200+ PHOTOS: Universal Orlando Resort Reveals Massive Epic Universe Model & Preview Center

    We’re about a year away from the grand opening of Central Florida’s newest theme park, and it promises to be epic. Next summer Universal Orlando Resort will open Universal Epic Universe, its third theme park in Orlando and the most immersive yet. As crews continue to pour concrete and test rides some 2.5 miles away (as the dragon flies), Universal Orlando has opened the Epic Universe Preview Center to guests visiting CityWalk. While we remain a Disney World-focused site, it’s impossible to ignore a brand new theme park opening in Central Florida, so we will continue to cover Epic Universe through its opening. Also, I personally can’t resist photographing a good scale model.

    Before we jump in, I also want to give a shout out to Alicia Stella and her work at the Theme Park Stop YouTube channel for providing a treasure trove of background information that helped me understand what I was looking at in the model. While I frequent Universal Orlando and keep up with the latest news to the best of my ability, it’s a relative blind spot compared to the catalog of Walt Disney World knowledge that I have.

    Epic Universe Preview Center

    The Epic Universe Preview Center can be found in Universal CityWalk, between Cowfish and Big Fire. Here’s a look at the exterior of the building, which features the soon-to-be-iconic (maybe?) portal that guests will walk through to not only enter the park but to enter each of the different themed lands as well.

    A wrap-around screen is featured on the upper half of the building and it plays video overviews of the various lands within Epic Universe.

    Epic Universe Model: Overview

    Inside the preview center, the centerpiece is the massive model of Epic Universe. The model, seen below, provides guests with a birds-eye view of the theme park and the Universal Helios Grand Hotel.

    Universal Orlando Resort says that the model is roughly 625 square feet!

    We’ll have more detailed photos in a bit of each of the lands and sections of the theme park, but here’s another overview photo of the model.

    Before we dive into the model, it’s worth noting that there are portals with concept art around the perimeter of the preview center that not only offer a nice photo op but also give guests a peek into each land that is otherwise difficult to visualize from the model alone.

    Epic Universe Model: Park Entrance & Celestial Park

    Background article: Celestial Park Attractions, Dining & Details

    We’ll start our tour of the model where many of you will start your day at the park – the main entrance. Of course, there will be a hotel-exclusive entrance as well, but we’ll save the hotel for a little bit later in this article.

    Epic Universe Main Entrance

    The security area will be outside of the main entrance, as you’d expect, represented by the green-roofed structures below.

    Once you’re through security, you’ll enter the main entrance and ticketing plaza.

    The centerpiece is the Chronos, stretching into the sky with an inscription on the portal that reads:

    With Sun And Moon The Stars And Time – The Chronos Spins And Worlds Align
    For If You Seek With Curious Heart – Your Compass True And Stars To Chart
    Beyond This Gate Find Gardens Green – And Epic Worlds To Fill Your Dreams

    The main entrance plaza looks to extend much of the greenery that guests will find when they enter Celestial Park.

    As we pass through the portal, here’s a reverse look at the main entrance from the Helios Grand Hotel.

    Celestial Park

    The central land in this hub-and-spoke design is called Celestial Park, and it is an original concept, surrounded by themed IP-driven lands and a resort hotel attached to the back of the theme park.

    With acres of rolling gardens, chasing waterways, and strolling pathways, Celestial Park puts the “park” back in “theme park.” Guests will be able to wander through lush living gardens nestled along shimmering waters surrounded by stunning architecture inspired by astronomical and mythological elements.

    Here, guests can relax while taking in the sights and sounds around them, board a shooting comet for an exhilarating roller coaster adventure, dine on delectable cuisine, shop exclusive merchandise to commemorate their visit, and more.

    Universal says that Celestial Park will feature plenty of exciting entertainment, including various fountain shows throughout Celestial Park’s seven acres of water where a multitude of fountains sway, dance – and even reach heights up to 135 feet in the air – to music and interactive lighting from day to night.

    Here’s a side angle of the flow from the main entrance into Celestial Park.

    A look past the Chronos entrance shows buildings flanking an overlook into the gardens and flowing streams.

    Looking toward the Celestial Park main entrance from the Helios Grand hotel, we can see the gardens and water features that basically lead from the main entrance down to the Constellation Carousel and Atlantic restaurant.

    Here’s a side view, with the hotel out of frame to the left, and the main entrance to the right.

    Another view brings the Helios Grand hotel back into view.

    Going back to the “front” of Celestial Park, we can find two buildings next to each other. The previously announced Nintendo Super Star Store can be found next to Pizza Moon (called Moon Pie in the model). These two locations will be next to the portal entrance to SUPER NINTENDO WORLD.

    Nearby, the Atlantic restaurant will overlook Neptune pool. Atlantic will be a full-service restaurant set inside a Victorian aquarium with captivating views of Celestial Park. Guests will find seafood and steaks or they can enjoy a cocktail at the lively Aquaria Bar.

    We’ll turn our attention to the Constellation Carousel now, which appears to be the largest structure in Celestial Park.

    The other attraction in Celestial Park is Starfall Stardust Racers. Stardust Racers is a dual-launch racing coaster that sends guests rocketing through the skies aboard comets in a race to see who’s the fastest of them all. Reaching speeds up to 62 mph and heights up to 133 feet along 5,000 feet of track, Starfall Racers will be Epic Universe’s most thrilling coaster experience with unique maneuvers such as the “Celestial Spin,” in which the two coaster vehicles perform an inverted crisscross while speeding through the air – creating an “out-of-this-world” adrenaline rush. With no external track lighting at night, the fully illuminated ride vehicles appear as comets shooting across the night sky above Celestial Park.

    While the entrance to Stardust Racers is in Celestial Park, the roller coaster will run the full length (and then some) of the How to Train Your Dragon land next door.

    Here’s a closer look at the entrance, which will be through a tunnel, and the former name of the attraction as seen on the marquee.

    Going back out into Celestial Park, there looks to be a stage for some unannounced entertainment.

    What appears to be a burger joint sits near Astronomica, an interactive wet-play area that also doubles as a giant compass rose to the many wonders of Epic Universe. Signage for the restaurant says “Meteor” and features a burger as a shooting star with the tagline “Boy! How I Go for That Meteor Flavor!”

    Epic Universe Model: SUPER NINTENDO WORLD

    Background article: Super Nintendo World Attractions, Shops, Dining & Details

    If we entered Celestial Park at the 6pm part of the circular layout of Epic Universe, we’d find SUPER NINTENDO WORLD at the 8pm position. Put into terms that Disney Worlders can understand, we’re headed left to Mexico on our voyage around World Showcase.

    We’ll start with a look at the entrance to the land before going inside. As we’ll see as we continue to take a look at the individual lands, the model includes the massive show buildings that the indoor attractions will use. I love that Universal did this because it gives people a really good idea of just how big the rides will be in relation to the rest of the space.

    In the photo below, we have our focus point set on the main entrance, but we can see the show building for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge looming large in the background.

    The text on the entrance portal reads “A Colorful World Awaits Inside, So Do Not Delay, Let Fate Decide”.

    Here are a few overviews of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, which is essentially split into two separately themed areas. At the front of the land, you have Super Mario Land, and at the back of the land, guests will be able to explore Donkey Kong Country.

    Going back to the other side of the model, and our birds-eye view from somewhere above the Stardust Racers roller coaster, we can look into Super Mario Land and see some of the notable landmarks such as the entrance to Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge and Mount Beanpole.

    In the distance, we can see the facade for the Mine-Cart Madness roller coaster in Donkey Kong Country.

    Returning to Super Mario Land, we can see how highly themed and colorful the area is.

    Heading over to Donkey Kong Country now through a tunnel and into another world.

    Epic Universe Model: Dark Universe

    Background article: Dark Universe Attractions, Dining, Characters, and more

    From the experiments of Dr. Victoria Frankenstein to a shadowy landscape where monsters roam, Dark Universe is a world of myth and mystery.

    UPDATE (June 20th): Universal Orlando Resort has officially announced details for Dark Universe, so we’ve updated this section of the article with new information!

    We’ll start where every adventure in Epic Universe starts: the portal. The caption on the portal for the model reads, “The Air Itself Is Filled With Monsters”. From what we understand (and what is obvious by the tone set by the design of the land), Dark Universe will be scary, but Universal Orlando says not too scary. It might end up being a skip for families with young ones, or a rite of passage, depending on how you look at it. Before we walk through the portal and enter the village of Darkmoor, here are a few photos of the portal, which is highly detailed and just plain cool.

    The portal appears to be an electrical tower of sorts, reclaimed by nature. The “reclaimed by nature” theme will be one that extends throughout the land. Here’s a reverse look at the entrance portal.

    In the distance past the entrance portal, we can see the dark manor facade for the land’s main attraction – Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment. We’ll have a more detailed look at the facade, including the entrance to the attraction, in a minute.

    In this side view, we can see the land laid out from the entrance on the left side of the image below, to the manor on the right side. The land is essentially split into two areas – the Darkmoor village, and the manor grounds. It’s in the manor grounds that there will be an immersive indoor attraction and an outdoor spinning roller coaster.

    Here’s a superwide overview of the back of the land, looking toward the portal gate and the Celestial Park Astronomica fountain. Again, we love that the attraction show buildings are included in this model, giving us a good idea of just how large the Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment show building will be.

    Heading back to the Darkmoor village, we can see that the village will have buildings on either side of the roadway, offering dining and shopping opportunities. We weren’t able to spot signage for any of the buildings, which might offer clues as to what is inside. Universal Orlando is expected to announce details soon for Dark Universe, and we’ll update this article with more information as it’s announced. Judging by the size of the buildings, we assume that the building complex in the foreground would be a dining location, and the building complex on the far side of the main walkway through the village would be shopping.

    As you reach the end of the Darkmoor village, you’ll pass through a gate into the manor grounds. Here, the scenery changes into a more lush setting, offering a clear distinction between the village area and the attractions area. I can imagine that it will be quite dark and spooky here once the sun sets. Dark Universe might be a wonderful land to visit during the evening hours (assuming Epic Universe is open past 8pm).

    In the back half of the land (probably 2/3rds if you count all of the building square footage), we see the outdoor spinning roller coaster to our right (left when walking through the land), and the manor opposite it. We’ll start with a closer look at the manor.

    The once-stately manor will be overgrown and rundown a bit on the exterior. Vines will be stretching up from the ground as if to “capture” the building. I’m sure the sense of dread will only increase once we walk inside.

    The main entrance to the manor attraction reads “Monsters Unleashed” and signage over the walkway reads “Frankenstein”.

    There is plenty of outdoor queue for this ride, including an overflow, unthemed switchback area similar to other massive E-ticket rides at Universal Orlando Resort. As we can see in the photo below, the entrance to the ride will likely take us into the manor, if only briefly, before sending us outdoors into the graveyard for a themed maze of queue.

    Sort of like the new Haunted Mansion queue being constructed out at Disenyland, this queue will take you past various smaller set pieces such as gravestones and the like. It also looks like a twisted tree with a possible electricity line back to the manor will act as a wayfinding point as you snake through the queue.

    It looks like there is a well of some sort at the base of the tree, possibly feeding the electricity lines underground.

    Here are some more details of the queue, including the previously mentioned extra overflow switchback that will hopefully only be in operation during the busiest times of year.

    Ok, with the main E-ticket attraction in Dark Universe out of the way, let’s explore the rest of the manor grounds, including the spinning outdoor roller coaster nearby.

    We’ll start with a look at a burning windmill, which is situated between the queue for the E-ticket monsters ride and the spinning roller coaster. The burning windmill is expected to be a smaller dining location.

    Finally, lets head over to the outdoor spinning roller coaster, which replaces earlier plans for a theater show in this location. The spinning roller coaster is said to be a family-style roller coaster, and isn’t necessarily a long roller coaster, although the spinning element of the ride vehicle should add some thrill. While a spinning roller coaster instantly draws comparisons to something like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the spinning roller coaster in Dark Universe will be nowhere near Cosmic Rewind in terms of scale or intended ride experience.

    Here’s an overview of the roller coaster, which contains two buildings. The largest building is the load area and vehicle barn, and a smaller building with the “A”-shaped roof in the foreground is described as a “scene” for the mostly outdoor roller coaster.

    Wagons will be found throughout the area, perhaps as outdoor vending locations or set pieces. Colorful tents appear to be part of the entrance and/or exit to the indoor ride load area.

    Epic Universe Model: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Ministry of Magic

    Background article: Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Details coming soon)

    Guests will discover a different era of the wizarding world in an all-new land that blends 1920s wizarding Paris from Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts films with the iconic British Ministry of Magic from the Harry Potter series.

    Ok, it’s time to walk past the Helios Grand hotel on our clockwise walk around Epic Universe and head over to the Harry Potter-themed called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Ministry of Magic. As you’d expect, the main attraction for this land will probably have something to do with the Ministry of Magic, but Universal Orlando hasn’t announced exact details yet.

    As we do with every land, we start at the portal, which reads “Let Us Step Out Into The Night And Pursue That Flighty Temptress, Adventure”.

    The theming of this land is decidedly French, intended to represent the new Fantastic Beasts Harry Potter movies. On the opposite side of the entrance portal, and through the Porte Saint-Denis archway, a massive phoenix is seen above guests. This shows that while the streets may look like 1920s France, they are still magical.

    In this overview of the model, we are once again met with a massive show building. It appears to be the largest show building within the current Epic Universe plans, and will reportedly contain an attraction that equals the impressive scale seen below.

    You’ll notice a few dead ends throughout the land, reportedly to allow for future expansions and new rides. The centerpiece of the land will be Le Cirque Arcanus, a red tent in the streets of this Parisian city block. It is rumored that the tent will lead guests to a 5-story theater show with more than 600 seats.

    The theme for the main attraction of the land is in the name of the land itself: the Ministry of Magic. A rather unassuming entrance to the ride will be found to the right of a statue to the left of the Le Cirque Arcanus tent. While the tent will be the main visual weenie of the land, it is not for the main attraction.

    In this reverse view, we can see the massive show building in the lower left of the image below. Guests will reportedly visit the iconic British Ministry of Magic via the Floo Network when entering the queue. Details on the immersive ride have not yet been announced by Universal Orlando.

    Here’s a closer look at Le Cirque Arcanus, from different vantage points. True to the movie, Le Cirque Arcanus will appear to be a small tent from the outside, but like any good tent from the Harry Potter series of movies, it will be much larger once you step inside.

    Definitely not the profile of Mickey Mouse

    In the photo below, we can see the various support buildings. Lighting on the model allows us to better differentiate between the theater building (white, right) and the Ministry of Magic E-ticket ride (blueish, right). Of interest now is the white building to the lower left of the image, which will reportedly be a restaurant. As we can see in this overview, guests will access the restaurant via a courtyard of sorts, separated from the main streets of the land itself.

    One archway entrance to the restaurant courtyard

    And now we turn our attention to one of the aforementioned dead ends. The building behind the trees in the photo below is said to be the exterior of the French Ministry of Magic. Remember, the main attraction in the land uses teleportation to reach the British Ministry of Magic for what will surely be a massive wish-fulfillment moment for fans of the original Harry Potter series, but what about the French Ministry of Magic?

    It is rumored that another attraction was set to use the facade of the French Ministry of Magic as an entrance, but that the attraction was cut from the final plans. As we can see, there is green grass behind the facade, representing a massive expansion plot should Universal want to build in the future.

    Epic Universe Model: How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk

    Background article: Isle of Berk Attractions, Dining, Entertainment, and More

    Guests can soar with dragons in a colorful world filled with Viking adventures based on the wildly popular How to Train Your Dragon film franchise. 

    The massive 15.5-acre Isle of Berk is loaded with details on the model, many of which I simply couldn’t capture and have this webpage still load (if it even loads in the first place). While the Harry Potter land was rather light on photos, the Isle of Berk will be dense, so let’s jump in!

    We start again at the main entrance portal to the land, which reads “They Have Armies, We Have Our Dragons”.

    While we’re viewing the model from this vantage point, we can see statues in the main lake at the front of the land, and Mead Hall near the middle-back of the land.

    Ok, walking through the portal, we will immediately be greated by the lake and statues seen above. Here’s a look at the interior of the portal, complete with lake overview area.

    Ok, time to take a look at the attractions for Isle of Berk, starting with the main roller coaster that snakes through the land. A wide angle view of the land shows that the Hiccup’s Wing Gliders roller coaster will spend a bit of time at the back of the land, but also work through the front of the land too, offering some kinetic energy for a land that will surely feel quite alive.

    Here’s a look at the load area and show scene, followed by some more photos of the track and roller coaster.

    Guests will be able to practice barrel rolls, swooping, and soaring skills on Dragon Racer’s Rally.

    With fire-breathing dragons everywhere, villagers have to be prepared. Viking twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut have transformed Berk’s Fyre Skööl into a watery, interactive boat battle at sea. Board your ship in Fyre Drill and blast your water cannons at flame-like targets – and the occupants of every other boat – to out-soak other Vikings. Located in the middle of the world within the lagoon, guests will be able to see the attraction from multiple different angles.

    In the overview photo below, we can see the entrance to Isle of Berk in the top right, along with the lake. Fyre Drill is in the middle left of the image below, next to the towering Mead Hall mountian.

    Near the entrance to the land is the play area, the Viking Training Camp. In the model, it’s labeled the Dragon Camp. In the overview below, it can be seen on the opposite side of the lake with the yellow track of Stardust Racers behind it.

    In the back right corner of the land (as you enter from the portal), guests will find The Untrainable Dragon Show. Here’s a look at the building and entrance/exit.

    Before we take a look at the Helios Grand hotel, here are some more photos of the Isle of Berk. Again, it looks to be a busy and colorful land!

    Epic Universe Model: Helios Grand Hotel

    Background article: Helios Grand Hotel (coming soon)

    And located inside Epic Universe at the end of Celestial Park is Universal Helios Grand Hotel, designed to transport guests to a world where the heavens and earth unite – complete with 500 rooms, one-of-a-kind views and its very own dedicated entrance into the theme park.

    With a dedicated and exclusive entrance into Universal Epic Universe theme park, you’ll be transported to a fantastical world where heavens and earth unite at this full-service hotel. Opening 2025.

    Ok, whew, we made it to the final piece of the Epic Universe model! Located at the “back” of the park is the towering Helios Grand hotel.

    And here’s a look at the entrance to the hotel, as well as some other shots to establish how great many of the theme park view rooms will be.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the Epic Universe model! The preview center contains merchanidse as well, that doesn’t fit into the scope of this article. We’ll continue to cover Epic Universe as more announcements are made, and through the grand opening next summer!

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    1. Wow! Thanks for documenting that so comprehensively and in such vivid photographs.

      Many things I am loving about this park, a few big ones I am not, but it’s the most profound theme park development in the U.S. since 1998/1999 (Animal Kingdom/IoA). Very exciting.


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