Looks like Universal Orlando didn't need an advance reservation system after all. Two of America's most popular theme parks returned today... but not that many people showed up when they reopened.
Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure opened to all comers at Universal Orlando this morning, along with the resort's water park, Volcano Bay. Like at Legoland Florida, which reopened to guests on Monday, crowd levels were down sharply from what they would have been at rope drop at this time of year without the pandemic. Today's crowd sizes also appeared to be down from the past two days of reservation-only previews for annual passholders and resort hotel guests.
Visitors found long lines, but quick waits, as social distancing requirements pushed guests waiting for attractions beyond the queue's normal limits.
Load capacities also are down sharply throughout the parks, as team members put empty seats and rows between parties of guests.
But small crowd sizes kept wait times minimal — typically less than 15 minutes. Even some Virtual Line attractions were just letting people walk on. So out on the street, maintaining proper social distancing didn't seem to be a problem.
All other major theme park chains in the United States - including Disney, Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and SeaWorld - have announced that they will be requiring guests to reserve a specific date and time to visit in advance of coming to the park. But Universal has not included advanced reservations among its toolkit for managing capacity to promote social distancing. Today's experience suggests that they might not be necessary... at least not until interstate picks up and international travel resumes.
As we noted earlier this week, the Orlando theme parks depend upon out-of-market visitors for the vast majority of their business. But industry surveys suggest that out-of-market travel will not return to pre-pandemic levels for several years. That might mean that today's relatively low crowd levels at Orlando-area parks might be part of the so-called new normal that also includes mandatory masks, temperature checks, and social distancing.
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If you want to go for it anyway, our travel partner has discounted tickets to Universal Orlando's theme parks on its Universal Orlando tickets page.
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