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Universal Studios theme park England, UK – all you need to know about the potential project

Universal Studios theme park England, UK – all you need to know about the potential project

The latest on plans to open a Universal theme park in Bedford, England

Theme park giant Universal has revealed ‘very early’ plans for a potential park and resort experience in Bedford, England.

There are no Universal theme parks in Europe yet, so this would be huge news for UK families.

Universal Orlando Resort was the highlight of our trip to Florida, so here at the Family Holiday Guide, we are VERY excited at the idea of some of that magic being brought so much closer to home.

So here we look at everything that is known so far.

Where might Universal be opening a theme park in the UK?

Universal are looking at a former brickworks site in Bedfordshire, England.

The 480-acre (195 hectares) plot is in Stewartby, between Bedford and Milton Keynes.

It lies between London and Birmingham. It’s around 60 miles (97km) from London and 78 miles (126km) from Birmingham.

Proposed site of a Universal theme park in Bedford, England, UK. A map showing the site in Stewartby.

Why has Universal chosen this site?

Universal say they have chosen the site:

  • Due to its ‘transportation connectivity to London and Europe’.
  • Because ‘more than half of the UK population live within two hours’.
  • Its proximity to Luton Airport.

Has Universal actually bought land?

Yes, Universal’s parent company Comcast Corporation has purchased the parcel of land.

What stage are the plans at?

Universal says the plans are in the ‘very early stages’.

It is conducting a feasibility study and it could be months before they decide whether the potential project will proceed.

What has Universal said?

“We are always looking at new locations around the world, including in Europe, and the UK is an attractive place for a potential project.

“While we do own the land, we are only at the beginning of our feasibility study as part of our evaluation of potential sites.”

Where are Universal’s other parks?

Universal Destinations & Experiences has some of the world’s best and most innovative theme parks with advanced film and television-based attractions, hotels, resorts and live entertainment.

It has five entertainment and resort complexes:

  • Universal Orlando Resort
  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Universal Studios Japan (Osaka)
  • Universal Beijing Resort
  • Universal Studios Singapore.

Is the project being supported locally?

The idea has been welcomed by Bedford Borough Council.

Its mayor Tom Wootton, said the theme park could be ‘transformative for the borough’.

Universal is keen to consult with the local community and has already created a website to inform people living in the area and has also written to residents.

The letter includes details of the thousands of jobs that its parks create and states that the company is committed to enhancing the natural beauty and protecting the ecology of the areas in which it operates.

It added: “While we have been encouraged by the positive nature of conversations we’ve had so far with various national and local stakeholders — including Bedford Borough Council and the Mayor of Bedford Borough — we plan to work closely with our local communities should we progress. “

What about the Government?

The plans have also been discussed by the Government and appear to have the backing of Bedford Labour MP Mohammad Yasin.

He said a park would bring ‘enormous prosperity and jobs’ to the area.

The MP spoke in the Commons to ask the government to support road improvements to help deliver the proposed theme park.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have also been briefed on the bid.

What do you think?

We will keep you updated with the plans. What do you think of the idea? Let us know in the comments.

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Florida in 10 days – where to stay and what to do

Florida in 10 days – where to stay and what to do

Our 10-night Florida itinerary – Universal, Disney World, Legoland, a basketball match, five hotels, three waterparks and four days by the coast

A trip to Florida can be a once-in-a-lifetime holiday so if you are lucky enough to be going, you need to plan wisely.

There is SO MUCH to see and do that when you first sit down to organise this adventure for your family, it can seem overwhelming.

We’ve just taken our children to Florida – it was their first time in America and very special.

Our trip included Universal, Disney World, Legoland, a basketball match, five hotels (including one dream hotel – more of that later), three waterparks and four days by the coast staying on two of America’s best beaches.

I feel tired just writing all that! But it was manageable thanks to enthusiasm and some down time.

So here is our 10-day itinerary, we hope it inspires you.

 

Day 1

Travel and settle in at our first hotel

Hotel 1 – Springfield Suites at Marriott Village Orlando.

Springfield Suites, Marriott Village Orlando, Florida

Springfield Suites

This was a great location – a 20-minute taxi drive to Universal and a free shuttle to Disney World.

Read our full review here: Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios

Day 2 and 3

Universal Resort Orlando (Universal Studios)

Olivander's Wand Shop, Universal Studios Orlando, Florida

Olivander’s Wand Shop

The amazing attraction that is Universal Resort Orlando is made up of the theme parks Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure plus the Volcano Bay water park.

This had the edge over Disney World for us especially as three of us are Harry Potter fans. It’s where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is – Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is at Islands of Adventure. You can even catch the Hogwarts Express between the two.

Highlight: Our son being chosen by ‘Olivander’ to select a wand for him in the mini-show at Olivander’s Wand Shop.

We’ve got a full guide, pictures and video for you – Universal Orlando Resort – guide and top tips for one of the most popular attractions in the world

Day 3 evening

Basketball match

We wanted to do something authentically American like a sports match and our son is a basketball fan.

We went to the Orlando Magic home stadium the Amway Center, to see them take on Boston Celtics.

Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics basketball match at the Amway Center

Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics at the Amway Center

Everyone arrives an hour early to soak up the atmosphere and gets to their seats early to enjoy the entertainment.

It was a fantastic experience, read about it here: Want to watch a basketball match in Orlando? Here’s all you need to know

Day 4

Hotel 2 – Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Relaxing at Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Widely named the best hotel in Florida, this was a real treat. It is a very luxurious place to stay with such attentive staff, delicious food and sumptuous surroundings.

Best of all, there’s a little water park so it’s a great place to enjoy a more relaxing day amid all the busy parks.

It’s within Disney World grounds and has a free shuttle bus service there.

We had a fabulous day enjoying the five-star surroundings, trying out the water slides and the lazy river, before hitting Disney the next day.

Read all about this glorious place – Top luxury hotel review and tips – Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World

Day 5

Disney World

In front of the castle at Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Disney World

Disney World is one of the reasons that Florida is so popular. There are four parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios plus water parks.

We did a long day here to maximise the value of the expensive tickets. We started at 8am and left Epcot at 8pm. Yes, it was tiring but we saw a lot in one day.

We bought a Park Hopper ticket and started at the iconic Magic Kingdom, leaving after the parade in the afternoon and heading for Epcot. This was a great decision as the Frozen Ever After boat ride there is amazing.

Day 6

Legoland Florida Resort

Now with a hire car, we drove 45 minutes to Legoland.

Legoland Resort Florida entrance start

Legoland Florida

Fantastic for younger ones and without the queues of Universal and Disney World (at least not when we went), this was a slower-paced couple of days in the park and at its water park.

We stayed on site at its Pirate Island Hotel and our favourite part was the Ninjago ride, which we went on four times.

Read all about it – Legoland Florida Resort – park and hotel review, guide and top tips

Part 2 – the coast

After a fast-paced few days, we were ready to head to Florida’s Gulf Coast – to lovely Clearwater and St Pete.

Day 7

After spending the morning at Legoland we headed for hotel 4 – Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club in Clearwater.

The private beach at Winter the Dolphin's Beach Club hotel in Clearwater

The hotel’s private beach

This hotel has a swimming pool and is on a private beach so it was nice to chill out for the afternoon after we arrived.

Day 8

We went to Clearwater Aquarium where film star Winter the Dolphin from A Dolphin’s Tale was rescued and rehabilitated.

In the afternoon we took a boat trip on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise and in the evening, enjoyed the sunset, a market and a lovely meal.

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise, Clearwater, Florida

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise

Day 9

We moved again to St Pete Beach and our final hotel – RumFish Beach Resort.

Enjoying the beach at RumFish Beach Resort, St Pete, Florida

Enjoying the beach at RumFish

Our room opened out on to the beach and we enjoyed water slides and zip wires and an evening’s magic show.

Day 10

We headed into St Petersburg to enjoy its pier, markets, museums and laid-back harbour vibe and our final lunch overlooking the water before a last beautiful Florida sunset. For more ideas on what to do in Clearwater and St Pete, read our guide to the best attractions for families.

Sunset at St Beach beach, Florida

Sunset

Day 11

After pancakes for breakfast, we left for our flight home.

What do you like to do in Florida? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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*We received complimentary or reduced prices for some of the attractions and hotels, for review purposes, all views are our own.

Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios

Marriott Village Orlando hotels near to Disney World and Universal Studios

All you need to know about Marriott Village Orlando and its three hotels SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn and Courtyard Hotel

We stay at Marriott Village Orlando – a great base from which to get to the top Florida attractions of Universal or Disney World.

Name

Marriott Village Orlando

Where is it?

Marriott Village is in the Lake Buena Vista area near Disney World. It’s in a quiet development just off the main International Drive road which runs from Orlando to Disney.

What is it?

A village with three different hotels, SpringHill Suites Orlando, Fairfield Inn Orlando and Courtyard Hotel Orlando.

Each hotel has its own pool with all three available to those staying. There is a shared food court, playground, shops and gym.

If you stay in one of the hotels you can use a free shuttle bus to Disney World.

Is it family friendly?

Yes, very much so. We stayed at SpringHill Suites Orlando which is probably the most family-orientated with large rooms, free breakfast, Disney shuttle and ticket outlet and an outdoor pool with splash pads.

The view from our room at Springhill Suites, at Marriott Village Orlando, Florida, hotel, Disney World, Universal, US, USA, America,

The view from our room

The hotel could do with a slight modernisation on decor and furniture but was excellent value, very practical and a pleasant place to stay.

The rooms

All the rooms are the same and they are a great size with two double beds and a sofa bed if needed.

Our room at Springhill Suites, Marriott Village Orlando, Florida, hotel, Disney World, Universal, US, USA, America,

Our room

There is also a sink, fridge and microwave if you want to make your own food.

Kitchen area in our room at Springhill Suites, Marriott Village Orlando, Florida, hotel, Disney World, Universal, US, USA, America,

Kitchen area

The decor is a little dated and could maybe do with an upgrade in places but with a desk, bathroom with bath and shower, separate sink area and storage cupboard there is loads of room.

Desk in our room at Springhill Suites, Marriott Village Orlando, Florida, hotel, Disney World, Universal, US, USA, America,

Desk in our room

There were also two televisions so our children could have one each and the free WiFi was fast and reliable.

Food and drink

Breakfast is self-serve and can get quite busy. We suggest going early.

The highlight is definitely the Mickey Mouse waffle makers which give you a Mickey-shaped snack to start your day.

Mickey Mouse waffle at breakfast at Springhill Suites, Marriott Village Orlando, Florida, hotel, Disney World, Universal, US, USA, America,

Mickey Mouse waffles for breakfast

The queue to use them gets long but it is great fun for children to make their own, under supervision.

There is also plenty of other food with a good range of cereals, yoghurts, fruit, drinks and hot food.

There’s a shared food court area if you want a quick and easy lunch or dinner like pizza and fries. It isn’t a restaurant as such but there is a nice seating area outside if the weather is good and a few stools and tables inside.

The food court at Marriott Village Orlando, Florida, hotel, Disney World, Universal, US, USA, America,

The food court

There is a standard menu of family favourites and you can also buy drinks and snacks for your room.

Then there are three restaurants next door within walking distance next to the Marriott Village.

We ate at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and had a tasty meal with a good children’s menu and an activity pack to keep them entertained.

About a five-minute walk away are five more restaurants including an Italian grill but it means crossing a very busy road which we weren’t too keen to do with young children.

There is also a small store attached to a petrol station for water and snacks.

Nearby

*Disney World is the nearest attractions with a daily shuttle from the hotel. Book as soon as possible the day before to guarantee a place.

The shuttle bus runs between Marriott Village and the Magic Kingdom Transportation Center.

*Universal Studios – we took a taxi to Universal Resort Orlando from the hotel, which took around 20 minutes. And if you are visiting Universal make sure you read our full guide first (especially if you are Harry Potter fans) – Universal Orlando Resort – guide and top tips for one of the most popular attractions in the world

*We wanted to experience an American sports match so booked tickets for basketball at the nearby Amway Center to see home team Orlando Magic take on Boston Celtics. It was fantastic, here’s our report Want to watch a basketball match in Orlando? Here’s all you need to know

Our highlights

The room size – there is lots of space and having two TVs, plus a fridge and sink gives you options for entertainment and self-catering.

Location – it is in a really nice, quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of Disney or Universal but near enough to get to both quickly.

The pools – being able to use three pools is a bonus. We found the one at SpringHill enough for our needs with a shallow main pool big enough for a proper swim, separate jacuzzi and splash pads for smaller children.

The swimming pool at Springhill Suites, at Marriott Village Orlando, Florida, hotel, Disney World, Universal, US, USA, America,

The pool

The play area – a small but well stocked play area with two climbing frames – one for ages two to five and another for six to 12-year-olds.

There is also a basketball hoop, giant chess set and hopscotch.

Marriott Village Orlando information

Address: Marriott Village Orlando, 8623 Vineland Avenue, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Florida.

How to book: Marriott

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*We received complimentary or reduced prices for this hotel for review purposes, all views are our own.

Big plans for Orlando for 2020 – new rides, resorts, restaurants and more

Big plans for Orlando for 2020 – new rides, resorts, restaurants and more

What is new for the Theme Park Capital of the World this year at attractions including Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld

Orlando in Florida is welcoming 30 new additions for 2020.

There will be a theme park expansion, the world’s tallest slingshot ride, an ‘acoustically perfect’ theatre, a new celebrity chef restaurant and one of the largest booms for hotel growth in decades.

Theme Parks

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Walt Disney World Resort)

*The first-ever Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, ‘Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway,’ will open.

*Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’ has opened and is the second attraction for the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land.

Epcot (Walt Disney World Resort)

Epcot is undergoing one of the biggest transformations of any Disney park in history, bringing a host of new attractions and experiences in 2020, including:

*Three new films from January 17: Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 and Awesome Planet.

*Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in summer 2020, shrinking guests to the size of Chef Remy and racing them through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure.

*Epcot’s new nighttime spectacular HarmonioUS, the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park.

*La Crêperie de Paris, a new restaurant located in the France pavilion at Epcot, debuting in summer 2020, offering both table and quick-service crepe options.

Universal Orlando Resort

*The Bourne Stuntacular, a cutting-edge live-action stunt show based on Universal Pictures’ blockbuster Bourne films, will debut in spring 2020 at Universal Studios Florida.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

*Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, opening spring 2020, takes riders on the steepest vertical drop in Florida.

*Riptide Race at Aquatica Orlando will be Florida’s first-ever dueling water slide, featuring side-by-side racing lanes through nearly 650 feet of slide.

New Entertainment Beyond the Parks

Outside the famous theme parks, Orlando is reaching new heights this year, from some of the world’s tallest thrills rides to one of the most acoustically perfect spaces on earth.

*Steinmetz Hall at the Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, opening September 2020, will achieve an N1 sound rating – the lowest level at which humans can detect sound.

Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

*ICON Park, located on International Drive and home to The Wheel and Starflyer attractions, will welcome more record-breaking attractions in 2020, including two major thrill rides:

The Orlando Slingshot will catapult guests 450 feet into the air and is set to the be the World’s Tallest Slingshot ride.

The Orlando Gyro Drop Tower will reach 400 feet, making it the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower. Riders freefall at up to 75 miles per hour.

*The Orlando Science Center’s ‘Pompeii: The Immortal City,’ runs June 6 to September 7, 2020 and is one of only four US sites for the interactive exhibit.

Orlando Science Center

Orlando Science Center

*’Drawn to Life,’ a new Cirque du Soleil show, transports guests into the world of Disney’s animation in Cirque’s signature style, opening at Disney Springs in March 2020.

*Wild Florida’s 75-acre drive-through safari park brings visitors nose-to-snout with giraffes, wild boars and other animals. The safari area will include a zipline over a grazing area.

*Two Orlando malls are set to undergo enhancements in 2020 – Pointe Orlando and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets.

New Resorts and Hotels

Orlando has the second highest number of hotel rooms of anywhere in the US and is undergoing a huge hotel expansion.

*JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa opens February 2020 with 516 rooms, a Spa and a rooftop terrace with nightly views of theme park fireworks.

JW Marriott Orlando kids room

JW Marriott Orlando

*Universal Orlando Resort’s 2,050-room Dockside Inn and Suites opens March 2020. It is a coastal-themed budget hotel with rates starting at $76 per night.

New Restaurants

There are a host of new eateries adding to Orlando’s diverse food scene.

*Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, is a concept from chef John Tesar, opening spring 2020.

*Ole Red, a new restaurant by country superstar Blake Shelton, will open at ICON Park in 2020 and merge southern hospitality, good food and live country music. Also coming to ICON Park in 2020 is Ox Grill, offering contemporary fare with steaks, pasta and a selection of international dishes.

*Camelo Pizzaria opens on International Drive in early 2020. The Brazilian thin-crust pizza place is the first location outside Brazil.

*Sixty Vines, a restaurant with Napa Valley-inspired seasonal cuisine, will open in spring 2020 in Winter Park and offer guests 60 varieties of wine on tap.

*Norman’s will be moving to Restaurant Row. Created by celebrity chef Norman Van Aken, the concept will open in the Dellagio Plaza spring 2020.

*Kavas Tacos + Tequila at Pointe Orlando opens September 2020. The locally owned restaurant will feature Mexican comfort food, tequila flights and entertainment. Also opening at Pointe Orlando is The Hampton Social, themed after the New York coastal resort region.

*AG’s Market, a lakefront food hall opening late 2020, combines retail, beverage and food options with a second-floor seating area showcasing the theme park fireworks.

For all the updates and tips for planning a trip go to VisitOrlando.com

Visit Orlando is the official tourism association for the most visited destination in the United States.