Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013 (HHN props, construction updates & gorgeous photos of the real Hogwarts Express)

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My family and I recently visited Universal Studios Florida and spent a fantastic day enjoying the attractions and shows. During our visit I noticed a number of changes and additions to the park — let’s take a look!

Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.

[wptouch target=”non-mobile”]Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen. And don’t miss the complete photo gallery with 47 new full-screen images at the bottom of the post.
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Arriving at the park, the first change evident are the large Halloween Horror Nights 2013 signs along the front entrance of Universal Studios. This signage enhances the anticipation for guests who count down the days until HHN begins this Friday.

Throughout the park, this year’s The Walking Dead scare zones are coming to life with HHN props, décor, and kiosks. Some are covered, and yet all tantalize guests and increase the “creepiness” of the area even in the daytime.

Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.

[wptouch target=”non-mobile”]Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen. And don’t miss the complete photo gallery with 37 new images at the bottom of the post!
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In addition to props throughout the park, Fear Factor Live is closed and will be at least until HHN ends (visit OI’s Universal Snapshot page for more ride closures). Midway game booths are now set up along the concert lawn side of the street across from Monster’s Café with Halloween themed prizes to win, including Minion Vampires and Mummies plush toys.

If you’re planning a visit to Halloween Horror Nights, be sure to check out the complete insider’s guide to HHN 2013 in the OI Universal Center. Dan also recently uploaded over 60 additional images of this year’s props to his HHN media page.

In addition to HHN items, there were several changes and construction noticeable throughout the park. The building that houses Finnegan’s Bar & Grill is wrapped for refurbishment, but the popular bar & grill is still open for business.

Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley construction continues to amaze me with its progress, and its size and scope. Most of the lagoon side buildings appear to have windows installed. The Hogwarts Express railway that stretches between UOR and IOA can be seen from the alleys next to Revenge of the Mummy and Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue, and while riding Rip Ride Rockit.

Also easily seen from Rip Ride Rockit are the train engines and cars that will be used for the Hogwarts Express. We were lucky enough to capture some photos from Rip Ride Rockit of the train cars and engines.

Universal Orlando's Hogwarts Express.
Universal Orlando’s Hogwarts Express.
Universal Orlando's Hogwarts Express.
Universal Orlando’s Hogwarts Express – zoom in.
Universal Orlando's Hogwarts Express.
Universal Orlando’s Hogwarts Express – zoom in.

You can view even higher resolution versions of my Hogwarts Express image on OI’s Flickr page.

Seeing the actual train cars makes me excited that the opening in 2014 will soon arrive and that even more of the Harry Potter books and movies will come to life for muggles like me. See the Diagon Alley page in the OI Universal Center to learn more.

Over in the Simpson’s ride area, the ground has been painted with decorative colorful stars which accentuate the carnival feel of this fun backlot of the park. A new photo op across from the Simpson’s ride featuring the Simpson’s couch gag appears to be ready but was not open for guests. I was surprised to see that the Springfield area, including the Twirl ’n’ Hurl and Duff Gardens, is still absent from the Universal Studios park map nearly a month after its grand opening. Chief Wiggum’s patrol car near Duff Gardens was missing the day we visited, with barricades surrounding the area where his car was located. I joked with my husband that Jake and Elwood, the Blues Brothers, must have needed a new police car.

Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.

Also in Springfield, lines have been painted on the walkway enhancing the experience that you feel walking down the streets of Springfield. Finally, a new grassy area with park benches is in front of the Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, inviting park guests to sit and enjoy their delicious tacos or people watch while taking a break.

This is a great time of the year to visit the theme parks because the crowds in the park are low and the wait times of the rides are greatly reduced. Only one side of the Universal Studios Florida entrance gate was open when we entered the park in the morning, a testament to the lower crowd levels. The longest posted wait time was 45 minutes for Transformers: The Ride 3D; the remaining attractions throughout USF had posted wait times of 30 minutes or less, including Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Some rides like Rip Ride Rockit and Revenge of the Mummy had posted wait times of less than 15 minutes for the standby line most of the day. Be aware however, the September weather in Orlando can still be summer-like with highs reaching into the 90’s.

Universal Studios Florida trip report - September 2013.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – September 2013.

I have seen a lot of changes in the past year at USF, and I look forward to the next year of even greater and exciting transformations at this park. I hope that you are able to experience Universal Studios Florida soon!

 

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Universal Studios Florida trip – photo gallery

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[sws_author_bio user=”MaureenDeal” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Maureen” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

Maureen Maureen is married with a teenage son who has autism. Since she and her family moved to Orlando in 2007, they have visited Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld almost every weekend. Maureen recently created AutismAtTheParks.com to help vacationers who have a family member with a developmental disability to better navigate and enjoy the theme parks.

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