Much of the U.S. has already come back online in one form or another since the early days of COVID-19, but one part of American culture and travel that has been slow to return are the theme parks.
In fact, the granddaddy of them all, Disneyland, closed last spring and still doesn’t have a scheduled date to reopen. This is largely because local and state local authorities dictate the health and reopening guidelines, and California has set the most strict requirements.
Florida is on the other end of the spectrum. All of the major theme parks in Florida have been open for quite some time. We can look to DisneyWorld, which has been open since late last summer for an idea of how the top theme parks are managing the new normal of social distancing, while still providing the experiences – the rides and dining establishments – a very popular theme park is expected to deliver.
By and large, DisneyWorld has chugged along nicely. The most obvious inconvenience is the now ubiquitous mandatory mask mandate. The park also limits crowd sizes, requires temperature checks upon entry, and expects strict adherence to social distancing measures (many physical barriers have been erected and reduced contact dining – largely through smartphone apps). The attractions and restaurants that can’t be social distanced are closed.
The biggest challenge with a park like DisneyWorld is the limitation to the “Disney” experience. The cost of visiting creates a situation in which many families visit as a “once-in-a-lifetime” event. This year, that event is markedly different. The character interactions that are a hallmark of a park visit have largely been eliminated. They’ve implemented work-arounds where characters put on mini “shows” from safe distances. However, if you’re wanting to hug a Disney princess, that’s not on the menu in 2021 just yet.
In addition, the parades and fireworks shows have been put on an indefinite pause, so that should also be put into the overall calculus when you’re trying to decide whether or not to visit this year.
The CDC has announced that more than likely, kids will not be fully vaccinated in this country until much later this year (some experts say it will be early 2022), owing mostly to the fact that children are still in the clinical trial phase and will not likely be getting widespread vaccinations until late summer, when the traditional travel season for families winds down.
Here is a breakdown of which major theme parks are closed up without an opening date, which are partially or conditionally open, and which have tentative opening dates (dates listed). Please check directly with the theme park you plan to visit for up-to-the-minute reopening news.
Alabama Adventure (May 15, 2021)
The Park at OWA (open)
Magic Springs (May 22, 2021)
California’s Great America (May 22, 2021)
Knott’s Berry Farm (closed)
Legoland California (closed)
SeaWorld San Diego (open, with restrictions)
Six Flags Magic Mountain (spring, 2021)
Universal Studios Hollywood (closed)
Six Flags Over Georgia (June 1, 2021)
Wild Adventures (April 3, 2021)
Silverwood (May 1, 2021)
Six Flags Great America (late spring)
Six Flags America (March 6, 2021)
Six Flags New England (late spring)
Valleyfair (May 22, 2021)
Six Flags St. Louis (March 20, 2021)
Worlds of Fun (May 22, 2021)
Six Flags Great Adventure (March 27, 2021)
Adventureland (spring, 2021)
Carowinds (May 22, 2021)
Cedar Point (May 14, 2021)
Dutch Wonderland (May 15, 2021)
Hersheypark (April 2, 2021)
Kennywood (May 8, 2021)
Waldameer (May 1, 2021)
Dollywood (March 13, 2021)
King’s Dominion (May 22, 2021)
This is not a comprehensive list of all theme parks around the country. Coaster 101 tracks most of the larger parks and updates frequently.