Yesterday, Universal CityWalk began its partial re-opening with select food and retail locations plus the Hollywood Drive-In miniature golf course. While it was revealed earlier this week that visiting guests would be required to wear face coverings and undergo temperature checks, no one really understood what this would logistically look like. Would temperature checks cause major delays and crowding? Will Universal be able to control the “pent-up” demand? Will everyone actually wear a face covering? What will CityWalk’s “new normal” actually be like?
Well, we made sure to visit on opening night to let you know what to expect. Firstly, while guests still enter the parking garage through the toll booth, it is not manned by attendants. Parking is free for all guests until further notice, so you can just drive through and follow the signs for parking.
When I arrived, all cars were directed to Level 3. If you’re not familiar with the Universal parking system, this essentially means that all guests were receiving the preferred treatment. Level 3 is the “Attraction Level.” No escalators or elevators are necessary to access Universal CityWalk from these lots. It’s unusual (but not impossible) to park on this level unless you’ve paid for an upgraded space, but since capacity is limited – everyone was able to utilize this perk.
After parking, it didn’t take long to begin to notice the post-COVID difference. Clearly visible advisory signage reminded guests of the required face masks, temperature checks, and social distancing protocols. As you got closer to the temperature check station, you could see stickers marking the prescribed six foot distance.
Instead of occurring simultaneously with security as I had expected, the temperature check station was set up in the walkway from the parking garage to the main security area. It was completely separate from security and specific to our garage. Granted, the secondary parking garage did not appear to be open. I do wonder, however, whether temperature check will move once the other parking area is utilized or if Universal will operate two temperature check stations – one for each garage.
I was able to take one quick picture of the temperature check station before I was told that no pictures were allowed in that area. I don’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to photograph the temperature check, but I didn’t want to cause the team members any more stress than they were probably already under. Here’s the one picture I was able to take.
It’s really a very simple and quick process. When you’re called forward, you approach one of the black tables. A team member uses a touchless thermometer near your forehead to check your temperature. It takes about a second and a half. If you get the thumbs up, you can proceed to security.
While temperature check took only a few seconds with little to no wait, security was a different matter. For some reason, they only had one security check lane open. Of course, this meant that the area was slightly congested. Everyone was being as courteous as possible. Unlike the temperature check area, however, Universal neglected to mark the floor with the six foot distance stickers. It’s unfortunate as they were definitely necessary here. Forming a queue forced people into old habits, and this was the only time of the night that social distancing felt a little forgotten.
While the line looked intimidating, the reality is that I was through security and walking towards Universal CityWalk in less than five minutes.
After walking through security, more changes were readily apparent.
Despite the lower crowds, face masks, absence of night clubs, and the anxiety of the general public, Universal has managed to cultivate a pretty great party atmosphere in this new normal. There were stilt walkers (wearing masks of course).
If you aren’t sure how to social distance, these guys can help!
Throughout CityWalk, you could see Universal’s efforts to promote and enforce social distancing. In the bathrooms, guests were encouraged to only utilize every other sink.
The Universal Studios Store marked their doors as a designated entrance and exit, and a team member was stationed outside to control crowd flow.
Inside, the store had multiple signs reminding people to distance themselves and be courteous of others’ personal space.
Of course, the best part of the night was the opportunity to snap a few empty pictures of the theme park gates!
Universal Studios is taking advantage of the shutdown to complete renovations at their entrance.
While you could walk up to the theme park entrances, the hotel pathways remain closed.
While I know there has been some controversy in Universal’s decision to begin opening their attractions, I felt very safe. With the exception of the security line, everyone remembered to social distance appropriately. Everyone (that I observed) wore their face coverings without complaint. The only time I saw anyone remove their mask was to snap a quick picture, and they immediately replaced it after doing so. While it was difficult to see the real toll that this pandemic has had on Orlando and its theme parks, it’s encouraging to see the healing process begin. This is only the first step on a long road to recovery!