ORLANDO, Fla. - Universal Orlando Resort will open all three of its parks to the public on Friday after being shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The parks have already started to welcome back employees, resort hotel guests, and annual passholders over the last few days.
Theme park expert Seth Kubersky of TheUnofficialGuides.com paid the parks a visit on Wednesday.
"It's good to be back among other human beings, to be out in public, to be walking around and seeing sites like the Hogwarts Castle," Kubersky said. "The mood of the crowd today has been really patient, really friendly, really upbeat."
He added that "the number one thing you are going to notice here is a lot of the standard standby cues have now turned into virtual queues where guests are asked to scan a QR code on their smartphone and are then given a time to come back later."
In fact, Universal Orlando Resort is implementing several new safety measures across all three parks and CityWalk.
Key measures that guests can expect when visiting the parks include:
AT THE ENTRANCE AND THROUGHOUT THE PARKS
- Mandatory face coverings for all guests and team members. Those without a mask will be offered one for free. Stores will also sell face coverings.
- Social distancing guidelines must be observed. Audio messages and signage will remind guests to follow social distancing and other safety protocols.
- Temperature checks are required for all park guests and team members before coming on-site. Those with temperatures of 100.4 or greater will be denied entry.
- Staggered parking will be in place, leaving one to two spaces between vehicles. Valet options are closed.
- Managed and reduced daily park attendance.
- Increased cleaning disinfection of restrooms and other frequently touched locations that go beyond Universal's existing cleaning procedures.
- Social distancing practices throughout the parks.
- Managed and reduced attraction ridership.
- Increased cleaning disinfection of ride vehicles and other frequently touched spots that go beyond Universal's existing cleaning procedures.
- Social distancing practices within attractions and queues.
- Virtual lines will be used at select attractions.
- Single rider lines will be eliminated.
- Water elements on attractions are reduced or closed entirely.
- Interactive play areas will be closed.
- Post-show meet-and-greets will be closed but performers can remain on stage for photos.
- Every other locker will be disabled and guests will be pulled into locker areas by team members.
RESTAURANTS AND STORES
- Managed and reduced show attendance and restaurant seating.
- Increased cleaning disinfection of food locations and other frequently touched locations that go beyond Universal's existing cleaning procedures.
- Social distancing practices at restaurants and stores.
- Cashless payment options and "no-touch" policies when possible. Mobile food ordering will also be available.
- Menus at restaurants will be single-use only. There will be no buffet or self-serving options and only individually packaged condiments will be offered.
- Mandatory face coverings for all team members.
- Temperature checks are required for all team members before coming on-site. Those with temperatures of 100.4 or greater will be denied entry.
- Team members who are 65 or older are encouraged to stay home.
- Desk spacing and continued work from home options are in place.
- Staggered parking in employee parking garages.
- Team members are encouraged to avoid crowds during their time off without the proper distancing.
More of the preventative measures being taken by Universal Orlando Resort are shown below.
Kubersky told FOX 35 Orlando that "the only times I've not seen people wearing masks is when they were actively eating or drinking or when they're on a water ride because they really don't want to have a soaking wet mask on your face in the Jurassic Park River Adventure."
He also said that the attractions operated with only a few people on at a time to allow for more room between parties.
Universal Orlando Resort advises that guests evaluate their own risk before they visit the parks. They do not currently recommend that older adults or individuals who are high-risk or have serious underlying medical conditions visit the destination, especially as people with no symptoms can still spread coronavirus if they are infected.
"Any interaction with the general public poses an elevated risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and Universal cannot guarantee guests will not be exposed during their visit," the resort said.
FOX 35 meteorologist Jayme King took a look at the forecast for Friday. He said that there is a 70 percent chance of rain and a 30 percent chance of lightning, as a few isolated lightning strikes are expected to be around.
He added that there will be a "100 percent chance of fun" though.
Temperatures will be warmer, reaching the mid-80s, as well.
Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida theme park news.