What’s New in 2019 at Universal Studios from Coast to Coast

Jan 30, 2019

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Theme parks have really upped their game over the past few years to attract more new and repeat visitors. Disney World has a slew of new attractions in 2019, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, that are sure to bring in even bigger crowds. Universal Studios might not even be a relevant part of this conversation if not for the popularity of Harry Potter and the parks’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The Universal Studios theme park in Orlando continues to double down on new Harry Potter-themed attractions, but that’s not all that’s new in 2019. Here’s what to expect at Universal Studios theme parks on both coasts.

Christmas at Hogwarts Castle
Christmas at Hogwarts Castle (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

Orlando Gets a New Harry Potter-Themed Coaster

In 2017, Universal Orlando closed down the Dragon Challenge in Hogsmeade to make way for a new family-friendly coaster experience. Universal has referred to the as-yet-unnamed attraction as the most immersive and cutting-edge experience they’ve ever envisioned. It’s expected to open in 2019. Universal and the Harry Potter folks haven’t given us much to go on. But, if it’s anything like the existing Harry Potter attractions, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff loyalists will be thrilled. It’s safe to say that the new coaster in Hogsmeade is the headliner for new attractions at the Orlando Universal parks for 2019.

Work begins on Universal Orlando's new roller coaster.
Work begins on Universal Orlando’s new roller coaster.

New Live-Action Experience Coming to Orlando

Replacing Terminator 2: 3-D will be a new live-action experience. Details are thin on this, other than a 2019 date and reference to a high-energy Universal franchise. There are plenty of rumors, including this one that Jason Bourne will feature prominently in the new attraction. For now, we’re left with construction pictures and a lack of firm info. Boy, would I love that Jason Bourne rumor to be true.

(Fewer Jurassic) Dinosaurs Invade Hollywood

Don’t worry, they won’t go after that vaunted sign in the hills. Jurassic Park: The Ride closed at Universal Hollywood in 2018 to make way for an updated ride themed around Jurassic World, the newest movie in the franchise. It will be a water ride like the original (those feeling nostalgic can still ride Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando). Universal seems to be in the habit of keeping us guessing about details, so we’re likely to be on the edge of our seats just like you while we wait for an expected opening around Memorial Day.

Jurassic World Raptor Encounter
This popular dinosaur, Blue, at the Jurassic World Raptor Encounter. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

New Hotel Opening at Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando plans to add two new hotels, establishing a new “Value” category. This is a notch below the “Prime Value” category that the new Aventura property occupies. Universal’s Endless Summer Resort: Surfside Inn & Suites is expected to open in July 2019. Families will love that this hotel will feature some two-bedroom suites that sleep six. The hotel is now accepting bookings and rates often start around $150 per night with the suites often starting a bit over $200 per night.

Universal Surfside (image courtesy of hotel)
Universal Surfside (image courtesy of hotel)

Stays at this hotel won’t qualify you for Express Passes, Universal’s version of the Disney World FastPass+ system. But, you will get early access to the parks when you stay at Surfside. In May 2020, a sister property, Endless Summer Resort: Dockside Inn & Suites will open its doors with similar rates and early park access.

The Rest of the Universal 2019 Rumors

There are plenty of rumors swirling around about future developments at Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando. While there isn’t a whole lot in the way of confirmation from Universal, here are some of the more believable (and exciting) rumors we’re seeing:

  • Super Nintendo World coming to Hollywood and Orlando. Dating back to a 2016 announcement that Nintendo was working with Universal on Nintendo-themed lands, we haven’t seen any definitive opening dates for Orlando or Hollywood. Some rumors have it taking over Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone in Orlando, while others expect a more immersive world in a third theme park to be built in Orlando. And yes, many think a third Universal theme park is absolutely coming to Orlando.
  • Secret Life of Pets in Hollywood? This has been an up-and-down sort of rumor. With the second movie in the franchise set to debut this year, the rumors are back in full force that the Pets will find a home in Hollywood.
  • New Jurassic Coaster in Orlando. There’s enough land and seemingly enough interest to build a new Jurassic-themed roller coaster in the existing Jurassic area of Universal Islands of Adventure. If the scuttlebutt is true, the new coaster should arrive in 2020 alongside the existing water ride.
  • New Attraction in Diagon Alley. If you’ve spent any time in the Harry Potter areas at Universal, you know there’s just not enough space. The crowds can be pretty brutal. Rumors are that the Fear Factor Live attraction next door will be demolished in favor of more space for Harry and his friends to expand to a new attraction.
  • Diagon Alley
    Diagon Alley (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando)

Bottom Line

The crowds at Universal Studios can already be pretty painful but there are reasons some families prefer it over Disney World. While more attractions should, in theory, spread out the crowds, the popularity of these new attractions is sure to lead to long lines. Universal Studios offers an Express Pass service that features variable pricing based on anticipated crowds.

Unlike the Disney World version, your wait with an Express Pass can still be upward of an hour on the busiest days, though that’s better than the 2+ hour waits in regular lines. But in most cases your waits are much shorter with Express Passes. If you’re feeling really brave (and have a hefty bank account), you can book a VIP tour to bypass all of the lines. Or, just accept a bit of a wait here and there and book a hotel that comes with Express Unlimited Passes for all registered guests, such as the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

Loews Royal Pacific comes with Express Unlimited Passes
Loews Royal Pacific comes with Express Unlimited Passes.

What is your crew most looking forward to at Universal in 2019?

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