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Universal Studios Florida Open, but California Theme Park Remains Closed

Universal Citywalk Hollywood is Open, but the Theme Parks are not

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In California, Universal Studios Hollywood remains closed, while the City Walk Shopping District is open. But in Florida, three Universal theme parks are open to limited capacity numbers – Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay.

In Florida, guests are encouraged to use touchless options for purchasing tickets, food, and drinks with the Universal Orlando Resort App. They can reserve ride times with the app as well. Face masks are required for guests 2 and up; the park is selling them for guests who do not bring them. Temperature checks and social distancing are a yes; hand sanitizing is offered. In fact, the park instructs guests to sanitize their hands before rides.

Unlike Disney, there are live shows – but performers wear masks or socially distance, and audience members are not allowed close to the stages; cleaning staff wiped down seats and rails. There are also characters about, but guests must be positioned 12-feet away for a truly socially distant selfie.

Many coasters were running at half capacity. The park is allowing indoor dining as of press time, with food and drink orders taken via the park's app.

Universal also had signage everywhere to remind guests to wash hands and remain socially-distant.

While most of these measures can be seen at other parks, one hasn't been seen elsewhere: the U-Rest area, a spot for visitors to remove masks for a bit. The outdoor space is monitored, to assure social distancing. 

Some workers are achieving perhaps more social distance than they bargained for: after just three weeks in operation, a number of them were laid off to “reduce the workforce” according to Universal spokesperson Tom Schroder. Looking to raise the pandemic profit margin, the park had already cut pay for full time employees 20% in April, furloughing part-time staff members.

Universal Orlando president Bill Davis focuses on the decision to reopen, welcoming guests. “We are following what we're calling the three Ss. That's screening, meaning we're taking everybody's temperature before they enter; sanitization, because we are constantly sanitizing areas and high-touch surfaces in the parks; and spacing, providing markings and reminders throughout our resort so guests can socially distance themselves from other parties.”

Meanwhile, in California, Universal Hollywood remains closed, but the adjoining CityWalk shopping district is busy with outdoor dining and open shops. Open limited hours, from 12-8 daily, self-parking is currently complimentary. Indoor dining has been halted due to Los Angeles County and statewide rollbacks on reopening phases.

Venues that are currently open for take-out and outdoor dining include dining spots such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Johnny Rocket's Pink's Hot Dogs, Voodoor Donuts and Buca di Beppo among others. Shopping options include Abercrombie & Fitch, Billabong, LIDS, Dodgers Clubhouse, and Hot Topic, among others. The Universal Studio Store is also open.

Guests on CityWalk will undergo parking lot temperature checks upon arrival; so do staff members. Both staff and guests are required to wear a face mask.

Standard safety protocols – standard for COVID-19 pandemic times, that is – are in place. For example, there will be copious, frequent cleaning of all high touch surfaces including tables and chairs; social distancing and attendance will be limited due to the park's own capacity to be able to monitor the park experience.

Meanwhile, in other major park news, they may want to build things and have people come, but not quite yet: LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, Calif., located in San Diego County, isn't quite ready for its close-up. According to company spokespersons, there is no firm opening date set.  Recently, a portion of Legoland reopened to the public as a walk-through attraction. Miniland USA, a Lego built cityscape attraction reopened to the public in late August. But while the park itself remains closed, the adjoining Sea Life Aquarium is doing swimmingly, open for guests per California state and San Diego county guidelines for sea aquariums.

Looking ahead to a reopening, LEGOLAND California officials says that will occur at a later date. “When it reopens, it will be at reduced attendance and with temperature checks for employees. A face covering requirement for all will also be in place.” Doubtlessly, other safety precautions may also apply.

LEGOLAND, Fla. is already open as of June 1st. Like other Orlando-based parks, the LEGOLAND theme park has boosted cleaning and sanitizing, and reduced hours to allow for thorough between-days cleaning.

Exciting news for visiting guests: along with the park and waterpark's reopening, the all-new LEGOLAND® Pirate Island Hotel is open. The long awaited immersive stay and play experience should add some luster to the reopened park. According to park general manager Rex Jackson, along with the enhanced cleaning methods, the park will be offering a wide range of hand-sanitizing spots, and new signs reminding guests about social distancing and hand washing abound. And face coverings are required indoors and on all rides, except in the LEGOLAND waterpark. Shopping and dining venues have capacity restrictions in place to make sure social distancing is enforceable.

In short, while Florida theme parks are opening up, in California, they're staying closed – for now.
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