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Universal Orlando Resort is intent on continually improving the offerings at its parks. After a few great upgrades to Islands of Adventure, they’re now giving Universal Studios Florida some TLC. They added parade, opened a Despicable Me attraction, and not only are the opening a brand new Transformers 3D ride in June but they’re also remaking the old Jaws area into a second Harry Potter themed area.

With all that going on, another major addition flew under the radar for the most part. The Simpson’s themed area of the park was always just the re-imagined back to the future attraction and some carnival games. As the animated TV sit-com enjoys its 23rd season and work begins on a second animated feature, Universal Studios Florida is expanding the shows presence in the park with elements from Springfield, the town in which the Simpsons live.

A Simpsons themed Fast Food Row just opened and added some much needed food options to that side of the park. The food court not only offers various themed restaurants, complete with food and drink items made famous by the TV show (Krusty Burger anyone? How about a Flaming Moe?), but the dining areas are all designed to replicate famous eateries from the show. It’s really quite effective.

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Up next will be a Duff Beer Brewery and a new spinner attraction themed to the Space Aliens made popular by the Halloween Simpsons episodes. In the meantime, more photos in the gallery below:

Opening Ceremony

TEA has released its 2012 Theme Park attendance estimates listing the 25 most attended theme parks in the world. Disney has the top 8 spots and 3 others in the top 20. Not a lot of surprises if you’ve been following developments last year:

1. Magic Kingdom: 17,536,000 (+2.3% change)
2. Disneyland Park: 15,963,000 (-1.1% )
3. Tokyo Disneyland: 14,847,000 (+8.5%)
4. Tokyo Disney Sea: 12,656,000 (+8.5%)
5. Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris: 11,200,000 (+1.9%)
6. Epcot: 11,063,000 (+2.2%)
7. Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9,998,000 (+2.2%)
8. Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9,912,000 (+2.2%)
9. Universal Studios Japan: 9,700,000 (+14.1%)
10. Islands of Adventure: 7,981,000 (+4%)

ush-evolution

I spent most of the 90s visiting Universal Studios Hollywood almost every month. In doing so, I really got to know the tightly packed acreage that made up Southern California’s second most popular themepark. It’s taken some doing, but they’ve finally gotten final approval to go forward with the next stage in the development of Universal Studios.

The first projects of NBCUniversal’s 25-year Evolution Plan with be tied to adding the much anticipated west coast version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The total plan represents a $1.6 billion investment in tourism and production in Southern California. This long-term investment in two industries that are vital to Los Angeles will create more than 30,000 jobs and generate $2 billion of economic activity during operations for the region.

Unless you are living under a rock (which would be incredibly uncomfortable), you realize the affect that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has had on the Orlando tourism community. Everyone is filled to the brim with new projects that, they hope can match and/or topple Harry Potter in the themed and immersive environment category… or the bring in millions of people and billions of dollars category too! I thought, you can never look too far into the future… so here is a preview to what will, supposedly, make you travel to the Orlando area in the coming years!

Positive Coming Attractions:

  • This December 6th, the east coast’s Carsland equivalent will finally be unveiled in the Magic Kingdom. New Fantasyland containing: Enchanted Tales with Belle, Gaston’s Tavern, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Grotto, Pete’s Silly Sideshow, and officially, Storybook Circus, will FINALLY open after years of “looking-over-the-wall” photo updates. In 2013, the Princess Fairytale Hall will open, in the former Snow White’s Scary Adventures building. And the expansion will finally be ending (unless they announce a phase 2 with Pixie Hollow…I wish!) with the opening of the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster. Can you believe that this was all announced back at the first D23 Expo in 2009?! If feels like so long ago!
  • Test Track will re-open at the end of this year after a rather extensive rehab and rethemeing. The concept of being inside of a computer seems like a great fit for an aging Future World attraction that needed a lift (and a nip…and a tuck…). We will see how Tron-y this new Test Track looks this December.
  • Although not at a theme park, I am super excited for Spiltsville to be coming to Downtown Disney. We have one in Tampa and it is an awesome place. This incarnation will be a two story, 36-lane bowling alley version of the usual 1 story, 12-lane concept. The uniqueness of Splitsville comes from two factors, first being that while you bowl, a waiter comes to your table…as it is a sit-down (or play-up?) restaurant as well as a bowling alley (BTW, best chicken tenders anywhere!). The second factor comes from the design of the place, the lanes aren’t set up in the normal long, side-by-side fashion of the old-fashioned alleys, they are scattered throughout the building giving it a much more personal experience. Get ready to bowl your brains out in late fall of this year.
  • Seaworld has also jumped on the immersive environment bandwagon by announcing Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. This will take the place of the former penguin exhibit at the park. Not a lot of details have been announced about the project as of now, but the concept art is astounding. A publicity photo was recently released and has led to speculation that the ride in the land will be using a trackless ride system similar to the one used on Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland. I am really excited to check it out in the spring of 2013.