What’s New at Disneyland and Universal Studios
With its beaches and mountains, world-class entertainment and nightlife, and Hollywood star sightings, Los Angeles can feel like a playground all on its own. Two of its theme parks, Disneyland Resort (in nearby Anaheim) and Universal Studios Hollywood, dial up the fun factor and keep visitors and locals alike coming back to visit year after year. Each park has tried and true favorites that visitors love whether experiencing them for the first time or the hundredth, but if you think you’ve seen all there is to see, think again. Each park is rolling out new and exciting attractions that take things to a whole new level.
A New Land in the Disney Galaxy
In 2015, Disney Parks announced they would be creating a new Star Wars Land at their Disneyland and Disneyworld Resorts, and fans have been eager for details while awaiting the grand opening in 2019. Disney Imagineers have been working closely with Lucasfilm to create a land they promise to be the most impressive the park has ever created. In Star Wars Land, or its official name, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, you’ll be able to live out your own Star Wars story in a galaxy far, far away.
Disney Parks recently revealed the two main attractions that will be part of the much-anticipated new land:
The first is Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, where you’ll get behind the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy in one of three unique flight crew roles.
The second is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where you’ll be put in the middle of an epic battle between the Resistance and the First Order.
Upon entering Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, you will find yourself on the planet Batuu, where you can explore the Black Spire Outpost, stop in for other-worldly refreshments at Oga’s Cantina, and even download an app for an optional interactive experience.
As if that weren’t enough, John Williams, the Oscar-winning composer of the iconic Star Wars themes, is creating new and original music exclusively for the new land. The new themes are being recorded by the London Symphony at Abbey Road Studios.
Galaxy’s Edge promises to be a legendary experience from start to finish.
If Summer 2019 sounds like too long to wait, you don’t have to wait for tomorrow to visit Tomorrowland and experience the Disneyland’s original Star Wars attractions that have delighted park visitors for years. Follow in the steps of a Jedi Master at the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple and prepare for the ultimate encounter with the Dark Side of the Force, and hang on tight on Star Tours – The Adventures Continue as C-3P0 accidentally jettisons you into a battle with the Empire. Featuring multiple storylines and destinations, it’s an unforgettable space flight almost every time.
Mickey and Minnie Take Center Stage
While Star Wars may be getting a lot of attention these days, it’s not the only thing Disney Imagineers have been dreaming up. Beginning in January of 2019, you’ll get to enjoy exciting new Mickey Mouse offerings at Disneyland with Get Your Ears On — A Mickey and Minnie Celebration, which will feature new entertainment, food and merchandise.
On January 18, “Mickey’s Mix Magic” will light up the night at Disneyland Park with all-new music, projections and lasers that set the scene for an epic dance party that takes over almost the entire park. The party will get even bigger when the fan-favorite Mickey’s Soundsational Parade returns to the resort in January 2019 featuring a new float with Mickey himself, who will lead the celebration down Main Street, U.S.A.
Bring your ears and get ready to party with the mouse that started it all.
- Wear comfortable footwear. It’s not unusual to clock six or seven miles on your pedometer during a day at the park. (There are ample accommodations for those with mobility issues.)
- Visit during the week, or in the winter. There are more visitors and longer lines for attractions on weekends, during the summer, and around national holidays.
- Get there early. You probably won’t have the park to yourself but the crowds get bigger as the day goes on. Pick the two or three attractions you want to see most and go there first before everyone else does.
- Plan your visit. Look at the map and have some idea of where you want to go so you’re not going back and forth from one side of the park to the other, taking up valuable time you could be riding rides instead.
More information is available at disneyland.disney.go.com
Universal Studios Hollywood Gets a Makeover
Just over five years ago, movie-themed Universal Studios Hollywood embarked on a journey to completely transform and update the park. With new attractions based on popular movies and TV shows such as “Harry Potter”, “The Walking Dead”, and “Kung Fu Panda”, the creative team designing the new features aimed to create an entirely new and revitalized experience for visitors.
“With over 75 percent completely reimagined, Universal Studios Hollywood is an entirely new theme park destination and we look forward to sharing everything that the Entertainment Capital of L.A. has to offer with visitors from around the world,” Larry Kurzweil, President of Universal Studios Hollywood, said in a press statement.
Hogwarts Comes to Hollywood
In 2016 “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” opened its gates at Universal Studios Hollywood. More than five years in the making, and inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters that were brought to life in the Warner Bros. films, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” has been masterfully recreated with impeccable detail as a real-world interpretation at Universal Studios Hollywood. If you’re a fan of the fiction and films, you’ll instantly recognize the landscape including Hogwarts castle, which serves as its iconic focal point.
From its snow-capped roofs and cobblestone streets to the historic British sensibilities that characterize the whimsical look and feel of the land, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” will transport you to the very places you’ve read about in the stories or watched on the silver screen. Even if you haven’t kept up with the books and films, you can easily get swept away in this masterfully designed fantasyland.
Upon entering the land through the archway, Hogsmeade bustles to life with the same vitality of a quaint local village: merchants hard at work, a train conductor welcoming new arrivals and a pub packed to the gills with hungry patrons. Of course there are the added elements of the land’s signature ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” and the family outdoor coaster, “Flight of the Hippogriff™.”
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” resonates with immense detail, inviting guests to revel in Harry Potter’s world with the opportunity to enjoy authentic food and beverage at multiple locations, including Three Broomsticks, and Hog’s Head pub, as well as the Magic Neep and Butterbeer carts.
An Immersive Kung Fu Quest
Inspired by the global blockbuster franchise, the attraction will take guests on a thrilling journey that fuses captivating storytelling with state-of-the art visual effects for a highly engaging experience.
“Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” recounts a plot-filled story in which the dragon warrior Po embarks on a wild and perilous mission while enlisting guests to join him on the exciting adventure filled with raging rapids, river pirates, awesome magic and Kung Fu.
Stunning visual projections and 360 degree surround sound audio, sweeping physical effects from water to wind will empower guests to feel more like participants than spectators in the adrenaline-spiked adventure.
With cutting-edge technology at the forefront of the multi-sensory attraction, “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” will introduce the first-ever integration of interior projection mapping designed to engulf guests in 180 degrees of immersive adventure. This never-before-adapted technique will make it nearly impossible to realize the projected imagery is a mere illusion.
While You’re There
Don’t miss the renowned, behind-the-scenes Studio Tour featuring the intense “King Kong 360 3-D” attraction and the “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” thrill ride. Other popular rides include the 3D-HD adventure, “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem,” “Transformers,” “Revenge of the Mummy” and “Jurassic Park,” “Springfield,” hometown of America’s favorite TV family, the award-winning “The Simpsons Ride”, and “The Walking Dead” attraction.
Universal Studios Tips:
- Plan to spend a full day at the park. Maybe two. Between the rides, attractions, and Studio Tour, there’s a lot to take in.
- With so much to see and do, it might be worth spending a little extra on Universal Express passes so you can skip the lines and see more of the park.
- Studio Tours are usually more exciting during the week as most filming happens on weekdays. If you go on the weekend you’ll still see the sets and recreated city streets where real TV shows and movies are filmed, but you’re unlikely to see filming in action.
More information is available at UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.