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Back in January, the first major global theme park, Shanghai Disneyland, made the decision to close, and in the weeks that followed, every other major theme park in the world did the same. By mid-March, every Disney theme park around the world was closed for business, as were most every other location of its kind.
Now, in the middle of May, we're beginning to see the first stages of theme parks reopening. Certainly not every park has announced specific reopening plans, but some parks have begun to open some aspects of their locations, or otherwise hinted at what the future might hold. Here's a rundown of everything we know on that front, and we'll continue to keep this updated with the most current information as new details come in.
Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World was the last Disney theme park to close its doors, but it may be looking to be one of the first to reopen. While Disney has been careful not to announce any specific plans, or even goals, as far as reopening of the parks or hotels, Disney Springs, the Walt Disney World marketplace, has been confirmed to see a phased reopening beginning on May 20. With that decision made, it would certainly appear that the Walt Disney World complex are considering opening sooner rather than later.
It seems unlikely that Disney Springs would be looking at opening months before the parks. However, recently the entertainment destination pushed back the dates that it would accept hotel reservations from June 1 to July 1, which would seem to indicate the resort is not expecting to open until at least then. The park's website makes it clear that when it does reopen, it will likely be with a limited capacity and with other restrictions based on health concerns, though certainly not all the new policies have yet been spelled out.
While Walt Disney's World Disney Springs has a date for beginning a phased reopening, Downtown Disney, the equivalent location at Disneyland Resort, does not. This would seem to indicate that Disneyland is looking to stay closed longer than Disney World, and other information might confirm that. Disneyland actually pushed back its dates for accepting hotel reservations to July 1 before Walt Disney World followed suit, which would imply it was clear to that park even earlier that a June opening was not in the cards.
Based on the fact that the reservation shift was one month, but nothing more than that, it's safe to assume that at the very least Disney is hoping the park is back up and running, likely at limited capacity, by then. California clamped down pretty hard when the stay-at-home order was first lifted, but the first phase of reopenings, among less at-risk businesses, has already begun. And while places like Disneyland will likely be among the last to reopen, the info we have would indicate that it will happen in the next couple of months.
International Disney Parks
Shanghai Disneyland was the first Disney park to close, and so, if anything, it's a good sign that it became the first to reopen on May 11. The park opened with temperature checking stations and a requirement that all cast members and guests wear masks, as well as opening to something less than one-third its max capacity. However, it may be the only Disney park open for a while. Hong King Disneyland closed only one day after Shanghai, but no announcement has been made about it reopening. However, it does appear that steps similar to Shanghai are being implemented there, so a reopening announcement may be forthcoming.
Tokyo Disney Resort updated its status on May 8, but only reiterated then that it was not currently safe to open, and it gave no indication when that might change. A similar message was posted to the Disneyland Paris page on May 6, and recently, Disney execs toured the Paris park to begin to consider reopening plans.
The number two name in the global theme park business, Universal, is, at this moment, the biggest mystery of all when it comes to the future of theme parks. While there was an indication that the Universal CityWalk, the Orlando park's version of Disney Springs, might be planning to see some locations reopenings on May 11, the date came and went without any movement. Now it has been announced that there will be limited reopenings beginning May 14. A few locations will be open for the afternoon and evening only, between 4 and 10 PM.
Without much specific info, it seems likely that the Universal parks in Orlando and Southern California will follow a schedule similar to the Disney Parks in both locations. Once the regional restrictions are relaxed to the point where the parks are able to open, it will only be the decision of the individual companies as to whether or not it's time. Odds are Universal will open around the same time as Disney, if only so that each park doesn't cede all the guests to the competition.
Six Flags owns a massive collection of theme park locations across the country, several more than Disney or Universal. With different states having very different rules right now, it's likely that various theme parks will see a variety of different reopening dates. Having said that, Six Flags has stated plans to reopen in mid-May, or soon thereafter, so we could see locations like Magic Mountain begin to open quite soon, though almost certainly at a reduced capacity and with new clearing and distancing guidelines in place.
One significant change will be that all guests, including passholders, will need to make reservations in advance. This will be necessarily in order to be sure that the parks stay within whatever limited capacity they will be planning for and don't get overcrowded.
Seaworld, Legoland And More
For the most part, the decision of what reopens when will depend more on individual state, county or city decisions than what the park itself wants to do. We can assume all the parks want to be open. San Diego's Tourism Authority is hoping that its major parks, specifically Seaworld and Legoland, will be opening fairly soon. The feeling is that by instituting significant crowd controls and sanitation plans, the parks can open during California's Phase 3 plan, rather than waiting for Phase 4, which is when most large scale locations where large crowds can gather will be allowed to open.
For better or worse, Seaworld and Legoland aren't massive crowd draws in the way that Disney and Universal are, which will potentially make it easier for them to reopen sooner than some of the bigger parks.
Certainly there's a lot left to be decided and plenty of details to be worked out, so keep your eyes peeled here as we'll be updating this article as more information is made public and more park plans are finalized.