Universal Orlando Resort Just Revealed HUGE News About the 'Dark Universe' Land Coming to Epic Universe

a bat's eye view of the dark universe land at the upcoming universal studios epic universe
Universal's Epic Universe Will Live Up to Its NameUniversal
  • Universal Orlando Resort is opening a new, fourth theme park, called Universal's Epic Universe. The center of Epic Universe will be Celestial Park, which will offer portals to four different themed lands.

  • The expansion will double the size of the original theme park, making way for "50 awe-inspiring attraction, entertainment, dining and shopping experiences," Universal said in a press release.

  • In this article, you'll learn: what the plans are for Universal's Epic Universe, what the Epic Universe park map looks like, when Epic Universe is expected to open and what rides and attractions have been announced.

Families traveling to central Florida have no shortage when it comes to exciting theme park news, but for the past year all eyes have been on Universal, which has been slowly doling out information about the opening of an all-new, fourth theme park at Universal Orlando Resort, called Universal’s Epic Universe.

“Our vision for Epic Universe is historic,” Tom Williams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Universal Parks & Resorts, said in a statement. “It will build on everything we have done and become the most immersive and innovative theme park we have ever created.”

So, what's going to be included in Epic Universe, and when can they take my money so I can go on all the rides?

The opening date for Universal's Epic Universe is still a ways off.

Universal has yet to announce a firm opening date. But it's a good bet it won't be that far off. All of the announcements from Universal have been remarkably consistent, all saying that Epic Universe is on track for an opening date for some time in 2025. Initial press releases indicated it would open in the summer, but now all official communications just say 2025. The rumor mill says that suggests the park could be opening earlier rather than later. (Oh please, oh please.)

What will the Epic Universe park map look like?

On January 30, Universal released a preliminary map that outlined the structure of the park. The center of the new map will be Celestial Park, a central shopping, dining and attraction area that also has portals to the four additional worlds.

an artist's rendering of the celestial park area at universal studios orlando's upcoming epic universe
Universal says it wants Celestial Park to put the "park" back in "theme park."Universal

Celestial Park is set to be a destination in and of itself. Universal said in a press release that it'll let guests explore "lush living gardens nestled along shimmering waters surrounded by stunning architecture inspired by astronomical and mythological elements." There will be fountain shows with state-of-the-art lighting effects, along with shops and new restaurants, like the The Blue Dragon Pan-Asian Restaurant, Atlantic (surf and turn inside an aquarium), The Oak & Star Tavern (for barbecue) and Pizza Moon.

Celestial park will have its own rides, too. The centerpiece will be the Constellation Carousel, which has horses and other mythical beings that rotate 360 degrees as they orbit. Astronmica will have get-wet attractions that will serve visitors well in the Florida heat. And, for thrill-seekers, there will be Stardust Racers, a dual-launch coaster that has vehicles criss-crossing and reaching speeds of up to 62 mph.

But when it's time to leave Celestial Park, portals will take guests to four other lands.

Dark Universe will celebrate the iconic Universal Monsters.

an artist's rendering of the portal to dark universe, a land in the upcoming epic universe at the universal orlando resort
Dark Universe will be a year-round destination for horror fans.Universal

Universal has a longstanding history with horror. First, there are the celebrated Universal Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and so on. Then, there are also the Universal Halloween Horror Nights, which leave room for more modern monsters like Chucky or the demons from The Exorcist. (The first haunted house for the 2024 Halloween Horror Nights has been announced. It's inspired by the universe of A Quiet Place.)

Once Epic Universe opens, fans won't have to wait for the Universal Horror Nights in the fall to experience these thrills and chills. In Dark Universe, "guests encounter everything from the experiments of Dr. Victoria Frankenstein to the shadowy landscape where monsters roam in a world of myth and mystery," Universal says in a press release. This is going to be a land where guests will have to gin up their courage before they even think about heading to the thrill rides.

an artists's rendering of the universal studios epic universe land of the dark universe, which features monsters roaming around a spooky village of darkmoor
Horror fans can meet their favorite monsters in the village of Darkmoor.Universal

Once guests enter the portal for the Dark Universe, they'll be transported to the village of Dark Moor, where evil lurks behind dark corners. Darkmoor is ruled by the great-great-granddaughter of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, the aforementioned Victoria Frankenstein. The centerpiece of the land is the dark ride Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment, where Victoria loses control of her experiments and unleashes Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Brides of Dracula and others terrifying beings on the unsuspecting guests. And that's not the only ride in Darkmoor. There's also The Curse of the Werewolf, described as a spinning family coaster.

Monster fans who don't necessarily love going on rides can meet their favorite monsters, including Frankenstein's Monster and his bride, Ygor, The Invisible Man and other eccentric residents of the ravaged village. Or, fans can take it one step further and be transformed into a monster via the Darkmoor Monster Makeup Experience.

If horror fans can stomach a treat after seeing all the ghoulishness, there will be several eateries in the land. The coolest seems to be The Burning Blade Tavern, which is topped with a windmill that smolders and flames. Inside, monster hunters have hung their trophy heads on the wall. There's also the vampire-themed Das Stakehaus — get it? — and the De Lacey’s Cottage food stand for quick bites. Monster merch will be available at Pretorius’ Scientific Oddities, which sounds intriguing.

Universal Studios Orlando will finally get its own Super Nintendo World.

an artist's rendering of the portal to super nintendo world at the upcoming epic universe park at universal studios orlando
Super Nintendo World celebrates all things Super Mario.Universal

Universal Studios Hollywood has had its own Super Nintendo World since early in 2023. Universal Studios Japan has had one for even longer. Now, Orlando gets to catch up.

The Orlando version will have all of the attractions that Hollywood has, and then some. The main draw is Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge, which puts fans into a kart racer and uses augmented reality to challenge players to aim shells at targets and collect coins. The whole thing takes place inside a re-creation of Bowser's castle, which is pretty neat in and of itself. And, like in Hollywood, visitors can by Power-Up Bands (for an additional charge) to interact with the land, hitting question blocks and mini-games to collect digital coins and keys that unlock more experiences. When they're done, they can refresh themselves with food at the Toadstool Café.

But Orlando also goes beyond Hollywood in terms of its Nintendo-themed offerings. The most exciting tidbit is the addition of Donkey Kong Country, which takes visitors out of the Mario-themed world and into one with more of a jungle vibe. There, they'll find Mine-Cart Madness, inspired by the mine carts in the Donkey Kong games. According to a press release, on this family coaster, riders "will experience the jaw-dropping maneuvers that they’ve seen Donkey Kong and the mine carts perform in the video games — including getting blasted out of a barrel, seemingly jumping over gaps as they speed along a rickety track." The object is to help Donkey Kong and friends protect a golden banana.

an artist's rendering of mine cart madness in donkey kong country at universal studios orlando
Mine-Cart Madness transports riders into the world of Donkey Kong Country.Universal

What about for the non-thrill-seekers? They'll have Yoshi's Adventure, where riders sit in Yoshi-shaped cars and travel through the Mushroom Kingdom looking for glowing eggs (and their favorite characters). The ride supposedly offers a great view of the rest of the land.

Fans who want to bring home some of the magic will be pleased to know that there will be a 1-Up Factory Store, so guests can bring those Mario-themed popcorn buckets and tee shirts home.

Vikings will roam in a land dedicated to How to Train Your Dragon.

an artists's rendering of the portal to the island of berk, a land in the upcoming epic universe at universal studios orlando
The gateway to Berk, where dragons live.Universal

Vikings, dragon-riders and fans of mead: Rejoice! On March 28, Universal released detailed information about a second land in its park, called How to Train Your Dragon — Isle of Berk. (You can even take an animated video tour.) And it's got a lot going on.

The most thrilling attraction here will be Hiccup's Wing Gliders, which is described as being a "family thrill coaster." The ride will give visitors the impression that they're soaring alongside Hiccup and Toothless — getting an excellent view of Berk from above in the process. And since the top speed is just 45 mph, riders will get to enjoy the view.

artist rendering of he land of berk featuring hiccup riding toothless over a lagoon filled with viking boats
Families will fly through the Berk’s lagoon on the Hiccup’s Wing Gliders ride.Universal

That's not the only ride in the land: Fyre Drill is a boat ride where riders try to hit targets with water cannons (under the direction of Viking twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut), and Dragon Racer's Rally takes riders high in the air, where they can do acrobatic tricks on their dragons while controlling how wild the ride is.

In addition, there's a "The Untrainable Dragon" live show, a Viking Training Camp climbing area for little ones, Hiccup and Toothless meet-and-greets, and a variety of eateries where guests can enjoy meat, mead and other treats.

Of course there will be more Harry Potter.

an artist's rendering of the portal to the wizarding world of harry potter – ministry of magic, an upcoming land in the epic universe park at universal studios orlando
The Ministry of Magic design combines 1920s Paris with what fans already love from the movies. Universal

Universal Orlando Resort already has two The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-themed lands — Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley — but two good turns deserve another.

This time, they're going for the Ministry of Magic. The twist: While the other two parks mostly take their cues from the eight Harry Potter movies, this one adds in design elements from the Fantastic Beasts series as well, including hints of "1920s wizarding Paris."

What Universal hasn't announced officially is what that means for rides. Mostly, rumors swirl that the big attraction in the land will be inspired by the battle at the Ministry.

And you can stay there, too.

an artists rendering of the universal helios grand hotel at epic universe, an upcoming land in universal orlando resort
The Universal Helios Grand Hotel has views of the park.Universal

Too much to do in one day? Never want to leave? Adjacent to the Celestial Park area is the majestic Universal Helios Grand Hotel, which overlooks the park. It'll have 500 rooms and even its own dedicated entrance — or should we call it a portal?

Two other hotels: Loews Universal Stella Nova Resort and Loews Universal Terra Luna Resort, said to be just minutes from Epic Universe, are already taking reservations for early next year. Stella Nova is set to open on January 21, 2025, and Terra Luna will follow shortly after on February 25, 2025. Both have cosmic vibes, based on outer space or planets yet to be discovered, and are adjacent to Epic Universe.

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