The wait is over for theme park fanatics, as Universal Orlando Resort is back exciting guests with a series of out of this world rides, attractions and experiences. Since the park closed just short of three months ago, fans have been chomping at the bit to get back onboard and book tickets. So much so, we’ve seen some families create their favourite rides/attractions at home!
But while Universal Orlando is back open, things are different to how they were before coronavirus. If you’ve read our post discussing what attractions/theme parks are back open, you’ll be familiar with the safety precautions in place at each one. Face coverings, social distancing and limited capacity are the new norm at Universal Orlando, but what’s it really like to visit?
Universal has updated and improved several rides!
You’d be wrong in thinking Universal has had an 80-day holiday. Because in-fact, while many of us have been enjoying Netflix, Universal has been improving its rides and attractions! We’re not going to highlight every improvement as there are quite a few and we plan to save that for another post. But while we’re on the topic, here are some of the most substantial…
Ahead of the major additions in the Jurassic Park area of Islands of Adventure, Raptor Encounter has a new home. Impressively, the theme of the new meet-and-greet aligns with the Jurassic World movies, which may suggest an increased effort to incorporate imagery and characters from the newer sub-series in Universal’s land.
Another addition to the area which will please Jurassic Park fans is a meet-and-greet with Sierra, a six-month-old velociraptor. Right next to the Raptor Encounter, guests can interact with Sierra who is accompanied by her handler. This new addition is especially great for families with smaller children who may not be ready for the full raptor encounter!
The long-awaited opening of Bourne Spectacular looks imminent following the addition of new banners to the attractions entrance. According to Universal, it will “blur the lines between stage and cinema”.
So what’s the atmosphere like inside the park?
Here’s the thing, if you’ve ever dreamed of a quieter, low-stress experience at Universal Orlando, now is the time to visit. For most, a busy vibrant atmosphere adds to the experience, but there will be many people out there who much prefer things a little toned down.
Currently running at limited capacity – which means fewer guests are allowed inside the park on any given day – Universal Orlando will offer a much less stressful experience. In addition to that, it’s a good shout if you’re a thrill seeker and just want to hit the biggest rides. Having said that, Universal Orlando is absolutely huge, so even with limited capacity, we still expect some crowds so won’t be completely dead. (Sorry to anyone who thought they’d have the theme park to themselves!)
So, if you are one of those people who prefer a more chilled experience, (and I say chilled lightly), you should seriously consider visiting during the initial reopening phase!
Fewer guests means lesser queue times
One of the biggest benefits of visiting now is that you won’t have to wait in two hour-long queues to get on your favourite rides. Only as well as saving you time, chances are you’ll save money too as you won’t need to fork out extra on fast passes.
Obviously, if you’re just heading to the most popular rides (The Hulk Coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, or anything in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley), then you will see queues start to form, but nothing like what you would pre-Covid. If we look at the ride wait times based on low crowd levels, you’re looking at an average wait time of just 15 minutes, and nothing longer than 40 mins!
For the queue-heavy rides, this is where Universal will rely heavily on its Virtual Queue technology, as this enables guests to select a ride return window that ensures safe social distancing.
The Parades are smaller and more spontaneous, but we like it…
The 20-strong float parades that happen morning and night and attract large crowds aren’t currently happening at Universal. However, to make up for this loss, you’ll spot several individual floats come out throughout the day, and to be honest, it’s a welcome change that feels almost VIP-like. If anything, it’s a better way to see your favourite floats/characters without the big crowds and distractions from other goings-on.
Character spots are less crowded for (distanced) selfies and interaction
Much like the socially distanced ‘parades’, Universal has made a conscious effort to make sure guests have the chance to see their favourite characters and take selfies. Of course, you won’t be able to hug a Minion or high-five Spiderman despite them wearing costume, but socially distanced selfies are allowed with a team member present. Again, this is a great chance to spend time with your favourite characters without the pressure of a long queue behind you.
CityWalk is full of life!
Universal’s CityWalk was one of the first sections of the park to open. Packed full of shops, restaurants and bars, it really is the epicentre of entertainment at Universal Orlando.
Operating from 4pm to 10pm, so far just nine restaurants and bars will be open, with more expected to follow in the near future. Here’s what’s open…
Full-service restaurants and quick-service food locations:
- Auntie Anna’s Pretzels
- Bubba Gump Shrimp (restaurant and market)
- Jimmy Buffett’s margaritaville (outside & Lone Palm)
- Red Oven Pizza Bakery (mobile ordering available)
- Voodoo Doughnut (mobile ordering available)
- Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company (retail only)
- Universal Studios Store (and select merchandise carts)
- Hollywood Drive-in Golf
Despite there not being the full arsenal of places to go and things to do, there’s still plenty to keep you entertained. In fact, because it was the only section of the park guests could visit initially, most have realised the just how incredible CityWalk actually is, and what a wonderful experience there is to be had!
See! We told you it’s a lot more exciting than you thought! Our overall feeling about the reopening of Universal is that if you like things quieter and don’t thrive off the atmosphere, it’s a great time to visit, and you’ll probably enjoy the experience more than you would before.
If you’re interested in other Florida attractions, check out our post for a full list of park openings in Orlando!