This guide to face masks at Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk covers official rules, our recommendation for the best masks, answers to frequently asked questions on wearing masks, and differences between policies and enforcement at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. (Updated August 1, 2021.)
Essentially, this goes beyond answering the question of “are face masks required at Universal?” We’re well aware that this is a highly controversial topic. This post exists to inform, not critique. At this point, the policy “is what it is” and shouting on the internet won’t change that one way or the other. If you want to argue, join a local debate club. If you want your voice to be heard about Universal’s rule in a meaningful way, contact them.
The latest change to Universal’s mask policy is prompted by new indoor mask guidance for the fully vaccinated from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommended that everyone–regardless of vaccination status– wear masks indoors if they live in counties with substantial or high levels of transmission. Orange County, Florida is one such place with a high level of transmission as of August 2021.
This latest update brings significant deviation between the policies at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. (For the latter, see our FAQ & Guide to Face Masks at Walt Disney World.)
While Walt Disney World reinstated its indoor mask rules for everyone, Universal Orlando opted instead to only require that its employees wear face masks. Here’s the full text of the latest update to Universal Orlando’s official face mask policy…
“We encourage all our guests to follow CDC guidelines and local directives to wear face coverings while indoors across Universal Orlando Resort. Face coverings are optional while outdoors. We also encourage all guests to keep a safe distance between travel parties, and we remain focused on maintaining the highest cleanliness and sanitization standards.”
Here are the latest safety updates for your visit.
- We encourage all guests – regardless of vaccination status – to wear face coverings while indoors
- We do not require proof of vaccinations
- We encourage all guests to keep a safe distance between travel parties
- We remain focused on maintaining the highest cleanliness and sanitization standards
For guests who are not fully vaccinated, an appropriate face covering is defined as the following:
- Cover your nose and mouth and be secured under your chin
- Fit snugly against the sides of your face and be secured with ear loops or secured around your head
Previously, Universal Orlando Resort recommended that face coverings consist of at least two layers (2-ply masks). Additionally, neck gaiters are considered an appropriate face covering as long as it covers the nose and mouth (gaiters are prohibited by Disney).
Next, let’s address some of the more frequently asked questions about masks and other health safety topics…
Is there still social distancing at Universal Orlando?
Not in any way, whatsoever.
Universal Orlando saw its attendance return to Summer 2019 levels in the quarter ending June 30, according to an earnings call for parent company Comcast. Anecdotally, crowds felt even higher in July than June. This is further exacerbated by the parks being understaffed due to hiring difficulties, which makes everything feel worse than it is. Suffice to say, you’re going to encounter heavy crowds and long wait times at Universal Orlando until schools go back into session and the fall off-season hits.
How will Universal “encourage” guests to wear masks?
The statement on the website and a scattering of signs throughout the parks.
As the language itself suggests, this is not a rule–it’s a recommendation. In practice, we’ve seen around 20% of guests voluntarily wear masks at Universal Orlando recently. There has been a slight uptick in mask usage amid Florida’s rising case numbers and the more transmissible Delta variant, but it’s still way less than half of all guests.
Suffice to say, if you’re still apprehensive about personal space or mask-wearing, you should not visit Universal Orlando right now. Conversely, if you’re ready to move on and have the most “normal” experience possible, Universal is much closer to that right now than Walt Disney World.
Will Universal be asking mask-less guests whether they’re fully vaccinated?
For one thing, it’s prohibited under Florida law. For another thing, virtually no businesses anywhere–even in other states–are differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests beyond the honor system policy. It’s simply not worth the hassle and headache. It would be asking a lot of Universal Team Members at a time when there’s already a labor shortage and frontline employees everywhere are at about their wits’ end. This is why the new rule is, essentially, “there is no rule.”
Are masks required for guests while waiting in line or on rides?
Not anymore as of the latest rule change.
It is also worth noting that Universal has ended on-ride physical distancing, meaning that mixing of parties now occurs and guests could be seated directly adjacent to strangers.
What is face mask rule at Volcano Bay water park?
It’s essentially the same everywhere at Universal.
However, face coverings are not permitted on slides and in pools.
Are Universal employees still required to wear masks?
Universal has been quick to change its policies in accordance with CDC guidance, so if/when that changes again, our expectation is that Team Members will not be required to wear masks anywhere again.
What’s the best mask for Universal Orlando?
That depends upon your goal. If searching for a face mask for personal protection, you should aim for something higher quality. Our recommendation for this is the Powecom KN95 Face Mask.
We also carry disposable 3-ply face masks. These are great as a back-up, or if you opt to double mask to give you a more secure fit or better filtration. Additionally, the Auliné Collection Mask is a good reusable option for adults. If you have other recommendations, we’d love to hear them in the comments.
Does Universal Orlando sell masks?
Yes. Face coverings are available for purchase at select merchandise locations in CityWalk, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and the hotels. They are available in various sizes for kids and adults.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to wear a mask to enter any of the retail locations to purchase these masks, so you will want to bring your own.
Are the masks sold by Universal any good?
The designs are a 10/10, especially for those who love ‘classic’ Universal Studios Florida attractions like Kongfrontation, JAWS, E.T. Adventure, and Earthquake: the Big One.
Comfort-wise, they’re also pretty good, like an 8/10.
Any other mask-related accessories that are worth carrying?
Essentially anything that will help cool you down. Another absolutely necessary accessory is the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad. We’ve been praising these things for years, as they’re basically space age magic. Great for keeping cool–but staying dry.
Another must-have accessory is the Life Straw Go Filter Water Bottle. Drinking fountain water in Florida is sourced directly from the swamp, and is actually 3% alligator urine. This bottle filters out the pee, and it’s BPA-free! It also uses a 2-stage activated carbon filter to reduce odor and chlorine, leaving zero aftertaste! (If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, Brita Filter Water Bottles are great, too.)
Is Universal Orlando still fun despite all the changes?
We think so, but that’s in the eye of the beholder. Beyond the masks, there’s a far greater sense of normalcy at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure than at Walt Disney World. Pretty much everything is operating at Universal Orlando, and there’s a full slate of entertainment in the parks. Universal feels alive and full of energy, even while working within the parameters of health safety protocol.
Nevertheless, it’s totally understandable if you don’t want to visit Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure while the face mask policy is in place. You’re certainly not alone, and it’s no secret that Americans are divided on the topic of face masks.
Need trip planning tips and comprehensive advice for your visit to Central Florida? Make sure to read our Universal Orlando Planning Guide for everything about Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Also check out our Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide for everything about those parks, resorts, restaurants, and so much more. For regular updates, news & rumors, a heads up when discounts are released, and much more, sign up for our FREE email newsletter!
Do you have any questions this FAQ failed to answer? If you’ve visited since Universal Orlando reopened, what was your experience wearing masks? Are you happy or disappointed that Universal did not reinstate its face mask rule? Do you think there’s anything else guests should know before visiting in during this ‘temporary abnormal’ time? Will you be attempting to visit Central Florida this year, or are you waiting until 2022 or beyond? Do you agree or disagree with any of our advice or answers? Please keep the comments civil. This is not the place for arguing about efficacy, politics, and so forth–all such comments will be deleted, irrespective of perspective. Not only are you not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog, but you’re not going to change Universal Orlando’s policy.