When you talk about midwinter and spring break destinations, Florida reigns supreme. You can visit a plethora of theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Legoland; spend the day at a zoo or wildlife preserve; hike or kayak at a state park; build a sandcastle at the beach; visit epic dining, shopping and entertainment complexes like Universal’s CityWalk and Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs; or you can splash into the surf at any number of waterparks that dot the state.
And, right now as midwinter break approaches, those waterparks are getting ready to reopen for the season. While they’ll welcome guests soon, there will be changes from what you may have experienced in the past. To lower the risk of coronavirus, new safety measures and capacity controls are being put into action at nearly all entertainment outlets and waterparks are no different.
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What will be different at the waterparks this year?
We’d love to say that your day at the waterpark will be exactly as it’s been in previous years. But, with COVID-19 infection rates still very high throughout the state of Florida, that won’t be the case. Safety and precaution measures have been put in place at all sorts of entertainment venues to help prevent the further spread of the disease.
So, what exactly will be different?
Limited capacity and advance reservations
First and foremost, expect all parks to limit attendance. That may mean your best bet is to arrive early or late in the day to avoid getting shut out. If the waterpark hits capacity, it won’t admit additional guests.
But there’s a silver lining to this. With limited capacity, it means you have more space in the waterpark and wait times for things like aqua-coasters and slides should be less than you’ve experienced in the past. This means you may be able to have a whole lot more fun in a shorter span of time at the park this year.
Be aware that many parks require advance reservations at this time as a means to keep capacity in check. Be sure to understand if you just need to pre-purchase a ticket or if you also need to make an entrance reservation on the specific day you wish to visit.
Face mask rules
While most waterparks, such as Universal’s Volcano Bay, don’t require you to wear a mask in the pool or while enjoying the water slides, they ask that you mask up as you enter and exit the facility as well as when you’re in a restaurant (but not yet eating) or in a shop.
If you’re going to spend the day at a waterpark, bring several face masks for each person in your group so you can put on a fresh one if the first one gets wet or damp.
Social distancing and floor markings
You’ll now notice signs throughout the waterparks reminding you to be diligent about keeping at least six feet between you and anyone that’s not in your travel party. This will be especially important when you take your mask off to enjoy the pools and slides.
And, watch for markings on the ground that indicate where to wait in line. Don’t proceed forward until the party in front of you has moved at least six feet away.
Certain waterparks will take your temperature prior to admittance. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or greater will be turned away.
An emphasis on hand-washing and sanitizing
Throughout all waterparks, you’ll see signs reminding you to wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible throughout the day. You may also be required to use hand sanitizer before getting on an aqua-coaster, flume, slide or other attraction. You’ll also see hand-sanitizing stations throughout the parks.
Enhanced cleaning protocols
Each waterpark has renewed its commitment to keeping its facility as clean as possible. Increased cleaning protocols have been put in place and while much of that happens when the parks are closed, you may notice an increase in the number of employees you see wiping down surfaces and sanitizing high touchpoints.
Contactless and electronic payments
While cash is still accepted at most waterparks, each is encouraging patrons to use contactless and electronic payment methods to reduce additional contact and touchpoints.
Which Florida waterparks are open?
As the weather warms up, more parks are reopening for the season. Here’s a look at the status of a few of the most popular waterparks in the Sunshine State.
Adventure Island (Tampa)
Reopening: March 6
Advanced reservation required? Yes; see details at Adventure Island’s website
Face mask guidance: “Face coverings are not required and are prohibited in the water (e.g., the lazy river, the wave pool, all water slides, and all other water attractions in the water park).”
Guests do need to wear masks at the park entrance, retail areas, food and beverage areas (when not eating/drinking) and other designated areas.
Children younger than 2 are exempt from Adventure Islands’ face mask rules.
Advanced reservation required? Yes; all tickets are date-specific and come with a reservation
Face mask guidance: “Face coverings are required in certain designated areas of the park (e.g., the park entrance and exit, retail areas, food and beverage areas and other designated areas).”
Face coverings aren’t required in the water — places like the lazy river, the wave pool and all water slides.
Children younger than 2 are exempt from Aquatica’s face mask rules.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park (Orlando)
Reopening: March 7
Advance reservation required? While Disney’s theme parks require a ticket and park reservation as an entry requirement, its website says, “At this time a park reservation is not required to visit a water park.” Double-check before your visit as rules can change quickly.
Face mask guidance: “Face coverings will be required for each guest age 2 and up, including but not limited to, at the park entrance and exit, retail areas, and food and beverage ordering areas. Face coverings will not be permitted while experiencing water slides or in the water. You may also remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing.”
Note: Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon remains closed at this time and a reopening date has not been set.
Rapids Water Park (West Palm Beach)
Reopening: March 12
Advance reservation required? No, but the waterpark suggests that you purchase your ticket and parking online prior to arrival.
Face mask guidance: “Masks should be worn when entering the park; when in line at the snack bar, retail store, or bar; and in bathrooms. Due to safety constraints, face coverings are not permitted while in the water or on slides.”
Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando
Reopening: Feb. 23, 2021
Advanced reservation required? No, but capacity is being controlled, so you may be turned away if the daily limit was reached prior to your arrival.
Face mask guidance: “Face coverings are required in restaurants, retail locations and as you enter and exit the park, and we also encourage you to wear face coverings while walking around the park. Face coverings are not permitted on slides and in pools.”
Children under the age of 3 are exempt from Universal’s face mask rules.
Featured image courtesy of Universal Orlando
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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