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VelociCoaster soft-opens, Disney’s new Halloween party, and Universal’s new summer food: Your weekly theme-park recap (May 3-9, 2021)


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Here’s what you need to know in the world of Orlando theme-park news for the week of May 3-9, 2021.

1. The moment that we all have been waiting for is, at long last, here: Jurassic World VelociCoaster has begun its soft openings! The momentous occasion began on the early afternoon of Friday, May 7, and it has opened every day since.

If you’re looking to try your luck at racing with the raptor pack, just keep this in mind: as with any technical rehearsal at Universal Orlando Resort, there is no guarantee on whether or when VelociCoaster may begin doing so – and no guarantee on how long it may last if it does.

Read all about the soft-opens here, and if you manage to land a ride on it, be sure to leave your review here.

2. As if to celebrate the day that VelociCoaster’s technical rehearsals began, we got another big surprise on Friday: the Jurassic World Tribute Store is arriving. Tribute is a seasonal operation, with rooms that are typically themed to one particular intellectual property or another and that are stocked with tons of merchandise, some of which is exclusive. Even better, in just the past few months, Universal has even begun selling baked goods at the Tribute Store, which just seals the immersive deal.

While we don’t have any specific details yet about this new Jurassic World iteration of the store, we walk you through the retail space’s history here.

3. This past week, both Disney and Universal announced some changes to their COVID-19 safety precautions, a move which comes from some revised recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and from recent guidance from the resorts’ local and state governments. In short, the changes boil down to two specific items: no more temperature screenings will be required when setting foot on either Disney World or Universal Orlando property, and social distancing has gone from a minimum of six feet to three. (Yes, face coverings are still mandatory, and both companies have insisted that their enhanced levels of cleaning will continue unabated.)

See more about how the resorts are “getting closer to normal” here, here, and here.

4. Universal announced the formal return of its Halloween event back in March, and now Disney is doing the same – well, kind of. While the time-honored Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party isn’t coming back this fall, there is another seasonal festivity arriving in its place: called Disney After Hours BOO BASH, it will still be festooned with costumes, decorations, “party music,” and, of course, candy. Instead of the traditional parade, however, it’ll brandish the character cavalcades that have become a mainstay since Walt Disney World reopened after its initial pandemic closure a year ago.

The event will last for three hours on select nights from August 10 through October 31 (which, of course, is Not-So-Scary’s traditional haunting time).

5. Disney isn’t the only one trying out a new seasonal undertaking: Universal is embracing the summer with a whole host of new food items and menus. The initiative comes hot on the heels of the uber-successful Mardi Gras festivities, which ended up getting extended for over a month (and which didn’t wrap up until just last weekend). Expect to find new offerings across Universal Studios Florida and Volcano Bay, including the extremely popular arepas and Cuban Sandwich from Mardi Gras, along with some unique takes on grilled-cheese sandwiches and mac ‘n’ cheese dishes.

Explore all the dishes and drinks we currently know about here. Then, read our review of these summer bites here.

6. Given all the other updates and developments that went on this past week, we’ll forgive you if you forgot about Star Wars Day, May the fourth. Fortunately, Disney didn’t and celebrated the unofficial holiday by providing some quick updates on Galactic Starcruiser, the Star Wars-themed luxury hotel coming to Walt Disney World: first, the opening date has been pushed back by a year, to 2022, and there is brand-new, next-generation lightsaber technology that’ll be deployed exclusively at the resort (you have to see it to believe it!).

Get the full rundown on everything Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser here.

7. Our owner, Taylor Strickland, has started a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing his personal perspective of the parks! You can watch his first video, where he answers your VelociCoaster questions, here. (Don’t forget to subscribe!)

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all the latest info. And then be sure to discuss everything with 125,000+ other Universal die-hard fans in our Orlando Informer Community on Facebook.


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About Marc N. Kleinhenz

Marc N. Kleinhenz is the former editor of Orlando Informer.