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Will theme parks open for the summer? Or will COVID-19 keep them closed?

Holiday World, Sea World, Busch Gardens aim for June
Will theme parks open for the summer? Or will COVID-19 keep them closed?
Posted at 10:22 AM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 15:19:46-04

The reopening of Disneyland in Shanghai gave hope to theme park fans everywhere that their favorite United States parks would be able to reopen this summer after all.

Just a few weeks ago, it appeared many major amusement parks would not be able to open in 2020. But Disney's ability to reopen in China indicates that we will be able to get back on rides this year, albeit with many changes.

Park owners announce plans

  • Universal Orlando told Florida officials this week the changes it is making to reopen safely, and are planning to reopen on June 5. The park is already placing distancing signs and ropes outside its entrances and has begun to reopen its CityWalk shopping area.
  • Disney World has started a limited opening of some stores and restaurants at Disney Springs.
  • Six Flags has announced that it is now prepping its parks to reopen with limited crowds, though it also has yet to give specific dates.
  • Busch Gardens and Sea World in Florida hope to open sometime in June.
  • Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee says it plans to reopen "soon, " since Tennessee's governor has given them the go-ahead.
  • Holiday World in Indiana is the first major theme park announcing a date and is planning a reopening June 17 .
  • Cedar Fair, owner of Kings Island, Cedar Point, Carowinds, and more has yet to make any announcements.

Disney Shanghai offers clues

Video of Disney Shanghai gives a glimpse of what thrill seeks can expect at U.S. theme parks. Face masks, spacing, temperature checks and other restrictions will be likely be the norm when U.S. parks reopen

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, said he sees three clues of Diseny World opening soon.

"If you use Disney Shanghai as a window, they closed in January, and they have opened in May," Speigel said.

Based on the three-and-a-half months the Chinese park was closed, Spiegel suspects many American theme parks are trying to open July 1. California parks such as Disneyland could be much later due to state restrictions there.

Another clue Speigel cites: Disney hotels will begin accepting bookings starting July 1. In addition, Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney, began a phased reopening of stores and restaurants May 20.

Changes you can expect to see

The experience at reopened theme parks will be very different, Speigel says.

"There's going to be distancing in lines, restaurants, and merchandise, and on the rides," he said.

Rides likely presenting the biggest challenge. Speigel says that when U.S. parks reopen, guests should expect:

  • Rides likely presenting the biggest challenge. Speigel says that when U.S. parks reopen, guests should expect:
  • Face masks on employees and guests, with the possible exception on rides, where masks would blow off.
  • Appointments for ride times.
  • Seating limits on rides, with the possibility that guests are limited to every other row.
  • Wipe downs between riders.

To make that work, Speigel says parks will need to open at just one-third capacity, requiring advanced tickets.

Some enthusiasts wonder how you can ride a coaster or wander a theme park in 90-degree heat in a face mask. But many will do whatever it takes to get back to the parks.
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