What Parks I visited and How Safe I Felt
Like I mentioned before, I did not originally plan on going back to the two small boardwalk parks outside of Houston. However, on Tuesday, the 16th of June, I decided to go to Pleasure Pier in Galveston and on June 19 I went back to Kemah Boardwalk.
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
The Pleasure Pier is a park that made memories. Last time I was in Houston, way back in the summer of 2012, I visited this small boardwalk amusement park with my cousins. I remember having so much fun marathoning Iron Shark and riding the rides until midnight. Because of this I felt like I had to go back here, but should I have? Because in all honesty it was probably the most dangerous park I went to in terms of probability of getting sick.
I chose Tuesday because of my previous knowledge of weekend crowds, so naturally I was surprised by the amount of people that showed up. I did notice social distancing markers in the ticketing booth, but the rest of the park was pretty inconsistent. Waiting in line for Iron Shark was pretty scary. Nobody was keeping their distance, nobody was wearing masks, and we were all crammed together in a tight space.
At this point, I knew that by coming here, the probability of getting sick was quite high. I took my own additional precautions: I used hand sanitizer after every ride, which ended up being the most I sanitized my hands in one day. I wore my mask for the majority of the time because it made me feel protected. I consider myself lucky that I did not catch the virus even after that much exposure.
Just three days later, I visited Kemah Boardwalk for the first time since 2012 and I gotta say I was really impressed- not just with how well Boardwalk Bullet was running but also with how safe I felt. Unlike at Pleasure Pier, there were no tight queue spaces and the majority of people were following social distancing guidelines. During the first few hours, the only time I felt unsafe was when I was eating Dip ‘n’ Dots and a train full of maskless people came directly behind me. I fled the scene immediately. On Boardwalk Bullet, the ride operators did a great job forcing guests to fill up the empty trains. At the end of the day, however, they switched ride operators and these people were not enforcing this policy, thus making everyone confused and crowded together in the queue space. After waiting in line, I was done for the day even though I could have stayed longer to meet Alec from Coaster Studios.
The first stop on our three-park mini coaster roundtrip was this tiny amusement park, home to a really fun and unique wooden coaster. Before coming here I looked at their website, where they claimed that the park never reaches capacity. After coming here I could see why. It was a Sunday and the park was so dead that ride operators were literally waiting for people to ride Switchback – their most famous ride. Because of this, I felt very safe. Even still, I did wear a mask the whole time except when I was on the water slides. (I know I previously mentioned that I was afraid to go to water parks, but here there were only three slides and hardly any other people. I also decided not to stay there for very long.)
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
The following day at Six Flags ended up being one of my best park visits yet. Due to the reservation and mask policies, the park was deserted. Most of the time I felt perfectly safe because not only did Six Flags go above and beyond with the safety precautions, but I was also often times the only person in a roller coaster train!
Despite the park’s efforts, I did witness a few people that were not following the rules. At one point I had to sit in the very back of Poltergeist, as some people in the front were being idiots and refusing to put their masks on despite being told over and over again to do so. I also got only one ride on the Joker Carnival of Chaos because for some reason many people decided to take their masks off on the ride. Apart from those two incidents, I felt that the guests were following the rules and not putting me at risk.
The last park of the trip was a different story. Mainly, the problem was in the lockers. I found out the hard way that every coaster has mandatory lockers that you do have to pay for.
This alone is quite a scam and very annoying, but what really makes no sense is this: (Sea World, I hope you see this and actually improve on it) ask yourself, if you really cared about the safety of your guests during this pandemic, why not just temporarily remove this service? Think about it- these lockers are high-touch points where every guest puts their hands on the screens just to put their bags in a space that is barely big enough to fit them. It would make more sense to allow people to leave them in the bins in the station. Additionally, this policy causes other problems. I have seen lockers getting stuck, resulting in unwanted crowds of people in small spaces. At one point, I even had to wait about ten minutes for a group of people to leave the area. This alone really killed the mood for me, but I also felt that the majority of guests were the complete opposite of those at Six Flags. For example, mask-break zones are pretty much useless when every guest treats the whole park as one. I once waited in one, until a group of people came and treated the area as a smoking zone. In general, I got the impression that the guests were not well behaved, and that the park cared more about making profit than about protecting people from this virus. This was one of the only times when I actually wanted to leave a park, and after Sea World, I had enough.