Saturday, October 12, 2019

Take On The Fright of Your Life at Dorney Park's 2019 Halloween Haunt

© NewsPlusNotes
The undead have once again risen at Dorney Park, which is currently holding their annual scream-fest named Halloween Haunt.  The event is now in its 12th season at the park, and has added some new attractions again this year to keep things fresh.  Visitors flock to the event with the promise that they may get the fright of their life, and the park has made sure to deliver on that!

In total there are eleven haunted attractions, two live shows, special food and beverage offerings, roaming monsters, decorations throughout the park and fog... plenty of fog!

© NewsPlusNotes
© NewsPlusNotes
The evening officially kicks off again this year with the Overlord's Resurrection, where the man behind the evening's terrors demands a sacrifice from his skull-faced minions.  This year the performance includes a lot more dancing, and later in the evening the show is named Terror Rising.  The latter shows are a bit different than the one that kicks off the night, longer and with more focus on the performers.  The stage is located in front of Hydra, not far from The Pour Haus, a new food and beverage stand this year that offers various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.  Gotta beat that fear somehow!

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New this year on the main Midway is Steamworx, and sort of scare zone that focuses less on jump scares and more on a creepy environment.  The park made some major infrastructure changes to the midway earlier in the year to support Grand Carnivale, and is using that to their advantage through the new lighting and sound systems.

© NewsPlusNotes
© NewsPlusNotes
There are a lot of different characters to be found within Steamworx, but like I said their goal is not to jump out at anyone to give them a scream.  The combination of the actors, lighting, music and dense fog work wonderfully with a lot of really giant set pieces that Dorney Park built for the zone.  The main midway has always been a complicated area for Haunt, due to its size and it being a main thoroughfare - I think Screamworx is a nice compromise between what the park and its guests need and want.

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Replacing Age of Darkness this year is The Lair, a vampire themed scare zone that's honestly more like a maze than most scare zones.  It's located right where Age of Darkness' torture chamber was, but the sets have been totally redone and now feature a full gothic castle feel.

© NewsPlusNotes
© NewsPlusNotes
I was quite surprised at how great the inside of the area looks, above are some views of a giant courtyard the park built in the middle of the path - complete with several vampires (one on a throne), a water fountain and other decorations.  Nice and creepy in there!

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The lighting and mood of The Lair is wonderful, and since it's technically a scare zone there is no long wait to get into it.  I definitely suggest going through it more than once to really take it all the scenery that's packed into it!

The park has also added a new bar area near the exit to The Lair, aptly named Stake & Ale.  The location features a selection of specialty drinks and other adult beverages... in case you still need a little more help to take on the haunted houses!

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Dorney Park's Halloween Haunt features numerous returning haunted houses and scare zones as well.  Above is Tourist Trap, the park's most recently added full indoor haunted house, which still remains quite popular.

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I'd also like to point out that Necropolis, another scare zone that's really much more like a giant outdoor haunted house, was really strong this year.  The park reorganized some of the path, opening up areas to wander around, but then keeping guests in a tight path (for good scares) at other points.  Near the end of the zone is the above tunnel, completely lined with skeletons and bright lights that make it hard to see what's coming next... and who is hiding at your feet.

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Another returning favorite is Blood on the Bayou, still the favorite haunted house of many visitors.  It joins Chamber of Horrors, Trick Or Treat: Lights Out, Urgent Scare, and Blackout as returning mazes.  Other scare zones that are back this year include CornStalkers: Barn Bred and Blood Fed and CarnEvil.

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The ever popular Blood Drums show is back on Center Stage, with pulsing beats that can be heard throughout the lower part of the park.  Still drawing a large crowd for each performance, the show again includes an awesome fire act that's not to be missed.

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One of the coolest additions this year can be found on the midway near the Musik Express, and that's this demon baby in a stroller.  The baby carriage zooms through the area on its own, acting as one of the most efficient scare actors I've ever seen.  Guests are both freaked out and mesmerized by the baby, who has glowing red eyes and occasionally spits up water at those nearby.  Make sure you stop by the area to see it in action, it's rather hilarious and creepy all at the same time!

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While we've focused on attractions that open once the sun goes down, the park did bring back the Pumpkin Spectacular on the lower midway, near where Monster Jam Thunder Alley is operating.  The park has added even more pumpkins to the massive display this year, and it's best to take a walk through the area before the sun goes down.

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And if you're hungry during the event, we suggest checking out this year's Fright Feast.  Located at the recently added Parkside Pavilion, the meal offers dishes such as garlic parmesan chicken breast, hamburgers, pumpkin ravioli and dirt cups for dessert.  Delicious!

Halloween Haunt runs each Friday and Saturday through the end of the season, and this year that includes the weekend of November 1st and 2nd.  There's also a bonus haunt night tomorrow, October 13th. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Legoland New York to Officially Open on July 4th, 2020

© Legoland New York
Legoland New York, the first major outdoor theme park to open in the Northeast in decades, has announced that its grand opening celebration will begin on July 4th, 2020.  Excited fans have been waiting for years to find out when the park will open, and now they can mark their calendars and begin the countdown.

“Our Park is in high gear and we’re on track for opening,” said Legoland New York Senior Divisional Director John Ussher.  “Buildings are going up, concrete is being poured and construction is buzzing across our site.  Ride components, such as the track for our Dragon coaster, are arriving in Goshen to be installed.  Our Lego models – more than 15,000 of them – are being shipped to our site from Merlin Magic Making workshops all over the world.  This is truly a global effort, with thousands of people working together to build the ultimate Lego theme park destination here in the Hudson Valley.”

© Legoland New York
Legoland New York is set to be the largest Legoland theme park ever constructed, sprawling over 150 acres with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions.  The park will feature seven different themed lands located over the rolling countryside of the Hudson Valley.  The park will offer attractions that have already proven popular at existing Legoland theme parks, along with some unique ones as well.  Next door to the park will be the Legoland Hotel, allowing visitors to easily experience the park for more than one day.

Tickets and season passes for Legoland New York are already on sale, and you can find out more about the park on the park's official website.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Hersheypark's Candymonium Starting to Stand Tall In New Photo

© Hersheypark
It's time for Hersheypark's skyline to change forever!  The park has starting to build the lift hill for Candymonium, their new for 2020 B&M hyper roller coaster.  The photo was taken from far back in the undeveloped land that the park recently gained, and makes the height of the ride look even more impressive.  When complete this lift hill will stand 210 feet over Hersheypark, and there's still plenty of more lift to go up before the top is reached.

Candymonium will stretch 4,636 feet in length and as hyper coasters tend to do, will feature a bunch of air-time hills during the layout.  It was pass near the main plaza of the new Chocolatetown near the end of the ride, swooping around an iconic fountain.  If you look close in the background of this photo you can see the giant new building that has gone up to support many of the food and beverage outlets that will be featured in Chocolatetown.

Since the ride was announced in the summer it might be helpful to check out the video of the ride that the park released as a refresher.  Candymonium will be the star attraction of Chocolatetown, but the massive development will certainly change the look of Hersheypark forever.  Coaster construction should continue quickly now that the lift hill is going up!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Shares Views of Pantheon Construction + Track Arrives

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
There's a lot of really cool roller coasters opening in North America in 2020, certainly near the top of the list will be Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  The massive launch coaster, created by Intamin, was announced during the summer and since then construction has kicked into high gear at the award winning theme park.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has started to share photos of the work site, which takes full advantage of the park's hills and valleys.  The above photo is looking down at the worksite by the Rhine River, which Pantheon will swoop toward at two points in the layout.  Looks like some seriously deep foundations are starting to be created here.

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Back up toward the top of the work site, with Tempesto looming in the background, there are plenty of footers already completed.  Pantheon will feature multiple launches with a maximum speed of almost 73 miles per hour.  The layout features both forward and backward launches and heights of up to 178 feet above the ground.

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
The park is also proud to show off some of the Pantheon track that recently arrived at the park.  With track arriving and many footers already complete, perhaps vertical construction isn't too far off?  The track is a pretty gold color, though the lighting in these photos isn't the best.

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Maybe it's more of a yellow, I'm sure that additional photos in the future will give us a better idea.  Some of this track looks like it could be for the station area, which is usually one of the first parts of a coaster to go up.  Hopefully the park gives us more views of Pantheon construction again soon!

Monday, October 7, 2019

More Track for Iron Gwazi Installed Including Crazy New Turn

© Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa has installed a ton of new track since formally announcing Iron Gwazi a few weeks ago, and all of it is looking amazing. The park hasn't been sharing much of the construction on their socials, sadly, but Midway Mayhem has got everyone's back.

Check out this tweet from their latest update:
That's a lot of new purple track installed in a short time!  We've seen the giant turnaround that's immediately following the first drop going up in previous photos, but now most of the inversion that follows it is in place.  Trains will climb up that highly banked hill only to roll downward in the opposite direction, it's going to be a heck of an element.

Also new is that extremely overbanked turn that is the second element.  Some of Midway Mayhem's photos show just how banked the track is at the top of that turn, and in my book it's definitely an inversion on its own.  I don't think the park is counting it as one, but riders will be more upside down than right side up at the top!

Here is the full update from Midway Mayhem, make sure to follow their socials for more updates as construction continues!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Rye Playland Boasts its Best Season in Several Years

© Playland
It has been a while since we've had good news coming out of Rye Playland, which has been troubled with much drama and lawsuits regarding who will be operating the park.  It's a long story, but the current disagreement between Standard Amusements and the County, which owns the park, is still raging on.

Let's turn to the good news instead, Playland has announced that their attendance in 2019 was higher than the past three years, breaking a trend of steadily decreasing visits.  In 2019 there were a total of 508,413 visitors, compared to 460,000 in 2018.  That's a substantial gain, based off of the park adding a new ride, a new mascot, town days to celebrate local communities, live concerts and entertainment, and adding two fall weekends to the park's schedule.

© Playland
A big part of the lift was probably the addition of the park's first new ride in eleven years, the Dragonator.  The ride, which is a Disk'O from Zamperla, opened on July 29th and brought plenty of new life to the park.  The spinning and swirling ride proved extremely popular with visitors, showing that there could be a significant need for new attractions at the property.

Despite the ongoing issues related to who will be operating the park, the County is pleased by the growth this season and promises to use this winter to "improve and expand our product."  Hopefully another new ride will join the park in 2020!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Short Lived Sale of Cedar Fair to Six Flags Reported to be Dead in the Water

Just days after breaking the news that Six Flags Entertainment had made an offer to purchase Cedar Fair, Reuters has followed up with news that the deal is now dead, with Cedar Fair rejecting the bid as too low.

Of course, there's no doubt a lot more factors than just the bid being too low, but we're still working off of anonymous sources, not factual statements from either company.  The story states that the bid was for around $70 a unit, which wasn't nearly enough to make up for tax consequences that investors and the company would face from losing Cedar Fair's somewhat unusual limited partnership tax status. 

That bid would have valued the deal at around $4 billion, a big number indeed, but considering that is right around Six Flags Entertainment's market cap and most of the deal was to be paid with Six Flags shares, also telling of how much debt the new company would have had... and potentially precarious their financials would have been.

Rueters is also reporting that Six Flags offered Cedar Fair management members to remain in leadership roles of the company, as Six Flags' is still searching for a new CEO, but that didn't move the needle either.

Interestingly, fans of the industry that poo-pooed the deal left and right on social media got mentioned by Reuters in the article as they said that "reactions from stock market investors, as well as amusement park fans concerned about the impact of the potential deal on how Cedar Fair parks will be run, have been negative..."

As of right now they're reporting that there is no indication Six Flags will counter offer, and frankly I'm not sure how much higher they could possibly go anyway, financially speaking.  Big money is cheap right now, but not that cheap.

So as fans of both parks mostly take a big sigh of relief we'll continue to watch for any bits of news related to the story.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Six Flags Rumored to Have Offered to Buy Cedar Fair

Interesting news popped up today as Reuters reported that confidential sources revealed to them that Six Flags Entertainment has approached Cedar Fair Entertainment with a deal to buy the company.  It would create a massive theme park operator in North America, with more parks under one brand than I can remember at any point in the history of the industry on the continent.

The report says that Six Flags offered a cash and stock combination offer, which sent the shares of Cedar Fair into a massive upward spike that caused the symbol to briefly be halted from trading.  Aside from the Reuters article, the news has not been confirmed by either company.

It wasn't long until followers of the industry were buzzing, and financial analysts as well.  Soon after the news broke it was reported that Wells Fargo saw the deal as a "stretch," noting that Six Flags has no current CEO and they'd have to pay a huge premium to get over tax hurdles resulting from Cedar Fair's limited partnership status.  To that end, Stifel sent out an investor note that the shares of Cedar Fair would possibly have to be bought for as much as $90 (currently trading around $60) which is a rather huge premium.

We're not an investment blog however, so I'll leave it up to the professionals to figure out if a deal would even make sense, but one can be sure there would be a large amount of debt for Six Flags when all was said and done... and also some Cedar Fair unit holders with a big bank account.  And it wouldn't be surprising to see several parks sold off elsewhere as part of the deal.

From the fan community, of which we are a part, the reaction seems to be overwhelmingly negative.  While everyone has a long list of pros and cons for each operator, it seems that no one really wants the two to combine.  Perhaps the thought of Six Flags Cedar Point or Six Flags Knott's Berry Farm is simply too much for those that love the parks.  There is a distinctive difference in the culture of both companies, and many fear how that would mix long term.

Without any more definitive evidence that the deal is even real I'm cautious to speculate on how this would play out, but it would represent an absolutely massive change in the industry in North America.  It would change not only who owns the parks, but also ripple down to ride manufacturers, other suppliers, and of course the park employees.  We will be watching this one closely, for sure.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Monster Jam Thunder Alley Exciting Guests This Fall at Dorney Park

© NewsPlusNotes
This time of year is usually reserved for scares amid the fog at Dorney Park, but 2019 has brought a second special event to the park: Monster Jam Thunder Alley.  The limited time event will run through the end of the season, and is the result of a recent partnership between Cedar Fair and Feld Entertainment.  The production has traveled to two different Cedar Fair parks earlier in the 2019 season, and during the fall it's Dorney Park's turn.  Considering the number of people that can be seen enjoying the interactive attractions that Monster Jam presents, I think it's safe to say the event is already a hit at the park.

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I for one never thought I would have ever sat in a real monster truck, let alone go for a ride in one.  While not everyone may be a big monster truck fan, there's something that's so impressive about their size and power that it captivates you.  I couldn't imagine driving one, though it may be pretty fun to crush some cars!

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The event is really two parts, one is a large area of interactive exhibits featuring all the monster trucks, their history, parts, play areas and more.  Then of course there's the ability to actually take a spin on a monster truck as it travels around a course that has been created within Dorney Park.  Both aspects can be found on the midway in front of the Possessed roller coaster, with the monster truck course having been built in the area where Stinger was.

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There are plenty of monster trucks to see on display as a part of Monster Jam Thunder Alley, like good old Zombie seen above.  There are large information boards on the trucks and their past, and in the case of Zombie you can even seen the process that goes into creating the giant zombie arms that adorn the truck.

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For instance, here's the info board on Zombie, which has quite an extensive history with Monster Jam, and plenty of zombie fans that dress the part at major events.  The area at Dorney Park is busy with these types of displays, and as these photos show at night the displays really have an extra glow to them.  It really brings the lower part of the park to life!

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Kids are naturally drawn to monster trucks, at least in my personal experience, and when they need to burn off some energy Monster Jam Thunder Alley gives them this cool play area to dig in.  Literally.  The sand area features lots of trucks to send over tracks and hills they create, with other truck decorations and interactive elements around.

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There are also several trucks parked that you can sit in the driver's seat of, which is a pretty neat experience on its own.  Those who want to learn more about how monster trucks work will love the display that shows essential parts such as the engine and the enormous tires.  It's really crazy to stand next to those tires and see just how big they are!

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After checking out the interactive features of Monster Jam Thunder Alley, it's time to ride!  The park has built a huge course for the trucks to take passengers on, and they use two trucks at a time.  We got a ride in Megalodon, the inside of the truck can be seen in this photo.  Riders must be 36 inches to ride accompanied by someone over 54 inches.  You're safely harnessed in your seat and then it's time to take on the course!

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The experience is probably even cooler than you might assume, as the course has plenty of hills and bumps for the trucks to take on.  It's a unique feeling being in the cab of a giant monster truck, and certainly nothing like driving to work each day!  They even do a fun 360 in the middle of the course.  Granted it's a more gentle version than what you might see drivers do at an arena event, but that's understandable.

This is a very short clip, but it shows the Grave Digger truck in action.  The rides are very popular and are free as part of admission to the park, but be warned that the attraction is quite popular and lines get long pretty quick after the park opens.  If you want to skip that, you can purchase a VIP package or ride reservation via the park's website.

The park is also holding meet and greets this fall with some of the biggest names in Monster Jam drivers, the schedule for which can be found here.  If you're looking for something different to experience this year, or just need a break from the scares of Halloween Haunt, be sure to check out Monster Jam Thunder Alley at Dorney Park!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Lagoon Shares New Details on Mystery Coaster Project + Construction Updates

© Fox 13 Salt Lake City
Lagoon amusement park is still hard at work on their mystery roller coaster project, on which work began earlier this year.  The park has kept nearly all details of the attraction a mystery, however due to recent shots of roller coaster track arriving at the construction site it's pretty safe to call it a coaster at this point.

The local Fox affiliate did another story on the progress of the ride, which is substantial at this point.  The story has some footage of the construction site, a snapshot of which can be seen up top.  There is a very large area that has a concrete foundation, and two different towers going up toward the sky.  These do not appear to be for the ride yet, but more for the base of some sort of gigantic theming elements that will be incorporated.

The park did give a few tidbits away in the story, including that this ride will have a footprint that is 30% larger than Cannibal, the park's most recent coaster.  They've also put more than 5 miles of conduit under the concrete they poured, which came in at 17,000 cubic yards.  There are 355 piles driven under the foundation already, stretching from 40 to 60 feet in the earth.  A brand new midway will feed to the ride once it opens, which may not be until 2021 or 2022 even.

This YouTube video gives much more clear views of the work from in the middle of September.  You can get a better idea of the size of this attraction, which is rumored to feature a giant mountain along with several interactive components and perhaps a dark ride section.  You can even see some track in place feeding into the main structure that appears to split after what might be the station.

Even more recent construction photos on Lagoon Fans show that a building is now going up on part of the cement slab, creating a rather large indoor space.  Could be for a dark ride portion, the queue, station or maybe all of those.  We'll have to wait to find out more!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Kings Island to Say Goodbye to Vortex at the End of 2019 Season

© Kings Island
Kings Island has announced that Vortex, the park's classic Arrow multilooping roller coaster, will be retired at the end of the 2019 season.  While shocking and sad to many, the park reports that the ride has simply reached the end of its service life.  They note that most rides of this type last between 25 and 30 years, and Vortex is currently in its 33rd operating season at Kings Island.

Vortex was the first roller coaster in the world to turn riders upside down a total of six times, opening at the park in 1987.  The coaster was built by the famed Arrow Dynamics and features a 148 foot tall lift with a 138 foot first drop at a 55 degree angle.

© Kings Island
Riders hit a top speed of 55 miles per hour while on the Vortex, and speed through two vertical loops, two corkscrews and a boomerang turn.  The ride ends with a 360 degree helix before the final brakes.

Vortex was designed using the sit of The Bat, a short lived suspended coaster at the park, with Vortex utilizing that ride's queue and station areas.  The ride was so popular when it opened in 1987 that it helped Kings Island surpass 3 million in attendance for the first time that year.  Since its opening, the coaster has given more than 45 million rides, with its record season being 1987 when 2.2 million rides were given.

© Kings Island
Kings Island shared this neat fact sheet for Vortex along with their announcement of the ride's retirement.  For fans of the ride, it offers great statistics and details that they're sure to love.

Final rides on Vortex begin tonight when the park opens for Halloween Haunt, and will continue until the park's closing day which is October 27th.  The park is offering season pass holders the ability to ride the coaster 30 minutes before park opening each Saturday and Sunday until the end of the season.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Rumors Swirl That Clementon Amusement Park is Closed For Good

© Clementon Amusement Park
Due to the park suddenly closing early for the season, rumors are spreading that Clementon Amusement Park and its water park, Splash World, are closed for good.  The property is owned by Premier Parks LLC, which operates several amusement and water parks across the country.

Clementon was scheduled to be open into late September with a big customer appreciation day on the 15th, but when guests who had purchased tickets showed up the park was not open.  And it isn't opening again this year and has stayed very quiet about whether or not it will open in 2020.  A sure bad sign is the lack of selling season passes for next season, which the park is not currently offering, and also their deleted Facebook page isn't too encouraging.

© Clementon Amusement Park
While the truth may not be fully uncovered at this point, there's certainly something up with the property.  Parks don't often close early for the season without a good reason, and one can't help but wonder if the land under the park is worth more than its continued operations.  Or perhaps Premier Parks LLC is just looking for a new owner, with one not found as of now.

It would be a shame for the park to close, as it is one of the oldest amusement parks in America, dating back to 1907.  It was one of hundreds of trolley parks in the Northeast to have opened, most of which have since closed.  Now it appears as though Clementon may have to be added to that list.

The property's largest ride is Hell Cat, a wooden roller coaster that opened in 2004 and was built by S&S Worldwide.  In recent years Splash World has seen several additions, and remained quite popular with guests.  Family and company picnics seemed to be the park's bread and butter, but they did do a four "classic" ride expansion just this season.  We visited the park back in 2014 and our thoughts on that visit can be read here.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Universal Studios Beijing To Open in 2021 + Latest Construction Photos and Hotel News

We haven't checked in on one of Universal's largest projects in quite some time, that being the Universal Studios Beijing Resort.  First announced back in 2014, the theme park and resort was originally scheduled to open around now, but we know how that often goes with massive construction projects.

Last week the project announced that it will officially open in 2021, though no exact date was given just yet.  Still, that's progress and it's nice to have a final timeline to look at.

© Universal Studios Beijing
The park, said to be Universal's largest, was announced without an official ride roster published.  There are a lot of attractions that were originally identified on the concept art (above) that was released.  These include rides based in a Wizarding World of Harry Potter area, Minions, Jurassic Park, Water World, Kung Fu Panda, Transformers and more.  Granted that concept art is around 5 years old, so that is all subject to change.  One item I'm quite curious about is a new Jurassic Park roller coaster they appear to be working on.

We can be sure on a few rides, though.  Recent construction photos posted to ThemeparkX show a Hulk clone now completed, the Wizarding World castle going up and a family roller coaster in place next to it.

© Universal Studios Beijing
The park also recently made the announcement that the resort will open with two hotels - above is The Universal Studios Grand Hotel, which sits right at the theme park's entrance.  It will be the first Universal themed hotel and offer a "contemporary interpretation of the Hollywood golden age."  Filled with theming set to film and movies, its 800 rooms will also have direct access to the park.

© Universal Studios Beijing
The second hotel is the NUO Resort Hotel, the first hotel created by NUO, one of China's "first homegrown luxury hotel brands."  Contained in a setting reflecting "the beauty of China's ancient royal garden," the property will celebrate traditional Chinese culture and artistic achievements with a modern yet simplistic design.  It will sit alongside the park's waterway as a private retreat, with around 400 rooms.