Epic Universe will be Universal Orlando’s newest theme park when it opens next year. Being built now a couple miles south of the current resort, there’s still a long way to go to be ready on time. Since our last update, the gateway portals into each of the worlds of the park have received additional themed elements.
Let’s check in on construction for all of Epic Universe, as well as go over rumored details for the timeline in 2024, in today’s news update. See the video version of this story below for additional visuals.
Officially announced in 2019, we’ve been covering the development and construction of this new theme park since 2018. Now, over 5 years later in 2024, we are just one year away from Epic Universe’s opening year.
To prepare the general public for this theme park’s official opening, Universal Orlando is expected to reveal new details, and for the first time since 2019, new official concept art, later this month.
The Universal Legacy Store in CityWalk will be closing in the coming days to possibly make way for the Universal Epic Universe Preview Center, which we believe could open around June of this year.
The company has trademarked the term “YOU GOTTA SEE THIS,” presumably for the marketing of Epic Universe. As this theme park will be set up in a unique way, with portals into each of the four themed worlds, as well as the Celestial Park hub areas within the center, this early marketing campaign will likely focus on explaining how the park will work.
Plus, to help illustrate how impressive Epic Universe will be in person, the marketing will stress that the only way to truly experience it, is that “YOU GOTTA SEE THIS” for yourself.
Reservations for two of the Epic Universe on-site hotels are already open for booking now, Universal Stella Nova Resort and Universal Terra Luna Resort will open in the months leading up to the new theme park’s grand opening. Reservations for the third hotel, which we believe will be named Universal Helios Grand Hotel, will possibly open in the coming months.
Theme park tickets for Epic Universe itself are expected to go on sale later this year, hopefully as soon as this summer, about one year from the park’s official grand opening. So far Universal has not revealed an official opening date, only saying that it will be open by Summer 2025.
As we start 2024, work on the ground has seemingly stepped into overdrive, an impressive feat given the speed at which the park has gone up already in the past 18 months. We are in the home stretch now, with some rides already testing, but there is still an immense amount of work to be done to be able to open in 2025.
Thanks to new aerial photos taken by Bioreconstruct on social media, we are able to get an updated look at progress around the Epic Universe site.
Starting our construction update by moving around the central areas of the park, which we expect to be named Celestial Park, many of the portals to each of the worlds of Epic Universe have received their beacons, or tallest points.
These beacons will help with wayfinding while inside the park, allowing guests to see the entries to each of the lands from far distances.
Two of the portals have also received their front plates, the arched ring we will enter the lands through. We still expect an engraved phrase related to each of the lands to be placed on the front of these plates. An orb is also expected to be added to the top of the portal entry rings, where framing at the top can be seen in the photo below.
The portals into each of the worlds of Epic Universe is an important motif, as it will be the only way into each of the themed lands. Even the park entrance itself is shaped like a portal.
While shown as an arch in official concept art, like the one at the entrance to Universal Studios Florida, we can see from the construction on the ground that the park entry is also shaped like a portal. Connections for the arched structure above the portal have been installed now though, so that this structure can continue to grow upward, and better match the art.
One of the two attractions for Celestial Park is a dual-track roller coaster we believe will be named Stafall Racers.
This roller coaster ride has its own sort of portal entry, which may include its own engraved phrase on the front. In front of this entry tunnel, we can see a nearly completed courtyard design.
Zooming out, a protective green layer has been added to half of the coaster station roof.
Behind the station building, work continues for footings related to the ride’s covered exterior extended queue.
The other ride for Celestial Park is a covered carousel we think will be named Constellation Carousel, featuring animal-shaped ride vehicles modeled after constellations.
The below-ground level pump room attached to this attraction is currently being buried, with a layer of sand now added over the weather-proofing material, seen on left of the above photo.
A series of fountains were installed within this central lagoon in the middle of the park, and some of the covers over these fountain can be seen removed in the next photo.
Adjacent to this central lagoon, the kids’ splash pad area continues to evolve. Complex bundles of conduit now run between the arrays of pump nozzles.
Zooming out, and heading north within Celestial Park, additional viewing areas have taken shape for the park’s large fountain display, which we believe is named The Oculus. These tired viewing areas now completely encircle the fountain basin.
Beside The Oculus fountains, the rotunda seating area for a last-minute dining location for Epic Universe has been erected, seen at the top of the photo above and in closer view below.
Expected to be named Meteor Astropub, this restaurant and bar replaced the dining location originally designed for this location, so this structure will not match what is seen in official concept art.
Another nearby dining location, which has been rumored to be an Asian-inspired restaurant named Blue Dragon, can be seen being built at the very back of the park, right in front of the Helios Grand Hotel.
The smaller section of the building on the left of this building is shown in permits as additional guest restrooms for Celestial Park.
Moving now into the worlds of Epic Universe, the beacon has been installed for the portal leading into Dark Universe, the land based on the Universal Monsters.
The beacon for this portal is an electrical tower, inspired by the Frankenstein story. The white tube within the base of the electrical tower is expected to contain special lighting effects to allow it to glow.
The portal plate for this portal has not yet been installed.
Inside of the land, brick-themed walls have taken shape on both sides of the land’s main dining location.
The facade for this dining location is being enclosed now, with multiple gable rooftops and angled sections installed along the front.
Additional scaffolding has come down around the front of the main ride’s entry manor.
This large gothic manor will serve as the entrance to “Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment,” a massive indoor ride featuring all of the Universal Monsters.
The extended queue areas behind the manor continue to take shape, and framing for a mausoleum-like structure has been added.
Shingles have been added to the roof of this small snack stand expected to be named DeLacey’s near the manor.
Along the front of the ride entrance, unique jagged rockwork has been installed along the manor walls, including along the walkway leading into the ride’s queue building.
A similar jagged rocky design can be seen installed over the entrance to the land’s second dining location. This restaurant features the windmill from Frankenstein above it, flanked by walled-up hillsides on either side.
Trees have now been planted on the small hillside-like berm on the left side.
The barn-like covered bridge in the middle of the land’s spinning roller coaster attraction has received another layer of waterproofing material.
This structure is expected to house a swing launch section for this spinning coaster, and is rumored to feature a pair of werewolf figures inside, as the attraction itself is rumored to be named “Curse of the Werewolf.”
Shingles similar to the snack stand are being installed along the guest-facing side of the coaster station’s roof, at number 1 in the next photo.
Adding to the rumors that this ride will feature the fortune teller character from the original WolfMan film, a Romani wagon can actually be seen staged nearby, wrapped in protective plastic.
We believe this wagon will be part of the theming for the roller coaster attraction.
Behind the windmill restaurant, at the very back corner of Dark Universe, a backstage area is receiving gravel, seen at the arrow in the next photo. This small area is designated for backstage use in permits, so could be used for special parking or supply storage.
It is possible that this small backstage yard could be used for staging in the coming years, if the land’s phase 2 expansion is greenlit, which has long been rumored to be an indoor boat ride based on Creature from the Black Lagoon. So far though, construction on that rumored attraction has not yet begun.
How to Train Your Dragon — Isle of Berk
Moving on to How to Train Your Dragon — Isle of Berk, the beacon for this world’s portal features a weathervane at the top of a tower with Toothless pictured on it.
The portal structure itself is still in the process of receiving large sections of rockwork to help it match the mossy-topped cliffs of Berk.
Inside of the land, the deck-themed pathways are appearing much more complete, especially on the left side of the land’s lagoon.
Exclusive Daytime Footage of The “Sky Flyers” Flat ride in the How To Train Your Dragon 🐉 Section of Epic Universe 🚁🎢💯 pic.twitter.com/MsgL2S4SGP
— Peaceful Thrill Seeker (@P_T_S_342) December 28, 2023
Small access and evacuation paths are being added around the land’s roller coaster’s first launch.
Rockwork around the coaster’s second launch has been expanded to the area in front of the launch, which is described as a kids’ play area in permit documents.
The framing for the mountain structure sitting atop the Meade Hall, the land’s centerpiece dining location, has received nearly all of its mesh sections.
On the front of the Meade Hall, the mesh structure for a viking statue can be spotted. This will be one of two statues that flank the entrance, just like the entry to the Great Hall appears within the How to Train Your Dragon films.
The station roof for the land’s outdoor boat ride is coming together. It features a similar wooden roof style as the roller coaster’s first launch structure.
Foundation work and footings can be seen for the character meet and greet area in front of the land’s stage show theater building.
To the left of this area, a small pad has been added to this section of backstage shown as expansion space for the land, (seen top-left of next photo). It is not known how this pad will be used, but with a path leading to the rest of the backstage areas, it has been theorized as use for a boat yard for the boat ride, or even as a drone launch site for the area. The How to Train Your Dragon area is rumored to feature robotic dragon drones, which may be seen flying overhead.
Super Nintendo World
Heading now to Super Nintendo World, its portal is not as far along as the others. The exterior has received some green paint and white trim since our last update.
The beacons for the Nintendo portal are expected to be colorful pipes of varying lengths, each with floating power-ups above them.
Inside of the land, Bowser’s fortress is now behind scaffolding. This will be the entrance to Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, the area’s main attraction.
Next door to Bowser’s fortress, (on the left in the photo above,) a smaller fortress for Bowser Jr appears to be further along. This will be the entrance to the land’s boss battle interactive experience.
The framing for the Mario Motors sign has taken shape, seen at number 1 in the next photo. This will be the Mario Kart ride’s exit gift shop.
A set of Question and Brick Blocks can be seen over the start of the Yoshi’s Adventure family ride, at number 2 above, within the Mt. Beanpole mountain. These blocks are covered in protective plastic. A falling Thwomp for the end of the ride can also be seen on the mountain, at number 3 above, wrapped in protective plastic as well.
Near the middle of the Yoshi ride path, what could be the first unwrapped and visible Question Block for Super Nintendo World can be spotted.
Framing for the tunnel at the end of this ride’s indoor scene can be seen by this Question Block.
When these photos were taken, the black coverings for only a couple Yoshi-shaped ride vehicles were removed, with them wrapped in this green plastic instead, (like the one seen at number 2 in the photo below).
Now, thanks to a more recent aerial photo from Peaceful Thrill Seeker, we can see that all of the Yoshi ride vehicles have switched to the plastic wrap.
Moving into the back of Super Nintendo World, to the Donkey Kong Country area, scaffolding has come down around the left side of the mine cart coaster, revealing this large temple brick wall display.
Below is a look from behind these large blue-gray temple ruins bricks.
On the right side of the area, new wireframe shapes can be seen lining the water feature section of the mine cart coaster ride.
New supports have been added to the very top of the main golden temple facade. A multi-layer waterfall effect is expected to be placed within this area, where the mine carts will appear to jump over at the top of the temple.
What appear to be golden temple pieces can be seen staged on the ground to the right of the golden temple front.
The last world to check in on is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Ministry of Magic, where the beacon atop its portal is themed as a hand holding a wand.
This golden statue of a hand is located atop a tall Parisian style column, and appears to be holding the Elder Wand from the Harry Potter stories.
At the base of the portal entry, the metallic arch plate has been installed, this one featuring a bronze and green design.
Zooming out, a small courtyard has appeared by the land’s exit gate. At the center of this courtyard appears to be hookups for what may be a fountain.
Workers can be seen atop of the large entry arch leading into the streets of Wizarding Paris, giving us a good sense of scale for this massive land.
Inside of the land, the Parisian building facades continue to receive a weathered appearance.
At the back-right part of the land, the arrow in the next photo shows a backstage gate currently being used to move equipment in and out of the area.
If rumors are true, this opening here will someday be the main entrance for a phase two expansion to the Wizarding World, featuring a Great Hall dining experience.
The side alley in the next photo features the entrance to one of two main dining locations for the land, shown at the arrow. One of the facades beside this dining location, which is expected to be named “Le Gobelet Noir,” is rumored to be themed as the house of Nicolas Flamel.
Based on a real location in Paris, this alchemist makes an appearance in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
The facade for his home here in Epic Universe is described as having a large window display with special effects and lighting. This is likely related to an interactive wand experience.
Just like the first two Wizarding World lands at Universal Orlando, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, this new Wizarding World area is expected to feature several interactive wand experiences within window displays and more.
To prepare for these new and modernized wand experiences, it is rumored that the existing wand experiences at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida will be upgraded and new Interactive Wands will be introduced for sale.
The new wands are rumored to contain replaceable batteries, haptics, and new connectivity to the official Universal Orlando app. The upgraded experiences are rumored to feature improved visual effects. It’s rumored that existing interactive wands will still work with the upgraded experiences, but new wands will be needed for additional functionality.
These changes and the new wands are expected to debut some time this year, in 2024.
Epic Universe Hotels
Quickly checking in on the three hotels being built for Epic Universe, some new arches can be spotted at the base of the Universal Helios Grand Hotel at the back of the park.
Additional windows and framing have been installed on this side.
We finally have proof for what these white pods are staged inside of each of the hotel rooms, as this photo shows the name “SurePods” etched on the side of one.
SurePods is the manufacturer of prefabricated modular bathrooms, so, as many had suspected, these white cubes are actually the bathrooms for each of the rooms and suites of this hotel.
At the very top of the Helios hotel, the round structure for a rooftop bar has been installed. A ballroom and fireworks viewing area will also be constructed on this top floor of the hotel.
Permits show the thin strip of land in the center of the pond behind the hotel as the fireworks launch site.
Across the street from the Epic Universe theme park, tile work for Universal Terra Luna Resort is just now starting, as the reflective tiles for Universal Stella Nova Resort continue to wrap around its structure.
Behind these two hotels, which open early 2025, and are available for booking now, work is picking up steam for the Kirkman Road circle ramp.
This will be a ground level intersection with a large round flyover ramp just for going to and from Epic Universe.
This project must be completed before the theme park can open to the general public. The county says it should be ready by the end of this year.
That’s all for this update, but be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals. A huge thank you to Bioreconstruct for the amazing aerial photographs. You can follow him on Twitter, Bluesky, or Mastodon for more incredible theme park photos.
Subscribe to the news feed or enter your email address below to never miss an update. Official Art: Universal Destinations & Experiences | Aerial Photos: Bioreconstruct | Permit Documents: fasttrack.ocfl.net | Graphics and Overlays: Alicia Stella | Other Images as Captioned