June 2021

The Return of the Theme Park

Reopenings Abound After More Than a Year of Closures

By Erik Chalhoub

Boy has into pool after going down water slide during summer

What a month June will be. Or I should say, “can” be. It all depends on us.
By the end of May, just about every theme park in California reopened after more than a year of closures. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, as well as the Six Flags parks in Northern and Southern California, got a jump on the rest by reopening select rides on April 1.

SeaWorld San Diego reopened April 12, followed by Universal Studios Hollywood on April 16 and Disneyland on April 30. California’s Great America and Gilroy Gardens reopened May 22. Knott’s Berry Farm, May 6.

But to keep these parks open, it all depends on our collective effort to continue lowering the Covid-19 case numbers by wearing masks, staying socially distanced, washing our hands and getting vaccinated. If those numbers go back up, chances are theme parks will be the first to close.

How can we, as theme park fans, help these parks stay open in uncertain times?
In addition to the above actions, there’s plenty of ways we can make sure our visits are safe and enjoyable for not only ourselves, but for everyone around us.
Stay home if you are sick — This should be obvious. If you feel sick or have any Covid-19-like symptoms, please stay home and far away from others not in your immediate household.

Keep your masks on — I anticipate masks being the new phones when it comes to rides. We’ve all seen someone whip out their smartphone as a rollercoaster train ascends the lift hill, only to get caught by a ride operator who stops the train to remind them to put their device away. The same will likely happen with masks. Masks are required at all times at a theme park, whether on a ride or walking on the midway. If you refuse to wear one, expect to be headed back to your vehicle.
Be mindful of others in line — Queue lines have been altered to promote social distancing. The signs notifying you to stay at least six feet apart from others are not suggestions. Gone are the days of being packed like sardines in a can while waiting an hour-plus for a ride … I hope.

At the Boardwalk, about 8-12 rides are open on operating days, which could include the Giant Dipper, Undertow, Shockwave, Ghost Blasters and a handful of kiddie rides.

“Everyone at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been preparing for this important moment in our unique and storied history,” said Boardwalk spokesperson Kris Reyes.

Ride wristbands are available for advance purchase, and season pass holders can make reservations for specific days. With state guidelines limiting the number of people allowed in the Boardwalk at any given time, the wristbands have been selling out daily and quickly.

“The reopening of Boardwalk rides will be gradual and measured,” Reyes said. “Operating hours for rides will change frequently in the weeks ahead so we strongly encourage anyone planning a visit to check beachboardwalk.com prior to their arrival for all the latest information.” 

The Boardwalk’s new health and safety protocols can be found at beachboardwalk.com/coronavirus.

Water park to open

Having operating days at all in 2021 is worth celebrating, but California’s Great America has more planned for this year.

On June 5, the Santa Clara theme park will debut South Bay Shores, one of Northern California’s most-anticipated attractions of the year, transforming the former (and dated) Boomerang Bay water park.

South Bay Shores features seven new water attractions, including four six-story-tall drop slides, two tube slides, and a new lagoon area. It also includes a variety of new and upgraded food and merchandise locations, upgraded cabanas and a sandy beach play area. The park is themed to the Northern California coast, with CGA officials saying it takes a cue from the city of Monterey.

LEGOLAND center opening

After a year-long coronavirus delay, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area opened May 25 at the Great Mall in Milpitas.

The center features more than 31,000 square feet of interactive and educational attractions geared toward children ages 3–10 and their families. It includes themed build stations, master classes, an Imagination Express train ride, an earthquake table, a 4D cinema, a café, a LEGO retail shop, and the MINILAND area featuring models of San Francisco Bay Area iconic landmarks.

For information and tickets, visit bayarea.legolanddiscoverycenter.com.

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