Universal Studios Florida reopened on Friday, welcoming guests back nearly two months after shutting down in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the first day back in business saw a light turnout of visitors, so light that according to a report from Theme Park Insider, the crowds were even down from the previous reservation-only preview days for annual passholders and resort hotel guests earlier in the week with the overall traffic for the theme parks sharply down from what they would have been last year this time.
According to the report, visitors to Universal did see long lines as a result of social distancing requirements, but the actual waits were short -- generally less than 15 minutes. The lighter turnout at the theme parks also made it easier for more general social distancing measures beyond the waiting lines -- meaning that guests freely walking through the park had plenty of room to move around without getting too close to other guests.
The report suggests that the lighter-than-expected turnout at the theme park may continue until travel picks up as many visitors to Universal Orlando and indeed Orlando's other theme parks including Walt Disney World come from out of state or international travel -- two facets of life that have not full returned to a state resembling normal.
Outside of the lighter turnout, those visiting Universal Orlando on Friday were welcomed back with some significant changes to the theme parks. Just prior to park opening, Universal shared new hours, updating fans that the two main parks -- Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure -- are open from 9 am ET to 7 pm ET. Volcano Bay, Universal's water park, is open 10 am ET to 5 pm ET, while CityWalk is open 8 am ET to 7 pm ET.
There are also safety requirements that change the Universal experience just a bit as well. Guests are required to wear masks at all times, undergo temperature checks at the entrance, abide by social distancing, but in addition to those measures, Universal is continuing character meet and greets, but are keeping characters in an area separate from guests and are requiring them to wear masks as well, a move that allows picture-taking and conversation without physical contact.
The reopening of Universal Studios Florida comes a couple of weeks after the limited reopening of the CityWalk shopping area, which resumed operation on May 14th with new procedures and guidelines. In addition to the safety guidelines, Universal Studios Florida warned guests via their website that there is an "inherent risk of exposure" to COVID-19 just by nature of the park being a public place where people will gather.
"Exposure to COVID-19 is an inherent risk in any public location where people are present; we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit," the warning reads.
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