Today, for the first time since March 15, Universal Orlando Resort let people through their theme park gates. While the park officially opens up to the public on June 5, team members were allowed an early preview. These photos, provided by @megadis13 on Twitter and Niamh Larkin, give us a look inside the parks before they officially re-open.
One of the first places that guests want to return to is Hogsmeade, part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The photo seen above is a look near the entrance to the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure roller coaster. This coaster has quickly become of the most popular rides in Orlando.
This view of the queue shows how extensively Universal is distancing guests while they wait to ride. Guests are spaced apart in each direction, not just for the party ahead and behind them in line.
Universal has said that it will manage and reduced daily park attendance and increase cleaning and disinfection of food locations, ride vehicles, restrooms, and other frequently touched areas. They will also use virtual lines at select attractions, individually hand out 3-D glasses to guests, and require guests to use hand sanitizer before boarding a ride vehicle.
As expected, signage about new safety procedures is scattered throughout all three parks at Universal Orlando Resort. Guests must pass a temperature check before even heading to security. These temperature checks, and face masks, are a required part of the theme park process, for now.
Guests at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure have been following the rules regarding masks. However, this procedure is much harder to enforce in a water theme park. Guests do not have to wear face masks in pools or on water rides. Therefore, most of the guests in the park are not wearing masks. Guests are still keeping to their six feet social distancing measures, but masks are used much less today at Volcano Bay compared to Universal’s other two parks. On the other hand, all Universal team members are wearing masks in all three parks and at Universal CityWalk.
Universal has also significantly increased cleaning throughout the parks. This goes beyond the extensive cleaning they already had in place prior to the parks’ closures in March. Guests are also encouraged to use cashless payments if possible to limit person-to-person contact. This option is particularly easy at the Volcano Bay because of their TapuTapu bands.
Before going on rides that require lockers, guests must first queue up to place their items in storage. Team members have built queues to allow guests to drop off and pick up their items in an easy and safe manner.
Universal is also staggering guests on rides on a case-by-case basis. Larger parties that come together will be placed close, but team members are separating different parties for the sake of social distancing.
Much like we saw in Universal CityWalk, social distancing markers are placed on the ground to help guests. Volcano Bay only uses markers at the end of a queue, but in the other two parks, the markers last for most of the physical queue. This is most likely because of Universal’s virtual queue system in Volcano Bay that helps regulate guest flow on attractions.
Universal superfans may also be interested to know that Pteranodon Flyers is operating today for single-rider adult guests. Normally, this attraction only allows adults to ride if they have a child ride with them.
Being in the park also allows a first-time ground-view of the steel supports and track for the rumored Velocicoaster.
This upcoming roller coaster is expected to be one of the most thrilling rides at Universal Orlando Resort. We recently did a construction article on this ride which includes our best guess at the ride track. Construction continues strong at the Universal parks and has even allowed new areas to open.
This video showcases the newest section of the Jurassic Park area, the re-built Jurassic World Raptor Encounter.
Yes, you read that correctly. This encounter is themed to Jurassic World, and not specifically to Jurassic Park like the rest of the land. That theming update certainly piques our interest as to whether the Velocicoaster will also be Jurassic World-themed or if it will stick to the rest of the land’s theming.
Character appearances at Universal Studios Florida have also changed. Characters can be seen throughout the park, but they are wearing face coverings and are distant from guests. Here, the Scooby-Doo gang are seen saying hello and waving to guests.
This is certainly a major change to character meet-and-greets and we want to know your opinion. Let us know in the comments what you think about these modified meet-and-greets with characters and how their masks change their appearance.
While not currently out, @megadis13 did notice this new stand where Trolls characters will be out to meet and wave to guests. One of our most popular videos last year was of Guy Diamond, a farting glitter troll.
Other forms of entertainment are on the way. The Bourne Stuntacular show is expected to open sometime this year. It’s currently unknown when this show will open, or if it will be modified to allow for the new safety procedures.
Some attractions, like the E.T. Adventure, have modified their entry process. Guests now skip the pre-show and “name” section of this attraction and head right into the indoor queue.
Food safety is also being take care of with extensive caution. Guests are given one-time-use menus at dining locations. Guests can also mobile order at select quick-service locations to keep the entire process contact free. At Mythos, guests are led to a table and given their menu. From there, team members bring out silverware and plates on a tray. Guests take the items from the tray instead of them being handed over by team members.
Merchandise has also had some modifications at the Universal parks. Outdoor queues are set up to guarantee that a maximum limit of guests are in the store at once. In some circumstances, like at Ollivander’s in Diagon Alley, guests have team members assist them while making purchases to minimize contact on merchandise.
The lowered capacity of the parks is certainly noticed when walking through normally busy areas. As expected, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands are the busiest. But overall, the park is quite empty, which makes it easier for guests to stay socially distant.
Even areas that are currently under construction, like this section near the rumored Velocicoaster, allow ample room for guests to spread out.
Universal also continues to work on Volcano Bay with a new landing pool for the Punga Racers slide.
While subject to change, here are the hours of operation for Universal Orlando Resort during this period:
- Universal Studios Florida: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Universal’s Volcano Bay: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Universal CityWalk Orlando: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. (recent Orange Country curfews have been placed in effect resulting in Universal CityWalk not allowing new guests in past 7 p.m.)
All Universal guests are urged to follow CDC guidelines and conduct their own temperature checks before visiting. Guests should evaluate their own risk before heading to the parks, and Universal recommends that older adults or individuals at high-risk with serious underlying medical conditions not visit. Any interaction with the general public poses an elevated risk of being exposed to COVID-19, and Universal cannot guarantee that guests will not be exposed during their visit.
To learn more about Universal Orlando’s policies during this initial reopening period, click here.