Hip, hop, hooray, frog friends ... the wait is nearly over! Universal Orlando Resort is set to reopen its parks June 5 to the general public! Select hotels already reopened June 2, and the parks opened their gates June 3 and 4 for hotel guests and annual passholders. We frogs hopped to the parks June 3 (in our Hogwarts House masks, naturally), and we're so excited to share our experience and help you prepare for your upcoming visit!
Keep in mind that no matter what area of Universal Orlando Resort you visit, there will be additional health and safety procedures in place. Face coverings and temperature checks will be required for all employees and guests, including at hotels. Universal will also limit capacity at each park to ensure social distancing. There will be additional health, safety and procedural changes for team members and guests, which we'll get into in below. Let's hop to it!
Universal Orlando Health and Safety Procedures
During this reopening time, there are procedures in place to limit capacity and to appropriately space guests. Universal Orlando, in accordance with the state of Florida and local governing bodies, has put into practice the following general safety procedures to make things as safe as possible for guests.
Universal Orlando Resort Health Measures:
- Wear face coverings. These are required. Universal is making these available for purchase.
- Prepare for temperature checks upon arrival. Security officers will wave a contactless forehead thermometer in front of you. Hats or anything blocking your forehead should be removed. Guests with temperatures above 100.4 will not be admitted. The rest of the party will not be affected, as long as they stay under the 100.4-degree temperature limit.
- Maintain social distancing of at least six feet (or two meters).
- Where present, guests should stand on floor markings until the group in front of you moves forward.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Parking will be staggered in garages to maintain distance. Valet parking is not currently allowed.
Universal Orlando Resort Safety Measures:
- All team members are also undergoing temperature checks and are required to wear masks.
- Capacity is limited to maintain social distancing.
- Tables, chairs and all high-touch areas are being continuously cleaned and disinfected.
- Cashless payments are available at all areas (guests can use mobile ordering at select locations).
- Hand sanitizer locations are available throughout Universal and individual bottles are also available for purchase.
What to Expect at Universal Orlando Theme Parks
As we mentioned before, the resort will require masks and temperature checks for all employees and guests. Passholders did not need to use the finger scan when entering the theme parks or traveling between parks on the Hogwarts Express. We saw team members frequently cleaning high-touch areas, and there was plenty of signage to show where restrooms are available for hand washing, along with hand sanitizer dispensers.
Virtual Line Experience
One of the biggest changes in the parks is the new Virtual Line experience system. Some rides, including Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon and Fast & Furious - Supercharged, already had existing virtual queues, but this new system is slightly different and expands to include even more popular rides.
To find out which rides are using the Virtual Line system, you'll need to download the official Universal Orlando app. Currently, the system is being used for the following rides (and standby queues are not available):
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
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
- Revenge of the Mummy
When guests select a ride in the app, it will show half-hour timeframes to select, if available. You can add up to eight guests for your reservation. Once your time is confirmed, you'll have a QR code that a team member will scan when you return. You can only book the day of your visit, and you'll need to be on property to grab a pass. You are able to book up to two different Virtual Line passes that do not have overlapping times. It's important to note that these listed rides are Virtual Line only. We found that some rides said Virtual Line or standby in the app, but those actually only had standby lines.
Unfortunately, we had a lot of issues with reserving Virtual Line passes. We were unable to get any during our initial visit. Whenever timeframes showed up, there would be an error message when we tried to select one. Team members suggested quitting and rebooting the app, as well as connecting to Universal's Wi-Fi network. But we still had no luck.
However, a kind team member let us through at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and at the end of the day, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts started to let anyone enter. We understand that it was one of the very first days, and lots of frogs were trying to snag those coveted passes. We expect that things will get ironed out sooner rather than later. We'll keep you updated with this evolving process as we make repeat visits! (Best research task ever!)
New Ride Changes
Ride queues had physical distancing floor markers, and ride vehicles had empty spaces between parties. As for lockers, ride attendants would direct you to specific locker stations and only allowed one member of each party to put everyone's belongings in a locker.
The floor markings were at least six feet apart — and sometimes even further apart, so you wouldn't be close to other frogs on the other side of the queue's switchbacks. Pay close attention when you're in line. It can be hard to see where the next floor marker is, especially in the dark lighting of some queues, such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, or around corners. Sometimes, a team member will be stationed at those tricky spots to help guide you.
The pre-show and elevator simulator in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts were suspended. A team member handed the 3-D glasses to you instead of picking a pair up yourself. (Tip: Place the glasses over the top of your mask to limit as much fogging as possible! For more mask tips, read our separate post.) Universal was very good about spacing on rides too. Each party had its own row or ride vehicle, depending on the ride. (On the Hogwarts Express, we had our own cabin!) Rows or seats were left empty in between parties. Before the loading platform on each ride, a team member gave you a mandatory pump of hand sanitizer.
For water rides (notably Jurassic River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges), guests must wear masks while waiting in line. However, you can remove them while on the ride itself!
U-Rest Relaxation Zones
Walking around the parks on a hot day while wearing a face covering can be challenging and uncomfortable at times. For this reason, Universal has set up U-Rest areas where guests can safely remove their masks. A team member keeps track of the capacity inside a U-Rest area so it doesn't overflow, but there is no time limit for how long you can stay. Parties can stick together, and there is seating available at each area.
Each park has two U-Rest areas. At Universal's Islands of Adventure, you can find them at Port of Entry and the former Sinbad Theater (we suggest this location because it's covered and the entire stadium is available so you can easily spread out). At Universal Studios Florida, the U-Rest areas are located at the Fear Factor Live stadium (the show is not available) and Central Park, across from the Animal Actors show.
As far as tips for wearing masks go, we highly suggest taking periodic breaks at these U-Rest areas. They gave us some relief throughout the day, and we felt toadally safe because the areas were large enough for parties to spread out.
Shows and Play Areas
While the majority of rides are open, some shows are not running and most play areas are closed. In addition to Fear Factor Live, Universal Horror Make-Up Show, Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration and The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle are not available. Curious George Goes to Town, Fievel's Playland and Me Ship the Olive are closed.
Characters are still available for meet and greets ... from six feet apart or atop raised platforms. They are also sporting masks to maintain health and safety measures. (Psst ... he was hard to find, but the Knight Bus conductor can be found at the back of the bus!) Show performers, such as the Frog Choir, wore masks as well. The Universal Superstar Parade is not running. However, we did see Spongebob and friends come out to say hi on their float at the Superstar Character Party zone by Mel's Drive-In. Secret Life of Pets, Despicable Me and Dora and Diego alternate at the party zone throughout the day. Team members kept everyone at a safe distance.
Restaurants and Mobile Ordering
Universal's mobile ordering system has expanded to include more restaurants inside the parks! You can use the app to see which restaurants have the system in place. During our visit, we tried using mobile ordering for Three Broomsticks, which is new for the restaurant. Because it's dine-in only, you still had to wait in line for a table inside the restaurant (or the outdoor patio). We ordered using the app and hit Prepare My Order before getting in line. When we were told that we still had to wait in line, we were afraid that we hit Prepare My Order prematurely and our food would be ready before our table! However, that wasn't the case. Once we were eventually seated, a team member came over and we told her our order number. She notified the kitchen to prepare the food at that moment.
Inside, the tables were greatly spaced out and marked as "reserved" to block out tables. Utensils came in packaging, and condiments came in packets. While we noticed that a good majority of the restaurants were open and offered regular menu items, there were some locations that remained closed (Captain America Diner) or only offered outdoor seating (Lombard's).
What to Expect at Universal Orlando Hotels
The phased reopening of hotels include Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal's Aventura Hotel and Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Surfside Inn and Suites. Guests staying in these hotels are able to visit the theme parks June 3 and 4 with valid theme park admission, prior to the general park reopening June 5.
We noticed that the Universal water taxis and buses are operating from the CityWalk docks and bus lanes respectively. Just like the queues in the theme parks, there were markers on the ground to indicate where to stand. Safety first!
What to Expect at Universal CityWalk
Universal CityWalk is currently open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with a limited number of stores and restaurants in operation. Currently, Universal Orlando is offering free self-parking, so you can pull straight through the parking toll booths. Parking attendants will be there to direct you (shout out to the enthusiastic team member who welcomed us back by dancing around as he gave directions!). Cars are spaced out by leaving an empty parking space in between.
As you make your way toward the security hub before you enter CityWalk, you'll see signs about the health and safety information for all guests. Then, you'll have your temperature checked via an infrared thermometer. The temperature screening is a breeze! After you pass through, you can head to the regular bag check screening stations. There were floor markings on the ground to enforce social distancing.
The following Universal CityWalk restaurants, shops and entertainment are now open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily (CityWalk will stop allowing entry to incoming guests at 7 p.m.):
- Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food
- Auntie Anne's Pretzels
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant and Market
- Cinnabon (mobile ordering available)
- Cold Stone Creamery
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Hot Dog Hall of Fame (mobile ordering available)
- Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville (outside & Lone Palm)
- NBC Sports Grill & Brew
- Red Oven Pizza Bakery (mobile ordering available)
- Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
- VIVO Italian Kitchen
- Voodoo Doughnut (mobile ordering available)
- Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company (retail only)
- Universal Studios Store and select merchandise carts
- Hollywood Drive-In Golf
Each restaurant will have a limited menu and limited seating available. Dining reservations are not currently available. Other locations, such as the Blue Man Group, Universal Cinemark and all nightclubs, remain temporarily closed. More locations may be added over time. Mobile ordering stations were located outside of the restaurants, so you don't even have to go inside to get your food!
We were craving a sweet treat from Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, so we split a Cookie Jar milkshake. Penelope Toothsome and Jaques welcomed us back right outside! The entryways to the Dessert Foundry and the Candy Smith areas remained separate. The process was easy peasy. To avoid any direct contact, the cashier placed the receipt in a bin so we could grab it, and when we got our milkshake, it was placed on a table. Then, another team member used a tong to hand out the straw and spoon, which were wrapped together in a napkin. Another team member directed us to the outdoor patio. Tables were separated, and only four guests can sit at a table, so larger parties will be split up.
You can catch live entertainment at the Plaza Stage, which is located between VIVO Italian Kitchen and the Universal Studios Store. While we were there, a piano player and dance party hosts would switch out on stage. Stilt walkers wave to guests, pose for pictures from a safe distance and dance along to the music. Also, a drum line occasionally plays on the walkway above the "Welcome to Universal Orlando Resort" sign at the entrance of CityWalk.
We hope this gives you an idea of what to expect during the Universal Orlando reopening so you can best prepare your next trip. Keep in mind that health and safety procedures may differ from park to park (visiting Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando or LEGOLAND Florida too?) and are subject to change. While we frogs cannot wait to hop back to the parks, we understand it’s important to be safe in doing so — and that the comfort level is different for every family. Be sure to check back later, as we will update this post as new information becomes available.