Universal Orlando

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Universal Orlando
Type Division
Industry Theme Park operator
Founded June 7, 1990 (1990-06-07)
Headquarters Orlando, Florida, United States
Key people Bill Davis[2]
Parent Universal Parks and Resorts
(NBCUniversal)
(Comcast Corporation)
Website Official website

The Universal Orlando Resort, commonly known as Universal Orlando, is a theme park resort in Orlando, Florida. It is wholly owned by NBCUniversal and its affiliates.[3] Universal Orlando is the largest property operated by Universal Parks & Resorts, is the largest resort in Orlando, Florida, and is the second-largest resort in Greater Orlando after Walt Disney World.

Universal Orlando consists of two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure), a night-time entertainment complex (Universal CityWalk Orlando), and four Loews Hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort).

History and Location[edit]

Originally, Universal Orlando opened in 1990 with a single theme park Universal Studios Florida. It was opened as a joint venture between Universal Entertainment and The Blackstone Group, the latter sold its half in early 2011. Universal Studios Florida opened in direct competition with Disney-MGM Studios now called Disney's Hollywood Studios. Over the years, the park saw various changes, however its largest change was the opening of its sister theme park Universal's Islands of Adventure. In 1994, executives met to discuss a possible expansion of the resort. It was decided that the current theme park would undergo a series of construction projects transforming it into a multi-day vacation destination. In late 1995, Islands of Adventure broke ground and construction immediately began. The Islands of Adventure Preview Center opened in May 1997 replacing the Screen Test Home Video Adventure. It was meant to give visitors a preview of the upcoming Islands of Adventure park, along with the rest of the resort. As the new theme park was under construction several new attractions were being built and opened at Universal Studios Florida. Among those new attractions was Woody Woodpecker's KidZone which opened in the Summer of 1998. Attractions such as Men in Black: Alien Attack and Animal Actors (formerly Animal Planet Live) also opened during the expansion phase.

On May 28, 1999, Islands of Adventure opened to the general public. It featured six themed 'islands' including Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. Several new attractions were closed shortly after the opening of the park, such as Island Skipper Tours, due to lack of attendance. Although the park opened to mediocre attendance, the park's attendance sharply improved making it the only theme park in Orlando to have had an increase of attendance following the September 11 Attacks.

Along with the new theme park, the resort also opened a Florida version of Universal CityWalk from Universal Studios Hollywood. CityWalk Orlando, however, differs from CityWalk Hollywood in many ways such as the venues and design. Universal also opened the resort's first onsite hotel in 1999. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (originally Portofino Bay Hotel, a Loews Hotel) was operated and partially owned by Loews Hotels but was also partially owned by Universal and The Blackstone Group. The two theme parks, CityWalk, and the hotel were branded as Universal Studios Escape, however the name was quickly changed to Universal Orlando Resort. In December 2000, Hard Rock Hotel opened as Universal Orlando's second onsite hotel. Despite the name, the hotel is owned by Loews Hotels just as Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is. Following that, in 2001, Loews Royal Pacific Resort opened. In the midst of all these openings, two parking garages were constructed and the popular water park Wet 'n Wild Orlando was acquired. On June 18, 2010, the newest 'island' at Universal's Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opened.

The resort is within the city limits of Orlando in Orange County, Florida. It is located north of the International Drive resort area, where many of the resort's 'Partner Hotels' are. The resort is located on a piece of land framed by Interstate 4 to the south, Kirkman Road to the east, Vineland Road to the north, and Turkey Lake Road to the west.

The resort is directly accessible from I-4 eastbound via Exit 75A onto Universal Boulevard, and I-4 westbound onto Hollywood Way.

Universal Orlando is served by Lynx buses (links) 21, 37, and 40.

Theme parks and attractions[edit]

Universal Studios Florida[edit]

Panoramic view of Universal Studios Florida's lagoon

This combined film production studio and theme park features is composed of themed areas and attractions based on the film industry. Visitors enjoy themed dining and shopping, a variety of special events throughout the year, and may even catch an actual film crew at work on the backlot. The original theme park in the resort, Universal Studios Florida opened on June 7, 1990, as a theme park that lets visitors "Ride the Movies." The themes of Universal Studio's are targeted at making guests feel like they are in a movie set with rides, shows, and attractions inspired by popular film, television, and music productions. The park consists of six themed areas – Hollywood, Production Central, New York, Diagon Alley/London, World Expo, and Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone.

Universal's Islands of Adventure[edit]

Main article: Islands of Adventure
The Pharos Lighthouse marks the entrance to Islands of Adventure

Universal’s Islands of Adventure, opened in May 1999, is a theme park composed of seven distinct "islands" that are themed to various forms of adventures. Visitors start off in the Port of Entry and make their way through the various islands – Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the popular Harry Potter franchise, is the only island added after the park opened; it opened to the public on June 18, 2010.

Wet 'n Wild Orlando[edit]

Main article: Wet 'n Wild Orlando

Wet 'n Wild was founded in 1977 by SeaWorld founder George Millay as one of the first major water parks. In 1998 Wet 'n Wild was acquired by Universal Parks & Resorts, adding it to Universal Orlando.[4] There are eighteen water slides and attractions at the water park. Popular attractions include The Storm, Bomb Bay, Disco H20, and The Surge. Wet 'n Wild is located at the intersection of International Drive and Universal Boulevard, about half a mile south of the Universal Orlando parking garage.

Universal CityWalk Orlando[edit]

Universal CityWalk in Orlando opened in 1999, over the former parking lot and entrance, as part of the expansion that created the Universal Orlando Resort.

Guests arriving at the resort park in one of two multi-story parking structures, then travel via covered moving sidewalks over Universal Boulevard into CityWalk. From there, guests can proceed into either of the theme parks, Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. The Universal Store offers merchandise from both parks.

CityWalk features shopping, nightclubs, dining venues, an AMC Movie Theater, and a Blue Man Group show. There are many night clubs at CityWalk including Groove, Latin Quarter (open Thursday through Saturday), Red Coconut Club, and Bob Marley-A Tribute to Freedom (both a night club and restaurant). Some notable locations are Hard Rock Cafe, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, NASCAR Sports Grill, Emeril's, NBA City, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Casual dining places include: Moe's Southwest Grill, Burger King Whopper Bar, Panda Express, and Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar.

Resorts[edit]

The resort features four official on-site hotels: Loews Royal Pacific Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Spa, and Cabana Bay Beach Resort. All four hotels are located in close proximity to the Universal Orlando theme parks. The hotels offer guests free water taxi or shuttle bus service to the Universal Orlando theme parks. Another benefit is that the guest room key works as an Express Pass, allowing the guest to bypass the Stand-by line at participating attractions. Theme park guests who are not staying at the Universal official hotels are able to purchase Express Passes at an additional cost.[5]

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel[edit]

Hotel guests use rooms featuring Italian furnishings, a Mandara Spa and fitness center, three themed swimming pools, and dining including the BiCE Ristorante, Trattoria del Porto, Mama Della's Ristorante, and more. The resort is also the only of three onsite hotels to have villas.[citation needed]

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando[edit]

Hotel guests use a white sand beach pool, rock n’ roll memorabilia, the legendary Palm Restaurant, The Kitchen, and more. The hotel offers Kid Suites and several other standard amenities such as a fitness center and some conference space.[citation needed]

Loews Royal Pacific Resort[edit]

Hotel guests use one of the largest lagoon style pools in the Greater Orlando area, accommodations with "modern conveniences", a fitness center, a conference and business center, and a variety of restaurants such as Emeril's Tchoup Choup, Islands Dining Room, Jake's American Bar and more. The resort also offers a white sand beach and a luau, occurring select nights of the week.[citation needed]

Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort[edit]

Announced in July, 2012, the new hotel opened Phase 1 on March 31, 2014.[6] Cabana Bay Beach Resort features a "hip, vintage look" and offers rooms for guests, made up of 900 suite style rooms that sleep 6 and 900 traditional style rooms that sleep 4. The hotel is built on a 37-acre site within Universal Orlando and adjacent to Universal's Islands of Adventure – just off Hollywood Way and Turkey Lake Road. The entire hotel opened on June 20th.

Events[edit]

Halloween Horror Nights[edit]

On select evenings nights, Universal Studios Florida theme park is transformed into a Halloween event. Halloween Horror Nights is one of the largest Halloween events in the U.S., presented annually at Universal Orlando. From 1991–2001, the event was held at Universal Studios Florida. Halloween Horror Nights was moved to Islands of Adventure in 2002, and the 2004 event featured sections of both parks, but the event was moved back to Universal Studios Florida in 2006. The event celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2010. It is a separately ticketed event.

Rock the Universe[edit]

Main article: Rock the Universe

Rock the Universe is an annual Christian rock music festival that is located within Universal Studios Florida. It began in 1998, and has been running ever since. The event typically occurs in early September, and lasts for two days. Many Christian rock artists play throughout the event both nights. The resort offers special tickets, packages, and church partnerships for that weekend. Select attractions are also opened throughout the evenings.[citation needed]

Summer Concert Series[edit]

Summer Concert Series occurs annually, on select Saturday nights, and features a variety of popular music acts performing live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central section of Universal Studios Florida; adjacent to the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster. This event is included with a regular park admission, and occurs during normal park operating hours.[7]

Grad Bash and Gradventure[edit]

Grad Bash and Gradventure are two separate events held in April and May at the parks. Grad Bash is an event for graduating high school senior classes who can gather for an exclusive, all-night party at Universal Orlando. This event features live performances by some of the most popular artists, dance parties with DJs, and pre-parties at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central section of Universal Studios Florida.[8] Gradventure is very similar but is designed for middle school graduating students.[9] Both events are sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Macy's Holiday Parade[edit]

Macy's Holiday Parade brings some authentic balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to Orlando in a month-long event in December that highlights the Christmas celebrations within Universal Studios Florida.[10]

Mardi Gras[edit]

See also: Mardi Gras

Generally in February through to April, a parade and concert series inspired by New Orleans' Fat Tuesday party is held within Universal Studios Florida. The event features merchandise especially for the celebration and is held usually on Friday and Saturday nights. Every event night guests will hear some of Louisiana's bands performing blues, Zydeco and more. An after party occurs in the French Quarter at Universal CityWalk. It is included with park admission.[11]

Other Services[edit]

Universal's Express Pass[edit]

Revenge of the Mummy features a line for Universal Express Pass
Main article: Express Pass

Many attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure allow guests to utilize Express Pass. This pass admits users to a separate line for the attraction, which is given priority status when boarding. Express Pass is not a virtual queuing service. Instead, passholders may enter the "Universal Express" line whenever they wish. This pass is not included with park admission.

Universal Meal Deal[edit]

The Universal Meal Deal is somewhat of a ticketed Meal Plan for park visitors. It allows visitors of either theme park to eat all day long (as many meals as the visitor wishes to enjoy) from Lunch through dinner at select restaurants These include Mel's Drive-In, and Louie's Italian Restaurant at Universal Studios Florida and Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, Comic Strip Cafe, and The Burger Digs at Universal's Islands of Adventure. The selection food is limited, and drinks are not included. Beverages can be purchased through a Universal Souvenir Cup. For additional costs, visitors may add park-to-park Meal Deal Access allowing he or she to enjoy meals at both parks.[citation needed]

Universal Meal Deal was replaced on November 3, 2013 with Universal Dining Plan - Quick Service.

Blue Man Group[edit]

Walkway entrance to the Theatre from CityWalk, shown prior to the construction of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster.

On November 9, 2006, Universal Orlando announced that Blue Man Group would occupy soundstage 18 in a new, unnamed theatre, which in May 2007 was named the Sharp Aquos Theatre.[12] Construction began shortly after the announcement. The theatre is contained within Sound Stage 18, which was occupied by Nickelodeon Studios from 1990–2005.[citation needed] The sound stage was home to shows such as Slime Time Live, Figure It Out, and Double Dare 2000. In 2005, the sound stage was used for Where Evil Hides, a haunted house for Universal's Halloween Horror Nights: Tales of Terror event.[13] The theatre is located between the Hard Rock Cafe and the main entrance to Universal Studios Florida.[14]

The 1,000-seat theatre features a 30-foot-tall (9.1 m) Blue Man facade, and is accessible both from the Universal CityWalk as well as the Universal Studios theme park.[15] In preparation for the rezoning of the building into CityWalk, a walkway was constructed between the Universal Studios theme park and the resort's Hard Rock Cafe allowing guests to enter the theatre without paying admission to the theme park, while the former Nickelodeon Studios entrance at the theme park was turned into an attended exit from the theme park to the theatre's entrance.

The theatre's seating diagram is organized into five different "zones". The "Poncho" zone consists of the first four rows of the theatre. It bears this name because of the ponchos that are in each seat of the zone as guests take their seats. This is due to the possibility of materials leaving the stage.[16] The other zones, Zones 1–4, are arranged to provide the best possible view of the show no matter where you sit.[17] The theatre has 13 ADA seats throughout to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Assistance for the hearing and vision impaired is also available.[14]

As of October–November 2008, the pathway to Sharp Aquos Theatre has been moved for construction of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, a roller coaster which opened in mid-2009. Construction on the coaster also resulted in the replacement of The Boneyard by The Universal Music Plaza Stage and the entrance of Rockit, and the reconfiguration of the queue of Twister...Ride it Out.

Character Dining[edit]

Universal Orlando features a large group of characters varying from Woody Woodpecker to Spider-Man. Visitors have three ways of dining with characters. On select mornings, visitors can have breakfast at Universal Studios Florida's Superstar Breakfast at Cafe La Bomba where they can enjoy breakfast with Spider-Man, The Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Two, and other characters. At Loews Royal Pacific Resort, guests can enjoy breakfast with Universal Characters on select days also. Throughout the day characters have meet and greets within the parks and make appearances during lunchtime at several theme park restaurants. During dinner, on select nights, guests can enjoy dinner with Universal Characters at Trattoria del Porto, The Kitchen, and Islands Dining Room. The Marvel Super Heroes also appear in the Meet the Marvel Super Heroes attraction where the characters ride on motorcycles down the street of Marvel Super Hero Island.

Transportation[edit]

Throughout Universal Orlando and its vicinity there is an organized transportation system which transports guests between the onsite hotels, Universal Partner Hotels, the theme parks, Wet 'n Wild Orlando and other area attractions. Mears Transportation runs the system.

Universal Transit[edit]

Universal Orlando's internal transportation system is often dubbed Universal Transit. The system consists of water taxis, buses, escalators, elevators, moving walkways, and pathways which transport guests between the parking structure, hotels, CityWalk, the theme parks, and Wet 'n Wild. Onsite hotel guests can get to the theme parks and CityWalk by either boarding a water taxi which will take them directly to CityWalk or may use walkways. The dock at CityWalk is located at the center of CityWalk and can be accessed by theme park visitors via the bridges connecting CityWalk to the theme parks. Along the pathways, bicycles also transport guests for an additional cost.

For guests who prefer not to use a water taxi or walk or wish to go to Wet 'n Wild, they will find shuttle transportation also available at the onsite hotels. These stop at five locations: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Spa, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Universal Orlando theme parks, and Wet 'n Wild. The resort also features two large parking structures, for day and night guests who need to park, connected by bridge to Citywalk and the theme parks.

Universal's Super Star Shuttle[edit]

The vicinity of Universal Orlando consists of several hotels and a major airport all located within 20 minutes of the resort. Universal's Super Star Shuttle service is broken into two main routes. One provides transportation to all thirty Universal Partner hotels while the newest route will begin service to Orlando International Airport in late 2012. Universal's Super Star Shuttle also provides transportation between Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and Wet 'n Wild. The service is free for Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations Guests and onsite hotel guests. The new airport route is expected to initially only be offered for onsite hotel guests. The Super Star Shuttle is run through Mears Transportation.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Universal Orlando". Universal Orlando. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Bill Davis, President & COO, Universal Orlando". Press Releases. Universal Orlando. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "InPark Magazine". InPark Magazine. Retrieved July 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ Powers, Scott (8 February 2006). "Theme-park pioneer started SeaWorld and Wet 'n Wild". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "ExpressPass Information". Advertising Material. Universal Orlando. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Universal Orlando Announces A New On-Site Hotel
  7. ^ "Summer Concert Series". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  8. ^ Universal Orlando Resort. "Gradbash at Universal Orlando Florida". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Gradventure". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Holidays". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Mardi Gras". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  12. ^ "News Releases". Universal Orlando Resort Media Site. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  13. ^ HHN Vault.com. "Halloween Horror Nights Haunted House Locations". HHN Vault.com. 
  14. ^ a b "Blue Man Group at Universal Orlando: FAQs". Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  15. ^ "Orlando Events, Central Florida Events, Festivals, Concerts, Movies, Arts, Entertainment". WFTV.com. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  16. ^ "Aquos Theater". Central Florida News 13. Retrieved 2008-07-07. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Florida Attraction Tickets: Blue Man Group at Universal". Retrieved 2008-07-07. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 28°28′25″N 81°28′00″W / 28.47361°N 81.46667°W / 28.47361; -81.46667