In this edition of Theme Park Bits:
- Universal CityWalk Hollywood is back open.
- How will Universal handle Halloween Horror Nights in a pandemic?
- And more!
We’re now on the other side of the reopening of major theme parks in the United States, such as Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld. So far, it’s been a mixed bag – head over to social media, and you’ll see examples of people taking off masks, ignoring social distancing guidelines, and even being told to ignore those guidelines by park employees. Of course, we’re powering on and continuing these reopenings, because…America. On the West Coast, the openings have been slower, in part because reopening guidelines are a bit stricter. Universal, though, has already reopened its CityWalk Hollywood shopping destination, with some big changes, of course. Only select restaurants and shops are open, and just from 12:00 to 8:00 P.M., with extra guidelines like limited capacity, required face masks, and more. So if you must go to the CityWalk Buca di Beppo (…must you?), keep those rules in mind.
Of course, not every CityWalk is created equal, because not every CityWalk is even open yet. That goes for the CityWalk you’ll be able to find next year at Universal Studios Beijing. Even in the midst of the pandemic, and the recent outbreak of cases in Beijing, Universal is powering through with its plans for the new dining and shopping destination. There will be a Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, the largest Peet’s Coffee in Asia, and a multiplex with the largest commercial IMAX screen in Beijing. The plan, for now, is that this CityWalk will be ready in 2021 with the rest of Universal Studios Beijing. But…y’know, things might change.
Speaking of Universal Studios and things maybe changing, let’s talk about Halloween Horror Nights. This event is one of the toasts of the theme-park community every fall. And of course, we’d all like for the event to happen again this year. But…again, we’re in a pandemic. So an event like this, which isn’t just typically packed with people but is also taking place at night, will need to look and feel a little different. Theme Park University has some ideas for how the event may happen this fall. Specifically, there will be more careful herding (of a sort) of guests through the Universal Orlando app, ensuring that only so many people are in a house at a time. The upshot is simple: the days of spontaneity may be gone, and you may need to prepare for a well-ordered and structured event in which you’re told where to go and when, not deciding that for yourself. It may be a bit of a downer, but at least you’ll still get the pants scared off you.
It’s always worth remembering that there are plenty of theme parks around the world, and that a good chunk of them aren’t from either Disney or Universal. For example, you can consider the Australian parks owned by Village Roadshow Limited. (You may recall their studio logo from films like The Matrix.) They own a few major parks in the continent that are all preparing to reopen over the next few weeks. Seaworld and Paradise Country are the first to open back up, on June 26. Each of the parks has its own set of guidelines, including limiting capacity by half. That may not seem too extreme, but keep in mind that Australia has only seen roughly 7,400 cases of the coronavirus to date.
We’ll wrap up today’s column heading back to the mothership over at Walt Disney World. You may be one of the lucky folks planning to head over to the Orlando resort when the parks reopen on July 11. (Put “lucky” in heavy quotation marks.) You may presume that if you have a hotel reservation, that means you’ll have guaranteed access to the theme parks, even with their limited capacity. But that would be a dangerous presumption to make, based on the information Disney continues to update on its Parks Blog. As noted here, a hotel reservation absolutely does not guarantee park access, which will be prioritized to those folks who already had park tickets or Annual Passholders. So if you’ve got a hotel reservation…do make sure you’re holding a park ticket already.
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