This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at at some Universal Orlando News and Notes! That’s right, we are going to take a stroll around the Universal Orlando Resort and check out some of the recent events that have happened along with something that might just be happening this very minute.
# 6 – Honk Honkers Now Open in Seuss Landing
Back around Thanksgiving, Universal (re)opened* a new candy store in Seuss Landing that also offers gourmet cotton candy. While the opening of Honk Honkers went under the radar when it comes to big theme park news, the store became an instant hit with guests. The size of the cotton candy sticks true to Seussian fashion by being larger than life, providing a good value for the price of $6.95. However it is the amount of customization that really makes the store shine. The cotton candy itself comes in flavors (blue raspberry, pink vanilla, birthday cake, jolly berry, grape, and apple,) but you also have the option to add in a variety of mix-ins for 95 cents each (marshmallows, m&ms, Oreo cookies, chocolate sprinkles, rainbow sprinkles, and rock candy.) If that wasn’t enough to send your Thing 1 or Thing 2 directly into a sugar coma, for an extra two dollars (“two dollars!”) you can also get the cotton candy itself wrapped around a unicorn lollipop instead of the standard stick.
Not that Seuss Landing needed even MORE candy, but Honk Honkers also offers a wide variety of store branded candy options, all fitting in with the Dr. Seuss theme. If that’s not enough, in Honk Honkers and throughout the land are Universal exclusive candies based on Seussian brands such as If I Ran The Zoo, Green Eggs and Ham, Oh The Places You’ll Go and more. This means that finally there are “chewy turtles” for that Yertle the Turtle super fan in your life.
# 5 – New Shakes and Merchandise at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
Back in November there was also a change at one of our favorite restaurants in CityWalk, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Being “patient zero” for the insane milkshake craze currently taking over Orlando, Toothsome opened with a wide variety of next level bananas milkshakes and even wider variety of complaints from guests saying they had to wait too long to order them. Toothsome quietly dropped a couple of the shakes off the menu to speed up the process (including one of our favorites, the Cinnamon Fantasy loaded with pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.) In terrific news, Toothsome added three new milkshakes to the menu and they are just as bonkers as the other 8 currently available.
The new shakes are the Peanut Butter & Jelly (peanut butter ice cream, PB&J sandwich, strawberry sauce, crushed peanuts, a PB&J cupcake, and whipped cream,) Confetti Shake (vanilla ice cream, confetti cake, vanilla buttercream frosting, rainbow sprinkles and whipped cream) and Cookie Jar (vanilla ice cream, Oreo cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and whipped cream.)
Toothsome also came out with a new line of merchandise based around the Penelope’s Apothecary Treats brand. The designs are sharp, and the quality is there, but if I were a betting man I would imagine that if Universal had an Outlet Store like Disney, these items would end up there sooner rather than later.
# 4 – Fast & Furious: Supercharged Gift Shop Open
Those following the development of the new Fast & Furious attraction at Universal Studios Florida (such as our friends over at Inside Universal) report that the area looks completely done from the outside and believe that we could be close to a soft opening for the ride (which is scheduled to open in “Spring.”) The ride’s gift shop has been open for a while now, and has been adding in new merchandise every week. Like Disney with Avatar: The World of Pandora, Universal is opening this new attraction and needs to create a whole new line of merchandise as the Fast & Furious brand – despite being one of the top film franchises in the entire world – doesn’t have a huge toy presence for kids or hot selling apparel and other collectibles for adults.
As with most theme park gift shops, the Custom Gear Shop for Fast & Furious: Supercharged has the requisite t-shirts, key chains, and branded drinkware. The items look sharp, but where Universal may catch lighting in a bottle is with an item we didn’t see coming, like Pandora’s banshee puppets. Similar to Disney’s super popular Droid Factory experience, where guests can build their own Star Wars droid, this gift shop offers a chance to build your own race car. With a variety of options available to make your own toy car, along with the add-on accessories like hazard cones, dirt jumps, and decals, this could be a huge boon to Universal’s bottom line if it takes off. It seems like Universal is already preparing for it to be a smash hit, as they have used SYNERGY to have similar cars available themed to other park brands including Jurassic Park, Transformers, and even Marvel’s Spider-Man. Forget bitcoin, if I could invest in the futures of this Build-A-Car being a huge hit they’d have all my money.
# 3 – Voodoo Doughnut Officially Announced
A regular SATURDAY SIX reader may be under the impression that we like donuts. This is incorrect. We, in fact, love donuts. We love them in the way many people love their family pet, or breathing. So imagine our happiness when Universal recently confirmed that the venue next to NBC Grill would be a Voodoo Doughnut. What Toothsome is to milkshakes and Planet Hollywood is to basically every food item, Voodoo Doughnut is to donuts. The Voodoo Doughnut location over at Universal Studios Hollywood has been a huge success, so it was a natural fit to join CityWalk in Orlando. Specializing in donuts that look like they came out of a fever dream, one thing I’m already looking forward to experiencing is the Coffin of Doughnuts. Served in an actual three foot wooden coffin, guests receive three dozen Voodoo donuts, or what I like to call “a good start.” Good news for vegans, Voodoo Doughnut also has a variety of vegan-friendly options available so watch your back Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC!
# 2 – Gamma Tour at the Incredible Hulk Coaster
Universal has several great “secret” tours that many guests don’t know about. The most widely known – and loved – is the Immigration Room tour at Men In Black: Alien Attack. A new tour just came across our desk courtesy of intrepid Universal reporter Seth Kubersky and it’s located in Marvel Superhero Island. The Incredible Hulk coaster was already one of the most thrilling rides in Orlando, but the attraction got a much needed upgrade (including a full track replacement) in 2016. One thing that was a part of the upgrade was a completed overhaul of the ride’s queue. If there was one fault with Hulk it’s that it had one of the absolute worst queues in all of Universal, and looked even worse with all the amazing queue experiences at Universal that have come along since it opened.
The new queue for Hulk is a HUGE improvement but most people haven’t seen much of it because no one is allowed to bring anything into the queue. All phones and cameras must be stored before entering the queue. Taking away a camera from a theme park blogger is like taking away ocean water from a shark. Yes, we could have rioted – and it would have been well deserved – but instead we took the high road and instead enjoyed the new sound system on the ride. Unfortunately that meant we could only describe the queue to you, Dear Reader, rather than show you.
With the new Gamma Tour all guests can now see the new queue AND take pictures.
# 1 – A Celebration of Harry Potter 2018
Taking place this very weekend is Universal’s A Celebration of Harry Potter (read Joe Matt’s Celebration Preview Guide by clicking here.) With special guests from the Harry Potter film series doing Q&As, guest experiences like the Sorting Hat, and all new merchandise, Potter fanatics would do themselves a favor making a pilgrimage to this annual event. At the Harry Potter Expo part of the Celebration, fans can visit exhibitions and shops based on various Potter related subjects such as the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, Scholastic (who distribute the book series), and the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. My personal favorite part of the Expo is visiting the section dedicated to MinaLima, the company which designed all the amazing artwork you see throughout the film series (such Rita Skeeter’s book cover along with the Mudblood propaganda posters seen in Deathly Hallows Part 1.)
For Potterheads, this is their version of the old Star Wars Weekends that Disney used to hold except there is even more stuff to check out. While everything is included with daily park admission, there are perks to being a Celebration package holder, including the ability to see the debut of The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle.
Honorable Mention – The new Tervis Tumbler
“It’s indescribably beautiful!” – A Christmas Story
So there you have it: Some News And Notes Around the Universal Orlando Resort! 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 crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the bio-est of reconstructs @bioreconstruct, co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando Seth Kubersky, Universal SUPER Shopper @HedgehogsCorner, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!