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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
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Universal plans Harry Potter area, adds 8 restaurants


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ORLANDO — Universal Studios theme park executives offered a few details Thursday on the new Harry Potter -themed area, which is scheduled to open at the Orlando park next year along with an 1,800-room resort and eight new restaurants in the City Walk dining and entertainment area.

The new Potter attractions will be based on the books’ fictional scenes in Diagon Alley and London, and will be located in the Universal Studios section of the theme park. The existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter area is located in the other part of the park, Universal Islands of Adventure.

Visitors will be able to take a new black and red train, the Hogwarts Express, between the two areas, which will presumably entice visitors to buy a two-park pass so they can explore both sections.

Designers plan a restaurant inside the new Harry Potter-themed area called the Leaky Cauldron. The restaurant interior will be based on scenes from the movie “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Executives said more Harry Potter details will be released in early 2014.

The massive new Cabana Bay Beach Resort, under construction now, will be themed after a 1960s hotel, with authentic-looking mid-century modern furnishings and decor.

“It’s going to be like driving into 1960,” said Mark Woodbury, Universal Creative’s president.

Half of the 1,800 rooms will be suites that sleep up to six people. The resort will also feature a bowling alley, restaurants and two pool areas with water park-like amenities.

The first of CityWalk’s new eateries, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, has already opened. Other original concept restaurants include Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, The Bread Box, Pranzo Italian Kitchen and the Hot Dog Hall of Fame. The hot dog restaurant will serve dogs from various ballparks from around the U.S., and will have baseball memorabilia scattered around.

Cold Stone Creamery ice cream and Menchies frozen yogurt will also be added, and Starbucks will also move from a second-floor location to a ground-floor, 130-seat coffee house.

Visitors to Universal must walk through CityWalk, past its stores and eateries, to reach the theme park rides. CityWalk opened in 1999, and its evolution comes as Disney World revamps Downtown Disney into an expanded dining and entertainment area named Disney Springs, with completion expected in 2016.

Disney is Universal’s biggest competitor in the Orlando theme park corridor, but Woodbury said the CityWalk additions are unrelated to the overhaul at Disney. “It’s a constant evolution,” said Woodbury. “That’s the only way to stay on top of our game.”

An unusual addition to CityWalk will be The CowFish, a restaurant that serves burgers and sushi in a pop culture-themed environment. Its owners joked with the media about serving a fusion concept called “burgushi.” Woodbury said he ate at one of the restaurant’s two North Carolina locations and was so impressed with the funky concept that he invited the owners to open a venue in Orlando.

The Latin Quarter and Pasta Amore restaurants are closing to make way for the new offerings.

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