Universal Orlando Resort has unveiled Epic Universe, and it looks like a gamechanger. The new theme park will feature more than 50 rides, entertainment, and other experiences in 5 lands. This previews everything we know about the blockbuster expansion in Florida, with tons of concept art, details about the attractions, entertainment, dining and shopping experiences, and much more.
An expansion of 750 acres, Epic Universe is Universal Orlando Resort’s third theme park, just down the road from Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, as well as Volcano Bay Water Park. The new theme park campus will essentially double Universal Orlando Resort’s existing footprint.
As a quick recap, Epic Universe was first announced in Summer 2019 with a piece of aerial concept art showing the contours of the theme park, adjacent entertainment district and hotel. Not many details beyond that, its location south of the existing Universal Orlando complex, and the economic impact were revealed at that time.
Along with pretty much everything else in Central Florida, plans were paused in Spring 2020. Given where the world was at the time and the grim prospects for the recovery of travel and tourism, there was speculation (including by us!) that Epic Universe wouldn’t happen. At least, not anytime soon and maybe not as originally announced.
We were very happy to be proven wrong less than a year later, as Universal announced that development of Epic Universe would resume immediately, with the project gradually scaling up again before reaching full-speed as Universal restaffs for the project. And did it ever reach full-speed quickly.
It seems like every week new aerial photos come out showing the progress of Epic Universe, and the theme park looks really far along. While there’s obviously still a lot to be done a year out, some areas are having finishing touches installed and rides being tested. All of which makes us wonder whether it’s purposeful that Universal has dropped the “by Summer” line from the 2025 opening in this announcement. But that’s another bit of speculation for another day.
According to Universal, Epic Universe will present a level of theme park immersion and innovation that is unmatched – transporting guests to expansive worlds featuring more than 50 awe-inspiring attraction, entertainment, dining and shopping experiences that come together to create an unforgettable adventure that is nothing short of epic.
The company has also confidently asserted that the addition of Universal Orlando’s fourth* theme park will also transform the award-winning resort into a weeklong vacation destination filled with the most compelling experiences imaginable. (*Universal counts Volcano Bay as a theme park; we think it’s properly considered a water park. That is, unless you also want to say Walt Disney World has 6 theme parks; they do not.)
Epic Universe invites guests to explore five vibrant worlds filled with extraordinary and culturally relevant adventures that go beyond their wildest imaginations. Let’s explore the lands, starting with Epic Universe’s entry point and central plaza…
Celestial Park: At the heart of the park and the first world guests will encounter is Celestial Park, which has been dubbed the “Cosmic Nexus of Universal Epic Universe.” With acres of rolling gardens, chasing waterways and strolling pathways, Celestial Park will put the “park” back in “theme park.”
As soon as guests enter the imaginative world, they’ll embark on a journey of discovery, thrills and excitement as they wander through lush living gardens nestled along shimmering waters surrounded by stunning architecture inspired by astronomical and mythological elements. Here, guests can relax while taking in the sights and sounds around them, board a shooting comet for an exhilarating roller coaster adventure, dine on delectable cuisine, shop exclusive merchandise to commemorate their visit and more.
Plus, Celestial Park will be the gateway to explore the four additional worlds of Epic Universe – each bringing to life extraordinary adventures that go beyond guests’ wildest imaginations. Through a set of majestic portals that capture the imagination and creativity of each world, guests will embark on a transformative experience as they journey from Celestial Park to the rest of Epic Universe’s themed lands.
Here are additional details about some of the other wonders guests can enjoy while exploring Celestial Park:
Starfall Racers – a dual-launch racing coaster that sends guests rocketing through the skies aboard comets in a race to see who’s the fastest of them all. Reaching speeds up to 62 mph and heights up to 133 feet along 5,000 feet of track, Starfall Racers will be Epic Universe’s most thrilling coaster experience with unique maneuvers such as the “Celestial Spin,” in which the two coaster vehicles perform an inverted crisscross while speeding through the air – creating an “out-of-this-world” adrenaline rush.
Constellation Carousel – the grand centerpiece of Celestial Park. Here, explorers of all ages will take a fantastical whirl aboard constellations that glide forward, backward – and even make 360-degree rotations – through the milky way in a choreographed dance of music and starlight.
Astronomica – an interactive wet-play area that also doubles as a giant compass rose to the many wonders of Epic Universe, featuring crystal blue fountains that spring to life and dance around guests.
Celestial Park will also be home to unique dining experiences ranging from full-service restaurants to quick-service locations that offer something for every palate:
Atlantic – a full-service “surf and turf” restaurant set inside a Victorian aquarium complete with captivating views of Celestial Park.
The Blue Dragon Pan-Asian Restaurant – where diners take a culinary journey across Asia as they enjoy authentic Chinese, Japanese and Thai fare in this full-service restaurant accented with neon dragons and ethereal lanterns.
The Oak & Star Tavern – where guests can enjoy savory barbecue.
Pizza Moon – which will serve up a tasty menu featuring a variety of pizzas, and more.
Celestial Park will also feature incredibly detailed retail locations, including the following:
Nintendo Super Star Store – where guests can shop an assortment of merchandise themed to the land featuring Mario, Donkey Kong, and friends.
Moonship Chocolates & Celestial Sweets – where guests can satisfy their cravings with a unique selection of sweet treats, and more.
Plenty of exciting entertainment, including various fountain shows throughout Celestial Park’s seven acres, where a multitude of fountains sway, dance – and even reach heights up to 135 feet in the air – to music and interactive lighting from day to night.
Celestial Park will also be the gateway to explore the four additional lands of Epic Universe through a set of majestic portals.
Super Nintendo World: Guests will enter the iconic green pipe and discover a new way to play as they step into the worlds of beloved characters like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Donkey Kong. You’ll experience a new way to play, with everything from minigames to Mario Kart to Donkey Kong Country and the new Mine Cart Madness ride.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Ministry of Magic: Where guests will discover a different era of the wizarding world in an all-new land that blends 1920s wizarding Paris from Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts films with the 1990s British Ministry of Magic from the Harry Potter series.
How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk: Take to the skies and soar with dragons as you explore the colorful Viking village at the heart of Berk. Take part in wild boat battles, feast like a Viking and more in this colorful world filled with Viking adventures based on the wildly popular How to Train Your Dragon film franchise.
Dark Universe: From the experiments of Dr. Victoria Frankenstein to a shadowy landscape where curious creations roam, Dark Universe is a world of myth and mystery. Dark Universe is Universal’s classic monsters, reimagined.
Adding to the experience at Epic Universe will be three new Universal hotels, including sister properties, Universal Stella Nova Resort and Universal Terra Luna Resort, and the majestic Universal Helios Grand Hotel – which is located inside of the Epic Universe theme park in Celestial Park.
In addition to raising the bar for theme park innovation, Epic Universe theme park is just the start for Universal Destinations & Experiences. The division is also introducing new park concepts to new people, in new markets and on new platforms, recently breaking ground on two new concepts.
The first is Universal Kids Resort theme park and hotel under construction Frisco, Texas. Then there’s the Universal Horror Unleashed in Las Vegas, Nevada. These are two smaller-scale projects, but they’re indicative of innovative ways that Universal is attempting to enter the attractions market without tentpole tourist destinations. Beyond that, there’s the proposed Universal Studios Great Britain.
Turning to commentary, I am absolutely blown away. Unlike a lot of other theme park fans, I’ve tried to keep my expectations in check with Epic Universe. Although the themed lands have been an open secret since 2019–and at least two of them are blockbuster additions that will be huge draws–we haven’t known much else about the park.
One of my big concerns has been the stated budget for Epic Universe, which I now can only assume is much higher than previously revealed. (It has to be. Not only have labor costs risen, but in order to go full steam ahead on this project, they’re likely paying a premium.) Another has been that in Universal’s rush to open other attractions and experiences, attention to detail has sometimes been scattershot.
Epic Universe looks every bit the gamechanger that Universal is promising, featuring lands on par with Disney’s best as well as themed design and placemaking in the central plaza that reminds me of a cross between Shanghai Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.
Beyond just how gorgeous Celestial Park looks, I really like the concept of the portals and the way it allows disparate concepts to be brought together in the same theme park. The lands selected for Epic Universe have something-for-everyone appeal, with everything from the kid-friendly How to Train Your Dragon franchise to all-ages Super Nintendo World to more adult-oriented Dark Universe.
Assuming the rides are selected with just as much thoughtfulness–and highly credible rumors already indicate that they have been–Epic Universe should be the park that finally puts to rest Universal’s reputation as excluding kids, adults with motion sickness, or grandparents. There will be thrill rides and screen-based attractions, to be sure, but there will also be plenty offering all-ages appeal. That’s huge, and increasingly important as more tourists take multi-generational trips.
We’d highly recommend watching the “trailer” that Universal released for Epic Universe alongside this announcement:
If Universal sticks the landing on Epic Universe, it will fulfill the company’s goal of transforming Universal Orlando Resort into a bona fide vacation destination. That was seemingly a throw-away line in the press release about Celestial Park and the themed lands, but at the end of the day, that’s what this is about.
Universal wants to capture a bigger slice of the pie when it comes to tourists, getting guests to stay on-site in its hotels and purchase packages or multi-day tickets to its parks, rather than visit for “The Harry Potter Park” as a diversion from Disney.
Although this is a Disney blog first and foremost (see URL), we don’t want to fixate too much on the business side or Walt Disney World angle of Epic Universe joining the Florida theme park landscape. For one thing, because we’ve already done a decent amount of that recently in Is Universal “Beating” Disney?
All I will say is that this reveal of Epic Universe is certainly further proof that Comcast is more aggressive than Disney in actual action. Whereas the latter is doing blue sky daydreaming about nebulous future plans to double investment in theme parks to $60 billion over the next decade, Comcast is taking concrete next steps. Disney is talking; Universal is doing.
Obviously, a lot still remains to be seen, but this big first look at Universal’s Epic Universe is really, really impressive and exciting. It has me looking forward to the new theme park even more, and learning about what’s inside each themed land (well, maybe minus Super Nintendo World, which is pretty much a known quantity–and an excellent one!).
I also can’t wait to step foot inside Epic Universe, which is only a little (?) over a year away from its previously-stated “by Summer 2025” (?) opening date. It’s not often you get to experience a brand-new theme park…and Epic Universe truly looks like something special.
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What do you think of Universal’s Epic Universe? Thoughts on the look and atmosphere of Celestial Park or any of the other concept art? Excited for Super Nintendo World, Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic, Dark Universe/Classic Monsters, or the How to Train Your Dragon lands and/or attractions? Think Epic Universe will be a third gate that’s a worthy addition to Universal Orlando Resort…and potentially on par with Disney’s best lands? Expect Disney to “respond” with a big announcement of its own at the 2024 D23 Expo? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!