What is Universal Epic Universe?
Let’s start with the basics. Epic Universe is Universal Orlando Resort’s fourth theme park, built on 750 acres of land, just a few miles from Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Volcano Bay. This new offering will transport guests to expansive, vivid worlds filled with awe-inspiring attractions, entertainment, hotels, dining and more.
How do you get to Epic? Instead of parking in the main parking garage and accessing the theme parks through Universal CityWalk, you’ll drive directly to where the new theme park is located (and yes, there will also be complimentary transportation connecting the entire Universal Orlando Resort destination!).
From ground-breaking technology to an innovative racing roller coaster, to five different worlds connected through mystical portals, Epic is transformational on so many levels.
“Epic is the future meeting the present,” says Gabriela Lander, director of Facility Design for Universal Creative, who’s been involved in the Epic project (what at the time was being called the “new project”) since the very first brainstorm session. “We’ll have a park where we’ll be able to walk through nature and be guided by the stars, surrounded by iconic elements that materialize dreams into immersive worlds of epic stories, and with a level of technology that will take the experience to a new level,” she adds.
Inspired by the exploration of unknown worlds, the theme park offers an entirely new level of experience by putting guests into five fully-themed worlds. “We’re telling stories that resonate with our guests, immersing them right from the front gate,” says Steve Tatham, the executive creative director for Universal Epic Universe, who moved back to Orlando from Osaka, Japan, to work on this project. “Universal redefined theme-park entertainment forever. We’re setting a new standard, and that’s what it means to be a modern theme park,” he adds.
Can you imagine what it must feel like to work on a project for so long, not be able to talk about it, and then finally start to see it come to life? “It’s one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” says Gabriela. “This amazing park went from an idea to a design, and from there to a full construction site, where everyday you see new parts being built or installed. The amount of talent invested in producing a new theme park that goes above and beyond what we have already done, is a humbling and heart-filling experience.” She attributes the greatness of Epic Universe to the diverse talent involved in its creation. “It’s a direct reflection of the multitude of cultures, races, religions, abilities, backgrounds and genders represented in this project through our Team Members,” says Gabriela.
But how does Epic work?
Epic Universe is made up of five different worlds, all connected through Celestial Park, the first world you’ll experience once you walk through the Emerald Gate and the Chronos device at the entrance to Epic. “In our story, Chronos is this giant machine used to harness the energy of the Universe that powers all of Celestial Park, allowing us to open the portals to other worlds,” explains Adam Rivest, executive producer for Celestial Park. He has worked at Universal for 24 years and was actually the one who set up that first-ever brainstorm about Epic almost a decade ago — yes, the same meeting Gabriela was in, and where they got to see the plot of the land laid out on the table. Full circle.
Once you’re in Celestial Park (and I’ll get more into it below), you’ll have access to four portals, which are tall, obelisk-like structures, that take you into the other fully-themed, immersive worlds. And they are (drumroll please)…
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Ministry of Magic
SUPER NINTENDO WORLD
How to Train Your Dragon — Isle of Berk
“Never before have guests been able to immerse themselves in these stories as deeply as they do when crossing the thresholds of the four portals,” Steve says. “They’ll come face-to-face with scary monsters, they’ll tame dragons and encounter new magical eras.” And these narratives all exist within one giant — you guessed it — epic universe.
“There’s a little bit for everybody,” Adam adds. “We’ve got worlds that are more geared toward children, some that are more geared toward the adventurous, others that are geared more toward adults. There’s a nice mix and within each world there’s also levels of demographic and appeal.”
And while I cannot quite expand on any of the worlds just yet, I can give you a glimpse of Celestial Park and the lore behind Epic Universe (it’s Universal, of course there’s lore!).
Simply put, Celestial Park is a world between worlds, where everything begins and ends. Celestial Park holds the entrance (portals) to the other immersive areas of the theme park (worlds) and it’s also where you’ll find some of the best restaurants on property, must-do attractions, retail options and the most unique hotel in Universal’s portfolio. It was created as a space for people to (re)connect with each other and with nature. “We’ve made a conscious effort to put the park back into theme park, and made sure not to design it with lots of concrete and asphalt streets,” says Adam.
Celestial Park also has a transformative function between day and night — during the day, it’s this beautiful, lush living garden with spectacular fountains, and at night, the entire area lights up and transforms into a completely different environment. It’s breathtaking.
Within the narrative created around the lore of Epic Universe, Celestial Park is the center of an ever-evolving universe that, throughout centuries, people — artists, musicians, explorers, adventurers, inventors — have visited for inspiration and connection, and maybe left a little piece of them behind.
“And I think that’s what’s really at the emotional core of it: our desire to belong, to connect, to meet new people, to discover new places, to have experiences. That’s what sets off great explorers, why people climb mountains, why they go on adventures. And also why they go through these portals,” says Steve.
Here’s everything else you can find in Celestial Park:
What to Ride in Celestial Park
This beautiful carousel has a wonderful spin to it — quite literally. It may seem like a traditional carousel, with an array of celestial creatures to choose from, but as it goes round and round, the creatures are also turning 360 degrees, making you feel like you’re caught within the Milky Way, riding on constellations through the galaxy.
“Constellation Carousel is the most enchanting carousel ever made,” says Gabriela. “The design, the colors and tones, the dome that will cover it… well, all the elements used in this experience are the perfect combination to create a unique moment while enjoying Epic. The traditional carousel of our childhood is being redefined by the stars!” The ride is also covered in hundreds of points of starlight, creating a breathtaking cosmic ambiance.
“Celestial Park is all about the heavens, you know? And on Starfall Racers you’re physically riding the embodiment of a comet,” says Adam. This attraction is a racing dual-launch coaster that goes at 62 mph and reaches a max height of 133 feet. “While it’s giant and looks really intimidating at first, it’s designed to feel like an old wooden coaster, but smooth as a button. So, you’ll rise up in your seat and get those zero G feels,” says Adam. “Although there are a couple signature moves in there, most of the 1.8 mile track is a side-by-side race between two comets to see who gets to the end first,” he adds. With no break zones, by the way.
Riding it at night will be an attraction in itself — because the coaster is covered with hundreds of points of light, the vehicles look like shooting comets racing across the sky. Pretty cool.
And although I can’t give this easter egg away just yet, just know that there’s a gift for true Universal fans on the back of each coaster vehicle. Truly outatime!
At the center of Celestial Park lies Astronomica, an interactive wet-play attraction designed as a compass rose that points to the portals and attractions around Epic. A pro tip? Make sure you stop by at night too, as Astronomica comes alive with light, color and music!
Where to Eat in Celestial Park
For now, I can tell you that Celestial Park will house two visually breathtaking restaurants, Atlantic and The Blue Dragon Pan-Asian Restaurant. (Though I of course recommend staying tuned for more dining option updates!) “These two venues set the tone for what our culinary mission continues to be: quality fresh food with amazing storytelling,” says Chef Robert Martinez Jr., executive chef at Universal Orlando Resort. “I feel like my whole career has been leading up to the Epic Universe project. For me there is nothing more fulfilling than being part of a project from its inception and watching it blossom into an amazing atmosphere with delicious food.”
When creating the menus for the restaurants around Epic, the Food & Beverage team took all guests into consideration, making sure to cover dietary restrictions and preferences.
“Once upon a time, food played a part in the Universal experience, but today, in some cases, the food is the experience!” says Chef Martinez. “The menus touch on Universal’s great storytelling and immersive experiences. So, as more announcements get released, just know that something else really cool is coming right behind them!”
Nestled in the middle of Celestial Park, Atlantic is Chef Martinez’s “precious gem.” The restaurant is surrounded by the shimmering waters of Neptune’s pool and has floor-to-ceiling Victorian glass walls. “It gives our guests the illusion of dining in an ‘out of this world’ glass aquarium,” says Chef Martinez. The name probably already gave it away, but you’ll be able to find the freshest seafood and typical — and not so typical — surf and turf options on the menu. Table for one, please!
The Blue Dragon Pan-Asian Restaurant
Blue Dragon is a legitimate flavor bomb. Staying true to the electric neon dragons that snake the interior of the dining room, the restaurant has a vibrant and delectable menu. “Our guests will have the chance to enjoy flavors from China, Southeast Asia and Japan, all while dining under the constellations, as lanterns dance overhead in this beautiful indoor courtyard,” says Chef Martinez. If you need a break from the bustling environment, grab a seat at the cozy Tiger Bar for a drink or two.
Where to Shop
There will be plenty of retail options for you to stock up on souvenirs through Celestial Park, including the Nintendo Super Star Store. Founded by explorers that have been on multiple excursions into SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, this store is filled with colorful keepsakes themed around Nintendo’s beloved characters. Needless to say, there aren’t enough shopping bags for all I’ll want to bring home with me.
Where to Stay
Universal Epic Universe will open in 2025 alongside three new hotels — yes, three new hotels: Universal Helios Grand Hotel, Universal Stella Nova Resort and Universal Terra Luna Resort.
Helios Grand Hotel
See that gorgeous backdrop encircling Epic Universe? That’s Universal Helios Grand Hotel, a full-service hotel for guests looking to go all-out during their Universal Orlando Resort stay. Named after the God of the Sun, Helios is where the heavens and earth unite: it’s adorned with celestial patterns and constellation details in the decor and has a casual, elegant Mediterranean-inspired feel throughout. Sensing a theme, are we?
The coolest thing about the hotel is that it is walking-distance from Epic and has a dedicated and exclusive entrance into Celestial Park, making it one of the most unique properties in the Universal Orlando hotel portfolio. “From the hotel our guests will be able to enjoy the view of the beautiful gardens and natural wonders, and witness with advantage how they turn from a day event to a starry vision,” says Gabriela.
Universal Stella Nova Resort and Universal Terra Luna Resort
Galaxies and planets inspire these sister hotels. They’re related in concept, but offer two different experiences — Stella Nova is highlighted in teal and purple colors and represents its own galaxy with a black hole vortex porte-cochère while Terra Luna is highlighted in gold and green. Stella is inspired by the infinite vastness of the unknown universe and Terra is inspired by the thrill of pushing the limits of discovery. Both hotels will have 750 guest-rooms, resort-style amenities and several food and drink options. The exterior facades of the hotels are layered with thousands of dichroic panels, with every panel slightly unique, which makes the facade ever-changing depending on where you stand, time of day and weather. And guess what? You can already book your room at Stella Nova (opening January 21, 2025) and Terra Luna (opening February 25, 2025)! See you there!
“Epic is not just an idea; it is a living, breathing entity that we are creating here in Orlando, and so many people have been nurturing it along the way,” says Adam. “So it’s just really exciting that we’re about to share this park with the world.”