Across the country, theme parks are rolling out new additions for summer -- and the Universal Orlando Resort is certainly no exception. From the opening of its fifth hotel to its fresh take on King Kong, here’s what you can expect there this season.
1. Redesigned rooms at Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Open since 2002, this Pacific Islands-inspired Loews outpost recently completed a redo of its 1,000 guestrooms. The new decor is tranquil, featuring neutral tones with floral accents and custom furnishings made to resemble vintage luggage, with leather straps, metal corner guards, and buckles. The property has a lagoon-style pool, a torch lighting ceremony on select evenings, a spa, and five restaurants and lounges. Guests of the resort can take advantage of express lines for attractions at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, complimentary water taxis to the parks, and early morning access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, among other benefits. Nightly rates in August start at $254 for a standard king bedroom.
2. The debut of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Slated to open on July 14, Loews Sapphire Falls is the fifth hotel on Universal Orlando turf. Where Loews Royal Pacific is themed to islands in Oceania, here guests will find a slice of the Caribbean throughout its 1,000 guestrooms (77 of which are suites). The hotel has two sand beach areas, Universal’s largest pool, a fire pit, and a cascading waterfall. For Caribbean flavors, head to Amatista Cookhouse for waterfront dining, or sidle up to the ceviche bar and arrange a rum tasting at Strong Water Tavern. Those staying here can get to the parks via water taxis or shuttles and enter the parks before day guests. Rates in August start at $184 for a standard room with two queen beds.
3. The Incredible Hulk Coaster gets a facelift
The green behemoth at Islands of Adventure reopened in early August following a months-long, extensive upgrade that changed virtually everything about the roller coaster, from the entrance and queue to the storyline, ride vehicle, and launch tunnel. Two of the coolest additions are the gigantic, menacing Hulk figure standing outside the ride -- holding pieces of the track -- and the in-seat audio system that pumps out an original score written by Fall Out Boy front man Patrick Stump.
4. King Kong returns
When Universal Studios Florida opened more than 26 years ago, one of the park’s major attractions was Kongfrontation, a ride centered on King Kong. In it, riders were loaded onto an aerial tram in New York City to escape from an on-the-loose Kong. Though it proved to be one of the park’s most popular experiences, it shuttered 12 years later to make way for Revenge of the Mummy. For many fans, one question lingered: Would King Kong ever make his way back to Orlando? The answer is yes. On July 13, Skull Island: Reign of Kong is being unveiled at Islands of Adventure, thrusting riders onto a mysterious island during a battle between prehistoric creatures and the prodigious primate. The nearly six-minute adventure has a slew of bells and whistles, including the resort's first trackless ride system carrying 72-seat vehicles, actors popping out to scare guests in the queue, 3D effects, and impressive audio animatronics.