In June 2023, Universal Studios Orlando will celebrate its 33rd birthday in style. The resort is currently in a period of expansion not seen since the opening of Islands of Adventure over two decades ago.
Over the last several years, Universal has opened two of the most successful and acclaimed attractions in the resort’s history, with several more — and a whole new revolutionary theme park — on the horizon. So let’s dive in on every new ride that’s already coming to Universal Orlando.. and those that have recently arrived.
Our first two attractions have arrived in the recent years to widespread acclaim. However, due to the COVID 19 pandemic and its long line of ripple effects, they’re still new to many potential visitors, so they’re definitely the best place to start.
Opening in June of 2019, Hagrid’s was near immediately a massive success. The family coaster — which replaced Dragon Challenge, itself a retheme of Dueling Dragons — combines a heavily themed queue and environment, animatronics, ride vehicles, and a revolutionary ride system featuring seven launches. It has been crowned by many as not only the best attraction at Universal, but the best in Orlando period.
Depending on one’s POV, Hagrid’s reign as Universal Orlando’s best roller coaster attraction for just under two years. That’s because on June 10, 2021, the VelociCoaster opened at Islands of Adventure. The massive coaster, themed to the recent Jurassic World trilogy, reinvigorated the Jurassic Park section of the park and features features two launches, a 155-foot-tall top hat, four inversions, and a top speed of 70 mph.
While Hagrid’s and VeliciCoaster continue to thrill guests, Universal Orlando still has some more new attractions in the pipeline.
Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast
The first of the upcoming attractions is the Villain-Con Minion blast — themed to the Despicable Me/Minions franchise — which is replacing the long-running Shrek 4D film.
Universal officially described the upcoming attraction as such:
“The world-class attraction transports guests to Villain-Con – the biggest criminal convention on the planet – to take part in an epic competition to see if they have what it takes to become the newest member of The Vicious 6, a notorious group of supervillains from the hit film, “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” Guests who are up for the challenge will grab an interactive blaster and step onto a motion-based pathway to put their skills to the test. They’ll wind and glide through various scenes where they earn points by blasting a variety of items and causing as much mayhem and destruction as possible. It’s a unique, mischief-filled experience that’s so much fun, it’s a crime.”
When combined with the preexisting Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction and the upcoming Minion Cafe (itself a retheme of the Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe), the attractions will make up a new mini-land: Illumination Avenue.
Illumination Avenue, as appealing as it will likely be to fans of the Minions franchise, pales in comparison to Universal’s Epic Universe. This whole new theme park – the first at Universal, and Orlando in general since 1999 – is currently scheduled to open sometime in 2025, and rumors are swirling concerning what it will contain.
The one major confirmed land for Epic Universe is a clone of the wildly successful Super Nintendo World, which is currently wowing visitors at Universal’s Hollywood and Japan destinations. The Epic Universe version will feature the Super Mario theming and Mario Kart ride currently featured in the open locations, as well as a clone of the Donkey Kong coaster and land expansion currently under construction in Japan.
While Nintendo is the only IP officially confirmed for Epic Universe, the park is also heavily rumored to feature lands based on How to Train Your Dragon, the Harry Potter franchise’s Fantastic Beasts series, and Universal’s Classic Monsters including Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman.
In addition to everything we know is coming, there’s also something else on the horizon. In January of 2023, Universal closed the long-open Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone area of the park. This move freed up a significant amount of real estate, as Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Fievel’s Playland, Curious George Goes to Town, DreamWorks Destination, and the Shrek and Donkey Meet and Greet were all closed for good. Universal has yet to officially announce what will be replacing the KidZone, but rumors and speculation are swirling.
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What are your thoughts on Universal Orlando’s expansion? Have Hagrid’s and Veliocicoaster blown your mind? Are you on the edge of your seat for Epic Universe? What would you like to see replace Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone? Let us know in the comments below.