Universal seems to be rushing to get the Epic Universe theme park ready for its 2025 opening, as we now have our first footage of actual ride testing. Plus, the first readable sign for something inside the park has shown up, permits may have revealed the carousel seating, and rumors suggest which land may be getting the first expansion.
Let’s dig into all of those stories, as well as construction happening in every area of Epic Universe, in today’s news update. See the video version of this story below for additional visuals.
Thanks to new aerial photos, (as well as some video,) taken by Bioreconstruct on social media, we are able to get an updated look at progress around the Epic Universe site.
Starting our update within the central areas of Epic Universe, within the hub section we believe will be named “Celestial Park,” after passing through the portal in the park’s entry arch, guests will come upon a series of cascading waterfalls.
These winding waterfall platforms are being installed now, starting at the edge of the park entry area, and making their way down to this shallow pool in front of the restaurant we think will be named ATLANTIC.
There even appears to be one of these cascading water features on the opposite side of the ATLANTIC restaurant, to add even more kinetic energy to the front section of the park.
Crossing the bridge-like pathway, which is making good progress, let’s check in on the Constellation Carousel in the center of the park.
Permits that were recently approved by the county show the final look for this attraction’s main structure.
These permit images show labels for the queue areas, including an Express queue, as well other areas of the structure like the load/unload platform on ground level, and ride turnplate pit underneath, as well as pump rooms for the central water features.
Ornate features atop the carousel’s main dome can also be seen in this side view image.
These permits also include images with cutout views of the pump rooms, water tank, and mechanical ride pit under the attraction. It’s in one of these images that we can get a glimpse of some of the ride cars for this constellation-themed carousel.
A couple animals can be seen in this view, including what appears to be a ram and perhaps a rabbit on the left. In red, a gondola seating car can be seen, as well as a pink head of a horse-like animal to its right.
The Constellation Carousel has long been rumored to feature carousel seating modeled after animals and characters seen in constellations, like Aries the ram, so this may be our first glimpse of what to expect on the ride.
Moving on, located between the carousel and the park’s large fountain display, we can find this splash pad area.
Arrays of what could be nozzles for this splash pad’s water sprayers have been installed.
A new trademark application from Universal could be confirmation of this splash pad’s rumored name. ASTRONOMICA has been trademarked for use in interactive play areas.
Nearby, the large fountain display has been rumored to be named “The Oculus,” but so far a trademark for that term has not yet been filed.
Currently, a new peach color is being added to the bottom and sides of this massive basin. This is likely some sort of water sealant that is being applied.
To the right of the fountain, framing for the roof for the restaurant we believe will be called Meteor Astropub is being installed.
Vertical construction for the rounded dining area for this structure has not yet started, but the rest of the structure is being enclosed quite quickly.
On the other side of the fountain, a large tree has been planted within the round planter in front of The Oak and Star Tavern, a dining location we expect will specialize in smoked or barbecue foods.
This planter contains some plumbing hookups, which may indicate that it could have a small fountain surrounding it.
Moving on to Starfall Racers, the large dual-track roller coaster for Celestial Park, the entry courtyard in front of the ride’s entrance portal continues to be fleshed out.
The coaster’s large icon, a comet surrounded by celestial rings, has seen the very front section now entirely enclosed.
The tail of this comet icon, which continues into the station building, has not yet been enclosed, seen at number 1 in the next photo.
The area in front of the coaster’s icon, which will see the two coaster trains pass by each other, heading in opposite directions, is receiving an interesting divider wall, seen at number 2 in the above photo.
Perhaps for safety reasons, it appears that a wall is being installed to separate these two tracks at this near miss moment. While much of the ride sees the two tracks travel together side by side, this is where they will be heading towards each other. It’s unclear as to how these walls will be themed.
Heading into the Dark Universe land of Epic Universe, based on the Universal Monsters, a planter and small structure is being built up behind the entry portal.
This structure will help to separate the entrance and exit paths, guiding guests entering to their right after entering.
Theming is being added to the framing for what appears to be a broken wall at the end of the village street within the land.
Checking in on the windmill-themed dining location at the back of the land, some of the brick-themed and wood-themed walls on the left side of its entrance are receiving coats of paint.
The walls on the right side have received more theming details, like these sharp edge rocks and retaining posts.
Looking closer at this wall right by the main entrance, what appears to be a row of skulls can be seen sitting on the ledge.
Sitting between the windmill and the nearby “Curse of the Werewolf” roller coaster, some of the coaster cars can be seen staged, seen on the left of the next photo.
These spinning roller coaster cars are sitting on a backstage access path, waiting to be installed on the ride.
Work has started to create winding walkways and separation walls within the coaster’s exterior forest queue.
The other attraction for this land, a massive indoor ride featuring all of the Universal Monsters continues to see extensive theming details added to its entry manor facade.
At the base of this facade, brickwork for the manor’s surrounding walls is appearing on the left side. Compare the left side to the bare walls seen on the right of the ride’s entry path.
To the left of the manor, a snack stand we expect to be named “De Lacey’s” has received brickwork around the framing for its chimney.
Zooming out, trees have been planted beside the main ride building, and can be seen behind the land’s main dining location.
How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk
Moving on to How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk, the portal plate is being installed along the entry to this land.
This is the first of the portal plates we’ve seen installed so far. All of the portals of Epic Universe will include a similar structure at their entrance. Although, colors and what will be engraved on the fronts will vary to better match the lands.
The engraved plate for this arch has not yet been installed, but once it is, we expect a short phrase related to the How to Train Your Dragon series to be included above the portal entry.
Inside of the land, it appears that Bioreconstruct has managed to get the very first footage of one of the rides testing at Epic Universe.
Video! A ride test spotted tonight in How To Train Your Dragon Land. A quick clip of a spinning ride ending a ride cycle. Seen in Epic Universe. pic.twitter.com/due5tBBQOw
— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) December 7, 2023
The video above, showing one of the two Sky Fly rides actually in motion, was taken at night just last week.
Red flashing lights can be seen along the safety fence around the ride as it is in motion. It appears that one of the ride seats is actually doing barrel rolls as it makes its way around, giving the test dummy a bit of a thrilling test ride.
Video of ride testing of the How To Train Your Dragon land spinning rides in Epic Universe. pic.twitter.com/OcognUEw9l
— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) December 12, 2023
Just this week, he was able to get more testing footage, (seen above,) this time from the ground, and with both Sky Fly rides rotating at the same time. It is possible they are testing rides at night so it does not interfere with construction during the day.
The next photos show what the test dummies on this attraction look like during the day. Each are strapped into the seats, simulating the weight of human riders.
The lagoon in the middle of the area is still filled with water. Given that it had not rained prior to these updated photos being taken we can assume that the water has been added on purpose.
The lagoon being filled could be related to testing something, like ensuring the coaster moment that passes under the bridge is watertight.
What appear to be stakes for a fence around the front section of coaster track have been installed in the ground, seen at number 2 in the next photo.
Prep for the roller coaster’s queue area is taking place now, located in front of the station building.
The decorative rockwork surrounding the coaster’s second launch has received paint, including a layer of mossy green on top.
Archways at the start and end of this show scene and launch for the coaster have been installed around this section.
What may be possible connection points for themed elements can be seen along the sides of the scene, which look like holes. There are rumors for possible animatronics on the ride, including an animated Toothless figure.
In the center of the land, a layer of mesh is being added around the framing atop the Meade Hall dining location. This structure is thought to be a forced perspective mountain.
Often referred to as “chips,” these individual pieces are pre-formed before being installed. Later they will be covered in a hard material and painted.
Mesh chips have already been installed all around the guest-facing sides of the structure itself, including around the front door area.
Despite the land’s main lagoon being filled with water, the boat ride lagoon is still dry as work continues to add theming. The bridge between the two lagoons, seen on left of next photo, hides a small dam that can keep the water from spilling from one side to the other.
Inside of the boat ride’s lagoon, the wood-themed retaining wall on one side looks completed and painted, as work moves on to the other side, themed as stone walls. It appears that green moss color is being added to the tops of these stone shapes, matching the look of the coaster launch’s stonework.
In the center of the ride, which we expect to be named “Fyre Drill” more cut out tree shapes have appeared, including a windmill that appears to be on fire. This windmill may match the one being built atop the nearby quick service location.
With a windmill being constructed atop the left side of this dining location, we expect this restaurant to be named “Spit Fyre Grill,” to go along with the boat ride.
In fact, it looks as though that very name can now be seen being etched into the wall above the ordering windows!
Super Nintendo World
Next up is Super Nintendo World, where the top of the escalator ramp above the entry portal is receiving the same “go-away” green weatherproofing as the rest of the land’s exterior walls.
Inside of the land, a round section of pavement has been poured in front of Peach’s Castle on the upper level.
Atop of Peach’s Castle and the nearby roofs, stacks of foam blocks are being staged.
Across the land, also on the upper level, the tower frames for turrets on either side of Bowser’s Fortress have been installed. This will become the entrance to the Mario Kart ride.
The entrance to the Bowser Jr. Boss Battle interactive experience has taken shape, designed to look like a smaller fortress. This experience requires the purchase of a Power-Up Band.
Also happening in the main area of Super Nintendo World, it appears that all of the Yoshi-shaped ride vehicles for Yoshi’s Adventure have been installed.
Prep is happening now for pouring of ground in this ride’s finale scene, seen in the next photo, at the back of the land.
Below this area, we can see where the warp pipe connecting the main areas of Super Nintendo World to the Donkey Kong Country area will be located.
Temple brickwork continues to be shaped for the Donkey Kong roller coaster attraction within this area.
Official details for the first version of this attraction have been released, opening in Universal Studios Japan in Spring 2024.
Shown off at a special presentation, Universal revealed the official name for the ride as being “Mine Cart Madness,” which is what has been rumored.
They explained how on the ride we will be blasted out of a barrel cannon at the Golden Temple, in a mine cart that will leap across collapsed track, zoom through the jungle, and help Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong protect the Golden Banana from the Tiki Tak Tribe.
Just like in Universal Studios Japan, we expect the version of the Donkey Kong Country mini-land in Epic Universe to include interactive experiences which utilize the Power-Up Bands.
When the ride opens next year, guests in Japan will be able to purchase Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong Power-Up Bands, so we will probably receive those here in Orlando as well.
See our recent article for more official details for the ride opening next year in Japan, and how it may differ from the version at Epic Universe.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Ministry of Magic
Now looking into the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Ministry of Magic, scaffolding has come down in front of the wall on the left of the land’s entry arch, shown at number 3 in the next photo, revealing a very detailed brick wall design.
Many of the facades and structures within the land are receiving a weathered appearance, including the small side wall facing the land’s entrance. Compare the painted top part, to the unthemed lower section in the next photo.
Facades near the land’s main Ministry of Magic ride appear to be getting the weathering look as well. This is where we expect to find both the entrance and the exit for the ride.
While the land is expected to open with a massive indoor ride, a live stage show, two dining locations, and several shops around the land, there are new rumors suggesting that the Wizarding World may be the first land at Epic Universe to receive a phase two expansion.
According to a rumor, a Great Hall dinner experience may be planned to be built on the right-back side of the land, taking up just a section of the land’s available expansion space.
If true, this dinner theater experience would allow diners to eat within the Great Hall after using magical Floo travel to enter the Hogwarts Castle from Wizarding Paris. Special effects are rumored to create storytelling experiences along the ceiling while you dine.
This rumor has the Great Hall dinner experience opening in 2026, just a year after the park opens. If true, we may see movement on this expansion before Epic Universe even opens.
Epic Universe Hotels
The two hotels being built across the street from Epic Universe have officially been announced, and their opening dates have been revealed.
Universal Stella Nova Resort will officially open January 21, 2025. This is the hotel that has already seen many of its colorful tiles installed, and is located slightly closer to the theme park entrance.
Universal Terra Luna Resort, which is a little behind on construction, will see its official opening on February 25, 2025.
Both of these new Universal Orlando Resort hotels will have 750 rooms each.
Booking for both of these hotels is open now, and you can learn more in our recent article, or by visiting the official Loews Hotels website.
The 500-room hotel at the back of the theme park, which we expect will be named Universal Helios Grand Hotel, has not yet seen an official announcement.
We can see that glass is being installed in many of the windows for the Helios hotel, including over the front lobby on the side opposite the theme park.
Round framing for what permits refer to as a pool bar area has been constructed, but so far the shape of the pool has not yet been dug out.
On the side of the Helios hotel facing the park, green accents are becoming more apparent as details are added along the face of the structure.
These sections of green trim may only be the start of ornate decoration for this luxury hotel.
This soft green accent color may continue throughout all of Celestial Park, the central areas of Epic Universe.
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