal Studios Hollywood. The past few years saw the park gear up and get ready for the opening of Super Nintendo World, which finally opened in February. Other than that, Universal Studios Hollywood continues to transition away from its movie studio roots and become a destination theme park.
So let’s take a look at the Top 10 Stories from Universal Studios Hollywood during 2023.
One of the most requested features from park-goers over the years was for Universal Studios Hollywood to add a Mobile Ordering feature to their app.
This year, they got their wish.
Initially, guests could only use the feature at Hollywood & Dine and Minion Cafe; but as the year rolled on – the feature was available at all locations inside the park (save for Toadstool Cafe, of course).
In addition, guests could also store their payment information and apply Pass Member discounts. The best part? It’s “Cross-Resort” enabled, meaning if your wallet information is stored for Hollywood, it works for Orlando – and vice versa!
An icon that’s now featured at Universal Resorts worldwide, the “one that started ’em all” celebrated its 30th Anniversary this year.
To celebrate, Universal created a specially crafted menu with limited-time offerings of food and beverages for several of CityWalk’s restaurants, retro merchandise was available at the Universal Studio Store, and created a limited-time video presentation for the 5 Towers, that featured a colorful laser projection and atmospheric smoke effects.
It is important to note, that CityWalk has seen some big changes over the last decade, and Universal made sure to tease that they aren’t done – asking us to “stay tuned” as “CityWalk is focused on its bright future”.
2023 saw the “Darker Side” of the Wizarding World return to Universal Studios Hollywood with a 1-2 punch.
First, Universal announced the return of the “Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle” nighttime show – performing on select dates throughout most of the year. The show had been on hiatus since 2019, mostly due to COVID shutdowns from 2020-2021.
During the Summer months, Universal then announced the return of the popular “Death Eaters” to coincide with the “Dark Arts” show, which saw the group of Voldemort’s loyalists roam the streets of Hogsmeade all the way through Halloween Horror Nights 2023.
The Studio Tour is one of the most beloved attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood and is about to celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2024. In preparation for the celebration, Universal closed the Earthquake portion of the Tour in June.
Located inside Stage 50, the Earthquake experience simulates an 8.3 Earthquake while inside a San Francisco subway station.
It is expected to remain closed until Spring 2024.
We wish we could talk more about the refurbishment, but Universal has been mum about details other than the Spring timeframe.
One of the ways Universal celebrated CityWalk’s 30th anniversary was the opening of Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen, which made its grand debut at Universal Studios Hollywood.
The unique eatery brings an extensive menu of brunch, lunch, and dinner items, sumptuous milkshakes and desserts, and delectable confectionary treats to guests.
Replacing the Hard Rock Cafe, the restaurant was announced in 2019 for a 2021 opening – but ended up in limbo as the park navigated through the COVID pandemic.
Construction finally resumed in 2022 so the popular eatery was able to open first thing in January.
We’ll get to Super Nintendo World in a bit, but one of the biggest additions this year came just a few months after its opening when guests were finally able to meet Toad inside the land.
To say Super Nintendo World was popular is an understatement. From the day the land soft opened, it has been nothing short of busy – with high waits for the attractions, games, and meet & greets.
While the land was met with positive reviews, fans were clamoring for the beloved character to make its way stateside. The Toad Meet & Greet was pretty popular over in Universal Studios Japan, and with the land needing more things to do – it seemed like a no-brainer.
So in July, Toad joined Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach as characters that you can meet inside the land – and everyone rejoiced!
Halloween Horror Nights, once again, makes its way into the Top 10, but this year’s event was a little more noteworthy than usual.
The event was headlined by the two-headed beast of “The Last of Us” and “Stranger Things”. In addition, Chucky made his way back to the event with “Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count”, which featured hundreds of impressive Chucky animatronics and puppets.
Due to the popularity of the properties, the event saw insanely huge wait times and crowds – especially in late October.
Universal also tried something different this year by having haunted attractions, with the addition of “Blumhouse: Behind the Screams”, which featured a M3GAN dance mob, and “The Purge: Dangerous Waters”, a stunt show filled with some brutal moments.
Rounding out the event was Monstruos: The Monsters of Latin America, which won “House of the Year, Universal Monsters: Unmasked, the returning Holidayz in Hell, and The Exorcist: Believer, which many guests found to be one of the scariest houses of the year.
In July, Universal Studios Hollywood announced that a Fast & Furious Roller Coaster would be making its way to the Upper Lot of the theme park.
Equipped with a state-of-the-art ride system, the new coaster will feature “innovative and technological achievements never previously employed to this all-new thrill ride”. While specific details are scarce at the moment, the new coaster is expected to hug the hillside terrain between the Upper and Lower Lots.
Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen to the Supercharged portion of the Studio Tour once the coaster opens.
But with the addition comes subtraction…
To make way for the new coaster, Universal Studios Hollywood closed some of its historic stages. In January, Animal Actors and the Special Effects Show officially closed, holding their final shows for guests.
After a few months of sitting dormant, construction walls arrived in May to start clearing out the area and demolishing the sound stages.
Both stages had been around since the 1970s, with the Castle Theatre being home to some notable shows – including Castle Dracula, Adventures of Conan: Sword & Sorcery Spectacular, and the infamous The Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical.
In August, the iconic Universal City sign on the Upper Lot hillside was demolished as site preparation continued. We’re hoping a new version makes its way when construction wraps up.
It should be no surprise that the opening of Super Nintendo World was #1 for 2023.
The opening to one of the most anticipated lands in theme park history kicked off its 3-day event with a Red Carpet celebration, featuring celebrities along with Nintendo and Universal executives. By Friday morning, hundreds of guests were waiting during the early morning hours to be one of the firsts inside Super Nintendo World.
First announced in May 2015, the opening in Hollywood has surely seen an eventful construction timeline – which started back in late 2018 with Soundstage demolition. Of course, the timeline was heavily altered by the 2020 COVID pandemic which saw construction pause for a whole year.
Headlined by Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge attraction, Super Nintendo World received positive reviews – with much of the praise going to bringing the interactive gameplay to life.
And we’d be remiss to not mention the deliciousness of the Super Star Lemon Squash.
Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest news on Universal Parks & Resorts and follow along on our forums & discussion boards.