June 18, 2024

Universal Orlando New Summer 2024 Stuff: Harry Potter Show, Daytime Parade & Lagoon Spectacular with Drones!


Universal Orlando Resort has announced a variety of new, must-see entertainment offerings from day to night in Summer 2024. This post shares a rundown of what's coming soon to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios

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Universal Orlando Resort has announced a variety of new, must-see entertainment offerings from day to night in Summer 2024. This post shares a rundown of what’s coming soon to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida as the parks gear up for the countdown to Epic Universe next year plus our commentary about the additions.

“We are thrilled to debut an array of never-before-seen experiences for the entire family to enjoy from day to night,” said Karen Irwin, President & COO of Universal Orlando Resort. “These new experiences – coupled with the amazing attractions currently in our theme parks – will allow our guests to create lasting memories that will make this summer truly unforgettable.”

Since theme park fans tend to like the whole “answer to the competition” thing, I guess you could say that this announcement is Universal Orlando’s response to Walt Disney World’s Summer 2024 offerings. CommuniCore Hall and Plaza and the “¡Celebración Encanto!” sing-along that debut on June 10, 2024. That same date, additions for Inside Out 2 and Lion King’s 30th Anniversary arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, respectively. Prior to that, there’s the “Disney Dreams that Soar” drone show at Disney Springs.

Of course, none of what Universal announced is actually an answer to all of that. It’s been an open secret for a while that Universal was working on a new lagoon show and daytime parade. It’s not like they just started developing this stuff in the last month after Walt Disney World’s announcement–that’s not how any of this works! We knew this was happening–we just didn’t know the specifics, though, so let’s run through those.

Here are all the details about the new experiences coming to Universal Orlando Resort starting in Summer 2024:

The highly-anticipated new DreamWorks Land will make its official debut on June 14, 2024 at Universal Studios Florida. DreamWorks Land invites guests to explore the vivid worlds of some of DreamWorks Animation’s most beloved characters from ShrekTrolls and Kung Fu Panda. The new land will feature interactive play areas, character meet ^ greets, an indoor show, unique treats and family photo ops.

Guests will be able to explore Shrek’s Swamp, enjoy the Trollercoaster, interact with Po in the Panda Village, encounter characters like Gabby from Gabby’s Dollhouse and so much more. Guests will also be transported into the worlds of some of their favorite characters in DreamWorks Imagination Celebration – a multisensory live show that will bring beloved DreamWorks stories to life in new ways.

Starting now, guests visiting the parks can gear up for the amazing entertainment coming this summer with specialty merchandise celebrating the new experiences, including clothing, drinkware, headbands themed to beloved DreamWorks characters, and more. The selection also includes new original interactive bubble wands inspired by Trolls and Jurassic World.

The bubble wands will activate fun features when interacting with other wands and will also interact with select Universal Mega Movie Parade floats when the parade debuts on July 3, 2024. More details will be revealed in the next few months.

The waters of the Universal Studios Florida lagoon will come to life with an all-new nighttime show, CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular starting on June 14, 2024. The exhilarating new show will celebrate the emotional power of music by leveraging the iconic scores and scenes from blockbuster films that have inspired Universal Orlando’s past, present and future attractions.

Films featured in CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular will include Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchise, Jurassic WorldJaws, Shrek, Ghostbusters, Trolls, Back to the Future, Universal Monsters, Transformers, How to Train Your Dragon, E.T., Fast and Furious, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Minions, The Mummy and King Kong.

Just as awe-inspiring as the moments featured during CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular are the impressive collection of technologies and special effects that bring the show to life. The next-level lagoon show will feature 228 fountains that reach heights up to 131 feet, incredible 4K projection mapping, an original composition featuring newly arranged scores meticulously crafted to each scene, and more than 600 drones – all coming together to envelop guests in a breathtaking display of unforgettable cinematic moments.

Beginning July 3, 2024 some of the most beloved stories from Universal’s films will leap off the screen and land on the streets of Universal Studios Florida for Universal Mega Movie Parade. This parade is a spectacular celebration of iconic movies E.T.Back to the FutureJawsGhostbustersJurassic World, Illumination’s Minions and Sing and DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls and Kung Fu Panda.

Universal Mega Movie Parade will be Universal Orlando’s biggest daytime parade to date and combine 13 brand new floats, nearly 100 performers – including dancers, skaters, stilt walkers, poi performers and more. Universal Mega Movie Parade will also feature special effects to create a jaw-dropping experience where guests can relive classic film moments in a whole new way.

Guests will watch in awe as they see the massive 16-foot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man atop the Ghostbusters float, the colorful Caterbus and giant rainbows on the vibrant Trolls float, a live marching drum line perform the iconic movie score of Jaws alongside a float themed to the film, and – for the epic finale – a Gyrosphere, Raptors and the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex aboard the Jurassic World float, and much more. Fans should also pay close attention to the parade to see if they can spot additional details that nod to iconic elements from the films.

Universal Orlando’s Summer Tribute Store will complement the new parade experience and feature themed rooms, merchandise and photo ops inspired by some of the films that will be seen in the Universal Mega Movie Parade. More details about the Summer Tribute Store will be revealed soon.

On select nights also starting June 14, guests visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade will delight in the nighttime extravaganza, Hogwarts Always – an incredible new projection show that will take guests on a journey through iconic moments of a school year at Hogwarts – all set against the majestic backdrop of Hogwarts castle.

From supply shopping in Diagon Alley, and the exhilarating ride aboard the Hogwarts Express, to participating in the Sorting Ceremony, celebrating the House Cup winner and so much more, Hogwarts Always will offer a visually stunning experience to captivate witches, wizards and Muggles of all ages.

The Hogwarts Always show will also feature four different endings that celebrate each Hogwarts house and will culminate with a colorful pyrotechnic display. Fans should also listen for dialogue from beloved characters like Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid, the Sorting Hat and more throughout the show.

Turning to commentary, if we do ignore reality and choose to blindly assume this is Universal’s answer to Walt Disney World’s summer lineup…it’s a pretty spectacular response! Honestly, if I had to choose one or the other on the basis of only entertainment, I’d pick Universal Orlando in a heartbeat. Heck, even adding in attractions and it’s a really close call–but I’m also really excited about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and have zero interest in DreamWorks Land.

For me, the most exciting entertainment is CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular. I’ve been a big fan of Universal Orlando’s past lagoon shows (the ones for HHN and Cinematic Celebration), and think they do a good job of approximating World of Color in scaled back fashion. They’ve also featured spotlights, pyro, and projections on the buildings that form the backdrop–arguably making them even more immersive than World of Color.

In fact, when I reviewed Cinematic Celebration, we gave it a 9/10 and called it better than 3 of the nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World (those would’ve been EPCOT Forever, Rivers of Light, and whatever the DHS projections show was at the time). Take that formula with updated technology and add drones…and I don’t see how it’s not at least as good.

CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular is definitely a high-floor entertainment offering, and Universal scores points for getting drones into an in-park nighttime spectacular before Walt Disney World. (Disney Dreams That Soar sounds great, but I’m still fairly convinced it’s proof-of-concept for something in-park next year.)

My hope is that CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular becomes ‘destination’ nighttime entertainment that ends up being held in the same high esteem as Happily Ever After or Fantasmic. I’m really, really excited for it. This is my #2 thing for Summer 2024 in Florida after Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter castle projections show should likewise be good. This is a tried and true formula–taking projections and adding those excellent scores–that has yet to disappoint. Add pyro and it should be the best version of the Hogwarts projections shows to date.

Then there’s Universal Mega Movie Parade. I’ll be honest–I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by Universal’s past daytime parades. Part of this is probably a matter of personal bias, as I think the Disney vault of animated characters and movies is far stronger, and a lot of second (or third…or fourth) tier IP has ended up in Universal daytime parades. I’ve also been fairly unimpressed by the floats, costume design, and pretty much everything.

However, the company has done a better job in recent years with parades at Universal Studios Japan and this one sounds like it has a lot of potential. A 16-foot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and dinosaurs?! Sign me up. Pulling from both the live action and animated libraries is probably a smart move–we’ll just see if the quality is there on the set design and if the parade has flow to it. Universal Mega Movie Parade sounds really good; even if it’s not, there should be some cool wow moments. And the summer entertainment lineup as a whole is really, really strong.

My only real disappointment with all of this is that it’s all listed as “only on select days/nights” on the official Universal Orlando website. I’m hoping (and assuming) it’ll all be every day and night this summer, and then go seasonal in mid-August and September once the off-season and Halloween Horror Nights start.

(A bit of an aside, but I do think Universal gets way too much of a pass on its short hours–Walt Disney World would be absolutely eviscerated by fans if all of its parks closed at 6pm on Friday “nights.” People have become way too willing to hold up Universal’s successes and sweep away their shortcomings. Which was fine when one was the scrappy underdog we held to a different standard. But there’s suddenly a lot of “Universal is beating Disney” talk, which suggests to me we are–or should be–holding them to the same standard.)

Ultimately, it’s not a real “competition” between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando to determine who wins Summer 2024. It’s more of a why not both?! scenario, with guests being the real winners. I’m still hoping Disney has more up its sleeve to announce, but even so, both theme park complexes have compelling slates of offerings. It should be a great time to do both, especially with the current ticket and resort deals, and the possibility that this is the calm before the storm of Epic Universe opening next summer.

To that point, it’s also really savvy of Universal Orlando to roll out so much new entertainment the summer before Epic Universe. If recent wait times data is any indication, Universal is experiencing a shoulder season slowdown almost identical to Walt Disney World. That could continue this summer even as tourist season arrives, as regulars and locals might take a “break” from Universal in the lead-up to Epic Universe.

That’s pretty much exactly what we saw back in 2019 with Walt Disney World pre-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Epic Universe is a whole new park. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if locals let their APs lapse for a year and tourists take a year off waiting for that blockbuster new park. All of this entertainment should be enough to entice people to visit, offsetting that dynamic to at least some degree. It’ll also be excellent counterprogramming for next summer when Epic Universe opens and Universal needs to make sure guests stay on-site and spend at least 3-4 days in their parks.

Need trip planning tips and comprehensive advice for your visit to Central Florida? Make sure to read our Universal Orlando Planning Guide for everything about Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. If you’re planning a trip out to the already-open Super Nintendo World, see our exhaustive Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood. For regular updates, news & rumors, a heads up when discounts are released, and much more, sign up for our FREE email newsletter!


Which of the Summer 2024 additions at Universal Orlando has you most excited? Looking forward to CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular, Hogwarts Always, or Universal Mega Movie Parade? What do you think of DreamWorks Land at Universal Studios Florida? Excited for the new movies, characters, or improved placemaking with this reimagined area of USF? Any other updates you’d like to see to Universal Orlando? Which movies, games, or characters do you think Universal should adapt into theme park attractions? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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