By ALLISON STOCKHAM & MAKAYLA NAIME
Whether it was the thrill of a fast and menacing rollercoaster, getting to meet a favorite character or getting to snack and walk around while enjoying the atmosphere, the magic of theme parks has always put a smile on countless faces.
Since March 2020, theme parks have closed to help reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 among the population. With a constant decrease in COVID-19 cases recently, theme parks have a chance of opening again with limited occupants and new restrictions.
A new bill was introduced in Anaheim, California and, if passed, will allow large theme parks to open. According to the New York Times, “The state’s theme park reopening guidelines hold that a larger theme park can reopen at only 25 percent capacity when its county is in the minimal tier of less than one new COVID-19 case per 100,000 people per day and a coronavirus positivity rate of less than 2 percent.”
Reopening theme parks is an important step to returning to normal, as theme parks are a big help to the economy. It helps by allowing more people to return to their jobs and allow others to get some out of the house enjoyment while prioritizing safety. Additionally, it attracts tourists from all over the state and different countries bringing in income for the government.
Samantha Fujiwara, a freshman at Citrus Valley High School, is a huge Disney fan. She has been to Downtown Disney twice since the pandemic and she was recently also able to visit Disney California Adventure Park. “It was very different, but in a good way,” she says, “They are taking all the correct precautions for the pandemic.” She says that she felt very safe the whole time she was there, and she still “got [her] Disney fix.”
Disneyland is partially open, including Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street with certain dining and retail locations and excluding the rides. Downtown Disney in Buena Vista is going to close on March 15, 2021 to prepare for A Touch of Disney on March 18, 2021. The tickets for the event include shopping and dining, which will take place at Disney California Adventure Park.
New ticket sales are temporarily on hold at the moment and reservations must be made in advance to enter the park. All Disneyland hotels are closed as of right now and are planned to reopen in late April. Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park will also remain closed for the time being.
Infographic created using Piktochart, including information about the updates regarding popular amusement parks such as Universal Studios, Disneyland, and Six Flags. (Ethic Digital Art/ Allison Stockham)
Jennifer Rhodus, a teacher at Redlands East Valley High School, has been to Disney’s California Adventure and Knott’s Berry Farm since the pandemic. She attended the Taste of Knott’s event in August as well as Taste of Fall-O-Ween at Knott’s in November, which are both events where you get to walk around the park and try different foods.
“I did not enjoy them as much as I thought I would. There really wasn’t anything to do but eat. The food was good, but both times I went I did not use all of my food tickets because I was so full.” Rhodus explains how it was very different walking around the park without the rides, saying, “It’s very quiet. It also takes some of the spontaneity out of a trip to an amusement park.” Since the start of the pandemic, Rhodus says that she really enjoys Disneyland and noticed how they have tried really hard to keep the normalcy with things like different food, their seasonal treats and buckets and new merchandise, but it is, of course still not the same.
Six Flags is a theme park favored by many for its giant, thrilling roller coasters. While this park has been closed since March 13, 2020, it is planned to reopen in March 2021. The park will only be open three days a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with shorter hours until it is safer to stay open for longer. Guests must also reserve a spot for the day they want to visit the park in order to maintain a certain capacity.
According to the official Six Flags website, “all guests will be asked to carefully review [their] health policy, which requires all attendees to have been healthy for at least 14 days prior to their visit. Guests over the age of two and all team members will be required to wear face masks covering the nose and mouth throughout their time on the property, Six Flags [will only accept] card and mobile payments only at all locations including restaurants, retail stores, games, ticket windows and parking toll booths.” Six Flags is also staying safe by keeping temperature check stations all over the parks along with enforcing separations on rides, in lines and seating areas. They will be constantly disinfecting common areas, eliminating objects of contact and monitoring the health of employees.
To boost reopening, Six Flags is promoting The Underground, a new area full of new roller coasters like West Coast Racers or Apocalypse, which opened on January 19, 2020 but failed to receive much attention due to the pandemic. The area also has rides for audiences who want to still enjoy the park without the fear of large roller coasters. The website describes The Underground as “an LA centric urban-themed area where guests enjoy a high-energy street vibe. Currently located in this area is the popular wooden coaster, Apocalypse and Pacific Speedway Go Karts.”
A separate theme park, Universal Studios in Hollywood is full of characters and rides from many shows and movies such as Harry Potter, The Simpsons, Jurassic World, The Walking Dead and many more. Universal Studios is still currently closed, but when they reopen in April, face coverings and temperature checks will be required by all guests and staff.
A temperature higher than 100.4 will not be allowed in the park and everyone must social distance and follow the labeled floor markings. Guests will also be required to use hand sanitizer at certain times, like boarding rides. There is also a limited capacity of people at one time to help make social distancing even easier.
When they reopen, however, state rules have to be followed to maintain safety of both staff and guests. The world is slowly starting to go back to normal, and as COVID-19 cases continue to reduce, theme parks will surely be one of many locations that people will excitedly wait for.