Low and behold, I’m back! Universal and Islands have always felt like home to me. Not in the sense of a home park, but home. Like we just belong there. So it is that we were able to renew our AP’s and return home. And wouldnt you know it, we left the battery for the good camera at home, but luckily packed the smaller one. Good thing too. Home never looked so different.
We started off in Citywalk where festivities were getting underway for their New Years Eve celebration. I understand it did quite well this year, though I never did get the reasoning for charging extra for a Citywalk celebration. You can see the concert from everywhere, and the names they usually get aren’t huge names of the day. They were huge at one point, but not anymore. Regardless, it looked like a good time. Grinchmas was in full swing at Islands and the Who’s at Seuss Landing were out in droves. These guys really do a great job of selling the whole Whoville Whobilation.
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Next to Harry Potter. This was my first look at the work they’ve done since the castle has gone up. WOW. Simply wow. This whole undertaking was huge! I’ll admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to it at first, thinking all they were going to do was mess up my beloved Lost Continent, but WHOA….am I ever wrong. I am excited as hell to see this now. This transformation is looking amazing, and just staring at it in the Orlando sun….a castle that we’ve seen before. This isn’t Cinderellas castle that the park was built around, no this is Hogwarts, transported directly from England.
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Hogsmeade too looks amazing…what I can see. I dont live near the park, and I dont have inside angles or sources…so the pictures that I get are reduced to what I can see in knotholes in the fence. Looking around too, there are buoys in the water, and the docks where the old Island Skipper Tours have all been cleaned and rid of garbage cans and benches. Everything looks freshly painted which leads me to believe that the old Island Skipper Tours are coming back. It’s been a rumor for a long time now, but it looks as if the rumor is true…or at least it seems to be. Also a lot of activity happening around Triceratops Encounter…lots of workers going in and out…hmmmm could we be seeing a return of that as well? Lets hope! Now only if they would get the water vortex back in Poseidon.
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Jumping over to Studios, the park looked amazing. With the new stage, that left no room for the old Balloon area to showcase the balloons of the Macy’s Day Parade in New York City, Balloons are setup and littered all over the park. It’s a charming touch with Grover adorning the Sting Alley area, and Curious George atop of Twister, glaring at Mummy.(Ironically Mummy is where King Kong used to be.) Also add in Rockit (which was running four cars on NYE) and the place looks busier than ever. Studios has some of the most original looking Christmas decorations…it makes you feel like home. And one thing I loved, they even decorated Krusty with a Giant Santa Hat. Something they should do with all the attractions….yet one more thing that Disney doesn’t do….Holiday layovers for its rides.
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The Macy’s Parade was amazing this year, with a lot of new floats and costumes. Some were reused (obviously) from the Mardi Gras parade, but they fit here. I forgot how personal this parade was. The performers stopping to wave and interact, pass out candy and even stop and pose for the camera. Disney might have a more “magical” parade with more characters, but this one goes for the genuine feel. One complaint, the wait times were nowhere near what they were posted. Jaws for example posted a 10 minute wait, but the line was all the way to the extended queue line (where SAW was housed for HHN). Thats a 30 minute wait easy. This is something Universal needs to address before Potter opens. The little things are whats going to make or break you, and if you’re telling people 20 when its a 90 minute wait….well…they may not be so forgiving. Single riders was all but empty in a lot of places, and according to Brian over at Orlando United, ride Disaster while you can. Nothing official has come out yet, but it’s going down for the next three months. Brian says rumors are that they are rehabbing it…and possibly removing The Rock. I think its to update the ride system. I’ve always heard that it’s an old system they cant get parts for anymore, which is the reason for the toned down Earthquake at the end. We’ll keep you updated.