Summary: Walt Disney World, Universal on Lockdown as Hurricane Matthew Approaches

-From Theme Park Tourist

Walt Disney World’s theme parks will be closed today for the first time in over a decade, as Central Florida braces itself for the impact of Hurricane Matthew.

The area’s other major theme park resorts, including Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida are also not admitting guests to their parks on Friday, with powerful winds and torrential rainfall expected. It is not yet known whether the parks will reopen on Saturday, with this likely to depend on the exact trajectory of the hurricane and the level of damage that it causes.

“Stay indoors”

Of course, there are still thousands of guests staying at the resorts’ on-site hotels, with both Disney and Universal advising them to stay indoors at all times. Inevitably, with the parks closed, some logistical problems have been encountered – with the biggest being how to feed an entire hotel full of guests without diners being staggered in the usual way (Theme Park Insider reports some disgruntlement among Disney guests over the price of food).

Some Florida residents have chosen to hunker down at one of the resort hotels rather than stay at home. This includes our own News Editor, Amanda Kondolojy, who is staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Her photos below give some indication of the level of crowding, as well as showing an ominous grey sky which moments before had been bright blue.

Disney's Caribbean Beach Club Resort

Disney's Caribbean Beach Club Resort

Disney's Caribbean Beach Club Resort

Walt Disney World resort is unique as it has a number of disaster command posts that can dispatch supplies and personnel as necessary to hotels to ensure that guests have adequate supplies (which may include bottled water, food, etc.) in the event that Matthew veers landwards and Orlando takes a particularly severe hit.

In addition, if conditions look especially perilous, Disney will communicate evacuation procedures to guests in the event that a move to an interior room without windows (like a ballroom or interior meeting area) becomes necessary.

The tie-down

Cinderella Castle

Cast and Team Members at the resorts have already been busy, conducting tie-down operations. This essentially means removing all loose items around the parks and hotels, such as trash bins, tables and chairs, before storing them in a secure location. Hanging signs and banners will also have been tied down and secured with rope and zip ties.

What exactly is closed on Friday?

Walt Disney World:

  • Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are all closed on Friday.
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach are also closed on Friday.
  • Disney Springs will be closed on Friday, with the Characters in Flight balloon experience remaining closed through Sunday, October 9.
  • The Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Event on Friday has been cancelled. Guests can call (407) 939-7818 beginning 9am EST on Monday, October 10 to discuss refunds or re-booking.
  • With Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground having been evacuated, all performances of Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ are cancelled on Friday.
  • The Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is cancelled on Friday.
  • Some spa locations are closed through Saturday, including the La Vida Health Club at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Ship Shape Massage Salon Fitness.
  • Events scheduled through Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex have been cancelled.

Universal Orlando:

  • Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure are closed on Friday.
  • Friday’s Halloween Horror Nights event has been cancelled.
  • The Wet ‘n Wild water park is also closed.
  • The CityWalk dining and entertainment complex is also closed.
  • A decision on Saturday operations will be taken once the extent of the storm damage is clear.

SeaWorld Orlando:

  • SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica and Discovery Cove are all closed on Friday.
  • A decision on Saturday operations will be made following a damage assessment.


  • LEGOLAND Florida is closed on Friday, although the resort hotel remains open.
  • The resort expects to reopen the park on Saturday, but this will depend on any damage caused.

What happens when the hurricane has passed?

Image: Chad Sparkes, Flickr (license)

Before any guests will be let back in to a theme park, Disney, Universal and the other operators will run a sweep to check for any debris or damage. Often, this leads to phased openings, as parts of specific theme parks may open while others are roped off while special crews clean up and repair any damage. In addition, Disney may also elect to only open theme parks to resort guests to try and keep crowd levels as mild as possible while they are assessing and taking care of any damage.

Some forecasters are predicting that Matthew will make a u-turn after moving northwards and could pass by Florida again, so Disney, Universal and the rest will continue to keep a close eye on the storm’s progress.

If you are staying at one of the Orlando parks, we strongly encourage you to follow all instructions you are given by staff. The number one priority of all theme parks is to ensure guest safety, and the best way you can help is by staying informed and adapting to changing conditions.




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