This guide to face mask rules at Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk covers official policies, our recommendation for the best masks, answers to frequently asked questions on wearing face coverings, and differences between policies and enforcement at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. (Updated February 11, 2022.)
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 plummeting case numbers and end of the Omicron surge in Orange County, Florida. Consequently, Universal Orlando Resort announced they will no longer require fully vaccinated guests to wear face masks anywhere in the parks or resorts, whether indoors or outdoors, effective beginning Saturday, February 12, 2022.
This comes after Universal reinstated its indoor mask rule on Christmas Eve. As a result of that rule change, there was no material difference in face mask rules between the policies at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. That’s no longer the case, as Disney still has indoor mask rules as of midday on Friday. It’s entirely possible that Disney follows suit before the end of the day, but we wouldn’t count on it. (See our FAQ & Guide to Face Masks at Walt Disney World for full details.)
In general, Disney has been behind Universal in relaxing health safety rules. In fact, after dropping all rules at the start of summer, Walt Disney World reinstated its indoor mask rules for everyone back at the end of July and hasn’t changed its policy since. Universal Orlando didn’t bring back mandatory masking until late December, opting instead to only ‘strongly recommend’ that unvaccinated guests wear face masks indoors.
Here’s the official rule from Universal Orlando’s website:
We are updating our policy for face coverings based on local trends and conditions. Fully vaccinated guests will no longer be required to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors effective, Saturday, February 12. Guests who have not been vaccinated will be encouraged to wear face coverings while indoors.
Here are the latest safety updates for your visit.
Face coverings are optional for fully vaccinated guests. For guests who have not been vaccinated, face coverings are encouraged while indoors – including restaurants, shops and indoor hotel public areas.
We do not require proof of vaccinations
We remain focused on maintaining the highest cleanliness and sanitization standards
Each guest must confirm the following before visiting:
You are not feeling sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms such as Fever and/or
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
New loss of taste or smell
You have not been in contact with someone with known or suspected COVID-19 symptoms
You are not under any self-quarantine orders
Universal Orlando Resort recommends 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 has seen its attendance return to 2019 levels in the last several months. 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, especially during the holiday season.
When will Universal Orlando’s indoor mask policy end?
We don’t have a specific date.
Universal is reinstating this rule following Orange County, Florida reentering the high tier on the CDC’s hotspot map, so it could end when the county leaves the high tier. It could also end following the busy holiday season or when the Omicron wave begins to subside. Universal has been more lax on face mask rules than Walt Disney World, but we still don’t expect it to be lifted until mid-January 2022 at the earliest.
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 carrydisposable 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.
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.