It’s been a crazy few months and things have certainly not gone as planned so far this year. Now that all of our favorite parks are back up and running, let’s take a look at what has changed since the last visit.
Walt Disney World
Several new health and safety measures have been put in place all across the resort, from masks and temperature checks to limited contact dining options and social distancing requirements. The parks have also implemented a new reservation system in order to keep daily attendance low enough that physical distancing can occur. You can learn more about the reservation process and book your trip to the park on Disney World’s website.
All four parks are back up and running now, but there are several experiences that have been modified or closed for now due to health concerns. You can find out which attractions, restaurants, and shops are open as well as what you need to know before visiting this parks in this guide to Walt Disney World Resort’s reopening.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a new live show has temporarily taken over the Theater of the Stars. Disney Society Orchestra & Friends are taking the stage several times daily for a performance similar to the “Music of Pixar Live” show that ran at the theater for a short time in 2017. The orchestra plays a variety of familiar movie and TV tunes including music from Toy Story, The Little Mermaid, The Muppets, and more. Belle, the Beast, and some of their friends also make appearances on stage during the show. You can catch the live show at Theater of the Stars each day at the following showtimes:
- 11:15 AM
- 12:00 PM
- 1:00 PM
- 1:45 PM
- 2:30 PM
- 4:10 PM
- 4:55 PM
- 5:00 PM
- 5:35 PM
- 6:20 PM
Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s long-running evening show Rivers of Light has been permanently closed, along with Primeval Whirl in Dinoland U.S.A.
Stitch’s Great Escape, which has been operating seasonally at Magic Kingdom for quite some time, has also closed its doors for good.
There have also been several updates with Epcot’s ongoing parkwide transformation. A few of the projects that were in the works have been paused for now, including a Mary Poppins ride in development for the United Kingdom Pavilion, updates to Spaceship Earth, and the construction of an all-new Epcot Festival Center. Epcot’s total makeover was originally set to be completed in 2021, but it looks like things are going to take a little bit longer.
For a limited time, Disney’s fireworks spectaculars are not being offered in the parks. There is currently no nighttime entertainment available and park hours have been limited. It’s likely that when evening hours are once again extended, the night shows (with the exception of Rivers of Light) will return.
Essentially the entire Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was a casualty of the global pandemic this year, running for just 11 days before Walt Disney World’s extended closure began. Luckily, Epcot is keeping a bit of the celebration alive with several festival topiaries still on display throughout the park.
In addition to the floral decoration, you can also enjoy a Taste of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival throughout the park for the rest of the summer. The abbreviated version of the iconic event started earlier than ever this year and will take place for a record number of days — through the summer and into the fall season.
As summer winds down we would typically be preparing for Mickey’s Not So Spooky Halloween Party, but the fall event will not be happening this year. H2O Glow Nights, which normally takes place on summer evenings at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, was also cancelled this year. No news yet on Disney’s other holiday celebrations, so stay tuned for updates!
Universal Orlando Resort
Since Universal Orlando reopened in June, a series of rules and suggestions have been put into place across the resort from the beginning to the end of each guest’s visit. The new procedures include:
- Parking – Staggered parking procedures will be implemented in the parking garage
- Protective Masks & Social Distancing – Guests and team members will all be required to wear appropriate face masks and maintain social distancing guidelines
- Temperature Screenings – Everyone who comes on Universal property will have to have a temperature check before entering the parks. If temperatures are 100.4 or higher, you will not be permitted to enter.
- Reduced Park Attendance & Operation – There will be reduced daily capacity for guests entering the parks, as well as reduced attraction ridership, show attendance, and restaurant seating. Select attractions will implement virtual lines as well.
- Cashless Transactions – Cashless payments and “no touch” policies will be implemented anywhere possible around the parks
- Sanitization – There will be increased protocols for cleaning and disinfecting ride vehicles, dining locations, restrooms, and other touchpoints around the parks.
Guests are also encouraged to utilize the official Universal Orlando app for cashless transactions, mobile ordering, virtual lines, and other helpful tools to use in the parks.
As far as new attractions, The Bourne Stuntacular Stunt Show is officially open at Universal Studios. Located in the theater that was formerly home to Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time. The story follows Jason Bourne’s adventure around the globe as evil characters go after him in a series of chase scenes, fistfights, and more danger around every corner. A mix of stage and screen, the show will bring the popular Bourne franchise to life with live performers, high tech props, and a giant LED screen.
There is a still-unannounced roller coaster currently under construction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. There aren’t a ton of details about the new attraction available, but rumor has it that the ride is Jurassic Park-themed.
In an effort to maintain proper physical distance between guests at the parks, all of the following attractions are currently unavailable:
- Camp Jurassic (Islands of Adventure)
- If I Ran the Zoo (Islands of Adventure)
- Jurassic Park Discovery Center (Islands of Adventure)
- Me Ship, the Olive (Islands of Adventure)
- Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle (Islands of Adventure)
- Fievel’s Playland (Universal Studios)
- Curious George Goes to Town (Universal Studios)
- FEAR FACTOR LIVE (Universal Studios)
- Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration (Universal Studios)
- Universal’s Super Star Parade (Universal Studios)
Halloween Horror Nights has been cancelled for this year, and is currently scheduled to return in 2021.
Like at Disney World, guests are now required to make reservations prior to visiting SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica Orlando. Upon arrival, guests will be subjected to temperature screenings and must wear masks during their visit.
In order to maintain proper physical distancing throughout the park, all of the following attractions are currently closed:
- Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin (Antarctica Habitat is still open)
- Wild Arctic (Wild Arctic Habitat is still open)
- Rosita’s Harmony Hills
- Flamingo Paddle Boats
- Sky Tower
We’ve already missed out on a lot of summer at SeaWorld Orlando, which means a lot of missed Electric Ocean nights at the park. The good news is a “remixed” version of the summer event is taking place every Friday and Saturday night through September 6.
New this year is the addition of “Flicks and Fireworks,” which also takes place every weekend through September 6! The separately ticketed event provides a drive-in theater experience in the SeaWorld Orlando parking lot.
SeaWorld Orlando’s Seven Seas Festival was meant to take place from February 7 through May 3 this year but due to the unexpected park closure over the past few months, that event was obviously cut very short. You can still get a taste of the Seven Seas Food Festival for a limited time at SeaWorld Orlando, from July 17 through August 9. Indulge in delicious flavors from around the world at a festival kitchen with rotating menus every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa guests are also required to make a reservation to visit the park, and will be subjected to temperature screenings. Masks are mandatory at Busch Gardens as well.
The extended park closure at Busch Gardens Tampa affected the opening of the park’s newest roller coaster: Iron Gwazi. The remodeled Gwazi ride is the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world, reaching top speeds of 76 miles per hour and a 206-foot drop at a 91 degree angle. Because the attraction’s grand opening was scheduled back in March, it’s likely that Iron Gwazi should begin operation in the near future.
Because they do not allow guests to ride while properly distances, the following attractions are currently closed:
- Stanley Falls Flume
- Treetop Trails
Summer Nights are back in a limited capacity at Busch Gardens Tampa on weekends through August 19. Evenings at the park are extended on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights so you can get your fill of Busch Gardens’ thrilling attractions and exclusive menu items before the exciting new fireworks spectacular.
Much like all of the other parks, LEGOLAND Florida has added a variety of new measures to keep people safely distanced and healthy during their time at the park.
When the park reopened, LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s newest hotel also had its grand opening. The LEGOLAND Pirate Island Hotel is now officially open for reservations at the resort. Located within walking distance to the park, the new hotel’s accommodations include
- Free Breakfast
- Free Parking
- Daily In-Room Treasure Hunts with LEGO Prizes
- Separate Sleeping Areas for Kids in Every Room
- Free LEGO Master Builder Workshops
- Heated Resort-Style Pool
- Family-Style Dining at Shipwreck Restaurant
In keeping with LEGOLAND Florida’s annual “Awe-Summer” Celebration, LEGOLAND Heroes Weekend has been pushed back to September, taking place the weekend of Sept. 5-7. Presented by the National Fire Protection Association, the event teaches kids the importance of fire safety with a series of fun activities around the park. More info to come as the event gets closer!
A lot has definitely changed over the last few months, but slowly and surely your favorite parks are getting back to normal. However, things are still developing, so all events and experiences are tentative on a daily basis. Make sure you’re up to date with the latest news and info as it happens by following @Tickets2You on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!