The Reopening of Universal Orlando: What to Expect and What Is Changing

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When it comes to theme parks in Florida, the 2 biggest names in the game are Disney and Universal.

Back in March 2020, both companies closed their parks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) with no firm reopening date in sight.

But, after almost 3 months, Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay reopened their gates on June 5, 2020 to eager guests — more than a month before the competition. Those parks, combined with Universal CityWalk, mean a lot of people on the property.

Of course, in order to reopen, new safety measures were put into place to make sure that both guests and staff remain healthy as we all navigate this “new normal.”

Let’s take a look at what changes you will see at the parks, hotels, and restaurants.

What Is Changing at Universal Orlando Resort

Despite Florida seeing big spikes in coronavirus cases and visitors from multiple states being required to quarantine for up to 14 days before enjoying the Sunshine State, Universal moved forward with its aggressive reopening plans.

Welcoming guests to its 3 theme parks, including a water park, required some major changes. Here is what guests can expect on their next visit:

New Safety Guidelines

Following CDC guidelines, Universal Orlando Resort has created enhanced sanitation procedures and implemented additional measures for social distancing and health screenings.

Face Coverings

Universal Orlando Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Face Masks
Guests using face masks on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios. Image Credit: Universal

As expected in many public areas nowadays, all staff and guests will be required to wear face coverings at all times throughout the park (except while actively eating) and on all attractions (except those that include significant amounts of water as part of the experience), as well as Universal Volcano Bay’s slides and pools.

Face shields will not be allowed on any rides, and for rides that require 3D glasses, guests retrieve their glasses directly from team members as opposed to grabbing them from a bin.

Universal is following the CDC guidelines for face coverings, which means that both the mouth and nose should be covered. Park specific rules state that face coverings must:

  • Cover your nose and mouth and be secured under your chin
  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face and be secured with ear loops or secured around your head — currently, that means that neck gaiters are allowed, unlike at Walt Disney World
  • Be at least 2-ply (consist of at least 2 layers)
  • Not have any exhaustion vales
  • Not include mesh material or holes of any kind

Hot Tip: Per the Universal Orlando Costume Guidelines, costume masks and veils will not be considered as facial coverings. 

Temperature Checks

Universal Orlando Temperature Check
Universal Orlando temperature check. Image Credit: Universal

When arriving at the park, guests will be required to pass a temperature check. Guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher will not be allowed in the park.

Reduced Capacity

Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay are all operating at a reduced capacity during their phased reopening.

Increased Cleaning

Universal Orlando Reopening Dining
Increased sanitation practices at Universal CityWalk. Image Credit: Universal

On top of Universal’s “already-aggressive cleaning procedures,” there will be increased cleaning and disinfection of food locations, ride vehicles, and other frequent touchpoints.

Hand Washing and Sanitizing

Couple at Universal Orlando Gift Shop with Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizing stations at Universal Orlando. Image Credit: Universal

Throughout the Universal parks and CityWalk, guests will find more hand sanitizing stations and will be required to use hand sanitizer before getting on select rides.

Universal is also emphasizing that guests should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Social Distancing

Universal Orlando Social Distancing Sign
Universal Orlando social distancing sign. Image Credit: Universal

Universal is requesting that guests practice social distancing and keep at least 6 feet between their travel party and others.

Throughout the park, guests will see floor markings to guide where parties should be lining up.

Staggered Parking

One of the first changes Universal guests will notice is staggered parking inside the garages intended to help create space between travel groups.

Expanded Virtual Line Experiences

One of the more popular, but limited, line-reducing systems at Universal is the Virtual Line Experience.

Previously, only the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon and Fast & Furious Supercharged rides offered this digital queue in the parks.

Now, depending on demand, you can find this system available at the following rides via the Universal Orlando Resort App:

Universal’s Islands of Adventure:

  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Pteranodon Flyers
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Universal Studios Florida:

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Fast & Furious Supercharged
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Revenge of the Mummy

All rides at Universal’s Volcano Bay will continue to offer a Virtual Line experience using a wearable device called the TapuTapu instead of requiring a smartphone.

Hot Tip: Can’t wait for your next trip? Universal Orlando Resort offers virtual rides of favorites like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Contactless Payments

Guests throughout all of the Universal properties will start to see contactless payments and “no-touch” options where possible.

U-Rest Areas

If wearing a mask for 8+ hours in the Florida summer heat makes you a little uneasy, you aren’t alone. That is why Universal has designated “U-Rest” areas, where guests may temporarily remove their face coverings for relief while still maintaining social distance from other guests.

Reopening Dates

Universal Orlando Social Distancing Entrance Sign
Universal CityWalk. Image Credit: Universal

Universal Orlando Theme Parks

Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay all opened with limited capacity restrictions on June 5, 2020.

Universal CityWalk

Universal CityWalk was the first part of the phased reopening for Universal, opened some venues on May 14, 2020.

Park Reservations

Universal Orlando Reopening Entrance Gates
Sanitization practices at Universal Studios Florida. Image Credit: Universal

Unlike other parks, such as Disney World, Universal is not requiring reservations for guests arriving at the parks.

However, since the parks will have limited attendance, there may be times when the parks reach capacity and additional guests will not be admitted.

Dining Reservations

Universal Orlando Reopening Dining Plans
Guests will see limited capacity at restaurants and be required to follow social distancing guidelines. Image Credit: Universal

Dining reservations were paused while the parks were closed, but most restaurants are now accepting reservations.

You make find out more about dining reservations here.

Universal Express Pass

There has been no change to the Universal Express, Universal Express Unlimited, and Universal’s Volcano Bay Express passes.

They continue to be good options for guests who want to get the most out of their time at the park, even if it costs extra money.

Although parks are operating at reduced capacity, rides are also allowing for social distancing, so lines can still be an issue.

Hot Tip: Guests at select Universal Orlando Resort hotels receive Universal Express Unlimited passes for free as part of their room rate, worth hundreds of dollars in savings. Read more about the variety of properties available in our article covering the best places to stay in Orlando

Transportation

Water taxis and shuttles are running as normal. The only noticeable difference is that seats are blocked off to allow for social distancing.

What to Expect at Universal Orlando Resort Hotels

At the Hotel

Everyone arriving at Universal Orlando Resort hotels, including guests, team members, and vendors, will be required to pass a temperature screening. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or above will not be allowed in the hotel.

Guests with a high temperature (after 3 checks, including 1 with a new thermometer), will be required to get medical permission before returning.

Once inside, guests will see more hand sanitizer stations throughout, plexiglass barriers at check-in, contactless payments, and digital property maps to avoid unnecessary touching.

Bell service is still available, but valet is not.

In the Room

Universal Orlando Loews Sapphire Falls Hotel Resort Lobby
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort lobby. Image Credit: Universal

Guest rooms will be part of the new enhanced cleaning process. There will be a focus on extra cleaning of high-touch areas such as door handles, light switches, telephones, TV remotes, and tabletops.

Whenever possible, rooms will be left vacant for 24 to 48 hours after checkout before being thoroughly cleaned and a new guest is checked in.

What Will Not Be Available at Universal Orlando Resort

Although it feels like Universal Orlando Resort has found a way to keep operations as close to what normal was (all things considered) as possible, there are some things that are not available at the moment.

The nighttime shows, such as Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration, are currently unavailable. Additionally, Universal’s Superstar Parade will not run during this phase of the reopening, but guests will still see characters throughout the park.

What to Pack for Your Next Universal Vacation

Braun Touchless Forehead Thermometer on Away Carry On Bag
Touchless thermometers are great for use on kids. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Things do change a little bit when you are traveling during a pandemic. Here are some additions that you might want to add to your carry-on:

Hot Tip: Are you planning on bringing your little ones along? Be sure to read our guide on traveling with kids during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Final Thoughts

Little Girl at Jaws in Universal Studios Orlando
Image Credit: Universal

Universal Orlando Resort was the first of the major theme parks to put its toes back in the water after shutting down due to COVID-19. Although there were some understandable challenges to overcome, operations seem to be running smoothly.

Guests are able to experience the fun and excitement that Universal is known for — just now with a mask on.

Florida is currently seeing a spike in cases, so we will see if there is a pullback on reopening, similar to what other states are doing. Guests traveling to Florida from out of state should check here to see if they will be required to quarantine before enjoying the Sunshine State.

If you are going to be visiting the parks soon, have fun and be safe!


Frequently asked questions

When does Universal Orlando Resort reopen?

Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay all reopened their gates on June 5, 2020. Universal CityWalk has been open since May 14, 2020. If you are planning on visiting soon, be sure to check out all of the changes that have been made.

Do I need to wear a mask at Universal Orlando Resort?

Yes, all staff and guests will be required to wear face coverings throughout the park and on all attractions except those that include significant amounts of water as part of the experience, as well as Universal’s Volcano Bay’s slides and pools.

Face shields will not be allowed on any rides.

Do I need a park reservation at Universal Orlando Resort?

No, Universal Orlando Resort is not requiring reservations for guests arriving at the parks. However, since the parks will have limited attendance, there may be times when the parks reach capacity and additional guests will not be admitted. Guests staying at Universal Orlando Resort hotels will have priority access.

Will there be a temperature check to enter Universal Orlando Resort?

Yes, when arriving at the park, guests will be required to pass a temperature check. Guests with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher will not be allowed in the park and will be requested that the individual see a doctor, per CDC guidelines.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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