Universal Studios Florida trip report – March 2013 (construction updates, Transformers meet-and-greet, more Mardi Gras fun)
It was a beautifully sunny day in March, and with great anticipation I was looking forward to seeing and experiencing all the changes at Universal Studios Florida since my visit last month.
I arrived at the park in mid-afternoon and the crowds were starting to increase with people celebrating the Mardi Gras festivities and Matchbox Twenty concert goers.
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After passing Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4-D, I was especially impressed with the progress of the new Transformers: The Ride. The massive building appears to be almost finished on the outside except for the queue area on the lagoon side of the building. The markings on the outside of the building are designed to make it appear like a large warehouse with a great amount of detail.
The street between Transformers and Shrek 4D was fully accessible to park guests now. The revamped Shrek and Donkey meet-and-greet is across from the exit of Shrek 4-D. A new character greeting area on this street was one of the highlights of my day — Bumblebee and Optimus Prime from the Transformers movie!
The queue is very organized and the helpers for Bumblebee were dressed in N.E.S.T. uniforms. If you’d like to take photos of or watch Bumblebee but not wait in line, there is an area across the walkway marked for bystanders so they can be out of the way of the flow of pedestrian traffic. The surprise came when I realized the Transformers characters talked in short phrases as a way to interact with park guests. An interesting note: I did not find the meet and greet with Transformers characters indicated on the park map. You can learn more about the Transformers meet-and-greet by clicking here.
Next to the Transformers characters meet-and-greet is the entrance to the newly opened Supply Vault, the Transformers gift shop located in the attraction’s building. The large screen behind the register counter and various interactive panels throughout the store enhance the “authentic” feel of the gift shop.
Transformers figures, toys, t-shirts, hats and many other items are available to purchase. This shop will serve as the ride exit when the attraction opens, which I hope is very soon.
As we moved on the French Quarter area near Revenge of the Mummy was starting to open, and the New Orleans style food smelled great as I walked by. Costumed stilt walkers from the Mardi Gras parade began to walk the streets near the French Quarter and pose for pictures with park guests.
The stilt walkers help take the Mardi Gras party atmosphere and excitement up a notch wherever they are in the park interacting with guests.
As I walked past Bettlejuice’s Graveyard Revue and Disaster!, my jaw dropped in awe at the imposing structure in the process of being built very close to the construction walls in the rumored Harry Potter expansion. I just couldn’t believe the amount of work done in this area since I last visited the park.
There was so much new vertical construction it was difficult to see the enormous Gringott’s building, and the sheer volume of construction in this area is amazing.
Also along the construction walls in this area, some of the posters have been replaced with larger, more eye-catching posters highlighting past and future Universal Studios Florida attractions (and they include the yet-to-be-announced ScreenPlay app icon in the lower right corner).
Walking toward Fear Factor Live and MEN IN BLACK, I could see even more construction in the Simpson’s Springfield expansion next to the lagoon area. There are several structures being built in this area and construction workers were busy. As I approached the Simpson’s ride, I noticed the construction walls have been moved to make the walkway narrower between the Simpson’s and Animal Actors stadium. Several buildings next to the Kwik-E-Mart have been revealed and appear to be almost complete including Moe’s Tavern from the Simpson’s television show.
Construction walls along the lagoon side of the walkway now extend up to the DeLorean from Back to the Future. Nearby, the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone is always a fun place for families and was full of activity this trip. I noticed the Dippin Dots near the E.T. attraction was also popular!
As I walked toward Mel’s Diner and the Horror Make-Up Show, I saw a new billboard of Minions and bananas advertising the upcoming Despicable Me 2 movie. This billboard is a great place for family photos.
Walking down Hollywood street, I saw various characters in place for guest’s photo opportunities including Scooby Doo and Shaggy.
The headliner attractions like Rip Ride Rockit and Revenge of the Mummy rides only had moderate wait times, especially for the middle of the Spring Break season (but I did visit in a lull between the two peak Spring Break weeks). As we got closer to the Mardi Gras parade time, the crowds did get heavy, but it was still relatively easy to maneuver through them.
My husband and son were able to stay for the Universal Mardi Gras parade and really enjoyed feeding their “need for beads”. Due to the daylight savings time change, the sun was setting when the parade started, and they had a great time watching the floats, performers and yelling for beads.
I enjoyed my trip to Universal Studios and seeing the many changes throughout the park. As usual, I’m always looking forward to my next trip to see what changes will take place between now and then… maybe Transformers: The Ride will be in soft openings before the summer season starts!
And if you’re planning to visit Universal Orlando for Mardi Gras, you definitely want to check out Orlando Informer’s complete insider’s guide to the event.
If you’d like to catch up on all our trip reports, click here.
Universal Studios Florida trip report – photo gallery
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