The Wizarding World, Part III
The opening of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter in June 2010 exploded Universal Orlando’s attendance and launched it on a multi-year construction frenzy, building new rides, a long-awaited fourth hotel, and even a putt-putt course (or two) at CityWalk. This blitzkrieg of activity will be highlighted, though not completed, by Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida next summer, which will offer a bevy of new attractions, including the ability to hop back and forth between the two lands on the Hogwarts Express.
What ultimately happens after Diagon Alley’s much-anticipated opening, though, has been something of a mystery, even to us rumor mongers. Yes, as we’ve recently written, there’s going to be a Jurassic Park rollercoaster, the possible (inexorable?) return of King Kong, and more as we move into the post-2014 phase at Universal Orlando. But it’s an open question how long the new-attraction-every-year commitment can last, particularly in the face of some pretty stiff competition with Disney starting in 2017. An even bigger question: will something like a Lorax ride at Seuss Landing or an upgraded Terminator 2 3D compel the type of revenue growth that Universal has been blissfully experiencing with Harry Potter and friends?
The answer just might be to do a third Wizarding World.
According to our friends at Theme Park Tourist, plans may very well be underway to expand Hogsmeade’s footprint at Islands of Adventure, taking over the last of neighboring Lost Continent (remember, Lost Continent already “donated” two-thirds of its real estate to the all-wizarding village).
According to the rumors, the Poseidon’s Fury show building would be converted into the Chamber of Secrets (which guests currently get a fly-through glimpse of in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey), while, not far away, a brand-new spinning flat ride – not unlike Kang and Kodos’s Twirl ‘n Hurl that opened up this summer over at USF – would be dedicated to the Whomping Willow. And, finally, a walk-through attraction (perhaps located at the current site of the Eighth Voyage of Sindbad stunt show?) themed to the Shrieking Shack would bring up the rear.
On the one hand, these plans make sense, and in more ways than just economically. Spinners are made for children (or the thrill-weary adult, it has to be said), and Universal was largely applauded this year for opening the Simpsons flat ride and attempting to fill in some of the holes in its attraction arsenal – an important step if the company truly wants to make it to the big leagues and compete more directly with Walt Disney World. And Lost Continent has been in desperate need of revamping since Hogsmeade castrated it three years ago, with its only remaining must-see stop being Mythos restaurant instead of an actual attraction.
(Just for the record: I’m very much against the idea of outright replacing the island; I’ve long maintained that the highly immersive Lost Continent should stay while its attractions should be jettisoned and rebuilt from scratch.)
On the other hand, expanding – or, in the case of the Forbidden Forest, introducing for the very first time – Hogsmeade presents a significant array of difficulties, not the least of which is topography. The first Wizarding World famously introduced the idea of recreating a particular swath of fictitious real estate instead of doing the traditional, arbitrary mash-up of sights, sounds, and rides; randomly tacking on the Forbidden Forest before guests even make it to the village’s front gates would completely undermine this illusion. And just why would the Chamber of Secrets, which is located inside Hogwarts, be plopped so far away from the castle? And how exactly would Universal Creative pull off theming the forest, anyway? What would be the underlying guiding principle if there’s no main street to navigate guests, as in Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley? This would easily be the trickiest land Universal has tackled yet.
On the third hand(!), the rumors of these three new attractions have been making the rounds for at least the past two years, ever since Universal first made the announcement that the Wizarding World would be getting an expansion at the resort (back in December 2011, nearly a year-and-a-half before Diagon Alley was officially unveiled). Rather than signaling a renewed interest by the company in exploring these options, it could simply be that the rumor mill is starting to churn restlessly… or that it misplaced just where the new Harry Potter rides will be going.
Riding Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s lazy river
We’ve known for a while now all about Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s amenities: moderate hotel rooms as well as family suites, ten-lane bowling alley, two pools, and – most intriguingly – a lazy river. But despite various previews that have been held over the past several months, we’ve never quite gotten a really good feel for the lay of the Cabana land.
Until now, that is.
UOR Buzz, on a lazy afternoon, decided to search the South Florida Water Management website and uncovered the hotel complex’s layout, giving us a nice snapshot of what exactly to expect. Lest that relaxing waterway look too inviting, sources claim that the lazy river actually won’t be that lazy, after all — in true Universal fashion, it’s going to be tilted a little more towards the thrill-seekers, featuring a “faster than expected” current.
For a visual reference, we’ve provided the second image above — the red arrow points to the lazy river’s location.
Eager to see Cabana Bay for yourself? You can actually book now with reduced rates through the “preview period,” which lasts from March 31 to June 14. The grand opening – when the Lazy River Courtyard and the Hideaway Bar and Grill, among other features, will also officially open – is on July 1, when Harry Potter season will be in full effect.
A trio of tasty CityWalk morsels for you to devour
Ten days ago Dan got word that Cigarz, the tucked-away cigar shop/bar combo that has long been called “Universal’s hidden gem,” may be closing at the end of the year. While chances are the average theme park goer has never heard of the place, let alone stepped inside, it’s a well-loved destination for locals and Universal employees both, thanks to its indoor smoking and “some of the best drink specials to be found anywhere” at the resort.
Screamscape is reporting on a few more CityWalk changes, including the arrival of Cold Stone Creamery (instead of the Ben & Jerry’s that was initially expected) and a mini-revelation of what is going in Latin Quarter’s place: Antojitos (instead of the Don Quixote’s that was originally rumored), an “authentic Mexican restaurant” that will burnish a colonial mission theme.
And one last treat: Dan got to try out Red Oven Pizza Bakery yesterday for the first time. He reports that the made-to-order artisan pizza is truly amazing (and not just in a fanboy way), and it is far superior to anything Universal has served up to this point.
Trying #RedOven @UniversalORL for the first time. So, so good. Here’s the Fennel Sausage pic.twitter.com/H4kt6Zuiws— Orlando Informer (@OrlandoInformer) November 21, 2013
He’s working on a full review, but here’s the juicy part for RRU fans. While dining at Red Oven yesterday, Dan was seated near a table of Universal brass who were discussing the restaurant. Here’s what they said:
Phase 1 – Open Red Oven.
Phase 2 – Add roll down curtains to the outdoor seating area (there is no indoor seating, so currently guests are exposed to the elements).
Phase 3 – Add delivery service to the on-site hotels.
Phase 4 – Add a Red Oven Express to both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
Sounds like Red Oven is going to become the pizza brand for Universal Orlando, and this is positively delicious news. Try the pizza, and you’ll agree. The only unfortunate bite in all of this is, according to the manager, they currently have no plans to slice pizza by the slice.
If you’d like, you can see the menu on Flickr. Or, if you’re local, just go there right now.
DISCLAIMER FROM THE EDITOR
Please remember when viewing this post that a rumor is a piece of unverified information of uncertain origin; a statement whose veracity is not quickly or ever confirmed. So even though we try our best to present solid speculation, there’s no way to guarantee any rumor will come true (then it wouldn’t be a rumor anyway).
Thanks to Marc for researching the latest rumor buzz from sources across the Internet and condensing it down into a single post for us each and every week!
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Couple of things… I don’t think we will see those Harry potter attractions, at least not where they are rumored…. Warner bros and JK have been really involved with the first two expansions and I don’t think they will allow the integrity of the land itself to be out of whack.
Secondly about cabana bay, my fiancé and myself have booked a stay there but it isn’t during the preview window, we are staying in November 2014 so you may want to edit that part of the post
@Mbrou24 Thanks for the tip about Cabana Bay – I’ve updated the post 🙂
As much as I love Harry potter, the films are done now and the parks are going to be all about Harry potter when there’s plenty of other things they could put in
Why don’t they just make a theme park just of Harry Potter! Sounds like that is what they are doing anyways!
Only thing I’m looking forward to nowadays is the hulk and see the new Simpsons area… Any more Harry potter and I’ll refuse to go again.
I agree that Universal doesn’t need anymore Harry Potter. The tough thing is that it just feels like manifest destiny that the sliver of Lost Continent left will be taken over. Poseidon’s Fury and Sindbad are two of the least popular attractions at the park, which just leaves Mythos as justification to keep Lost Continent. Mythos is great, but no restaurant is great enough to get its own theme park land.
3rd phase of HP happens and I can die happy – and move to Florida!! lol
I wish cigarz wasn’t leaving.
So sad about Cigarz Citywalk! I’ve been going there for over 10 years! The staff is so great there’s and have become such great friends and a big part of my life.
i’m all for more Harry Potter because i am a huge fan. it’s all cyclical folks. there will be a new “thing” at some future date and the HP will go the way of the dinosaur. just enjoy what they have and stop complaining
There Harry potter is getting overdone…don’t get me wrong, I love what they have done with Hogsmeade over in IOA but it’s getting overboard…universal has so many amazing movies and there is so many other things that could be done with the space
I actually like Poseidon’s Fury but it really does need to be updated. Terminator in my opinion is a complete snooze fest updating that is a waste of time to me lol. I am obsessed with the idea of Mt Crumpet!! I know some of these weren’t mentioned today but I had to share 🙂
Also I’m super excited about Harry Potter but I would hate to see it take over. It actually can be overdone but it won’t stop me from going 🙂
Rumor is the tallest roller coaster anywhere is going into Orlando……. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/blogs/theme-park-rangers/os-worlds-tallest-coaster-florida-20131121,0,795167.post
JK Rowling FOR SURE won’t let Universal screw up the world of HP, so I see very little chance of them building stuff where it doesn’t belong. I have a feeling these are blue sky ideas that will surely be shot down once they are formally introduced to the author. That said, if they were desperate enough to build some of these things, they do have other options. There’s a swath of land between Forbidden Journey and the lagoon which could even be expanded out into the lagoon, depending on their desperation. All they’d have to do is move the… Read more »
@KevyB @KevyB OK! first of all the Jurassic Park area is something very special to me and a lot of other fans of Jurassic Park freaks,while i understand i will never be in a JP film,going last year with my family and friends was beyond amazing. the very thought of that section of this area being moved saddens me beyond the core. I find it not right at all for HP to have the right to take over Universal. No offence to any Harry Potter fan but if you want a HP land or whatever then i think one should be… Read more »