By Jon Self
Since March 2020, we have learned to speak words like pandemic and unprecedented in everyday sentences. We started using phrases like “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” casually. The past fifteen months have created stress in ways most have never experienced. Humanity has been shown still needing to work on simply being “human” to one another. Our differences in thought and deed have divided governments, families, schools, churches, and employment situations.
There is good news. Based on newest data, we can all agree on something…we want to go on vacation! Many people are expected to spend more money on their next vacation than on previous vacations. The Orlando area attractions are anticipating some of the largest crowds in years from September through December 2021. This is even though few international travelers can visit Orlando currently waiting on government officials to allow travel.
Perhaps you find yourself preparing for your first trip to Universal Orlando in a while. There are lots of changes since all theme parks temporarily closed in March 2020. Some of them are good. Some are bad. Some you will need to decide for yourself. As veteran theme park writers keep reminding me, things change at Universal Orlando often without notice so this will be most accurate data when published. Also, this article will not cover every change. The focus will be on the highlights especially food/beverage alterations.
Things that are no more.
3. Storm Force Accelatron, a spinning tea-cups style attraction in Marvel Super Hero Island is closed. As of writing, we know it opened for a special after-hour event in June so it may reopen soon.
4. If you are interested in valet parking, that option is not currently available but may return soon.
5. The Race through New York with Jimmy Fallon attraction is still a shell of its former intention. The in-queue entertainment, such as Ragtime Gals and Hashtag the Panda, have not returned. Hashtag will greet guests outside in a social distanced area but that is not as entertaining as the indoor performance.
10. The dining at the resort hotels has not returned to previous high quality. For example, during a recent stay at one of the premier level hotels, I experienced terribly slow food service with lower quality food overall. This is most likely due to lack of qualified staff currently.
11. Related to that, no character meals are happening at Universal Orlando.
Things that are new and/or different
4. DreamWorks Destination has taken over the Barney stage. This indoor experience features characters from DreamWorks franchises, like Madagascar, in part meet and greet, part trivia time, and part dance party to drive any fans of these characters wild.
5. Expect long queues if you enter via the CityWalk garage area. These queues move quickly but appear daunting.
6. The shopping at CityWalk has changed appreciably. The former Universal Studios store has been converted into the Universal Legacy store. Universal has redesigned this retail space using old props from previous days at Universal Orlando. At least half the fun of this new store concept is to view the props. Universal has also redesigned former third-party retail space converting those to a large Universal Studios store with a bright clean modern feel.
7. Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure uses various operating procedures. It is open for early park admission when available at Islands of Adventure. It has recently added a single rider line. However, most importantly, this attraction sometimes uses a virtual queue system. When used, the virtual queue spots are available to select at least four times per day via Universal Orlando app.
Food and Beverage Changes
Also, in CityWalk, Voodoo Doughnut has continued to be creative with their seasonal offerings. For example, they have a “churro stand” doughnut, summer s’mores doughnut, and five different Olympic doughnuts to match the Olympic rings.
In Islands of Adventure, there are a few changes. At Green Eggs and Ham, a brand-new menu was unveiled in December 2019 replacing the horrible tasting previous menu. This food location now serves tater tots with wonderfully seasoned toppings. Since reopening, the dessert Nutella dish was discontinued. Philly brisket tots were added to the menu. However, as you can see, pizza tots are my favorite.
We have two Jurassic themed changes to conclude this discussion. At “Natural Selections” food kiosk, there are “Blue” themed churros to go with the dulce de leche churro there. Inside “Burger Digs”, you can now purchase a Jurassic themed burger called the “Casado Burger.” This burger is a Costa Rican inspired black angus patty, sweet plantains, avocado, pork belly, garlic mayonnaise on a raptor scored brioche bun. Since this is at Burger Digs, I will pass on this themed burger, but you are welcome to enjoy it since no expense was spared in presenting it to you.
Hope you enjoyed this update for future travelers to Universal Orlando. We hope you eat well and enjoy your time in the parks.
Thrills Taste Travels Blog
The Thrills, Taste & Travels Team provides news, information on attractions, restaurants, as well as provide general information about our favorite parks