This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at construction projects at Walt Disney World and Universal! Orlando is The Place To Be right now as we are smack dab in the middle of a theme park war, with both Disney and Universal getting all their chess pieces ready for a wild 2019 and beyond. Just about everywhere you look something is being built, and thanks to @bioreconstruct we’re going to look at some of the major projects around town, starting with….
# 6 – Universal’s Endless Summer Resort
The Universal Orlando Resort dipped its toes into the Value Resort water with the introduction of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort back in 2014. With family suites, an onsite bowling alley, gigantic gym, lazy river, and being within walking distance to Volcano Bay, Cabana Bay actually has more amenities in common with what people would consider a “Deluxe” than your typical Value Resort. Later this year, at the site of the former Wet & Wild water park, Universal will open the first half of its Endless Summer Resort with the debut of Surfside Inn. Across the street from Surfside will be Dockside Inn, and combined they will be known as the Endless Summer Resort. Despite still being relatively close to the rest of the Universal Orlando Resort, the two hotels will be more in line with a traditional theme park Value Resort, especially in terms of price. With standard rooms at approximately $100 a night and two-bedroom family suites at less than $150, Endless Resort is going to make the option of staying onsite much more attractive to families looking at the bottom line of their vacation budget.
Here is the current status of Surfside Inn, which will open its doors to guests in August of this year.
Here you can see the pool area of Surfside Inn, which will be located in the middle of the two guest buildings.
Across the street from Surfside Inn, we have the Dockside Inn starting to take shape. This hotel is in the area where Wet & Wild used to have its guest parking. Dockside Inn will have its opening in 2020.
While the Endless Summer Resort is about a five minute bus ride to the Universal Orlando Resort’s parking garages and main hub, if we go further down International Drive, we can see land being cleared for what everyone expects to be Universal’s third theme park. We’ll keep our eyes on this area in future updates.
# 5 – Rumored Jurassic Park Coaster
While Universal has not released any information whatsoever, a lot of work has been going on in the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure. Those In The Know, including OrlandoParkStop‘s Alicia Stella, are reporting that a new high-speed coaster will be built on the land. The majority of the coaster will be in the part of Jurassic Park which used to contain the old Triceratops Encounter attraction, but part of the coaster will also go right by the Discovery Center and the lagoon. With the worldwide success of the recent Jurassic World films, I don’t think anyone will be shocked if elements from those movies – including Chris Pratt’s character Owen Grady – are involved with the storyline of the ride.
Here’s a recent photo of Jurassic Park, in which you see how much work has been done around the Discovery Center. All areas around the Discovery Center have been closed off to guests.
You can see just how much has been removed when comparing the area to this picture taken on September 25 of last year.
Work is still chugging along since that first pic was taken, as the bypass bridge which connected Jurassic Park to the Lost Continent area has been just about completely removed. This bridge was installed during the construction of the original Wizarding World. It is expected that a more permanent bridge will be put in this spot with theming.
Here’s a close-up view of the work being done around the lagoon side of the Discovery Center.
The construction walls that were put up a while back have now been themed with the iconic Jurassic Park logo and various pictures of dinosaurs.
Recently a new Uni-Mini has been added to the mix, with the release of the creator of Jurassic Park, John Hammond. We’ll look into this more in an upcoming SATURDAY SIX on exclusive Universal Orlando merchandise.
# 4 – Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Those on social media got a bit of a show on Thursday, February 21, when Universal officially announced the name and grand opening date of the attraction they have been working on in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure will be opening on June 13, 2019. In a master level move of gamesmanship, minutes after Universal sent out their press release on Hagrid’s Coaster, Disney decided it was time to announce their redo of EPCOT’s entrance and introduce the Play Pavilion that will be replacing Wonders of Life.
Overview of the Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
These arrows are pointed to the expected entrance and exit of the attraction.
This arrow is pointing to the part of the coaster experience where riders will be going backwards through a cave.
While under wraps, this arrow is pointing to what we can expect to be an encounter with a Ford Anglia (from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).
Here’s a close up of some of the work on the attraction.
Using @bioreconstruct’s incredible aerial photos, Alicia Stella as put together this track layout of the attraction, showing what you can expect. With launches, a backwards portion, and even a drop track, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure looks like it’s going to be a blast! One can also surmise that with Universal announcing a grand opening date, ride testing has been going well and most of the work left will involve theming. Once this are is all filled in with trees for the “Forbidden Forest,” this entire area is going to look fantastic.
# 3 – Disney’s New Hotels
While Universal is expanding into the Value Resort business, Disney is continuing to go into a different direction with its new hotels. DVC will be getting an expansion with the Riviera Resort, the business class will be catered to with Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, and a smaller boutique hotel is going up near the Swan & Dolphin with The Cove.
Our first shot shows Caribbean Beach, with the new Riviera Resort right at the front of the property. Here you can see exactly how close the new DVC resort is in relation to EPCOT, along with the great views it will surely have of the new nighttime spectacular coming to World Showcase.
Aerial view of Riviera. The arrow is pointing to where the Custom House used to be. The Custom House is where Caribbean Beach guests used to check in and was separated from the rest of the resort. In late 2018, the check in area was moved to Old Port Royale, along with many other improvements to the resort. (You can read about our experience of the new and improved Old Port Royale by clicking here.)
Destino Tower looms large over Coronado Springs. Even pictures like this don’t get across the scale of this building. Your mouth almost drops when driving into the resort. Destino opens to guests in early July, and we’ll be there to cover it.
Here is Destino Tower as seen from the opposite side. You can see the relation of Coronado Springs to DHS here with Tower of Terror in the background.
Better view of the lounge that Coronado Springs will have in the middle of its lake area. Three bridges lead to it from various parts of the resort.
The Swan & Dolphin will be adding a third hotel with The Cove. This new boutique hotel will be located across the street, and directly next to Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf.
Close up of the clearing for The Cove boutique hotel. While many trees have been destroyed, the arrow is pointing to Southern Magnolias that will be transplanted elsewhere, most likely to DHS for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
# 2 – Disney Skyliner
Lots of buzz around the Disney Skyliner transportation system recently because Disney has been testing the system during the day. First, let’s go over the status of the various stations around property. This first picture shows you a lot of stuff that’s going on in EPCOT right now. At the bottom right you’ll see the large “Go Away Green” show building for the upcoming Ratatouille attraction in France. In the back you have the even larger “There’s Nothing To See Here” sky blue building of the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. The arrow is pointing at the EPCOT station for the Disney Skyliner.
A little closer view of the Skyliner station. The France Pavilion is in the foreground.
Ground view of the Skyliner station.
Now let’s take a bird’s eye view looking down at the Skyliner station at DHS.
This angle here shows various Skyliner gondolas coming into the station and leaving.
Ground level view of the backside of the Skyliner station at DHS.
Ground level view of the Skyliner gondolas going in and out of the station.
Skyliner gondolas cycling inside the DHS station.
Shot of Skyliner gondolas above the DHS parking lot. Note Tower of Terror in the background.
Zoomed in view of Skyliner gondolas under wraps.
Many have been surprised by the overall speed of the Disney Skyliner system, relieving the fears of many in terms of their being no air conditioning onboard the cab.
Caribbean Beach will have two Skyliner stations. One by Riviera and the main “hub” of the Skyliner system deeper into the resort. The “hub” is much larger than all the other stations as it will be the area where guests can choose to go to EPCOT or DHS.
Another angle of the Skyliner “hub” at Caribbean Beach.
Here is the Skyliner station being built closer to the Riviera Resort.
This Skyliner station is located in between Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts.
Closer view of the Pop Century/AoA station.
# 1 – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
“I’m thinking that maybe I should just tweet, ‘It’s opening,’ and that will be enough” – Bob Iger, joking that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge won’t need much marketing. Said at a Disney earning’s call just days before a gigantic marketing push.
Well, unless you were living under a rock you certainly saw the huge news dump of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge hype this past week. Be sure to read Rikki Niblet’s round up of all the things coming to the land, including a look at merchandise and food. Disney is giving the full court press coverage for the land because the opening out in Disneyland is getting really close. We’re still a while away from Galaxy’s Edge opening in Florida, and here’s a look at how the land looks now…
If you are a Star Wars fan like me, seeing pictures of the Millennium Falcon coming to life is just magical. This picture shows the theming in the surrounding area that is being put together.
A look straight down onto the Falcon.
The rockwork surrounding the Falcon is unbelievable.
The area of Black Spire Outpost surrounding the Falcon gets more detailed by the day.
The arrow in this picture is pointing to elements that will be used to further theme the spaceship on the roof.
Rockwork will be throughout the land, giving a great sense of world building.
Somewhere in the area will have the Lightsaber Experience. That’s surely going be a big hit for both kids and adults alike, similar to the popular Ollivander’s Wand Choosing Experience over in the Wizarding World. However it is expected that only 14 guests will be let in for each “experience.”
As much as I love the Millennium Falcon, the all-but-guaranteed hit of the land will be the Mega E-Ticket Rise of the Resistance attraction. Here is a look down at the area of that experience.
Here is a view from the other side.
A zoomed in view. Following this will be a picture of the Rise of the Resistance concept art as seen in Walt Disney Presents gallery in DHS.
This picture shows you the area of Galaxy’s Edge that you would be seeing when leaving Rise of the Resistance. The arrow is pointing to a tunnel leading to the Grand Avenue section of DHS.
Here we have a look at Galaxy’s Edge on the right. The arrow on the left is pointing to the area where the Star Wars hotel will go. The arrow on the right is pointing to Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park.
View of the Star Wars hotel construction site. A large crane is now in the area.
The crane as seen from the DHS parking lot.
So there you have it: A look at Universal and Walt Disney World construction projects! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bioest of all reconstructs and a theme park living legend @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2019 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it?That’s right, ANOTHER NEW ONE EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION!Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!