All four Disney World theme parks have now welcomed back guests, but some parts of the Resort still remain closed!
In the initial phase of reopening, some Disney World attractions and experiences will remain unavailable. So, if you’re headed to Disney World in the near future, prepare yourself for the lack of parades, fireworks, select attractions, restaurants — and water parks! Both Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach are still closed, and Disney has yet to announce a planned reopening date for either park.
So, WILL the Disney water parks open soon? We get asked this question at least once a day on social media, so we wanted to dig in and compile all the data we have for you so you can draw conclusions for yourself! Here’s what we know!
Other Water Parks and Attractions Have Reopened
Some water parks across the United States HAVE reopened to guests — in fact, there’s one comparable water park we can look to just across town.
Universal’s Volcano Bay
Universal Orlando Resort reopened its water park, Volcano Bay, in early June. The park has implemented a number of new health and safety measures, including required temperature checks, increased cleaning procedures, and limited capacity.
But, there’s one notable difference in the new policies between the Universal theme parks and Volcano Bay. In the Universal theme parks, guests are required to wear a mask at all times, except while actively eating or drinking OR while riding an attraction where a signiﬁcant amount of water is part of the experience — such as Jurassic Park River Adventure.
However, in Volcano Bay, face masks are ONLY required in restaurants, retail locations, and as guests enter and exit the park. Guests are encouraged to wear face coverings while walking around the park, but this is not a requirement. And face masks are NOT permitted on the slides or in the pools.
This is not entirely unexpected, as the CDC has advised against wearing cloth face coverings in the water since they can be difficult to breathe through when wet. But could the difficulty of maintaining a uniform face mask policy be part of the hold up for Disney?
Disney World Resort Hotel Pools
Guests are able to access the pools in the reopened Disney World hotels. And while the pools are a much smaller scale attraction than the water parks, our experience in the hotel pool areas can give us at least some insight into how Disney is approaching aquatic activities.
Disney does not require guests to wear face masks while swimming, and according to a Cast Member we spoke with, guests may also remove their masks while laying in the pool chairs. However, the Cast Member also informed us that guests are asked to wear their masks anytime they are walking around the pool area.
We were also told that the capacity will be limited in the pool area.
Challenges the Disney Water Parks are Facing
Now that we’ve seen some of the policies and procedures from the reopening of Volcano Bay and the Disney hotel pools, let’s take a look at a few of the challenges Disney is facing with the reopening of the water parks.
Difficulty Maintaining the Same Safety Standards as the Theme Parks
We’ve seen that Disney is less lax than Universal with their face mask policy on water rides. At Disney, guests ARE required to keep their masks on while riding attractions that could get them wet like Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids.
And while it’s only recommended that Volcano Bay guests wear masks around the park in between attractions, guests at the Disney hotel pools are required to wear masks while up and moving.
So, could the difficulty of enforcing a uniform face mask requirement be contributing to the hold-up on the Disney World water parks reopening? Wearing a mask around a water park AND keeping it dry doesn’t seem like the easiest task. How would that feasibly work?
This safety concern also extends to social distancing. According to the CDC, “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters.” BUT, the CDC does note that there is still a significant concern of passing the virus from person to person, especially in an environment where masks are not being worn.
If guests were unable to wear masks on the attractions or in the pools, Disney would need to be extra diligent about social distancing measures. This could prove difficult, especially in the case of pools and lazy rivers, where guests could inadvertently drift towards each other.
We’ve been wearing face masks around Disney World for months, and here are some NEW tips we’ve picked up!
Disney’s Water Parks Have Fewer Attractions
So, why not just keep any potentially difficult attraction closed? Well, then Disney could run into another problem. While Volcano Bay has a total of 19 attractions, Blizzard Beach has 12 attractions and Typhoon Lagoon has 11. So, if Disney kept even a few of these attractions closed guests would be pushed towards the same handful of open rides.
The small number of rides in the water parks could cause lines to back up quickly. We can look to the Disney World theme parks for context. Upon the initial reopening, there were 29 attractions available in Magic Kingdom, 18 in EPCOT, 16 in Animal Kingdom, and 13 in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
While we have seen manageable wait times, for the most part, there is one park that has had noticeably longer lines — Hollywood Studios. And since Hollywood Studios currently has more attractions OPEN than Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon have in TOTAL, that doesn’t bode well for the potential lines that the water parks could experience — especially if they aren’t able to reopen all of the attractions.
It’s also worth noting the scale of these locations. Hollywood Studios is about 135 acres large — the water parks are both less than half that size at 66 acres (Blizzard Beach) and 56 acres (Typhoon Lagoon). With less room to physically space out guests, this could pose a problem as well.
Speaking of those lines, this is another leg-up that Volcano Bay has on the Disney water parks. ALL of the lines at Volcano Bay are managed using a virtual queue with the “TapuTapu” wristbands that are provided to guests. So, the Disney water parks would either need to implement virtual queues, or have guests wait in physical lines for the attractions.
But would guests need to wear a mask while waiting in the (potentially long) lines? If so, what would guests do with their masks when they get to the attraction? These are a few of the tough questions Disney would have to resolve before reopening the water parks.
With all of these things in mind, would the water parks be able to accommodate enough guests to make it worthwhile for Disney to reopen at the moment? Considering the lines and bottlenecks we’ve seen in Hollywood Studios, the Disney park with the fewest available attractions, could we see a similar situation if the significantly smaller water parks were to reopen?
Disney World has significant safety and capacity challenges to face with reopening the Water Parks. We’ve seen Disney tighten up their safety policies since reopening the parks, expanding temperature checks and face mask requirements. It would be a departure from their current approach for them to take a step backward in their guidelines by creating an environment in the water parks that is difficult to manage. BUT the situation is ever-evolving. We’ll keep you updated as we get more information!
When do you think Disney World will reopen the water parks? Share your thoughts in the comments!