Orlando – Universal

Most people stroll by the colorful buildings throughout Universal Studios in Orlando on the search for attractions, rides and food. But take a closer look: most of the facades are replicas of famous landmarks.

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1 Hard Rock Cafe at Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Florida

The Hard Rock Cafe is one of several restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment venues at Universal CityWalk in Orlando. The large complex welcomes arriving guests to Universal Orlando Resort. After passing through its plaza, you proceed to either of the two theme parks. If you care to spend the night, then there are several on-site hotels to choose from in addition to the Hard Rock Hotel. They are all walking distance to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Hard Rock Cafe, 6050 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
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2 Logo Globe at Park Entrance of Universal in Orlando, Florida

Walk by this spinning Universal globe and beneath the archway towards an action-packed day at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando. The theme park, which opened in 1990, has eight theme sections that offer numerous variety shows, countless attractions and more than a dozen rides. Most of them feature lovable film and TV characters. And the ornate architecture along the streets either duplicates movie sets or historical landmarks from New York, San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Hollywood.

Universal Studios Globe, 2 Plaza of the Stars, Orlando, FL 32819
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3 Beverly Hills City Limits Sign at Universal in Orlando, Florida

Universal Orlando has done a masterful job of recreating many of the facades from the Golden Age of Hollywood. It also displays the Beverly Hills city limits sign. This has now become the official seal for the glamor, glitz, luxury shopping and movie stars at the country’s most famous zip code: 90210. But a far more famous sign was erected in 1906 when the real Beverly Hills was nothing more than a hopeful real estate development. It is too bad that this more iconic, 40 foot sign is not represented in Florida.

6777 Hollywood Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
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4 Beverly Wilshire Hotel Façade at Universal in Orlando, Florida

A quick look at this photo and you might mistake it for the real Beverly Wilshire Hotel on the corner of South Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The builders at Universal Florida created a masterful reproduction of this 1928 Italian Renaissance façade. The real hotel was the home to several celebrities including John Lennon, Warren Beatty and Elvis Presley. Today this exquisite property in California is a Four Seasons Hotel. In the Florida version, it seems to be a favorite spot for husbands to sit on a bench and rest.

The Beverly Wilshire, 6777 Hollywood Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
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5 Mel’s Drive-In Restaurant at Universal in Orlando, Florida

In 1947, Mel Weiss and his partner Harold Dobbs opened a drive-in restaurant in San Francisco that may have quietly vanished had it not achieved recognition first in the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and then was catapulted to fame as the setting for the film “American Graffiti” in 1973. At Universal Studios in Orlando, this is a quick serve restaurant that offers burgers and fries plus awesome root beer floats.

Mel's Drive-In, South St, Orlando, FL 32819
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6 Pantages Theater Marquee at Universal in Orlando, Florida

In 1930, when the original Pantages Theater opened on Hollywood and Vine in California, it featured vaudeville acts and movies. Today, this historic Art Deco building in Hollywood operates as a venue for Broadway musicals. Since 1990, this reproduction in Orlando, Florida is home to the Horror Make-Up Show. It displays Universal’s legacy as a producer of horror films followed by a live stage show accented with old movie clips.

Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show, Orlando, FL 32819
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7 Café Montmartre Façade at Universal in Orlando, Florida

In 1923, during the real estate boom for building movie star mansions in Beverly Hills, the Café Montmartre opened its doors at 6753 Hollywood Blvd. Its restaurant and nightclub became famous for offering dinner, cocktails and backroom gambling to the rich and famous. It roared during the Roaring Twenties but then went bankrupt in 1932. Universal Studios Florida did an excellent job of capturing the essence of this pink, Italian palazzo style building.

6523 Hollywood Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
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8 Fisherman’s Wharf Sign at Universal in Orlando, Florida

There is no question that you arrived at the San Francisco section of Universal Orlando once you see the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf sign. Here you’ll find several buildings that look similar to the Bay City’s waterfront plus an eatery called Lombard’s Landing Seafood Grille. Although this area is quaint and the food is good, it can never replace enjoying clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl out in California.

27 South St, Orlando, FL 32819
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9 Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone Sign at Universal in Orlando, Florida

The Kidzone at Universal features several lovable characters such as Barney, E.T. and Curious George. Woody Woodpecker is the host of the Nuthouse Coaster. Children who enter this section have lots of fun but are too young to know its namesake. In case you are too, Woody Woodpecker was created by Warner Bros. studio in 1940. His iconic laugh was delivered by Mel Blanc who was called “The Man of a Thousand Voices” because he also created the voices of almost every Looney Tunes’ animated character.

2 Exposition Blvd & Hollywood Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
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10 Simpsons Riding Rollercoaster at Universal in Orlando, Florida

Why are Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa screaming? Maybe because Universal Studios Florida spent over $30 million to open The Simpson Ride in 2008. It is a fascinating and fun journey through Krustyland during which you’ll see and hear from over twenty characters of the TV show in 3D animation.

The Simpsons Ride, 2 Exposition Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
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11 D. Ghirardelli & Co. Building at Universal in Orlando, Florida

The date of 1852 on this building’s façade at Universal in Florida marked the year that Italian born Domenico Ghirardelli founded the D. Ghirardelli & Co. The country’s oldest chocolate maker still has a landmark location at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The 1916 date refers to when a similar brick clock tower was built by the confectionery in an area now known as Ghirardelli Square.

27 South St, Orlando, FL 32819
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12 Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue Colonnade at Universal in Orlando, Florida

These photos are the stars of the Beetlejuice live musical revue at Universal Orlando. It was renamed the Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-up in 2014. I found this colonnade to be interesting. It looks very similar to the 4th century Roman columns that surround the Neptune Pool at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.

807 South St Orlando, FL 32819
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13 Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-up at Universal in Orlando, Florida

Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-up is a live, singing and dancing stage performance staring Beetlejuice and the film’s other main characters such as Frankenstein, his bride, Dracula and the Wolfman plus a few other goblins. The show features lots of flashing lights, swirling smoke and fun musical numbers in the San Francisco section of Universal Orlando.

807 South St Orlando, FL 32819
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14 Macy and Stern Building Façades at Universal in Orlando, Florida

I found these two storefront replicas at Universal Orlando to be interesting. The one on the right is called R.H. Macy & Co., the name that Rowland Hussey Macy gave to his dry goods store when he opened it in New York City in 1858. But on the left is “I. Stern” which, as far as I can tell, has never existed. There is an H. Stern jeweler based in Brazil, but the 1917 date on the cornerstone was five years before the founder Hans Stern was born. I assume this is a tribute to Tiffany’s because their iconic symbol of Atlas holding a clock is on top. But for the record, Charles Lewis Tiffany opened in New York City as a stationery story in 1837 and did not become a jeweler called Tiffany & Company until 1853.

5th Ave & 57 Ave, Orlando, FL 32819
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15 Men in Black Ride at Universal in Orlando, Florida

If you enter this pavilion that looks similar to the 1964 World’s Fair, you will quickly be recruited to defend New York City against aliens … 125 of them to be exact. While your car spins through the dark, you’ll earn points with each kill and will even get into a shootout with an opposing car. But your marksmen skills with the S4 Alienators laser gun really gets tested during the Men in Black ride when Edgar appears, a 30 x 50 foot cockroach. Good luck, rookie!

Men in Black Alien Attack, Orlando, FL 32819
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16 Revenge of the Mummy Ride at Universal in Orlando, Florida

Pass beneath this portico at your peril because you are about to enter the Revenge of the Mummy ride based on “The Mummy” films. You’ll be strapped into a mining car and during a three-minute adventure you’ll traverse a 2,200 foot track at up to 45 miles an hour. If you enjoy dark rollercoasters, you’ll have a screaming good time.

Revenge of the Mummy, Orlando, FL 32819
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17 Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Sunset at Universal in Orlando, Florida

The passenger train on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit reaches an elevation of 165 feet before plunging towards the ground at 65 mph. This rollercoaster at Universal Studios Florida lets you select the song that plays while you are scared to death. With selections like, “Paralyzer,” “Kickstart My Heart,” “Living in Fast Forward,” “Insane in the Brain” and “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead,” it’s hard to pick the most appropriate tune.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Orlando, FL 32819
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18 Rotating Monsters Café Sign at Universal in Orlando, Florida

Nothing builds up an appetite more than seeing the Werewolf, Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon rotating above the Universal Studio’s Classic Monsters Café. Inside you can order uninspiring fare like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and chicken but the props and movie clips from classic old horror movies makes it worth a visit.

Bone Chillin', Plaza of the Stars, Orlando, FL 32819
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19 Shrek 4-D Sign at Universal in Orlando, Florida

The Shrek 4-D attraction at Universal Florida shows a 12 minute film produced by DreamWorks Automation which features many of the characters from the Kingdom of Duloc, including the spirit of Lord Farquaad. This attraction will have you rocking because your seat tilts, vibrates and gets sprayed with water. You can also have a photo op with the costumed characters of Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey at the Donkey’s Photo Finish section.

Shrek 4-D Universal Orlando, 42 Plaza of the Stars, Orlando, FL 32819
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