Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the Universal Orlando Annual Passholder previews held by Universal to experience the parks before officially reopening to the public on June 5. The experience was… not great. It was overly crowded, social distancing seemed to be an afterthought for most, and it just wasn’t very enjoyable. I had made the assumption that the grand reopening to the public would be just as busy, if not more, than the previews being held, so I was on the fence about whether or not I was actually going to go on June 5. I ultimately decided to go and I am so happy that I did, because the experience was one of the best theme park experiences I’ve ever had.
As I said, I was on the fence about going to Universal Orlando on the public reopening day, so one of the decisions I made early on was that if I ended up visiting Universal, I would wait until later in the day instead of going first thing in the morning. As I scrolled through social media in the hour before the parks opened, I saw photos filled with lines of cars and people, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. Still, I gave in and went and I was completely shocked when I arrived at 11:30 am.
The first surprise was the toll plaza. There were no cars. Team members were stepping out from their toll booths to talk to each other, so clearly it had been on the slow side for a bit. After parking, I made my way to the temperature check. Once again, no one was around except for the five team members doing the temperature checks. Security ended up being the same. CityWalk was the slowest I’ve seen since it reopened. The turnstiles to Universal Studios Florida were completely empty, which wasn’t the case on preview day as guests moved back and forth between the two parks.
Inside Universal Studios Florida, I found a minimal amount of guests and low wait times. Most attractions were a 5 or 10 minute wait, but nothing was above a 25 minute wait. Universal Studios Florida was the better of the two parks in terms of social distancing during the preview and that remained the same on Friday. Maybe it’s because the park has wider streets and more ways to get around, but it just handles the crowds better than Islands of Adventure. I rode TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, and E.T. Adventure and the experience was smooth. Guests were staying on the floor markings for distancing in the queues and the ride vehicles were being spaced out as well. The one thing I did notice was that guests would get restless during downtimes and start touching everything, including their faces, but that’s a habit that will take some time to change.
Over at Islands of Adventure, the crowds were much more reasonable than they were during the preview day. The only area that ever felt congested was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but people were trying their best to distance with the space that was available. The same could be said of the areas close to the roller coaster construction in Jurassic Park. Wait times were slightly higher at Islands of Adventure, but the longest wait while I was there was 30 minutes and that was for… wait for it… Poseidon’s Fury. Even Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure was about a 20 minute wait with the Virtual Line time.
Speaking of Virtual Line, only Hagrid’s, Forbidden Journey, Revenge of the Mummy, and Escape from Gringotts were utilizing the Virtual Line system. The only attraction I struggled to receive a Virtual Line time for was Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Every other attraction displayed return times for the entire day. Maybe it’s an option Universal Orlando doesn’t need to explore right now outside of Hagrid’s, but it’s probably better that they stick with it to keep guests up-to-date on how the system works.
Overall, I had no complaints about Universal on their public reopening day. The crowds were extremely light – lighter than I’ve seen in years. Distancing was being observed by pretty much all guests as well as proper mask usage. Despite not seeing attractions clean, they all felt sanitary. It was an ideal day in the parks. I’m not sure how much longer the low crowd levels will last, so if you have the opportunity to visit Universal Orlando in the near future, I’d consider taking advantage of it. I’ll ask