This week’s Theme Park Rangers Radar finds a new Halloween haunt at Universal CityWalk, comfort aboard an Islands of Adventure vessel and something to crow about for Journey of Water, the upcoming Epcot attraction inspired by “Moana.”
Radar is a weekly feed of Orlando theme park finds and feelings. It is published at OrlandoSentinel.com on Wednesdays.
Universal Orlando introduced a new Halloween-driven attraction at Universal CityWalk this season. The resort transformed the Red Coconut Club into (wait for it) the Dead Coconut Club. We do enjoy a killer pun.
The tropical lounge space on the upper level of CityWalk has not been open since before pandemic times, but Dead Coconut is available now on evenings that Halloween Horror Nights is happening at Universal Studios theme park.
So this could be a stop for HHN-goers in need of liquid courage or an option for folks who want a less intense, yet still adult Halloween experience. The vibe is luau lounge mixed with Universal’s classic monsters. Fear not. No one jumps out and shouts “Cowabunga!”
Still, there’s ample theming to absorb, which leans into a drive-in movie theme. There are creatures — one particular one dropping in from the Black Lagoon — in lounge poses. The bride of Frankenstein standing at the piano behind one of the bars, and she’s accompanied by the Invisible Man, a sight gag of sorts. Meanwhile, there are monster-themed surfboards to admire, and many pieces of wall art to look over with a few Easter eggs tied to late Universal attractions.
On the ground floor, a good pastime while imbibing would be to play “name that portrait” on the wall, which features caricatures of famous folk, including some fictional characters. It’s very Brown Derby and of the era.
Themed cocktails include the Java Island Beast, the Haunted Isle and the Bleeding Eye, which involves tequila, creme de cassis, agave, lime juice, ginger beer and a “lychee-blueberry edible eyeball,” according to the menu. There’s a mocktail called the Un-Tipsy Tiki.
On the night of our visit, there was live entertainment by American Sirens, a three-person group with harmonies that added to the lounge feel. Their selections weren’t purely Halloweeny but did include “Spooky” (OK, that’s a stretch) and a version of “Monster Mash.”
Dead Coconut fans can buy merchandise at a stand next door, down to the HHN-style T-shirts.
Halloween Horror Nights wraps up Oct. 31. No word if/when we’ll see an Undead Coconut Club.
I’ve had a run of simple theme-park pleasures lately, and the latest one happened on a return trip to Me Ship, the Olive at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
The multilevel play area is Popeye themed, of course, and has been there since IOA opened in 1999. It gives water-cannon opportunities toward unsuspecting riders on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges raft ride and had great views, including of the neighboring, harrowing hill of Jurassic Park VelociCoaster.
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But somehow I’d never noticed a design touch on the faux piano — marked as the Spinach Spinnet — on the second level. Three of the keys are color-coded, and there’s written music in the same colors above. Push the keys in order, and it created the “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” song. Do it correctly — not even with the right beat, mind you — and a grander, peppier version plays on the loudspeakers.
It’s a simple pleasure that led me to a fun fact. “Sailor Man” was written in 1933 by Sammy Lerner. He also cowrote Betty Boop’s theme song and the English lyrics for “Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It),” sung by Marlene Dietrich in “The Blue Angel.” Now that’s range.
Here’s a tidbit regarding Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, an under-construction attraction at Epcot: Heihei, the big-eyed rooster character from 2016′s “Moana,” will be there..
“You’re going to have to go looking for him, but you might be able to find him,” Chelsea Whikehart, a Walt Disney Imagineering producer, said during a D23 video produced for Epcot’s 40th anniversary.
Characters will be subtly incorporated, it seems, unless you count the 16-foot-tall topiary of Te Fiti, a goddess in the film.
Journey of Water, in the World Nature section of the park near Spaceship Earth, will open in late 2023, Disney says.
- Gatorland debuts its Gators, Ghosts and Goblins event Saturday, the first day of the attraction’s operation after the effects of Hurricane Ian. It includes interactive characters, Swamp Ghost’s Monster Museum, Skunk Ape’s Cryptid Kingdom, a haunt zone called “Invasion of the Bubba Snatchers” and a costume parade for children. GGG, included in regular admission, runs Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 30.
- Other Halloween activities in full swing include Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, SeaWorld Orlando’s Howl-O-Scream, extra-ticket events that will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- Kinder, gentler, included-in-admission Halloween fare includes SeaWorld’s Spooktacular on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Legoland Florida’s Brick-or-Treat on Saturday and Sunday. (Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom has event nights Friday and Sunday, but they are sold out.)
- The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival continues daily. Eat to the Beat concert performers include Robert Randolph Band on Friday and Saturday then Newsboys on Sunday and Monday.
- The “Hot Wheels: Race to Win” exhibit is now installed at Orlando Science Center. It looks at the design of fast cars as well as the evolution of the Hot Wheels toys.
What’s on your radar? Email me at [email protected]