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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

P. 624: DreamWorks Land passholder preview report!

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This looks awesome! We are certainly going to try it during our trip to USO/IOA this year.


I didn't realize there were some great Mexican restaurants in Orlando. We LOVE Mexican food. We'll have to ask for some advice before our next trip.

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I remember seeing the concept art for this place in that big reveal Universal did a few months back and thinking the facade to this place just looks terrible, but in pictures it looks pretty cool. I guess you can't judge a restaurant by its concept art.

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Had such a great time last night at the opening night of Mardi Gras. Didn't really expect to enjoy the parade as much as I did, not really being a parade person, but it was so much fun! The floats themselves are awesome, loved the Day of the Dead and the Steampunk style ones. I had an awesome spot right at the beginning of the route, which meant I got to see the floats at the beginning and the end. Didn't even have to stake out a spot early either. Went to the 6:30 Horror Make-Up Show (my favorite Team Members were performing) and just walked out the exit and parked myself on the street right as the parade started. The atmosphere was awesome and the walking performers were great! Also I caught so many beads. I didn't really try, but they just toss them everywhere, and it's either catch them or let them bean you. Ended up with at least 100 strands, which I ended up giving to a couple of little kids, who's eye just lit up.


Can't wait to get back next weekend when there's a tolerable band playing, even if they did shit all over SeaWorld.

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Man I really need to get a pass renewal in order for Universal Orlando. I've been doing the Busch parks for sometime and haven't been to Universal since before even Harry Potter came to town. I'm blown away by the amount of expansion this place has undergone, not just the parks but the entire complex as a whole. Let's hope for a good tax return this year and a new pass.

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The race is on to make a splash on International Drive this summer.


On Tuesday, Orlando’s original water park on the north side of International Drive announced a new waterslide would race into Wet 'n Wild in time for summer. Meantime, in the final months of 2013, Aquatica on the southern end of International Drive began dropping hints of a new attraction in 2014.


Wet n’ Wild’s new "Aqua Drag Racer" will stand about 60 feet tall and give park guests the chance to race each other through interlocking tunnels and down steep hills, while riding face-first on their stomachs atop a foam mat. The experience can be compared to the Olympic sport of skeleton, minus the ice.


The new multi-colored ride will send four passengers through dark tunnels while traveling at 15 feet per second before re-emerging in the sunshine and crossing a finish line.


Ashley Reyes with Wet ‘n Wild told News 13 the Aqua Drag Racer will have a clock at the bottom of the slide’s run out, keeping track of riders race times.


“We are known for multi-person attractions,” Reyes said Wet 'n Wild’s collection of waterslides. “This is great because it gives you another ride to experience together as a family.”


In order to make room for Aqua Drag Racer, Wet 'n Wild will retire the Bubba Tub family raft ride. The attraction that first opened in 1992 places passengers in a circular inflatable raft and sends them down a series of hills. Reyes said the old slide is not being sold to another water park and pieces will be scrapped. However, Bubba Tub’s legacy near Wet 'n Wild’s wave pool will empower the new Aqua Drag Racer. Some of Bubba Tub’s plumbing and support infrastructure will be reused for Aqua Drag Racer. “Installation should be easy,” Reyes said of the construction not far from the park’s front gate. That was not the case in 2012, when Wet n' Wild overhauled their childrens area. Reyes called that construction project two years ago, "much more complicated." An access gate close to the construction site will provide work crews with entry into the area while Wet ‘n Wild is open to visitors this spring.


Canadian waterside manufacturer ProSlide will supply the ride. ProSlide dubs the model headed to Wet 'n Wild as a KrakenRACER. Reyes said Wet 'n Wild’s Senior Vice President and General Manager Michael Black worked closely with ProSlide to create a version of the mat racer slide that will be unique to the Orlando market.


“The new Aqua Drag Racer will pull guests into a high-speed thrill ride unlike any other around,” Black wrote in a prepared statement.


Both SeaWorld’s Aquatica and Walt Disney World’s Blizzard Beach feature mat slides, where riders also lay down on their stomachs on a foam mat in a race to the bottom. The concept is set to evolve with the introduction of the KrakenRACER at Wet 'n Wild by adding enclosed lanes that are “braided." The enclosed portion of the flume twists over the top of the flume next to it.


A rider height limit on Aqua Drag Racer has not been announced yet.


Aquatica’s Taumata Racer slide requires riders to be least 42" tall.


Blizzard Beach’s Toboggan Racers can be experienced by adults and children of any height, according to Blizzard Beach’s web site.


Meanwhile, Riptide at Adventure Island, Busch Gardens' water park in Tampa, requres riders to be at least "42 tall and less than 300 lbs.


Like Wet 'n Wild, Adventure Island will also offer Florida residents a multi-day use ticket good for every day in 2014.


Adventure Island announced the sale of a Fun Card ticket on Tuesday. Starting March 8, visitors to Busch Gardens' water park in Tampa will be able to pay for one day and return through Oct. 12, 2014 for free. The Adventure Island Fun Card will cost $47 for adults and $43 children (yet the cost does not include parking fees upon each visit).


Wet 'n Wild’s Buy a Day, Get the Rest of the Year Free pass will cost an adult or child $51 for entry through Dec. 31, 2014. The price does not include parking fees.


Aquatica also offers an annual pass for $96, good for 365 days of use with complimentary general parking included.


What Aquatica has yet to announce: what is rising at SeaWorld’s water park in 2014. The park hinted in 2013 a new drop ride would be built in the coming months. The social media hashtag #NothingTaller was used by SeaWorld when teasing the new attraction.


SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment debuted a drop slide named Vanish Point at Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Va. in 2011.


The newest Aquatica-branded park in San Diego, Calif. has already announced the addition of their own version of the Taumata Racer mat slide in 2014. The California park opened in 2013, after SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment purchased the park from Ohio-based Cedar Fair, L.P. in 2012, where the water park formerly was known as Soak City San Diego.



Aqua Drag Racer



60 Stories

(65.9 feet tall)



15 feet per second



KrakenRACER Mat Slide



ProSlide Technology



South of wave pool, across from front gate



Bubba Tub built in 1992



Summer 2014



Wet 'n Wild plans to be wilder in 2014. Orlando's first water park will introduce the Aqua Drag Racer, a new racing mat slide, with twisting tunnels, as shown in this artist rendering. (PHOTO/Wet 'n Wild)



Universal Orlando plans to add nearly 3,500 jobs this year as it prepares for an expected surge of business from the opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley, Gov. Rick Scott and resort officials announced Friday.


Scott, who appeared with Universal executives and local elected officials at the entrance to Diagon Alley inside Universal Studios Florida, also used the occasion to reveal that Florida drew an estimated 94.7 million visitors last year, up 3.5 percent from 2012 and a new state record. It was Florida's third consecutive year of record visitation.


The number of jobs in Florida directly tied to tourism — from housekeepers and lifeguards to cab drivers and costumed characters — swelled to nearly 1.1 million, a 2.9 percent increase. That also was a record.


"Florida is on a roll," said the Republican governor, who is up for re-election this year.


The state's tourism industry should get another boost in coming months from Universal's Diagon Alley, which is expected to open by this summer.


Universal said the 3,500 jobs it plans to add this year will include full-time, part-time and seasonal positions, though it did not provide a breakdown.


"This is great news … 3,500 families now get to live their dream," Scott said.


Diagon Alley will be the second land at Universal Orlando based on the Harry Potter book and film franchise, following the enormously successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened in Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park. Like the original project, Diagon Alley will include an assortment of attractions, shops and restaurants, anchored by a marquee ride dubbed Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.


Not all of Universal's new jobs are the result of the Potter expansion. The 3,500 positions include more than 600 previously announced at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which will become Universal's fourth on-site hotel when it opens this spring, and an unspecified number tied to the expansion of Universal's CityWalk retail district.


Universal Orlando President Bill Davis credited the rapid expansion to a "partnership" between the tourism industry and Scott's administration, which recently recommended increasing public spending on travel advertising to $100 million a year.


"The governor and the state are certainly helping tourism by increasing the budget. We think we're helping tourism by investing," he said.


Orlando's No. 2 theme-park resort currently employs about 17,300 workers. That's up 33 percent since the original Wizarding World debuted.


Walt Disney World, the region's biggest resort, has nearly 70,000 workers.


Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Democrat who was among the elected officials who appeared on stage with Scott, praised Universal for its expansion and said the impact would ripple beyond front-line hourly jobs and into professions ranging from construction to engineering and digital media.


"The economic impact in jobs that Universal is creating goes far beyond the hospitality industry," Dyer said.


Visit Florida, the publicly subsidized state marketing agency, said the 2013 travel records came on the strength of several key markets.


For example, the agency said overseas travel to Florida jumped 11.1 percent to 11.5 million. The number of visitors from Canada, the state's largest international feeder country, rose 4.1 percent to 3.7 million. Both were record highs.


The agency said domestic travel increased 2.5 percent.

Edited by jedimaster1227
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I swear I cant wait for this ride! I will miss Bubba Tub though, it was the first ride I ever went on at Wet 'n Wild. Two racing mat slides in 1 park. Interesting...


Anyway, I kinda wish they had taken out Storm instead of Bubba Tub. Storm REALLY hurt my back, I think I got a friction burn at one point in the past. And I also nearly drowned. I have bad memories of that ride

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I swear I cant wait for this ride! I will miss Bubba Tub though, it was the first ride I ever went on at Wet 'n Wild. Two racing mat slides in 1 park. Interesting...


Anyway, I kinda wish they had taken out Storm instead of Bubba Tub. Storm REALLY hurt my back, I think I got a friction burn at one point in the past. And I also nearly drowned. I have bad memories of that ride


Sounds like you just need to learn to swim... lol

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Storm looks just like Hurricane Hole at Splash Lagoon in Erie.


It is definitely disorienting and my Dad hated it because it scraped his back and he ended up falling into the pool headfirst. I can't say that I was a big fan of it either.

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^Storm is one of the more terrifying water slides out there. You're completely disoriented once you hit the pool at the end.


This. I've been to a decent amount of waterparks and Storm is one of the best and one of the most intense slides I've ever been on. I gotta say a lot of my favorite slides come from Wet n Wild. Great park overall.


About Aqua Racer, I really question why they didn't just take out the old mat slide instead of Bubba Tub. I actually much preferred Bubba Tub to it and that mat slide is one of the worst mat slides I've been on. It's dated and you don't need 2 of them.

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I had a chance today to stop into the Universal Orlando Resort to check out the latest happenings going on, including the latest progress at CityWalk, the opening of the new Starbucks at Islands of Adventure and of course, the progress in both parks on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansions. So let's dive on in!


And we're back!


The new "open" seating area for the new Starbucks location is almost done.


And the new location itself is looking like it is pretty close too!


Cold Stone Creamery is nearing completion as well.


While no vertical construction has begun on Vivo, the new Italian restaurant, the former Pastamore table service venue is being gutted in preparation for the new tenant's arrival. Cowfish construction will begin once the new Starbucks location is open, as the old one will close to make way for the new "burgushi" restaurant.


It looks like Margaritaville's Porch of Indecision is being expanded. The existing dining space on the porch is currently open to guests, but it appears that the entrance will be pushed closer to walking traffic to allow for more seats to be added.


It has been a while since I last visited Amity...


No folks, you won't be watching the Hogwarts Express magically float behind San Francisco or London. A wall is being built to block the train from guest view here.


Seriously, the London facade is huge!


Kings Cross station is almost complete.


They've added two of these clever sneak peek spots along the construction walls to allow for curious guests to get a better look at what is being built.


I'm a curious guest.


Tons of detail still left to be completed, but this is already very impressive!


Attention to detail is obviously a cornerstone with this project, even when it comes to facades of this scale.


No, the discoloration on this Grimmauld Place facade is not accidental. This is the "expanded" building as it appears when the hidden residence of Sirius Black and his family is revealed to the wizards of the Order of the Phoenix. Notice the damage on the windows and rain gutters...


Getting closer!


The main entrance to Diagon Alley from the Muggle side of London.


And I now present to you, the 9th Wonder of the World! The backside of Potter!!!


The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley dominates the park's skyline.


Another look at the main entrance to Diagon Alley. It should be noted that Kings Cross Station (the entrance and exit for the Hogwarts Express) will likely release guests out into the London section of the park, and not directly into Diagon Alley, for crowd control purposes.


More details still to be revealed!


In other news, a new Starbucks Coffee location has opened up inside of the Port of Entry at Universal's Islands of Adventure in the former Funnel Cake location.


I love when they do things like this!


The location has an odd layout due to the constraints of fitting into an existing building...


But it was extremely busy when I stopped in!


Over in the Lost Continent, the absence of the former games of chance and their surrounding buildings is odd to get used to. The buildings were demolished to make way for additional team member facilities as well as transitionary space that will better allow the new Hogsmeade Station for the Hogwarts Express to fit into the partially expanded Hogsmeade Village.


This is like experiencing deja vu...


Work on the Hogsmeade Station continues...


Details already in place!


Zonko's, the joke and novelty shop at the front of Hogsmeade Village will close roughly around the time that Diagon Alley opens to make way for an expanded Honeyduke's Candy Shop.


While never as popular as the candy store it shared retail space with next door, Zonko's played host to a wide variety of unique merchandise.


The good news is that this merchandise will be available at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes over in Diagon Alley, so you'll still be able to get your Pigmy Puffs, inflatable tongues and extendable ears.


The shop had a unique, intimate design that had a lot of little details you had to really pay attention to find.


Faint dusty footsteps pepper this wall in response to the warning clearly printed...


Instructions worth following...


I loved the details like this.


Pumpkin Fizz or Butterbeer... Why choose one when I can have both?


Here's a Jurassic Park streetmosphere experience I've never seen before.


So simple, yet so incredibly amusing.


Haven't been to school in a while...


And to close, this awesome billboard on the backside of the Kang & Kodos Twirl & Hurl in Springfield. I love the humor behind this place!

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This is looking awesome! Thanks for the pics and the update. Less than 8 months until we're back down there (if we can make it that long.)


I specifically loved Zonko's. It's good to know the merchandise will still be available.


I can't believe I never noticed pumpkin fizz before. I'll have to try that next time I'm there.

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