Hersheypark Reopens With New Coaster — Plus When Every Theme Park Will Reopen This Summer
Hersheypark began welcoming visitors on July 3, while Disney World will reopen on July 11
After months of closures, theme parks around the country are preparing to reopen to visitors in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
With new regulations in development to protect parkgoers and employees, many of the major parks have started their reopening process.
Some, like Universal Resort Orlando in Florida and Dollywood in Tennessee, have already opened their doors to the public, while others, like Disney World in Florida, are still waiting for their day in the sun.
Meanwhile, California theme parks — including Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego and Legoland — are still waiting to gain approval to reopen during phase 3 of the state's four-stage plan, which has currently no hard dates attached.
Here's a list of when every theme park is planning to reopen and what precautionary measures they're taking.
Hersheypark, the chocolate-inspired theme park in Hershey, PA, officially reopened its doors on July 3. According to a press release, the park will navigate being open amid the coronavirus pandemic by implementing "a variety of new safety initiatives to welcome guests back to a fun and safe environment based on the current guidance and requirements that have been issued from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and various industry organizations."
While closed, the park put the finishing touches on a score of new attractions after a $150 million expansion. July 3 marked the park's debut of the new Hershey’s Chocolatetown land, which features the brand-new Candymonium hypercoaster, which is now "the tallest, fastest, longest and sweetest coaster in Hersheypark."
They outline their new protocols on their website, explaining that all guests over the age of 2 must wear a face covering at all times, except for while eating and while on certain attractions. Guests who can’t wear a face mask are asked to wear a face shield if possible.
“Guests should also be prepared to undergo a temperature screening with a contactless, infrared thermometer prior to entering Hersheypark,” the park says on its website. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or above will be refused entry, per health guidelines, and rides will have spaced out seating.
Dollyworld theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN, announced on June 3 that they would be reopening the park to season pass holders on June 15-16, and then to the public on June 17. This phased reopening includes the Dollywood park and Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark, as well as Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa, which opened June 10.
According to the Dollywood website, the park will be "implementing a number of new safety measures based on the guidance of health officials including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies." These include a limited daily capacity inside the park, required face coverings for visitors ages 3 and up, temperature screenings taken prior to entry, physical distancing measures, additional sanitation and more.
Guests should expect limitations on ride capacity, as well as reduced capacity in dining facilities. Several attractions will remain closed at this time, where it is believed that adequate physical distancing cannot be achieved. More information on the new health protocols and what will not reopen in this first phase can be found on the Dollywood website.
Walt Disney World
Disney World in Orlando plans to reopen beginning July 11, according to a proposal first presented to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force on May 27.
The Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks are expected to open first on July 11, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios following behind on July 15. Meanwhile, Disney Springs in Florida already began its phased reopening on May 20.
A number of safety protocols will be in place, including requiring guests to have their temperature taken upon arrival, mandating facial coverings, using the parks' existing digital "magic" wristbands to facilitate mobile food orders, and relying on cashless payments. There will also be increased use of plexiglass barriers where close contact is necessary.
Jim McPhee, the Senior Vice President of Operations, said the process will begin with soft opening preview days and noted that attendance will be capped by using a reservation system that allows guests to book their spot in advance.
McPhee also said they plan on "reducing capacity on attractions, in restaurants and in retail stores, as well as on methods of transportation." Any event that tends to attract a tightly packed crowd is off the table, for now, meaning no parades, no fireworks, and no character meet-and-greets.
Disney originally planned to reopen its Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure Park on July 17, but announced late last month that approval from state and local government will not be granted in time for the two theme parks' expected reopening date.
"The State of California has now indicated that it will not issue theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4," Disney said in a statement on June 24. "Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials."
The statement added that a new reopening date will be announced "once we have a clearer understanding of when guidelines will be released."
Downtown Disney at Disneyland will still reopen on July 9 as previously announced with new plans to have only outdoor seating at its various eateries. The reopening of the dining and shopping district will include both Disney-owned and operated businesses, as well as third-party businesses on site.
Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay officially reopened on June 5, as the company first announced at the end of May.
Universal started the process of reopening their Florida parks on June 1, but did not welcome public visitors until June 5. On June 3-4 they hosted invited guests and some annual pass holders to see how well their new systems worked.
Like Disney World, there are many precautionary measures in place, including additional screenings, increased sanitation, social distancing measures, temperature checks at all main entrances, contactless purchases for food, and mandatory facial coverings.
CityWalk, the shopping, dining, and entertainment destination at Universal Orlando, opened in a limited capacity on May 14.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal's California attractions will remain closed at this time, with no dates shared until California moves into phase 3 of its reopening process.
Universal CityWalk Hollywood is currently open for limited operations daily with reduced hours.
Six Flags theme parks across the nation are currently reopening on a park-by-park basis, depending on state regulations. Currently, Frontier City in Oklahoma, Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, Six Flags Over Georgia near Atlanta, Six Flags St. Louis in Missouri and Six Flags America in Maryland have reopened.
Despite only some parks reopening, the company has laid out its health and safety plan, which includes requiring all guests to make advanced reservations online, as part of an effort to track and lower attendance numbers. They will also require guests to wear face coverings, undergo temperature checks, and observe social distancing measures.
In addition, Six Flags is also using new systems to keep people further apart and reduce face-to-face interactions, such as mobile ordering, cashless transactions, and virtual queuing. They are also increasing sanitization schedules and install ing hand-sanitizing stations throughout the parks.
SeaWorld Orlando presented reopening proposals to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force on May 21 and reopened to the public on June 11, with the parks holding an employee appreciation night on June 10.
Like the other parks, SeaWorld requires masks for guests age 2 and older, temperature screenings, and limit capacity in pools and rivers, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Hand sanitizer pumps are also available at entrances and exits of each ride, the outlet reported.
SeaWorld San Diego
The California location will remain closed at this time, with no dates shared until California moves into phase 3 of its reopening process.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay reopened to visitors on June 11, the same day as SeaWorld Orlando. Busch Gardens requires masks for guests age 2 and older, temperature screenings, and limit capacity.
The Florida attraction reopened on June 1, according to their website.
The park is now operating at reduced capacity and with adjusted hours. They also implemented "cashless payments, social distancing practices, and enhanced cleaning regimes."
Additionally, certain areas of the park, such as water fountains, restaurants, stores or attractions in the theme park and water park, may be temporarily suspended in an effort to keep everyone safe.
Guests are also subject to a temperature check and are encouraged to wear face masks, though not everyone is required to wear them if they are under 2 years old, suffer from breathing difficulties, or cannot take the mask off without assistance.
Like the other California parks, Legoland's California resort currently remains closed until further notice, but will not be before California enters Phase 3 of its reopening plan.
Legoland New York
The opening date of Legoland New York has been postponed from July 4, 2020, to 2021, the company announced in late March.
"By opening LEGOLAND New York Resort in 2021 we are building an attraction that not only meets our high standards, it also gives our guests the best possible experience," the resorts’ Divisional Director Stephanie Johnson said in a press release.
The company also noted that everyone who has already purchased annual passes or single-day tickets will be honored when the park opens.
Knott's Berry Farm
Knott's Berry Farm, located in Buena Park, California, has not confirmed a date to reopen.
"The safety of our guests and associates has always been and will always be our top priority," the company wrote on its website on May 8, the last time they shared an update. "We want to assure you that when we do open, Knott’s Berry Farm will continue to be a safe and fun environment for all. Our team is 100% committed to this promise."
Like the other California parks, Knott's Berry Farm will be allowed to reopen once California has entered phase 3.
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