Let’s face it- enthusiasts or not, we are sick and tired of all this staying at home. We miss the sights and sounds and sensory overload of theme parks. Luckily, for those who are worried about their epic road trip this summer, there is some hope- just not the way you planned. It might seem like the end of the world, but some parks have already opened across the country and there is much less uncertainty now.
Because Six Flags parks are scattered in different states, it is impossible for them to all open at the same time. In accordance with state laws, you can expect the two parks in Texas to open first. Right now, no opening date has been decided but here’s what we do know.
I think Six Flags did an outstanding job at handling COVID-19. When you have a huge health crisis like this one, it can be very difficult to come up with a solution. Not only did Six Flags come up with a well rounded solution, but they were also very good about answering questions in almost no time at all, and that is very important.
We have seen some parks open back up with restrictions, such as marking all queues to encourage social distancing, hand sanitizing stations at the entrance and exit of each ride, more frequent cleaning of surfaces, and only admitting guests with face coverings. Six flags is implementing these same restrictions but taking it a few steps further with the creation of their ride reservation system. In order to control the crowds, guests are required to reserve a visit, as well as parking and a virtual queueing system. If you don’t have a reservation, you won’t be allowed to enter the park. I think this is a clever idea because it eliminates the following scenario: Your number one bucket list coaster and park are far away from your home. You drive more than six hours just to be denied entrance to the park. Imagine the disappointment. This will not happen if you already have a reservation and you will be able to ride the coaster of your dreams.
During the first opening weeks, the reservation system will only be for season pass holders and those who are part of the membership program. Essentially, they are doing whatever they can to limit exposure between guests and employees. While it may seem a bit harsh and not ideal for some people, I am glad that Six Flags is handling an difficult situation in a very responsible way. Since I will be in Texas for at least two more months, I am hoping to visit Fiesta Texas after it opens. Right now I am patiently waiting until the park opens, but what about parks that have already opened?
Theme parks and entertainment venues take up a huge portion of Florida culture, with Disney World alone attracting millions of guests per year. It makes sense that people are desperate to go back to the character meet-and-greets and all the thrills that amusement parks have to offer. As of May 22, 2020, here are the Orlando parks that have already opened or have announced their reopening plans.
Island H20 Live water park
I was expecting amusement parks to open first, but today, Saturday, May 23, is opening day for one of Orlando’s newer water parks. The first thing you will see on their website is what they call “COVID-19 Safe Splash Guidelines”, which explains guest expectations and new regulations that the park is implementing. Unlike Six Flags, guests are not required to make reservations and I don’t see how wearing masks will work on slides or in pools. To combat this issue, Island H20 states that “The water in all attractions at Island H2O Water Park is double treated with chlorination and ultraviolet light to maintain the healthiest water conditions”. As part of the filtration process, the water goes through UV light. I am not sure how to feel about this, as UV light can be harmful.
As of May 30, both Fun Spot amusement parks in Florida have reopened with restrictions in place, such as frequent cleaning of surfaces, social distancing markers in queues and employees wearing protective gear. While Fun Spot is doing a great job at cleaning, I feel like they could be doing better. For example, they are having guests make reservations. Guests do not have to wear masks. Instead of mobile transactions, employees are still taking cash- after every time money is handled, they wash their hands and replace their gloves. I feel like this isn’t a very efficient way to do things, and in general the park is doing the bare minimum to keep guests safe. Considering that Fun Spot was the last park in the area to close in March and the first to reopen says a lot to me about how the park is running its business.
And now what you have been waiting for….
Everybody is probably asking, “we don’t care about the smaller parks, so what about Disney? What about the big ones?”
Finally, on May 27, some of these questions were answered. Universal Orlando Resort recently announced that all three of its parks, (Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay Water Park) will open to the public on June 5 and 6. We have already witnessed the reopening of the City Walk, with all guests required to wear face masks.
Similar to Universal, Disney has already opened their shopping and restaurant areas. Disney parks have now announced planned reopening dates, with Magic Kindgom and Animal Kingdom set to open on July 11. Hollywood Studios and Epcot plan to open on the 15th. However, I’ve seen so many people saying things like “there is no way I am going to Disney with a mask on, not with the Florida heat”. With all these complaints I am predicting far less attendance than usual at the Disney parks. Also, remember when Disney cared so much about not “ruining the magic”? Well, I think they finally realized that the safety of all guests is more important. Since Disney is such a huge crowd pleaser, it will be interesting to see what happens when their parks reopen.
The last theme park I want to mention is Sea World and their water parks, Aquatica and Discovery Cove. Sea World has what is considered to be one of the best coasters in Florida, and a pretty good coaster collection besides Mako. For those who are dying to get that floater feeling, the three Sea World parks in Orlando are looking at a projected opening date of June 11, a month before Disney World opens back up.
It is surprising that Cedar Fair has remained silent this whole time. With the anticipated opening of Orion and the Cedar Point fanboys dying to get back on the best roller coasters in the world, enthusiasts are becoming anxious. This year, Cedar Point would have celebrated its 150 year anniversary. The anniversary package would come with a few new rides and experiences, but sadly this will have to wait until 2021. I was planning my first ever trip to both Cedar Point and King’s Island this summer, but it would be too complicated given the current situation.
I am currently in Houston and don’t plan on going anywhere outside of Texas until the end of the summer, unless I end up going to Florida some time soon to visit family. If I do go, I’ll make sure to visit Sea Wold and the Universal parks. I am also waiting to find out when Six Flags Fiesta Texas opens, as it’s one of my bucket-list parks. Typhoon Texas, a large water park not far from me, has just reopened and I plan on going there soon. I am really happy that parks are reopening, and that we enthusiasts can still have fun during these times. There are people that complain about adjusting to the changes of masks and social distancing, but I personally don’t mind. Call me crazy, but I am starting to think these changes will actually make my park visits better. Less people being allowed in would equate to shorter wait times. Social distancing markers (if enforced and if people follow them) would make waiting less claustrophobic. Let’s just wait and see how it goes…
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