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Photo Update: August 4, 2020 – Universal Orlando Resort

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We’re back with a photo update around the Universal Orlando Resort! This month, we take a look around the Resort; specifically, progress on the Jurassic Park coaster construction as well as other small projects and happenings around the 2 parks.

Park Update Index

» CityWalk
» Central Park Crepes
» Temporary Attraction Closures
» Jurassic Park Coaster
» Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey Locker Expansion
» Socially Distanced Meet & Greets
» A Little Bit of this, A Little Bit of that


CityWalk

The former homes of P!Q, Fossil, Fresh Produce, and Island Clothing Co have been completely gutted as work continues on an unannounced project. 


Central Park Crepes

The food stand looks ready to go but has yet to officially open to serve its first guests. Which item are you looking forward to trying?


Temproary Attraction Closures

Universal Orlando has confirmed that several of their attractions will close temporarily beginning August 9th. Here’s a look at A Day at the Park with Barney, which was closed during our visit.

Fear Factor Live has also remained closed but has served as a U-Rest area for guests.

Poseidon’s Fury, Fast & Furious: Supercharged, and Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl are open at the moment, so make sure you get those last rides/experiences in.


Jurassic Park Coaster

The coaster is looking fantastic! Universal has yet to announce the coaster officially, so we’re still in the dark about specifics. Much of the track has been installed, with just the last bank back into the load station left to install.

A lot of the focus now has shifted to the thematic rock work around the twists and turns of the coaster track.


Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey Locker Expansion

After a brief pause, construction has resumed on the locker expansion for Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey. Once completed, it should tremendously help with the congestion around the locker area, especially with the need to socially distance.


Socially Distanced Meet & Greets

Here’s a look at several of the meet & greets Universal is offering, while still maintaining social distancing for the safety of guests and employees – which has allowed some unique photo opportunities.


A Little Bit of this, A Little Bit of that

A new custom painted name art kiosk has appeared in Port of Entry.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure has stopped using the virtual line and has shifted to regular standby in the past week.

After several months, the Mardi Gras Bead Tree is no more; as Universal has removed all the hanging beads.


That’ll do it for this month’s photo update! Be sure to follow Inside Universal on our social media channels for continuing coverage of Universal Parks and Resorts!

Knott’s Berry Farm cancels Knott’s Scary Farm 2020

Knott’s Berry Farm has confirmed that their Halloween event, Knott’s Scary Farm, is cancelled for the 2020 season due to “continued operating restrictions related to the pandemic”.

Jon Storbeck, Vice President & General Manager of Knott’s Berry Farm, released a message on their official website confirming the cancellation:

The unique features of Scary Farm will not allow us to operate within the constraints recommended by the CDC and public health experts.  We know that this news is disappointing, but we look forward with great enthusiasm to making 2021 Knott’s Scary Farm our best year ever. 

Knott’s Berry Farm remains closed with no reopening date scheduled. Starting August 21, guests can enjoy an all-new outdoor dining and retail experience with the all-new Taste of Knott’s. Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel will reopen to guests as well on August 21.

OPINION: Universal Orlando can still celebrate Halloween with a new event

It still hurts.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s no way that you haven’t heard the news there will be no Halloween Horror Nights in 2020. The cancellation of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event has left many many of us in a state of sadness. For some of us, it’s what we look forward to from the moment we exit Universal Studios on the final night of the previous year’s event. Personally speaking, it’s the equivalent of the holiday season, seeing friends and family every year, including those friends who have become family, and even met my wife-to-be at the event. It’s much more than just a seasonal theme park event for some.

On the business side, the absence of this year’s event leaves a huge hole in revenue for Universal Orlando. While the move was made for the safety of guests and team members alike, it was absolutely the right call.

However, just because Halloween Horror Nights was cancelled does not mean Halloween itself has been cancelled. There’s a lot that can be done to celebrate Halloween in the parks and still encourage safe guidelines and procedures while getting our spook on. It may not be Horror Nights, but the spirit of the event can live on through daily operations and be something that even a casual guest can enjoy.

Food offerings

Lately, Universal has offered up some absurd food offerings to guests during Halloween Horror Nights. Amongst the fan base, one of the most popular is, of course, Pizza Fries.

Mmmmm, pizza fries…

It’s become so beloved, the snack has been offered during Mardi Gras and even during normal park hours before the Resort’s closure. Beyond Pizza Fries, they’ve also sold some dessert-focused delights; from Eleven’s Triple-Decker Extravaganza to S’mores Fries.

Universal already rolls out a special menu for its annual Passholder Appreciation Days, so this could be one easy way to celebrate Halloween. An easy fix would be to just add the items to the menus of existing establishments, like Louie’s in New York.

Other food offerings can include the frozen beverages that are usually offered at carts, Halloween-themed mixed drinks at the bars, and definitely, Twisted Taters.

Entertainment

While entertainment offerings are quite limited for the time being, the shows that are being offered could easily be modified for Halloween. The Blues Brothers have been offering daily shows while still practicing social distancing; how cool would a Halloween-themed show be? A song like “The Monster Mash” seems like a no-brainer for the pair to sing.

Did someone say SING IT? Probably not, but they can include some Halloween vibes in that show as well.

Characters

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Universal Studios Hollywood during the Halloween season and found their seasonal character meet & greets superior compared to Orlando; which has offered minimal Halloween celebrations outside of Horror Nights.

Spongebob and Patrick dressed up at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick, and Hello Kitty all had Halloween costumes on while greeting guests and looked great. It was also amazing to see Frankenstein and Dracula, two of Universal’s popular Classic Monsters, roaming the streets of the park.

Over in Universal Studios Japan, they have the Minions dress up in costumes during their “Surprise Halloween” event.

Adding this type of flair to Universal Studios, more specifically Hollywood Blvd., could be a great way to attract more visitors to that area of the park. In today’s time of social distancing, meet & greets are hard but not impossible. Maybe utilize stages similar to those used at Horror Nights for the scarezone mini-shows in the area.

Decor

Trick ‘R’ Treat scarezone in 2017

Maybe the easiest way to celebrate Halloween. Almost every year at Halloween Horror Nights, we see recycled props return to the parks. I’d love to see the beloved Central Parkpumpkins return, using a lot of what they did for the Trick ‘R’ Treat scarezone, without the horror and stuff. Maybe have the New York section of the park decorated in some of the decor from Pscyhoscareapy at HHN 25 – where it was themed to a Halloween block party (minus the bobbing for human heads, of course). Add some spooky, but fun music to the in-park music loop. A little something to add to the environment can go a long way.

Haunted House Walk-Through

This is the trickiest of them all, but not impossible – open up one or two of the planned haunted houses as a walk-through.

Based on Stranger Things Day in 2018, it would absolutely be possible for a haunted house to operate during the day time. Obviously, with the new safety guidelines in place, certain concessions would have to be made, especially to make sure social distancing is enforced. While scareactors would be great, it’s also not necessary; as the house can just be a straight-up walk-through of the sets.

We don’t really talk rumors on Inside Universal, but the overwhelming talk was that this year’s event was to feature Beetlejuice as one of the main property for this year’s event; and when there’s that much smoke, there’s fire.

Much like last year’s Ghostbusters and, to a lesser degree, Stranger Things, you’d imagine a Beetlejuice house to not have many “scares” but more lighthearted fun while having impressive scenic sets. If there was any house to be open during the day, Beetlejuice and his history at the park seems like an easy choice. Mix in the resurgence in popularity for the IP lately and you’ve got a pretty bow on top.

Let me clarify that in no way are any of these ideas happening, let alone even rumored. The resort is in a tough spot right now, as evident by recent cutbacks and layoffs; but the loss of Horror Nights was a financial blow to Universal Orlando that could possibly be mitigated with a one-off Fall event. It may not be Halloween Horror Nights, but at least Universal can offer up a chance for guests to celebrate Halloween. What are some of your ideas?

 

Universal Orlando shares details on benefits and exclusive menus for Passholder Appreciation Days 2020

From August 10 to September 30, 2020, Universal Orlando is showing its annual passholders a whole lotta love with exclusive menus, discounts, and benefits with the return of Passholder Appreciation Days.

Passholder benefits during Passholder Days include:

  • The return of the VIP entrance with UOAP dedicated turnstiles at both Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.
  • Premier Passholder Dedicated Parking Lane.
  • Premier and Preferred Passholders will be able to take advantage of an extra hour with Early Park Admission through Sept 30. Early Park Admission for Power and Seasonal Passholders is valid on weekdays only through Sept 30.
  • Passholders can save 30% on select Universal Express passes

Passholders can also get some exclusive UOAP merchandise, including the monthly button and magnet. August’s button features Frank the Pug from Men in Black. It is available, along with the Passholder Appreciation Magnet, to pick up at the UOAP Lounge at Universal Studios Florida or Toon Extra at Islands of Adventure.

AP’s can also purchase an exclusive souvenir popcorn bucket, including one free refill, for just $7.99 plus tax, while supplies last. Premier and Preferred Annual Pass food discounts and Power and Seasonal Appreciation Days food discounts apply.

Starting August 10, a limited time T-Shirt specially-designed for UOAP will be available only at the UOAP Lounge in Universal Studios Florida for just $25 plus tax. (Universal is keeping the design a secret for now)

Now let’s talk about the food! Universal Orlando is rolling out an exclusive menu of creations around the resort just for passholders (Remember to use UOAP dining discounts at Universal Orlando owned and operated restaurants).

Universal Studios Florida

  • Ale Braised Beef Short Rib Sliders at Finnegan’s Bar & Grill
    White Cheddar, Cabbage Slaw, Tabasco Onions, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Melted Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Sliced Scallions, Pretzel Rolls
  • Seafood Caldo Verde at Lombard’s Landing
    Gulf shrimp, Atlantic cod, fingerling potatoes, chorizo, shaved kale, stewed with red chili.
  • BBQ Brisket Burger at Mel’s Drive-In
    Golden BBQ, Onion Ring, Smoked Gouda, and Brisket Burger

Islands of Adventure

  • Mediterranean Lamb Bowl at Mythos Restaurant
    Spiced ground lamb, house-made Hummus, turmeric rice, tomato, cucumber, feta, and charred pita
  • Margherita Pizza Fries at Cafe 4
    French fries, marinara, fresh mozzarella, Italian tomatoes, balsamic glaze, and basil pesto drizzle
  • Roasted Cauliflower Steak at Confisco Grille
    Lemon-garlic roasted cauliflower, romesco sauce, stewed beluga, lentils, toasted almonds.

Volcano Bay

  • Glazed Pork Belly Bianco Pizza at Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club
    Garlic cream sauce, mozzarella cheese, shredded cheddar, Parmesan
    cheese, Pork belly, fresh cilantro, sweet plantains.

CityWalk

  • Chocolate Waffle at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
    Chocolate batter waffle topped with chocolate chunks, white whipped cream, chocolate raspberry sauce, chocolate shavings, powdered sugar, and micro mint
  • Mexican Parrillada at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food
    Chicken, steak with pepper, rice, and refried beans, cactus petals and grilled chorizo, served with house-made tortillas
  • Captain A-Crab at The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
    Two crab cake sliders topped with “jellyfish jelly” (grape-pepper jelly), served on a bed of arugula and Roma tomatoes on toasted King’s Hawaiian roll, garnished with a side of seaweed salad and “jellyfish jelly”.
  • Tex-Mex Burger at NBC Sports Grill & Brew
    Grilled half-pound beef patty topped with crisp lettuce, tomato, guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos, scallions, and Queso cheese sauce.
  • Creole Crawfish at Pat O’Brien’s
    Crawfish, andouille sausage, holy trinity (bell peppers, celery, and onions), simmered
    in creole sauce, topped with white rice and green onions, served with crostini.
  • Crispy Chicken Sandwich in Paradise at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
    Crispy fried chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, mayo and paradise sauce.
  • UOAP Doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut
    A heart-shaped, yeast doughnut with vanilla frosting & strawberry lemonade Bavarian filling.
  • Candy Bar Frappuccino at all Starbucks Locations
    Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino with toffee nut and whipped cream, topped with caramel and mocha drizzle.
  • Oreo Classic Rolls at Cinnabon
    Classic roll, caramel frosting, chocolate sauce, Oreo cookie topping.
  • We Love You S’Mores at Cold Stone Creamery
    Sweet cream ice cream, fudge, graham cracker pie crust and marshmallow mixed on the stone.
  • Dolce Amici at Red Oven Pizza Bakery
    Nutella, strawberries, crushed Oreo, whipped topping, and powdered sugar.

CityWalk Drinks

  • Mellow Yellow
    Mango, Margaritaville Tequila, lime, and salt.
    Available at Pat O’Brien’s, Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom, Dockside Kiosk and Shoreline Kiosk in CityWalk
  • Blue Lagoon
    Three Olives Vodka, curacao, and lemonade.
    Available at Pat O’Brien’s, Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom, Dockside Kiosk and Shoreline Kiosk in CityWalk
  • Purple Power
    Tanqueray® Gin, Don Q Rum, Margaritaville Tequila, Three Olives Grape Vodka, raspberry liqueur, sour and Sprite.
    Available at Pat O’Brien’s, Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom, Dockside Kiosk and Shoreline Kiosk in CityWalk

Passholders can also take advantage of perks at Universal Orlando resorts with discounted rates, exclusive drinks, and dining offers. Guests who book now through Oct. 31, 2020 for travel now through Nov. 1, 2020, can get exclusive discounts at Endless Summer – Surfside Inn & Suites, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Aventura Hotel, and Sapphire Falls Resort.

Happy Hour pricing will be available all night for passholders, along with 20% off food purchases, at Bar 17 Bistro, Swizzle Lounge, and Strong Water Tavern through September 30, 2020. 20% off food discounts will be available at Velvet Bar and Orchid Court.

If you’re not a passholder yet, Universal is currently offering a bonus 3 Months free on any Pass purchased by September 30, 2020.

Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest on Universal Parks & Resorts.

Universal Orlando Resort to temporarily close multiple attractions on August 9

Universal Orlando has confirmed that several of their attractions will close temporarily beginning August 9th. The attractions are:

  • Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Poseidon’s Fury
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged
  • Storm Force Accelatron
  • Fear Factor Live
  • A Day in the Park with Barney

Universal states the decision was made to shift focus on their marquee attractions. Team members will be moved to new roles throughout the resort. Fear Factor Live and A Day in the Park with Barney have been closed since reopening, with the Fear Factor Live stage serving as a U-Rest Area for guests – a socially-distanced mask-free break area.

Despite opening in June, the parks have seen slow attendance due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The decision is an obvious cost-cutting move, which is a sad reality during this tumultuous economic climate. Earlier today, Universal announced more lay-offs to their workforce to assist with “current priorities and needs“.

Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest on Universal Parks and Resorts.

 

Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store opens at Universal Studios Florida

The Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store has opened at Universal Studios Florida despite the event’s cancellation this year.

The popular store has become a staple of recent Horror Nights, with several themed rooms featuring event merchandise.

Celebrating “30 Years of Fear”, this year’s rooms are based on Frankenstein’s Castle/Lab and Jack’s Carnival of Carnage, featuring throwbacks and nods to icons and events of year’s past. A 3rd room is expected to open later.  Keep a sharp eye for the hidden easter eggs throughout the Carnival room.

Much of the merchandise found in the store was released online several weeks back, but more items are expected to debut soon. The merchandise features artwork from several prominent years of Horror Nights past, including the event’s first year, “Fright Nights”. Items include t-shirts, shot glasses, pins, and socks. Masks from many of the movies and TV shows featured at the event are also on sale.

The store is expected to be open “through Fall”. Due to health and safety guidelines, there is a limited amount of guests allowed inside at a time to maintain social distance, which may cause long lines.

Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest on Universal Parks & Resorts.

Photo Update: July 27, 2020 – CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood

We’re back with July’s photo update around CityWalk Hollywood! Here, we take a look at progress on the multiple projects taking place throughout CityWalk as Universal Studios Hollywood still remains closed.

Let’s get started!

Park Update Index

» Daily Operations
» Howl at the Moon
» NBC Sports Grill & Brew
» Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
» IT’SUGAR
» Sublime Gifts & Finds
» Universal Studios Store
» Universal Studios Hollywood


Daily Operations

Additional locations have opened up since our most recent update, including Antojitos, Jamba Juice, IT’SUGAR, Mini Monster, and more, though Starbucks appears to have closed again. CityWalk remains open from 12PM-8PM daily, and crowds have picked up since its initial reopening, though are no more extreme than the average weekday in the past. A handful of signs reminding guests how to properly wear face coverings have also appeared, while security remains vigilant as ever in enforcing the new rules throughout the premises.


Howl at the Moon

All the way on the upper level of CityWalk, the former location of Howl at the Moon remains empty and unchanged, with no apparent plans for a future replacement as of this moment.


NBC Sports Grill & Brew

Walls have come down at NBC Sports Grill & Brew as construction appears to wrap up both on the inside and out. The big screen installed prominently above the entrance to the restaurant continues to play various sports clips, just the same as the many TV screens scattered about inside. New planters add a finishing touch to the nearly completed site, while additional signage has gone up all around the building. The restaurant also features a patio off to its far right side shaded by a spaced-out multicolored awning, though tables have not yet been placed out as of this update. However, the interior of the restaurant appears to be nearly complete, as visible through the windows located all throughout.


Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

Work appears to have paused on the transformation of the Hard Rock Café into Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Walls have come down all around the building only to reveal new planters surrounding its entrance, likely installed to add charm to the site if construction truly is paused. A palm tree has been planted off to the side, surrounded by red and yellow flowers. Some Hard Rock Café signage is still visible on various parts of the building, including the door handles, though all of the windows have been blacked out to prevent guests from seeing in.


IT’SUGAR

After undergoing a one-year renovation and temporary relocation, IT’SUGAR has finally completed construction and the store has reopened to the public with a new Wizard of Oz theme. As guests enter the store, they will find themselves greeted by the main characters of the film, made almost entirely out of jellybeans. Updated displays, posters, and other various statues located all throughout add a refreshed sense of the charm to the location, while the slightly more spaced out walkways make it easier to get around the store.


Sublime Gifts & Finds

The former location of Sublime Gifts & Finds remains empty and unchanged, with still no announcement of any future replacement.


Universal Studios Store

The Universal Studio Store has reopened with limited capacity, selling much of the same merchandise as before, though with the addition of a retro Universal Studios Hollywood collection of apparel, posters, buttons, and more; Grad Bash 2020 items in the sale section; a handful of shirts and toys celebrating the upcoming new ride, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!; Universal-themed masks; and other items based on the Trolls: World Tour film.


Universal Studios Hollywood

As the theme park remains closed with no reopening date, we thought we would share some photos taken from the front entrance plaza during our visit.


From all of us at Inside Universal, we hope you are doing well, and thank you for following our continuing coverage of Universal Parks and Resorts.

Halloween Horror Nights 2020 cancelled at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Parks and Resorts has announced that 2020’s Halloween Horror Nights event has been canceled at both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood, with hopes to bring back the event in 2021.

Here’s the official statement:

Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort have made the difficult decision to not hold Halloween Horror Nights events this year. Universal Studios Hollywood continues to face ongoing business restrictions and uncertainty around its opening timeframe.  Universal Orlando Resort will be focusing exclusively on operating its theme parks for daytime guests, using the enhanced health and safety procedures already in place. 

We know this decision will disappoint our fans and guests.  We are disappointed, too.  But we look forward to creating an amazing event in 2021.

No information about this year’s event was ever released, but maze construction was taking place. It is also not known if what was planned for this year will return for next year – especially when it comes to intellectual property (I.P.) mazes. This year, Halloween Horror Nights at Orlando was celebrating 30 years and recently released event merchandise.

Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest on Halloween Horror Nights and Universal Parks & Resorts.

Punga Racers reopens at Volcano Bay as body slide after lengthy refurbishment

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Punga Racers has reopened at Volcano Bay after a lengthy refurbishment, converting the water slide from a mat slide to a traditional body slide.

The removal of the mats was the biggest change. Much of the slide has remained the same but now features an extended run-off compared to the previous version. You can check out the original version below:

The slide was included in a lawsuit last year. After the lawsuit was filed, the slide’s max load was decreased to 150lbs, restricting the number of riders able to experience Punga Racers. With the conversion, the max load has now increased to 300lbs.

The slide originally was manufactured by ProSlide, but the conversion was handled by WhiteWater. It closed earlier this year for the refurbishment and was originally supposed to reopen in May, however the Resort’s closure due to the pandemic extended the slide’s downtime.

Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest on Volcano Bay and Universal Parks & Resorts.

Universal Orlando releases “30 Years, 30 Fears” Halloween Horror Nights merchandise

Universal Orlando has released throwback Halloween Horror Nights merchandise on their online store, celebrating the event’s 30th anniversary with “30 Years, 30 Fears”.

The merchandise released features artwork from several prominent years of Horror Nights past, including the event’s first year, “Fright Nights”. Items include t-shirts, shot glasses, pins, and socks.

As of now, the event is still scheduled to be held with expected new safety guidelines; however, no information has been released other than event dates and a BOGO ticket deal.

You can see what’s available here: shop.universalorlando.com/

Stay tuned to Inside Universal for all the latest on Halloween Horror Nights and Universal Parks & Resorts.

 

 

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