Strange Times In Florida

How are amusement parks in Florida adjusting to COVID-19?

Grace Burke, Reporter

The conductor of the Night Bus takes pictures in a mask at Universal Studios Florida. (Grace Burke)

I got to the airport early and put on my mask, ecstatic about the adventure I was about to begin. Once we got through security, we sat down to eat breakfast. My sister got a bagel, but all my teeth could handle was a parfait because I had gotten my braces tightened a few days before. We heard our boarding numbers called and got on the plane.

Once we landed in Florida we had to grab our bags quickly so we could check in with our bus that would take us to the Cabana Bay hotel. We talked about what we would do in the upcoming days as we drew nearer to the resort. 

We arrived at the hotel and went straight to the check-in line. Surprisingly, our room was already ready for us! We slightly changed our plans to unpack and relax for a bit in our room. Once we had all eaten a snack, we hiked to the bus and rode to Universal Studios.

Once there, our days were practically the same. We’d get a return time for something and wait as we either ate, got hydrated, or rode another ride. Once we got to the Harry Potter section of the park, however, it got a bit hectic. There was a new ride called Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. So we had to ride that at least once every day of the four we were there. We got a time for that and hung out in the Three Broomsticks, a restaurant with popular drinks from the Harry Potter series.

We always got the same drinks: a frozen butterbeer for my sister, a normal butterbeer for my dad, and a pumpkin juice for me. When we went to the other park, we’d do the same in the Leaky Cauldron while we waited to get onto my favorite ride, Forbidden Journey. This was the norm for each of the days we were at Universal Studios, not changing much when my mom finished her classes for the week and could join us.

When we went to the Disney parks, it was fairly similar. However, at Magic Kingdom, when we were waiting to ride something, my mom and I would play Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, a card game offered for free for guests to play around the park, fighting popular Disney villains. 

At Sea World, we bought a meal plan for everyone. This allowed us to have a new meal or snack once every hour. The meals included an entree, sometimes a side, a drink, and a dessert. So every time we got a ride time, we’d sit down somewhere and at least get a drink because of how hot it was.

The plane ride home was saddening, but I slept well that night remembering all the fun we had despite the year’s difficulties.

And of course, when we first reopened, there were some really slow days. But we would still have really long lines. So we came up with the idea of putting up dividers, and that was a very clever way to boost our numbers and have more people go through that attraction.”

— Tour Guide at Universal Studios

The pandemic has changed quite a few things at amusement parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, and Sea World. You have to wear a facial covering at all times except when actively eating or drinking, you should stay at least 6 feet away from visitors who aren’t in your party, and there are temperature screenings when you enter each park. 

But this has been the norm for a few months now. What are these parks doing to stay extra safe with so many people visiting?

In places where social distancing is not possible, like in lines and when talking to a cast member at customer services, there are barriers installed for the guest’s safety.

“And of course, when we first reopened, there were some really slow days. But we would still have really long lines. So we came up with the idea of putting up dividers, and that was a very clever way to boost our numbers and have more people go through that attraction,” said our tour guide on the holiday tour. 

This year, since they didn’t want a crowd around the Hogwarts castle, they offered a tour to view the fireworks. It included a meet and greet with The Grinch, cookies and hot chocolate, an opportunity to send a postcard from Hogsmeade, an ornament, special viewing of the Christmas decorations, an exclusive entry to the holiday store, and viewing of the holiday fireworks.

With how terrible everything seems this year, the theme parks are still trying to give enjoyment to their guests.