Curtis Tate, USA TODAY
Published 11:08 a.m. ET May 27, 2020 | Updated 1:36 p.m. ET May 27, 2020
Florida’s biggest theme parks including Walt Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld have announced their dates to reopen to the public this summer.
Walt Disney World plans to reopen July 11, according to a presentation the company made to an economic recovery task force Wednesday.
SeaWorld Orlando also presented its plan to Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force and plans to reopenfor employees as soon as June 10, and the public on June 11.
Jim McPhee, senior vice president of operations for Walt Disney World, said the company plans a phased reopening of the park, with the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening July 11. Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are set to reopen July 15.
Existing ticket holders, annual passholders and those with Disney Resort hotel reservations will be able to make reservation requests before new tickets are sold.
As with other theme parks that have announced their reopening plans, Disney World visitors will undergo a temperature check and be required to wear face masks. The parks will provide masks to people who do not bring their own.
Social distancing markers will be visible throughout the theme parks. Disney’s cast members will enforce the rules, including the mask requirement, as part of a “social distancing squad.” Park capacity will also be limited, and not all attractions will reopen right away.
McPhee said the “squad” made its debut when the nearby Disney Springs retail complex reopened May 20. He described the squad as a “huge hit with guests and effective.”
Officials in Orange County, Florida, unanimously approved Disney’s and SeaWorld’s plans Wednesday. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis must also approve.
Disney Vacation Club resorts at Disney World are expected to reopen June 22 with resorts in Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, opening June 15.
SeaWorld Orlando announces planned opening date
“We’re excited to bring back our guests,” said Marc Swanson, interim CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment as he discussed SeaWorld Orlando’s proposed public opening date of June 11.
Like Disney World and Universal Orlando, SeaWorld will check visitor temperatures and require face masks and social distancing.
“People can still have a great experience, but spaced appropriately,” Swanson said.
Like its peers, SeaWorld will limit capacity, offer contactless payment options and will increase cleaning and sanitation of high-contact surfaces. Plexiglass barriers will go up between visitors and employees.
At its restaurants, Swanson said prepackaged food items will become more common.
What will theme park-goers nationwide experience during a pandemic?
Other theme parks nationwide are getting ready to reopen. Six Flags Frontier City in Oklahoma City is set to reopen June 5, becoming the first Six Flags park in the country to reopen. The Drive Thru Safari at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey will reopen Saturday, though the theme park will remain closed for now.
Legoland Florida will reopen Monday.
It isn’t clear when Disneyland and other California theme parks such as Knott’s Berry Farm can reopen. The state is taking a more cautious approach to reopening its economy. It will likely be months before mass-gathering events can take place.
Cedar Fairs, which operates Knott’s Berry Farm and several other theme parks in the United States and Canada, has said it doesn’t expect to reopen any of them soon.
When they reopen, theme parks will look very different to visitors. They’ll operate at reduced capacity. A temperature check will be required on entry, and visitors will be encouraged, if not required, to wear face coverings.
Rides, restaurants and retail will maintain social distance, with signs and markers showing visitors what’s expected. Hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations will be installed. Contactless forms of payment will be preferred, though some places may still accept cash.
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Park operators promise more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of touch points and surfaces. Park employees will get temperature checks, wear face coverings and maintain social distance.
The reopening of big attractions such as Disney and Universal parks is expected to help jump-start travel and related business, including airlines, hotels and car-rental companies after consumer travel plummeted in recent months.