Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks would reopen to tourists July 11, and SeaWorld would welcome guests a month earlier on June 11, if Gov. Ron DeSantis approves the plans presented Wednesday to an Orange County task force.
The task force unanimously approved both theme park plans, which will now be sent to the state for approval. So far, reopening plans from Universal Orlando, Legoland and smaller attractions such as Gatorland have received quick approval from DeSantis.
Although Busch Gardens in Tampa is part of the same entertainment company as SeaWorld, Busch Gardens was not included in Wednesday’s plan. Busch Gardens will submit its own plan to Hillsborough County officials, a spokeswoman said.
Disney was the first of the theme park companies to announce it was closing in mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it would be one of the last to reopen — more than a month after Universal and SeaWorld open their gates in the next few weeks.
If allowed to reopen, Disney will require park guests to wear masks, get their temperatures checked at the entrance and use sidewalk-marked spaces to keep their distance. The parks will suspend “high-touch” experiences such as character meet-and-greets and crowd magnets like parades and fireworks.
The plans call for opening Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, followed by Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15.
Legoland will open on June 1; Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and the Volcano Bay water park are scheduled to reopen on June 5.
Things are going to be different since we last left these same theme parks back in mid-March.
SeaWorld will require temperature checks and face masks for employees and customers, and will have masks available for guests at the gate, SeaWorld’s interim CEO Marc Swanson said in his presentation Wednesday. In animal exhibits, the park will create clearly marked social distancing areas, he said. It would also reopen its other two Orlando parks, Discovery Cove and Aquatica, on June 11.
All of the theme parks have vowed to have more rigorous and visible cleaning and wiping down of surfaces, and to limit the spacing of ride passengers to allow for greater distancing.
Also, the use of “virtual lines,” which allow a visitor to log in on a park’s app and wait for an alert when it’s their turn to board a ride, will become more frequent.
While it may mean less time physically standing in the actual line of a ride, most systems require the guest to be in the park to get in the virtual line, so it will likely require the same amount of time in the park.
On Wednesday, as the Orange County task force heard the reopening plans, there were long lines outside of Disney Springs stores, the shopping and entertainment district that recently reopened. After waiting in a line that was separated into six-foot blocks in front of the World of Disney store, guests were given a number to join a virtual queue. There was a three-hour wait at that point, according to the Laughing Place fan site.
Disney World in particular is notorious for long wait times for popular rides. The week before Disney closed its parks on March 16, guests waited five hours to ride the new attraction at Hollywood Studios: Mickie and Minnie’s Runaway Train.
Shanghai Disneyland, the first of the Disney theme parks to reopen after being closed for coronavirus concerns, has been sold out most days in its first two weeks, during which it has opened at 30 percent capacity. Disney CEO Bob Chapek declined to disclose what the Florida parks’ limits will be, saying only “our capacity will be a function of the six-foot social-distancing guidance from the CDC. So the number of people we put in the park will be a function of that calculation."
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