After months of anticipation, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley is finally open at Universal Studios Florida. It becomes the second Harry Potter-themed land at the Universal Orlando Resort, joining the original Wizarding World over at Islands of Adventure (literally, as the two are connected by the Hogwarts Express ride).
Universal Orlando is experiencing unprecedented success - and owner Comcast plans to invest hundreds of millions to keep improving the resort. Here's a round-up of the changes we can expect as Universal continues to bask in the success of its Wizarding Worlds.
3. A new island for Islands of Adventure
Status: Under construction
Before the construction walls had even come down over at Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando had already begun building its next major attraction. This time, it'll be located over at Islands of Adventure - and it's expected to see the return of a long-lost favorite icon of Universal theme parks.
The new addition will sit between the existing Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon areas of Islands of Adventure, with the entire project area covering around 4.5 acres.
The bulk of action is set to take place inside an enormous ride building, itself spanning around 2.5 acres:
What will actually sit inside that building? Early rumors had suggested an attraction based on either Jurassic World (the fourth film in the Jurassic Park series, due for release in 2015) or King Kong.
Most observers now believe that Kong is more-or-less nailed-on, marking a return for the iconic beast who has a long history at Universal theme parks. Rather than being a simple addition to one of the two existing lands, Kong is expected to be handed an "island" all of his own - a recreation of Skull Island, his mysterious home.
Screamscape suggests that the headline ride will not be a simple recreation of King Kong 360 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood. Instead, it could be a major dark ride with outdoor sections featuring high-capacity, safari-style vehicles.
2. New hotels
Status: In planning
Universal Orlando will seek to bolster its status as a multi-day resort destination by constructing a lot of new hotel rooms. In September 2013, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke claimed that it could fill 10,000-15,000 hotel rooms, and the company plans to do just that. "We need to get those hotel rooms open and build out the resort," said Burke.
The first was the opening of the 1,800-room, moderately-priced Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The resort opened earlier this summer, and has become the first Universal Orlando hotel not to be aimed at the luxury end of the market.
It won't end there, though. Rumors have been swirling about a fifth hotel, and thanks to the sleuths over at Parkscope it now appears that sixth and seventh properties are also in the pipeline.
Parkscope's analysis of plans submitted by Universal to the Orange County Comptroller suggests that the fifth hotel will sit along the Royal Pacific Resort, and will become a sister resort to the existing property. It is expected to host around 1,000 rooms.
The sixth and seventh hotels are earlier in the planning stages, and are expected to be smaller at around 400 rooms each. However, plans to expand the Cabana Bay Beach Resort could see at least some of these ideas being shelved.