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Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk reopen after COVID-19 closures

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UPDATE (3:40 pm, 05.12): Universal has followed suit with Disney, announcing a phased reopening for its CityWalk complex starting on Thursday, May 14. You can find all the specifics below.

After a lengthy (and unprecedented) closure period that first began all the way back on the night of Sunday, March 15, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts are beginning to slowly rumble back to life – well, at least partially.

Both dining/shopping/entertainment districts of the two resorts will be the first areas to reopen, with all of the other Disney and Universal components – that is to say, the hotels and, most notably, the theme and water parks – remaining indefinitely closed. Still, this is, indeed, progress, as this was the same pattern that was implemented in the slow, phased reopening of Shanghai Disney – a pattern that at least Disney has said it’s interested in eventually replicating at all of its other theme-park locations around the world.

We have compiled everything you need to know about the situation, from a brief history of the COVID-19 closures to the two sections’ new sanitary and social-distancing practices.

Why did Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk close again?

Both Disney and Universal began the unexpected and rather tangled process of shutting down their Florida resorts in the middle of March – the parks came first, on March 16, with Universal CityWalk and Disney Springs following on the next day and, finally, the hotels bringing up the rear on the 20th. All of this, of course, was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which officially started in China in late December 2019 and spread to the United States of America just a month later; the extremely rapid-changing situation on the ground has since rattled literally every industry, both domestic and international, causing scores of schools and businesses to be shuttered, at least for a time.

The companies had originally expected to reopen after just a two-week period, but that window kept getting extended as the novel coronavirus continued to expand its infection; as of their last updates on this front, Universal pushed its reopening target date back to Monday, June 1, while Disney only offered up “until further notice.” With several states across the country – including Florida – moving to lift a number of their lockdowns at the end of April, however, it seems that Disney and Universal decided to alter their plans one final time.

How Disney Springs is reopening

Disney Springs phased reopening after covid closure
A slow reopening after the COVID-19 closure begins soon

The Disney Springs dining/shopping/entertainment district is the first part of Walt Disney World to rev back up, which occurs on Wednesday, May 20. Just a small number of establishments (both dining and retail) are opening their doors alongside the district:

  • Blaze Pizza
  • The Boathouse
  • Chicken Guy!
  • Earl of Sandwich
  • Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC
  • Frontera Cocina
  • Joffrey’s Coffe & Tea Comppany
  • Planet Hollywood
  • The Polite Pig
  • STK Orlando
  • Sunshine Churros
  • Wine Bar George
  • Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill
  • YeSake Kiosk

The partial reopening move, of course, comes with a number of restrictions, which prospective visitors should keep in mind. Disney Springs will feature “limitations on capacity, parking, and operating hours,” according to the company, although no specifics were offered up (it sounds as if Disney is still developing a number of these new guidelines, consulting with “leaders in the health and travel industries” as it does so). Increased sanitation will also be present, along with required face coverings for cast members and guests alike and the implementation of “limited-contact” guest services. (Given follow-up communications from various Mouse House executives, it currently appears as if the mask requirement will also extend to the parks, once they, too, open their doors again.)

Wine Bar George, which reopens at noon on May 20, may be a good example of what to expect when the dining district returns. According to its website, the restaurant will institute temperature checks for its employees, space patrons appropriately apart, and utilize digital-only menus (accessible on guests’ mobile devices), among increased sanitation practices. Additionally, plexiglass dividers are expected to be installed at every Disney Springs venue’s cash registers.

Following the first wave of restaurants, a number of Patina Restaurant Group properties will bow two days later, on Friday, May 22: Morimoto Asia, Morimoto Asia Street Food, Pizza Ponte, and Vivoli il Gelato. The remaining Patina locations are expected to join the ranks of the reopened at some point thereafter.

How Universal CityWalk is reopening

Universal’s CityWalk reopening guidelines (image: Universal)

Universal, for its part, revealed a similar approach to CityWalk almost a week after the Disney Springs news dropped, on May 12. Universal’s own entertainment district opened just two days later, on Thursday, May 14, and has seen a slow-but-steady increase in the number of operational venues since.

Each venue features a limited menu and spaced-out tables, to maintain Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended social distancing. In addition, mobile ordering has been made available, and Universal also recommends that guests use its Universal Orlando app to make cashless payments.

Joining them are just a few retail and entertainments offerings – namely, Hollywood Drive-In Golf, Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company, Airbrush, the Universal Studios Store, and a handful of “merchandise carts.” And, finally, please note that self-parking is free (while valet parking is unavailable), visitors will be subject to a temperature check (those with a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be admitted), every individual will be required to wear a face covering (if you don’t have one, Universal has some for sale at the screening area), and CityWalk’s hours of operation are only from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm – essentially, the complex is only open for the dinner shift.

What’s it like at the newly-reopened CityWalk? We walk you through the experience, step by step, here.

This article will continue to be updated with the latest information.

Last updated 5:58 pm, May 18, 2020

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About Marc N. Kleinhenz

Marc N. Kleinhenz’s first dream in life was to be an astronaut. His second was an Imagineer. While neither completely worked out, he now works exclusively for Orlando Informer as a writer, editor, and podcast co-host. He’s also written for 32 other sites (including Screen Rant, IGN, The Escapist, and California Informer [OI's sister site]), has had his fiction featured in several publications, and has even taught English in Japan. Imagineering school won’t be too far behind.