Woo, it's time to splash back into the fun! All of the Florida SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment locations reopened June 11 after temporary closures due to COVID-19. This lineup includes SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, Discovery Cove, Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island.
For the first day of reopening, we hopped over to SeaWorld Orlando to check out what's hoppening with all of the new post-COVID closure changes. Despite some rides and experiences being closed, we had a fin-tastic time! Now, I just wonder if the dolphins and sea lions were just as hoppy to see us as we were to see them ...
Reopening procedures differ from park to park, so be sure to check out our separate guides for Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida. You can check the status of other major U.S. theme parks here.
All the Details from Our Visit to SeaWorld Orlando
Upon arriving exactly at park open, it took a while to get through the parking toll booths, but everything after that was a breeze! We went through the temperature screening first. If you froget to bring a face covering, we noticed an ambassador (employee) was handing out free disposable masks before you entered the temperature screening tent. If a guest's temperature reads higher then 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they will be moved to a separate tent for a second screening.
Once you pass the temperature check, you'll go through the usual bag check at security (which has plexiglass to protect both guests and ambassadors), and the entry turnstiles (which are now touchless — an ambassador scans your tickets through plexiglass). There are no paper park maps. Instead, you can scan a QR code to download a map on your phone.
Rides and Attractions
Rides queues have floor markings to remind everyone to stay six feet apart. On the roller coasters, parties are seated together with empty rows in between separate groups. For Infinity Falls, you still need to wear a face covering in the queue, but you can remove it on the ride itself as each party has its own raft — yes, even a party of one! Some rides, attractions and play areas remained closed, including:
- Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin (penguin exhibit is open)
- Big Bird's Twirl 'N' Whirl
- Cookie Drop!
- Flamingo Paddle Boats
- Journey to Atlantis
- Rosita's Harmony Hills
- Rubber Duckie Water Works
- Sesame Street Party Parade
- Sky Tower
- Wild Arctic (animal exhibit is open)
While the Sesame Street Party Parade and Elmo and Friends meet-and-greet location are temporarily suspended or closed, you can still meet Sesame Street characters, who come out on their floats for photo opportunities throughout the day. You're still able to engage with the interactive features throughout Sesame Street Land.
You'll notice social distancing floor markings to help people spread out at the animal exhibits as well. Pay close attention because some exhibits have one-way directional markings, like at Pacific Point Preserve where the sea lions lounge. The lower outdoor section of Dolphin Cove is closed off, but you can watch the dolphins play with toys from the main sidewalk or the underwater viewing area. The only animal exhibit that remains closed is the Stingray Encounter. Public feedings have also been suspended.
The stadiums have modified seating arrangements that block off certain sections and rows. At the show's conclusion, everyone is asked to remain seated while the hosts dismiss people by section to avoid a mass exodus.
Restaurants and Retail Shops
Like with other areas in the park, restaurants and retail shops have social distancing markers to keep capacity limited inside. There are designated entryways and exits to control traffic flow, so be sure to look out for those before you enter! Ambassadors and guests are both protected by plexiglass at the registers. Contactless payment is highly encouraged, but cash payment can also be accepted.
At restaurants, seating is spaced out to accommodate physical distancing. Tables and chairs are sanitized frequently. Paper menus replace traditional menus at table-service restaurants. Condiment and topping stations are closed, and utensils come pre-packaged. We had to ask for a spoon for our açaí bowl from Cypress Bakery.
Face Coverings and Relaxation Areas
SeaWorld doesn't have too many face covering restrictions, so you can wear any style as long as it fits securely over your nose and mouth. Face shields are allowed, but you should bring a backup mask if you want to go on any rides.
If you need a break from your mask, go to one of the three face covering relaxation areas. You can find one by Wild Arctic, another near the Sea Lion and Otter Stadium and the last one across from Shark Encounter (with a lakeside view). The two larger relaxation areas (Wild Arctic & Shark Encounter) have plenty of seating available.
Reservations and Modified Park Hours
To meet physical distancing guidelines, all visits to the Florida SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment parks must be pre-scheduled using a reservation system found on each park's website. Guests with tickets, Fun Cards or annual passes must make a reservation prior to visiting the park. Guests will need to bring their reservation e-ticket and their original ticket, Fun Card or annual pass to the front gate for entry into the park.
Reservations are now open for SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island. You may make reservations for up to six people at a time. Have your tickets or pass barcodes available to verify that they are active. Children under 3 years do not require a reservation or ticket for entry. If you have a valid multi-day and/or multi-park ticket, you will need to make reservations for each day and park that you plan to visit. Currently, you cannot reserve a visit to two parks on the same day.
Right now, all of the parks are also showing modified schedules and park hours. However, park hours and schedules are updated periodically. SeaWorld advises guests to check within one to two weeks prior to your vacation, if the date(s) you're looking for does not show a specific schedule.
- SeaWorld Orlando: After June 11, the park is closed Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 22, 2020.
- Aquatica: Beginning July 2, the water park will be open seven days a week.
- Discovery Cove: The day resort is closed most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through March 1, 2021, with a couple exceptions during the weeks of Dec. 28, 2020 and Feb. 15, 2021.
- Busch Gardens Tampa: The park is closed Mondays and Wednesdays through Dec. 31, 2020.
- Adventure Island: The park is closed Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sept. 1, 2020. In September, the park is closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. In October, the park is only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 18, 2020. (Adventure Island is normally open seasonally from March to October.)
Busch Gardens Tampa Reopening Guidelines
Busch Gardens Tampa has implemented similar park health and safety measures to protect employees, guests and animals. These include health and safety guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, such as face coverings and temperature screenings.
Overall Park Enhancements
- Face coverings will be required for all employees and guests ages 2 and older. Guests will be encouraged to bring their own face coverings. At Busch Gardens Tampa, parking trams with modified seating will be operating for certain parking areas.
- Physical distancing will be promoted throughout the park by ground markings and signage. Contactless payments will be encouraged, and plexiglass will be installed in high-traffic areas.
- Cleaning and sanitization will be increased significantly in high-contact areas, including numerous hand sanitization stations.
- All employees and guests must undergo and pass temperature screenings before entering the park.
- Employees will receive new training on new park operating procedures, which includes guidance from the CDC and health advisers.
Specific Enhancements to Key Operational Areas
- Guest Arrivals and Ticketing: There will be enhanced cleaning protocols in arrival areas, and spacing will be increased for touchless turnstiles.
- Restaurants: Seating layouts will be arranged to accommodate appropriate distancing. Tables and chairs will be sanitized frequently. Paper menus will replace traditional menus, condiment and topping stations will be closed, utensils will come pre-packaged and buffets will be adjusted or closed. Busch Gardens Tampa will not be offering any buffets. Additional grab-and-go options will be added.
- Retail Shops: Queues in shops will have floor markings for physical distancing. There will be designated entry and exit points.
- Animal Exhibits and Interactions: All open animal viewing spaces will have markings for physical distancing in queues. Certain tours and interactions will be limited to one party at a time. Only tours that allow for physical distancing will operate, and certain animal interactions may be modified.
- Public Spaces: Hand sanitizer stations will increase throughout the park, as well as consistent signage. In certain areas, guest flow will be directed in a single direction. Venues will be configured with modified seating and cleaned after each event or presentation.
- Rides and Attractions: Queues will have markings for physical distancing. Single rider lines will be removed, and modified seating will be implemented. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entry and exit points of all rides, and the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing ride vehicles will be increased. Open play areas will be temporarily closed unless they meet physical distancing measures.
- Parades and Meet and Greets: Certain parts of parades and meet and greets will be limited or removed. Any parade components that involve guest interaction will be updated or removed. Character interactions and photo opportunities will be modified.
- Summer Camps: Upon reopening, Busch Gardens Tampa will not be running its summer camps.
Aquatica Orlando, Discovery Cove and Adventure Island Tampa Reopening Guidelines
Aquatica and Discovery Cove in Orlando and Adventure Island in Tampa will have increased cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces, such as ride vehicles, rafts, tubes and life vests. To ensure physical distancing, guest capacity will be limited in pools and lazy rivers, and lounge chairs will be spread out appropriately. All rafts and ride vehicles will be limited to a single party, so groups will not be mixed together.
We hope you'll find this information hopful as you plan your next visit. Do you have any questions about the reopening procedures at the Florida SeaWorld parks? Let us know in the comments below.