As a publisher I was afforded the opportunity to attend various events meant to generate publicity for local attractions. On one of those occasions I had the good fortune to go along as a passenger on the Airship Shamu blimp. Recently, I came across a collection of photos I took during my flight – including early images of Universal Studios Florida.
Shamu launched from the property that currently Discovery Cove and flew north along International Drive – passing over the Orlando/Orange County Convention Center and the Peabody Orlando resort. I find the Peabody photo to be interesting because of what is missing. Aside from the second Peabody tower and convention center, Pointe Orlando and Wonderworks are nowhere in sight. Construction has only just commenced on the Rosen Plaza hotel across the street.
Further north the pink roofs and colorful awnings give Mercado a bright-new quality. Next to Mercado is the vacant property that would eventually be the site of a shopping center as well as Orlando’s edition of Ripley’s: Believe It or Not.
The voyage continued towards the north end of International Drive before approaching Universal Studios Florida. I don’t recall the date of my flight – so I will leave it up to TPI’s sleuths to determine if these pictures are “pre-opening” images.
As I look at these photos it seems strange to see the property with no resorts, no CityWalk or Islands of Adventure. As Shamu floated on the photos I took show the vacant land where the Wild, Wild, Wild West Stunt Show theater and Men In Black: Alien Attack, would be built.
Flying above the west edge of the park, I was able to take an exceptional photo of the Jaws attraction. On the east side of USF, I captured images of the old Hard Rock Café as wells as the Bates family home and motel. No sign of KidsZone, Curious George or Barney.
The entire voyage was great fun. Looking at the photos I am struck by how much the Universal/I-Drive area has changed over the last (gasp!) twenty years-plus years.Tweet
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