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King Kong's reign begins as Universal opens Skull Island ride

Universal's Islands of Adventure surprised visitors Wednesday with the official opening of its newest mega attraction, Skull Island: Reign of Kong. (Universal Orlando)

Universal's Islands of Adventure surprised visitors Wednesday with the official opening of its newest mega attraction, Skull Island: Reign of Kong. (Universal Orlando)

Universal's Islands of Adventure surprised visitors Wednesday with the official opening of its newest mega attraction, Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

The Orlando theme park has been tight-lipped about when the enormous ride would open, even though it has let riders on intermittently for "technical rehearsals" for weeks.

After Al Roker showed viewers on the Today show Wednesday morning what to expect when they board a 40-foot-long, 17-ton expedition vehicle to navigate the foreboding terrain of King Kong's home turf, the park officially opened the ride for full-time operation.

The attraction, which looms over the park between the Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park islands, has a complex ride queue loaded with props and even actors as scary islanders. The ride itself is aboard a 72-seat jungle bus that takes riders past the 36-foot tall doors of an ancient-looking temple into the world King Kong.

The action takes place on huge curved 3D screens on each side and above the truck and a loud animatronic Kong nearly three stories tall roars his displeasure in a battle sequence.

The ride announcement comes one day before Thursday's opening of Universal Orlando's fifth on-site hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. The 1,000-room Caribbean-themed hotel with Universal's largest resort pool, a water slide, fire pit, two sand beaches, waterfall and lush lagoon, is positioning itself as a convention hotel that connects via covered walkway with Royal Pacific Resort's conference area.

A stay at the resort includes early access to Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure, with transport via land or water taxi. Rooms start at $179 at loewshotels.com/sapphire-falls-resort.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

King Kong's reign begins as Universal opens Skull Island ride 07/13/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2016 1:54pm]
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