Are you ready for some tail flippin' fun while riding thrilling coasters, zipping down waterslides and meeting wild animals? The SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment locations in Florida reopened in July after temporary closures due to COVID-19 with new policies and procedures that still currently remain in place. This lineup includes SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, Discovery Cove, Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island. We've made quite a few visits (and will continue to hop back) so we can keep you informed as things change!
We feel fortunate that we've been able to watch holiday fireworks at Busch Gardens Tampa and trick-or-treat at SeaWorld Orlando. What we've found impressive about the SeaWorld Parks events is that each event feels the same as past years despite the modifications. Next up is SeaWorld's Seven Seas Food Festival! Also, we CANNOT WAIT until Ice Breaker launches its first guests at SeaWorld Orlando and Iron Gwazi debuts its makeover at Busch Gardens Tampa. Tad especially has been watching both of the rides' progress, and he hopes to be among the first frogs to ride them when they open in spring 2021.
If you're planning a trip to any of the SeaWorld Parks in Florida anytime soon, here is everything you can expect!
What You Should Know About Visiting SeaWorld Orlando
Arriving at the Park
Since reopening, SeaWorld has switched from individual temperature screenings to a thermal temperature scanner while an ambassador (employee) monitors the readings as guests walk through. If a guest's temperature reads higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they are moved to a separate tent for a second screening. Overall, it generally takes a short amount of time to get through since people are consistently moving. However, if you're arriving at a peak busy time, the line may use its lengthy switchbacks to maintain physical distancing. We've waited in line with a time range of less than five minutes to 20 minutes.
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 6 feet apart. On roller coasters, parties are seated together and separate from others. When we recently rode Mako, all of the rows were filled, but each party would still get its own row (aka, a party of one would not sit with another party). 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)
- Rosita's Harmony Hills
- Sesame Street Party Parade
- Sky Tower
- Wild Arctic (animal exhibit is open)
While the Sesame Street Party Parade is temporarily suspended, you can still meet Sesame Street characters, who come out on their floats for photo opportunities throughout the day. If it's a special occasion, there may be a special short show. For instance, over the holidays, a few friends came out on a singular float to celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, but didn't spend extra time after the show for individual photos. However, the indoor Elmo and Friends meet-and-greet location returned for photo opportunities. You're also still able to engage with the interactive features throughout Sesame Street Land.
It's also super important to note that some rides have specific operating hours. For instance, Manta is the only ride that opens upon park opening daily. Mako, Infinity Falls and the Sesame Street Land rides open at noon, while Kraken currently opens late and closes early. Meanwhile, Journey to Atlantis and Flamingo Paddle Boats operate only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Keep this in mind if you're someone who wouldn't want to miss anything! To double check ride hours (as they're subject to change at anytime), visit SeaWorld Orlando's website.
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, such as the Pacific Point Preserve where the sea lions lounge. You can watch the dolphins play with toys from the main sidewalk or the underwater viewing area. Public feedings for the stingrays and sea lions have resumed after not being available back in June.
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
At SeaWorld, ambassadors and guests 2 years of age and older are required to wear face coverings that must cover the nose and mouth and be secured under the chin. The following types of face coverings are not permitted:
- Masks with exhalation valves
- Masks not secured with ear loops or around the head
- Masks with mesh or holes of any kind
- Costume masks
- Masks that are deemed offensive, or tend to provoke, shock or offend the community or any group
If you need a break from your mask, go to a face covering relaxation area. 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 and Shark Encounter) have plenty of seating available. A new area in front of Nautilus Theater has been added as well.
SeaWorld is cracking down harder on mask enforcement. If a guest is not wearing a face covering properly and is not eating, drinking or in a designated relaxation area, they will be asked to leave. We've seen a squad of SeaWorld ambassadors roam around the park to enforce the rules and answer any questions.
Do You Need a Park Reservation?
Initially, guests were required to make reservations on each park's website prior to their visit. This is still true if you purchase tickets directly through SeaWorld OR you are using a Fun Card or annual pass. In hoppy news, reservations are not required if you purchase your tickets through us! Plus we can save you some green when you buy. Click here to see all of our discount SeaWorld Orlando tickets. Children under 3 years do not require a reservation or ticket for entry. To meet physical distancing guidelines, all visits to the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment parks in Florida 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.
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 are required for all employees and guests ages 2 and older. Guests are encouraged to bring their own face coverings, but masks are available for purchase. There are designated mask-free zones throughout the park. At Busch Gardens Tampa, parking trams with modified seating are operating for certain parking areas.
- Physical distancing is promoted throughout the park by ground markings and signage. Contactless payments are encouraged, and plexiglass has been installed in high-traffic areas.
- Cleaning and sanitization is 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. Busch Gardens Tampa uses a thermal temperature scanner while an ambassador (employee) monitors the readings as guests walk through.
- Employees have received 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 is enhanced cleaning protocols in arrival areas, and spacing is increased for touchless turnstiles.
- Restaurants: Seating layouts are arranged to accommodate appropriate distancing. Tables and chairs will be sanitized frequently. Paper menus replaced traditional menus, condiment and topping stations are closed, utensils come pre-packaged and buffets are adjusted or closed. Busch Gardens Tampa will not be offering any buffets. Additional grab-and-go options have been added.
- Retail Shops: Queues in shops have floor markings for physical distancing. There are designated entry and exit points.
- Animal Exhibits and Interactions: All open animal viewing spaces have markings for physical distancing in queues. Certain tours and interactions are limited to one party at a time. Only tours that allow for physical distancing operate, and certain animal interactions may be modified.
- Public Spaces: Hand sanitizer stations have increased throughout the park, as well as consistent signage. In certain areas, guest flow is directed in a single direction. Venues are configured with modified seating and cleaned after each event or presentation.
- Rides and Attractions: Queues have markings for physical distancing. Single rider lines have been removed, and modified seating has been implemented. Hand sanitizer is available at the entry and exit points of all rides, and the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing ride vehicles is increased. Open play areas are temporarily closed unless they meet physical distancing measures.
- Parades and Meet and Greets: Certain parts of parades and meet and greets are limited or removed. Any parade components that involve guest interaction has been updated or removed. Character interactions and photo opportunities are modified.
Aquatica Orlando, Discovery Cove and Adventure Island Tampa Policies and Procedures
Aquatica and Discovery Cove in Orlando and Adventure Island in Tampa have increased cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces, such as ride vehicles, rafts, tubes and life vests. To ensure physical distancing, guest capacity is limited in pools and lazy rivers, and lounge chairs are spread out appropriately. All rafts and ride vehicles are limited to a single party, so groups will not be mixed together.
Temperature screenings and face coverings are required for entry. Masks should remain on while you're in designated areas of the park (such as retail shops and restaurants) or when entering and exiting the parks, but are not required in the water. One exception is leaving your mask on during the Signature Dolphin Swim Experience at Discovery Cove.
Be sure to check the schedules for each respective park! Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove may be closed certain days of the week and their operating hours are subject to change. Adventure Island is a seasonal water park, so it is generally open from March to October every year. For the 2021 season, it will reopen March 12, 2021.
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.