There are many reasons why vacationers visit Siesta Key; the beaches, the weather, great restaurants and a wide range of shopping options. Another plus for many is that it is in close proximity to one of Florida’s national treasures – the theme parks. Just an hour or two of drive time from Siesta Key will get you through the turnstiles of many world class theme parks for you to choose from. However, if you plan to visit one of these adventure-filled lands this fall, it might feel different than the last time you remember going. As with the rest of the state, the theme parks are adjusting to life during COVID-19.
These multi-million dollar theme parks are open for business, and crowds are still smaller than normal, but there are a few things you need to know before you go. It’s always best to check with the attraction and the surrounding hotels before you go, as all tourism-based businesses are subject to limited capacity or closures. Also, please keep in mind that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.
NOTE: It is advisable for anyone going to the theme parks to take everyone’s temperature before making the road trip. Also, all theme parks recommend cashless payment options, including debit cards and credit cards. Guests can also opt for contactless payment options, such as mobile wallets.
Here is a rundown of guidelines and policies from Florida’s biggest theme parks.
Disney boasts four individual theme parks; the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. In addition, the resort also features Disney Springs, a 120-acre outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment area. The resort also contains numerous hotels on its 43-square mile complex.
Disney World has two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, which are currently shut down due to the coronavirus. It is not known when these water parks will reopen to the public.
As is with all of the theme parks on this list, cleaning procedures have been enhanced throughout the resort. Extra attention is given to high-traffic areas like restrooms, handrails, tables, handles, transportation vehicles and rides, etc. Housekeeping services at the Walt Disney Resort hotels have been modified to include enhanced cleaning and reduced contact.
To enter any of the theme parks, face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must be worn for all guests (ages 2 and up) at all times, except when dining. Face coverings must be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material and fully cover the nose and mouth, and be secured under the chin. The coverings must fit snugly against the side of the face and be secured with ties or ear loops and allow guests to remain hands-free. Costume masks are not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn. Neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are also not acceptable at Disney World parks when this article was written.
Each guest will be required to undergo a temperature screening with no-touch thermometers before entry to the theme parks, Disney Springs and table-service restaurants at Disney resort hotels. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 F or above will be directed to an additional location for screening and assistance. If you or anyone in your party has a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, the entire party will be denied entry. Social distancing is also encouraged between travel parties.
Universal consists of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks (with another in development) as well as the Volcano Bay water theme park, Universal CityWalk (a night-time entertainment complex) and a number of themed hotels. Everything, including their water park, is currently open at Universal.
The requirements for guests include wearing face coverings (for ages 3 and up) at all times except when actively eating or drinking. Universal also has U-Rest areas where guests may remove their face coverings. Inside their restaurants, Universal has arranged tables at a safe distance so guests can remove their face coverings. Temperature checks will also be required for admittance. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 F or above will not be admitted.
Universal encourages social distancing and following floor markings to stand on to help maintain a safe distance between parties.
Universal is also adapting aggressive cleaning and disinfection procedures and are frequently cleaning all high-touch areas like handles, rails and restrooms.
SeaWorld operates SeaWorld and Aquatica water park in Orlando, as well as the Busch Gardens theme park and Adventure Island water park in Tampa. Currently, all parks are open to the public.
Like other parks on this list, all guests must pass a temperature screening. Those with temperature of 100.4 F or higher will not be admitted. Guests (ages 2 and older) must wear approved face coverings at all times in the parks, except when eating or drinking, or relaxing in designated areas. Plexi-glass barriers have been set up in high-traffic areas to maintain a physical barrier.
Enhanced cleaning procedures have been put in place throughout the parks to help reduce the spread of viruses, along with numerous hand sanitizer stations. Queue lines for all rides will have markings for physical distancing and modified seating will be implemented to maintain physical distancing. Also certain components of parades and meet-and-greets will be modified or removed for safety reasons.
Legoland consists of the Legoland theme park and the Legoland water park, as well as three hotels. It was the first major theme park to open its doors after the coronavirus shut things down. Both parks are currently open to the public.
Temperature checks will be taken with a touchless thermometer. If you have a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, you will not be admitted, nor will your entire party. Also, if you have traveled internationally in the last 14 days or been in a location with a widespread COVID-19 transmission in the last 14 days, you will be denied entry.
Legoland initially opened with an optional mask policy, but now face coverings will be required for all guests (ages 8 and older) while inside all indoor areas. As with all theme parks, the management takes enhanced cleaning procedures very seriously and hand sanitizers are stationed throughout the park.
Everyone is adjusting to new requirements in the age of COVID-19 and the theme parks are doing everything possible for you to enjoy the parks and keep you safe. Please realize that the requirements and guidelines are in place for your safety as well as the theme park’s employees. You might need to be a little more flexible and tolerant of the new rules, but it will all be worth it when you make a day full of memories at Florida’s amazing theme parks.