The park that opened that day looked very different than the one that now stands in the middle of the Universal Orlando Resort. The land that would become Islands of Adventure was USF's parking lot. There was no CityWalk, no hotels, and no parking structures. In fact, some of the land that those would stand upon wasn't even land, as detention ponds lined the edges of the Universal property.
Universal opened with what was billed the world's largest Hard Rock Cafe, but it wasn't the current restaurant. Universal's original Hard Rock stood atop a massive guitar-shaped platform that spanned from the Psycho house to the parking lot where the Hard Rock Hotel now stands.
So, yeah, things were different back then. Heck, everyone who visited that first summer was given a free one-day ticket to come back again someday, thanks to all the rides that either weren't working or, at best, working only now and then.
Universal is celebrating today with special guidemaps and some social media posts, but the resort's not offering anything like the year-long promotion that Disney typically serves up whenever Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom hits a milestone anniversary.
Don't blame that rough opening day, 25 years ago, though. Disneyland's opening in 1955 wasn't exactly smooth, but that's not stopped Disney from pulling all the stops on its anniversaries. Anniversary celebrations rely on nostalgia to be successful, and Universal's never been as into looking back fondly at the past as Disney has. At the rate Universal is employing construction crews to build new rides, a water park, and hotels, it is clear that Universal's focus lies more on the next 25 years than on the past 25.
Still, happy birthday, Universal.
Update: This is rich. To celebrate the breakdowns 25 years ago today, credit card machines, turnstiles and WiFi service at Universal Orlando failed Sunday, leading to waits and cash-only service throughout the parks. Let the Universal-style snarky comments begin!
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