I am so excited to finally have a trip report to do! Even though I do live in FL and can drive to the theme parks this is still a trip since we did stay in one of the resorts and spent 2 days playing in the parks.
I will admit I have put off visiting the parks mainly because for me it was just too hot to be wearing a mask. My birthday is in November and usually it actually gets a little cool here in FL around that time of year. This year being what it has been of course we are still in the upper 80s in November. I had already booked the hotel and it was my birthday so we were going anyway. At least it wasn't feeling like 100 like it had been all summer.
First I will start out saying I chose Universal Orlando for my birthday for a few reasons but mostly because it was easier than Disney. Universal is not requiring you to make an advance reservation for the parks and they still allow park hopping. I also chose Universal because I hadn't ridden Hagrids yet and knew that staying at a Universal resort would really help make riding that easier. Staying at a Universal resort meant I could get into Islands of Adventure an hour early which was key to avoiding a long line for Hagrids. We got up and were at the park entrance before opening. They did a good job of keeping everyone spaced out and in the right lines based on if they were resort guests with tickets or not. As soon as the park opened we walked directly to Hagrids along with pretty much everyone else but still never felt crowded or too close to anyone. The line sort of formed naturally at first with everyone going in the same direction anyway and then as we got closer they did start a queue but it was long enough snaking through other parts of the parks that you pretty much just kept walking and it helped avoid any long time standing. When we got to the lockers we did have to go in and do that before we could continue in the line since we did have a bag with us. It only took a minute to do and they were keeping everyone well spaced out in there as well. One thing I realized too late was that these lockers used your park ticket not your finger to open and I had already put my bag with my ticket in it and shut the locker before I realized that. No worries you can get a cast member to open for you when you get back. You just need to describe what is in the locker to prove it is yours.
You might be wondering what it is like to visit a theme park now. There are of course some changes due to Covid and I will admit I wouldn't mind if some of them stuck around. All in all I felt very safe during my stay and wouldn't hesitate to go back. I do highly recommend staying at an on-site resort for the added conveniences.
By now we have all gotten pretty used to the idea of social distance. There are markers placed all around the parks and hotels reminding people to keep a 6 ft distance.
It was nice to be in line and not feel squished in with 100 other people breathing down your neck so I wouldn't mind if that stuck around. Everyone was good about respecting social distance in lines and pretty much all around. Even better are those attractions where you would normally be packed into a pre-show room with what feels like a 1000 other guests, thanks to social distance that doesn't happen now. Those pre-show rooms now have boxes marked out on the floor where each party will stand to watch and then go on to enter the attraction. That also means if there are attractions where you would normally be seated with other parties that doesn't happen either. For example if you ride the Simposon's attraction you will have the car all to yourself. The drawback to this is that it can make wait times a lot longer with less people experiencing each attraction at a time. Again this was when being a resort guest with Express Pass included was a nice bonus. You can also purchase Express Pass if you are not a resort guest.
Yes masks are required to be worn and they are being strict enforcing the masks are worn correctly. I will just say it isn't the most comfortable thing but you do sort of get used to it after a few hours. I recommend bringing multiple masks and also testing out your masks before traveling to be sure you find it comfortable for long periods. There are places around the park designated as rest zones where you can take your mask off even if you are not eating or drinking. Speaking of eating and drinking you really are not encouraged to wander around eating and drinking wherever you want. They really do try to keep you in the eating areas to finish if you buy food. Depending on where you choose to get food some counter service locations might require you to sit at a table they assign to you for eating - so that might mean you cannot take it outside to find an outdoor table or walk with your food. I get that they don't want people using food as an excuse to walk around without a mask but making people stay inside isn't great either.
As a resort guest our temperature was taken as we arrived at the resort and we were given a colored band to wear that showed we were clear for the day and no more temperature checks needed. The color changed each day so you do need to have your temperature checked each day but being able to get that done at the resort was quick and easy.
There were plenty of places pointed out for hand washing and sanitizer. Plus before boarding any attraction you are required to get a squirt of santaizer. While I understand the idea that this way they are not having to wipe down each attraction between riders I wasn't a fan of always being slathered in sanitizer.
You will notice that there are places that didn't used to have plexiglass that now do. Again I get it for safety but on some attractions it takes away from the experience.
Crowds were not bad but probably more than I had expected. You notice more people mostly in the Harry Potter sections. We also popped over to Disney Springs for dinner one night and quickly realized that with all parks pretty much closed by 7 pm means a lot of people flood into Disney Springs. I would highly recommend avoiding Disney Springs after 7 pm.
I was so happy to get in some park time and see how things are being handled first hand. If you have any questions about my visit please let me know.
There is plenty of festive Halloween fun to be found in Central Florida. Some of these festivities start as early as August (I know crazy to think about Halloween in August but they do it). Orlando's 3 main Theme Parks each have their own spin the the holiday and there is something for everyone in the family.
For the Preschoolers
Sea World's Halloween Spooktacular. This year it runs weekends September 21 - October 27. The event is just on weekends but it is also a free event which is nice. There is a trick or treat trail where everyone can get their fill of sweet treats. They also have some dance parties with characters and games. The event is during the day from 11 am - 7pm so perfect for the little ones that do not stay up late. There also isn't anything too scary or creepy to freak out the little ones. Sea World also recently added Sesame Street Land which will have a Halloween Parade. I attended the Spookacular last weekend and I will say the drawback to a free event is you get bigger crowds but it is nice not to have to spend more money to enjoy the fun of trick or treating and characters out in costumes. Sesame Street Land is really cute and does make you feel like you are walking down the street we all grew up with. I was so happy to get to experience it with my nephews and ride some of the rides with them (most do require you to be with a child to ride)
Even though the Spooktacular event is only on weekends you will still find decorations and holiday touches in the shows during the weekdays.
Know before you go -
#1 - It is free but that also might mean it is more crowded.
#2 - All guests are welcome to dress up in costumes, although only those 12 and younger are allowed to wear masks. Guests who are ages 13 and older may not wear masks or hoods in the park, and all costumes are subject to the normal dress code for the park. In addition, face painting is not permitted on any guests unless it is done by park artists.
#3 - Keep in mind that while dressing in costumes is fun it is still Florida during the day so most likely will be hot so choose costumes accordingly.
#4 - The treat trail runs along the very right side of the park as you enter, closest to Sesame Street Land so it will get very crowded just after the Halloween Parade. I visited while the parade was going on and that seemed to be the best time.
#5 - If you are looking for a quieter spot with some shade to take a break from the Halloween fun I recommend going up to Shamu Stadium (as long as there isn't a show going on) there was plenty of open space and shade and bathrooms with no crowds.
#6 - You can bring your own trick or treat bag but the park does also sell some as well.
Fun for the Whole Family
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in Disney's Magic Kingdom. This is a separate ticket event so you do need to shell out some extra bucks to get to attend this one (tickets start at $105 per person and go higher for more popular dates). It is offered select nights August 16 - November 1 so it is the longest running of any of the Halloween events. The number of tickets sold is also limited so in theory it shouldn't feel overly crowded. There is trick or treating, a parade, and special fireworks and shows, along with characters in costumes. Most of the attractions are also open during the party.
This event runs 7pm - Midnight which is why it doesn't always work best for the little ones. Like Sea World everyone can dress in costumes but there are some rules. Mickey's Not So Scary does cover the whole park so not just a section like Sea World's.
Know before you go -
#1 - The party doesn't start until 7 pm however you can enter Magic Kingdom with just your party ticket beginning at 4 pm. That means if you do not have a park hopper during your vacation this could be one day you get to go to 2 parks in one day or if you want to buy one less day on your park ticket you could do that as long as you are OK not going to a park until 4 om that day.
#2 - Disney does have some more costume rules than Sea World so be sure to check those out. Don't forget to keep the Florida weather in mind that even though this one is at night it really won't be cold.
#3 - If there are 2 parades scheduled plan to go to the second one for smaller crowds.
#4 - Save your trick or treating until later so you are not lugging around a bag of candy all night.
#5 - Take it easy during the day and maybe even take a nap so you can enjoy the party all the way until Midnight
#6 - Disney does give out candy bags for free.
Brave Adults and Older Kids
Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. This runs September 6 - November 2. Separate tickets are required and start at $67.99 per person. The event runs either 6:30 pm - 1:00 am or 6:30 pm - 2:00 am depending on dates. This one actually comes with a warning that might be too intense for young children and not recommended for anyone younger than 13. I admit I am a big chicken and that is why I haven't done this one yet. This event takes place in Universal Studios only (not Islands of Adventure). There are 10 haunted houses along with a few regular attractions open during the party. Unlike the other 2 Halloween events you are not allowed to dress in costume for this one.
Know before you go -
#1 - Download the app for Halloween Horror nights as it will show you wait times and a few other things.
#2 - If you have a regular park ticket along with your Horror night ticket you are able to stay in the park and wait in the Stay and Scream area while the park changes over for the party. This will save you a lot of time. Another way to save time is stay onsite at one of the Universal resorts since there is a dedicated entrance for resort guests. If you do not have either of these options you will want to arrive at the park at least an hour before the event as the line and security to get in can take awhile.
#3 - There are add on options that add extra chills such as a Horror Nights Express Pass which lets you skip the regular line for the houses once and rides. There is also an RIP tour that will take you on a guided VIP tour of everything.
#4 - Start in the back of the park for the best chance of getting to see the most in one night. If you really want to be sure you see it all you might need to plan for 2 nights and you can save money buying a multi-night ticket.
#5 - Know the rules like no food, drinks, recording, flash photography, flashlights, laser pens, or ecvs are allowed in any of the haunted houses.
#6 - This one is more my personal tip to you - Don't go alone! This just seems too scary to do without a buddy along.
I know it might be too late to still plan for one of these events this year but this will give you a pretty good idea for next year.
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