Disney World, Universal Orlando closing early ahead of Tropical Storm Nicole

Just over a month after Hurricane Ian forced every major Florida theme park to shut down in a rare move, Tropical Storm Nicole is unraveling more travel plans and sending visitors scrambling.

The storm is expected to strengthen to a hurricane before making landfall on Florida’s Atlantic coast late Wednesday.

Both Orlando International Airport and Sanford International Airport closed Wednesday afternoon.

Orlando-area theme parks initially said they planned to operate normally while monitoring the storm, but by midday Wednesday, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando announced plans to close parks early on Wednesday. SeaWorld will stay closed Thursday, along with its sister parks Aquatica Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Here’s what visitors should know.

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Is Disney World closing?

All four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks and Disney Springs will close early Wednesday and will remain closed through Thursday morning.

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom will close at 5 p.m. Disney’s Hollywood Studios will close at 6 p.m. Both EPCOT and Magic Kingdom will close at 7 p.m., the same time as Disney Springs.
  • Guests staying at Disney’s Fort Wilderness and Campground and in Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort will need to leave by 3 p.m. Wednesday. 
  • Wednesday’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground has been canceled, along with Wednesday’s Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise. 
  • The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyage set for Thursday has been canceled.
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park and mini golf locations will be closed Thursday. Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park isn’t scheduled to open for the season until Nov. 13.
  • Characters will not appear at hotel character breakfasts Thursday to accommodate more guests.
  • Until further notice, Disney is not enforcing its cancellation policy for dining or Enchanting Extras like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Guests who prepaid for those experiences will have their reservations canceled and get automatic refunds.

According to Disney World’s severe weather policy, if the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning within 7 days of a guest’s scheduled arrival, vacation packages or hotel reservations booked directly through Disney may be canceled or rescheduled without penalty fees. Park tickets may be used for later dates as well. The latest warnings can be found on the National Hurricane Center’s website.

Is Universal Orlando open?

Universal’s Volcano Bay water park is closed Wednesday, and Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure and CityWalk are closing early at 5 p.m. Universal Orlando Resort expects a “phased and delayed reopening” Thursday.

According to Universal’s severe weather policy, guests who booked vacation packages, hotel reservations or theme park tickets directly through Universal may cancel or reschedule without penalty if the National Hurricane Center issues a tropical storm or hurricane warning or a state of emergency is declared for the Orlando area within seven days of their scheduled arrival. A state of emergency has already been declared.

Universal's iconic logo serves as a popular backdrop for photos outside Universal Studios Florida.

Other Florida attraction closings

Aquatica Orlando is closed Wednesday, and SeaWorld Orlando will close early at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Both parks and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which is part of the same family, will remain closed Thursday with plans to reopen Friday. Guests who had Aquatica Orlando tickets for Wednesday or tickets to any of the parks Thursday will be able to use them through Dec. 31, 2022.

LEGOLAND Florida and Peppa Pig Theme Park will have shortened hours Thursday, opening late at noon. LEGOLAND Water Park will be closed Thursday.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, located right on the Space Coast, will be closed both Wednesday and Thursday due to the storm. The visitor complex plans to reopen at 9 a.m. Friday after a thorough safety inspection. Guests who had reservations for Wednesday or Thursday will be automatically refunded within one billing cycle.

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