Disney Parks

The SATURDAY SIX Cautiously Celebrates the Re-Opening of Universal CityWalk

This week’s SATURDAY SIX cautiously celebrates the re-opening of Universal CityWalk! With both Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort closed since the middle of March, this past week brought the first good news in a while for theme park fans. When Disney announced a week ago that it would begin a phased opening of Disney Springs on May 20th, many in the theme park fan community were looking forward to getting a piece of their “happy place” back into their lives in the near future. However, on Tuesday, Universal put out the news that it would start its road to recovery even sooner, with CityWalk starting its phased opening on Thursday, May 14th at 4PM.

Both Disney and Universal received pushback on their plans, as a significant segment of society believes it is too soon to re-open anything that involves the type of crowds that theme park resorts are built upon. In fact, TouringPlans held a poll asking readers if they wanted us in Disney Springs on the 20th to cover the re-opening of the shopping and entertainment district. With over 2,000 votes tallied, the cautious “wait until a later date” option received more than 75% of the votes. That said, Disney and Universal are moving forward with their plans, with more stores and restaurants announcing their re-opening plans every day.

# 6 – Coverage

When anything related to Disney or Universal opens in Florida, it’s generally regarded as “news.” With the resorts re-opening from being shuttered for two months, we can file that under the category of “big news.” Television stations and various other forms of media were in Orlando to cover the re-opening of Universal CityWalk.

Media members on the ground in Orlando outside the Universal Orlando Resort.

No less than three news helicopters were seen overhead at CityWalk on the day of the re-opening, circling the area for several hours.

These copters were bringing those of us at home “BREAKING NEWS” of the re-opening.

# 5 – Parking Garages

For guests traveling to CityWalk, it was a whole new world. Normally, Universal Orlando charges a parking fee for vehicles parking inside the garages. With the theme parks still closed, the parking fee has been waived.

Vehicles approaching the Universal toll plaza are directed to certain lanes.(photo by @Nitro230)
Universal toll plaza. (photo by @Nitro230)

Once inside the garages, cones have been placed strategically in places so that two vehicles can not park directly next to each other at first. This is so that when the guests get out of their vehicle, there isn’t someone immediately next to you. Once the row has been “parked,” the cones are removed and a second wave of vehicles are then parked into the empty spots.

Universal Orlando parking garage. (photo by @Nitro230)

There is temporary signage informing guests of where to go.

Universal Orlando parking garage. (photo by @Nitro230)
Universal Orlando parking garage. (photo by @Nitro230)

The closer guests get to the main hub at CityWalk, the more safety signage they begin to see.

Before bag check, each guest is stopped for a temperature reading. Those with a temperature of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed to enter.

Once cleared, guests are able to enter Universal CityWalk.

Universal Orlando CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 4 – New Procedures

Once arriving in CityWalk, guests are again informed of the new guidelines in place. These include helpful reminders of social distancing and hand washing, but also strict rules such as required face coverings.

Throughout CityWalk there are markers on the ground showing guests the 6 feet social distance rule.

Social distancing sticker. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

One of our favorite parts of CityWalk is the various photo-ops in the area, including the large donut throne outside Voodoo Doughnut. Guests can still get their picture taken on the throne, and it is disinfected by a Team Member after each person.

There has been live music in the main area of CityWalk to entertain guests.

City Walk musician. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Markers on the ground to remind guests not to get too close to each other.

Social distance markers. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The bathrooms in CityWalk have new signage alerting guests to the enhanced cleaning procedures.

CityWalk restroom signage. (photo by @Nitro230)
CityWalk restroom signage. (photo by @Nitro230)

The sink in the middle has a sign above it alerting guests not to use it, so that social distance measures can be maintained.

CityWalk restroom sinks. (photo by @Nitro230)
Restroom sing signage. (photo by @Nitro230)

How did these new safety measures make everyone feel?

As a person who lives and works in Florida, I can completely agree with the above two statements. In any given trip to Publix/Target/Wherever you will see many customers not wearing face masks, none get their temperature taken by the store, and many ignore the safety signage inside the store.

What does all this mean? It means guests can feel much better about having fun again…

# 3 – What’s Open

While not everything is open in CityWalk, many of the dining venues are, including the SATURDAY SIX’s beloved Voodoo Doughnut.

Voodoo Dougnut in the center of the photo with the mobile order pick-up cart to the right.

Outside the Voodoo Doughnut store, there are social distance markers in the queue.

Voodoo Doughnut outdoor queue. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There are markers inside Voodoo Doughnut as well. I’m torn on this one. On one  hand, I love the option to mobile order my donuts and just pick up the box (or two) without waiting in line. On the other hand, there is nothing like being inside the Voodoo store, immersed in sugar and seeing all these donut options.

Voodoo Doughnut indoor queue. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Like Voodoo Doughnut, one of the nice surprises upon the re-opening of CityWalk was venues offering mobile ordering that did not have that option before. Cinnabon was one of the venues which did not open on Thursday, May 14th, but instead re-opened on Friday, May 15th (along with Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Cold Stone Creamery).

Cinnabon, open for business. (photo by @Nitro230)
Cinnabon, mobile order pick-up area. (photo by @Nitro230)

The next two photos show that Universal is making incremental changes each day. Red Oven Pizza Bakery re-opened with social distancing measures on Thursday. In the picture below you can see an area taped in front of the Red Oven host area. Guests stop here and are directed to when they can proceed to go inside and order.

Red Oven on Thursday. (photo by @ThrillGeek)

By Friday, tape had also been placed around the photo-op outside Red Oven, letting guests know this is one object they can not sit on to get a picture.

Red Oven. (photo by @Nitro230)

While Toothsome Chocolate Emporium did re-open, only the Dessert Foundry and Candy Smith areas were available to guests. This means you can order one of the E-Ticket milkshakes, but the  actual restaurant area is still closed to guests.

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. (photo by @Nitro230)

How great is this?! The walk-around characters of the restaurant – Penelope Toothsome and her robot companion Jacques – are still meeting guests outside and are wearing themed face masks! Reason #6,743 of why I love Toothsome.

Penelope Toothsome talks to a young guest. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

Inside Toothsome, there are social distance markers on the floor.

Toothsome. (photo by @Nitro230)

Milkshakes are constantly being made so that guests don’t have to wait a long time after ordering one.

Toothsome. (photo by @UBetJurassic)
Chef’s Kiss. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

On the Candy Smith side of Toothsome there are a lot of tasty baked goods available.

Toothsome. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Previously guests could fill up their own bags of candy here, but now a Team Member will fill the bag for you.

Toothsome. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Margaritaville and the Lone Palm Airport are open for business.

Lone Palm. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

Margaritaville had seating on the outdoor deck, and also had live music playing.

Margaritaville musician. (photo by @Nitro230)

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. was seating guests inside the restaurant.

Bubba Gump. (photo by @Nitro230)
Social distance markers outside. (photo by @Nitro230)
Bubba Gump patrons being sat away from each other. (photo by @Nitro230)

The open-air seating area in CityWalk was available to all, with a reminder to practice social distancing.

The Universal Studios Store was open, with limited capacity. When the store filled up, Team Members would have guests wait outside until they could go in.

Universal Studios Store. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

Face coverings and Universal branded hand sanitizer were available to purchase.

Hand sanitizer and face coverings. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Well, I’m gonna have to get one of these. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There was a lot of signage throughout the store reminding guests of social distancing.

There was also a new promotion.

Universal Studios Store. (photo by @Nitro230)

Many of the kiosks at CityWalk were open.

CityWalk kiosks. (photo by @Nitro230)
CityWalk Kiosk. (photo by @Nitro230)

The face painting/braids kiosk had a slightly different marker on the ground.

CityWalk kiosk marker. (photo by @Nitro230)

Like the Universal Studios Store, the gift shop for Margaritaville also had Team Members at the door to make sure there was a limited capacity inside.

Margaritaville shop. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

The Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company was open. While you couldn’t get a tattoo, you could see various designs and make an appointment for a later date.

Hart & Huntington. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

Hart & Huntington’s retail store.

Hart & Huntingon. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

The water playground area in the middle of CityWalk was available to guests.

CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

As a connoisseur of mini-golf, I have been on the record many times saying Hollywood Drive-in Mini-Golf at CityWalk is the BEST place to play in Orlando (and we have a lot of great options down here). Guests are pulsed through the course so that they are not too close to each other.

Hollywood Drive-In Mini-Golf. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
We all know The Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus and the Great White Shark Greg Norman, and here we have The Mighty Minnow Matthew Miller and “Crazy Legs” Taylor Strickland of Orlando Informer playing a round at Hollywood Drive-In.

Taylor earned the nickname “Crazy Legs” from all the exercise he gets walking outside the course to retrieve his golf ball.

“Gonna have to take a Mulligan on that one.” (photo by Matthew Miller)

The putters and golf balls are thoroughly cleaned after each use.

Hollywood Drive-In Mini-Golf. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

The Hollywood Drive-In golf cart is available for a photo-op

And is cleaned after each guest.

Hollywood Drive-In. (photo by @UBetJurassic)

What’s not open

The newly revamped Universal Cinemark movie theaters sit empty.

Universal Cinemark. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Not ALL the outdoor kiosks are open yet.

Several stores in CityWalk – including P!Q – were closed shortly before the COVID-19 shutdown. Universal has not announced what will be replacing them, but “rumors and innuendo” suggest that a more family-friendly shopping experience featuring brands like Nintendo will take over this space.

As of right now, construction walls stand in front of the closed shops.

As of this writing, Hot Dog Hall of Fame hasn’t re-opened, but they are definitely getting things in order. Social distance markers have been placed in the queue.

Hot Dog Hall of Fame. (photo by @Nitro230)

A mobile ordering sign is also now on the Hot Dog Hall of Fame window.

Hot Dog Hall of Fame. (photo by @Nitro230)

BreadBox also looks to re-open with mobile ordering.

BreadBox. (photo by @Nitro230)

Social distance markings on the ground leading up to NBC Sports Grill & Brew.

NBC Sports Grill & Brew. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

I would expect news on the re-opening of Hard Rock Cafe Orlando any day now, hopefully for Vivo and Antojitos as well.

Hard Rock Cafe Orlando. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Hard Rock Cafe Orlando. (photo by @Nitro230)

Before Thursday, the word going around was that the bridges leading from Universal CityWalk to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida would be roped off. In a nice surprise, this did not happen and guests were allowed to walk around the area. While just being in the atmosphere was nice, it also allowed for some great photos without a ton of extra guests in your shot.

The iconic archway to Universal Studios Florida. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

With Disney stopping so many construction projects, it’s interesting to see that Universal went the other way and started a whole new project outside the front entrance to USF during the shutdown.

Construction outside USF. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

A peek into the closed park.

How about this great shot at sunset?

Universal Studios Florida. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Guests could get even closer to the front of Islands of Adventure.

Islands of Adventure. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Several people took advantage of this time to get pictures in front of an empty Port of Entry.

# 2 – Team Members

Shout out to the real heroes of this re-opening, all the Universal Team Members working hard to bring a little bit of normalcy back into our lives.

Drummers welcome guests back to CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Everywhere you look in CityWalk you’ll see a Team Member diligently cleaning. (photo by @Nitro230)
Team Member cleaning moving walkway rails. (photo by @Nitro230)

A staple of any Universal Orlando Resort vacation experience is seeing the various Team Members taking surveys at the parks and CityWalk. The survey takers are still out and about, and even they have a new procedure.

Maybe the only Team Members more ubiquitous than survey takers are the stilt walkers, and they were also back!

Stilt Walkers outside the not yet re-opened BigFire Restaurant. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Stilt walkers dancing with a guest. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 1 – The Globe Spins Again (Pssst, it’s a metaphor)

During the coronavirus shutdown, the Universal globe was stopped. We’re happy to report it is now spinning again as we take our first step back into the Universal Orlando Resort.

Whether day or night, there’s not a more beautiful sight.

Universal Globe. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This may be a little too on the nose…

Comcast…is there anything they CAN’T do?! (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Good news, even the cherished Universal Mardi Gras Bead Tree is still here to welcome us back!

Bead Tree. (photo by (photo by @InsideUniversal)

Honorable Mention – ONE MORE TIME….

“Here’s your sign..” (photo by @bioreconstruct)

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Cautiously Celebrates the Re-Opening of Universal CityWalk! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Founding Member of the Universal Four @Nitro320, Photo Maven @UBetJurassic, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

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