Disney, SeaWorld get approval to reopen this summer

Masks, social distancing will be required at both parks

On Wednesday, leaders from Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando presented plans to Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force detailing how they plan to safely start accepting guests again after being closed for more than two months to stop the spread of COVID-19.

ORLANDO, Fla. – In a little more than a month, all of Central Florida’s major attractions will be back up and running again after being shuttered for weeks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando got approval Friday from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to open their parks after their plans were approved by Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings earlier this week.

With that green light, SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica and Discovery Cove will open June 11; Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom will open July 11, followed by Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15.

News 6 has reached out to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office for comment.

Earlier, Universal Orlando received the go-ahead to open its properties starting June 5.

Regardless of the park that guests choose to visit this summer, they’ll notice safety protocols in place designed to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Senior vice president of operations at Walt Disney World Resort Jim McPhee said capacity will be “significantly” reduced, parades and fireworks and other large events that create crowds will be temporarily suspended and character meet and greets will be closed along with other high-touch experiences.

Disney Springs welcomed guests back Wednesday after being shut down for nearly two months due to COVID-19.

“We are developing a series of know before you go communication vehicles and our objective is to reinforce our health and safety measures to guests before they arrive on our property so they are aware of the new environment whether through the initial booking of their vacation on our website, through follow up communication on their journey here, or through their experience on the My Disney app,” McPhee said. “We want to make sure this important info is available to guests before they arrive.”

Face masks, temperature checks and increased sanitation will also be in place at both Disney and SeaWorld locations.

Interim SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson said guests will notice signs in the park reminding them to physical distance. Visitors will notice other changes, too, from the moment they enter.

“There will be a lot of signage as you arrive into the park, eventually as you make your way toward the ticketing area and ultimately the turnstiles. Our turnstiles, you’ll be able to walk up with your season pass or your ticket and actually have it scanned by an attendant who will scan it behind Plexiglas. It can actually scan right through the Plexiglas to your ticket and you’ll be allowed access to the park. There will be no need for any sort of finger scanning or anything like that. So it will be a very contactless entry process into the park,” Swanson said Wednesday.

(Credit: Midway Mayhem / Daniel Leavelle)

Venues and rides will be open with staggered seating and Swanson said the parks are still planning to do character meet-and-greets as well.

“For our parades and meet and greets, certainly here in Orlando we have the Sesame Street and characters that are very popular with our children and to get your photo taken with. We will still be able to do some of that but we’ll do that at a safe distance with physical distancing so that everyone is safe but can still have a fun day and see their favorite characters,” Swanson said.

To help manage the capacity and maintain physical distancing within the parks, officials said all parks will require an advance online reservation.

Guests will be asked to visit the reservation pages of park websites where reservations will be required to guarantee entry given anticipated demand.

Reservations will be available starting at 10:00 a.m. on June 8, 2020. Visit the websites below.

For reservations at Seaworld, click here: seaworld.com/orlando/reservation

For reservations at Aquatica, click here: aquatica.com/orlando/reservation

For reservations at Discovery Cove, click here: discoverycove.com