Keeping Up With The Mouse: Is Universal Studios Florida Opening a New Theme Park?

Feb 16, 2019

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We’re No. 2! We’re No. 2! That used to be the chant of Avis car rentals, along with the mantra “We Try Harder.” Along those lines, for a while there was a strong argument that the Universal Studios Florida theme parks in Florida could have taken a similar stance as it tried to keep up with Walt Disney World. There’s no disputing that Walt Disney World rules the roost when it comes to total number of theme park visitors in Orlando (Magic Kingdom alone gets about 20 million visitors annually while just the Universal Studios Orlando theme park sees half that in a year).

Despite having less than half the total annual visitors per year as nearby Disney World, Universal Studios Florida is currently a very solid destination choice all its own, especially for those who are into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and have you seen the child swap rooms?!). Frankly, I think it is an even better than Disney for a last minute getaway in some respects, particularly during peak time periods if you don’t like planning meals and rides in advance thanks to the Express Pass option.

Explore Diagon Alley at Universal Studios

Moreover, Universal Studios is growing … potentially more than they are ready to formally announce. Perhaps growing by a whole other park.

Unconfirmed New Universal Orlando Theme Park

Currently, Universal Orlando is comprised of the original Universal Studios theme park as well as the connected Islands of Adventure (take the Hogwarts Express train ride between the two). Lastly, there is a relatively new waterpark called Volcano Bay, but I wouldn’t consider a waterpark a “theme park” in the classic sense. If you do, then Walt Disney World has two of those you should consider, too.

Take the Hogwarts Express train between the Universal Studios theme parks

But, there may be a legitimate third Universal theme park on the way. Theme Park Insider detailed an update to the site plans that Universal has filed for a 500-acre site near the existing Universal Orlando theme parks. The plans appear to tell us that about 375 acres on the new site are available for development. To put that in perspective, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is just under 150 acres. So, this is definitely a sizable park, along the lines of Epcot.

Location of Potential New Theme Park

This site is already the home of two future hotels that are part of the Endless Summer project, one of the new things coming to Universal Studios in 2019. This is part of the new “Value” category of hotels that Universal is rolling out, featuring rates as low as $150 per night.

The location of these hotels is going to be key. The area around Universal Orlando can politely be described as “messy.” Plenty of traffic lights, gridlock and merge lanes onto highways make life less enjoyable than staying on-site at the Universal Orlando Resort where you can take a boat or walk to the two current theme parks. On the flip side, this would mean if you are staying at one of the existing Universal hotels like the appealing new Aventura hotel, you’re going to have something of a hike to get to the proposed entrance of the new park.

Let’s take an overhead look at the area we’re talking about:

Image via Google Maps
Image via Google Maps

You’ll see the current Universal parks near the top left corner of this map, and the entrance to the rumored new park in the bottom right of the image. While a short distance as the crow flies, remember to take note of the spaghetti bowl of roads to the west and southwest of Universal Orlando.

Possible Attractions at a New Universal Theme Park

It’s already been widely rumored that the Nintendo franchise may come to Universal Orlando. Popular movies like “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Secret Life of Pets” sure seem to be really good theme park candidates, too. And, “Fantastic Beasts” is starting to pick up a following as an offshoot of the popular “Harry Potter” world. According to recent reports, Universal has trademarked the phrase “Universal’s Fantastic Worlds,” a good indication it wants to shine even more attention on the creatures that were a part of Harry Potter’s studies.

If you nerd out on blueprints and site plans like I do, there’s a YouTube video that allows you a much deeper look into what’s in the plans, despite no official announcement from Universal just yet.

Bottom Line

While there’s no official announcement from Universal Studios about a forthcoming third park, there’s plenty of evidence to point to this being more than just smoke. Executives at Universal have shared their desire to make Universal Orlando a weeklong destination for visiting families and a third park would go a long way to help accomplish that mission.

A third theme park would also add plenty of value for annual pass holders, though I’m sure where new parks pop up, increased pass prices usually follow. My biggest concern with the potential location is the traffic issue that could prevent easy park-hopping to this new spot — but perhaps Universal has a ‘wizarding’ solution for that, too.

To help you plan your Universal Studios Florida trip:

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