Saturday, June 22, 2013

The mystique of Universal Orlando

[Image: Universal_Orlando_Resort_Logo.jpg]

The mystique of Universal Orlando

By Jeff Danforth-Manning
The Daily Magi
August 27, 2047

The Universal Orlando Resort, commonly known as Universal Orlando, is a theme park resort in Orlando, Florida. It is wholly owned by NBCUniversal and its affiliates. Universal Orlando is the largest property operated by Universal Parks & Resorts, and is the largest resort in Orlando, Florida. However, Universal Orlando is the second-largest resort in Greater Orlando after Walt Disney World.

Universal Orlando consists of two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure), a night-time entertainment complex (Universal CityWalk Orlando), and three Loews Hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort).

Originally, Universal Orlando opened in 1990 with a single theme park Universal Studios Florida. It was opened as a joint venture between NBCUniversal and The Blackstone Group, the latter sold its half in early 2011. Universal Studios Florida opened in direct competition with Disney's Hollywood Studios (originally Disney-MGM Studios). Over the years, the park saw various changes, however its largest change was the opening of its sister theme park Universal's Islands of Adventure. In 1994, executives met to discuss a possible expansion of the resort. It was decided that the current theme park would undergo a series of construction projects transforming it into a multi-day vacation destination. In late 1995, Islands of Adventure broke ground and construction immediately began. The Islands of Adventure Preview Center opened in May 1997 replacing the Screen Test Home Video Adventure. It was meant to give visitors a preview of the upcoming Islands of Adventure park, along with the rest of the resort. As the new theme park was under construction several new attractions were being built and opened at Universal Studios Florida. Among those new attractions was Woody Woodpecker's KidZone which opened in the Summer of 1998. Attractions such as Men in Black: Alien Attack and Animal Actors (formerly Animal Planet Live) also opened during the expansion phase.

On May 28, 1999, Islands of Adventure opened to the general public. It featured six themed 'islands' including Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. Several new attractions were closed shortly after the opening of the park, such as Island Skipper Tours, due to lack of attendance. Although the park opened to mediocre attendance, the park's attendance sharply improved making it the only theme park in Orlando to have had an increase of attendance following the September 11 Attacks.

Along with the new theme park, the resort also opened a Florida version of Universal CityWalk from Universal Studios Hollywood. CityWalk Orlando, however, differs from CityWalk Hollywood in many ways such as the venues and design. Universal also opened the resort's first onsite hotel in 1999. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (originally Portofino Bay Hotel, a Loews Hotel) was operated and partially owned by Loews Hotels but was also partially owned by Universal and The Blackstone Group. The two theme parks, CityWalk, and the hotel were branded as Universal Studios Escape, however the name was quickly changed to Universal Orlando Resort. In December 2000, Hard Rock Hotel opened as Universal Orlando's second onsite hotel. Despite the name, the hotel is owned by Loews Hotels just as Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is. Following that, in 2001, Loews Royal Pacific Resort opened. In the midst of all these openings, two parking garages were constructed and the popular water park Wet 'n Wild Orlando was acquired. On June 18, 2010, the newest 'island' at Universal's Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened.

The resort is within the city limits of Orlando in Orange County, Florida. It is located north of the International Drive resort area, where many of the resort's 'Partner Hotels' are. The resort is located on a piece of land framed by Interstate 4 to the south, Kirkman Road to the east, Vineland Road to the north, and Turkey Lake Road to the west.

The resort is directly accessible from I-4 eastbound via Exit 75A onto Universal Boulevard, and I-4 westbound onto Hollywood Way.

Universal Orlando is served by LYNX buses (links) 21, 37, and 40.

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