As vaccination rates rise, people of all ages are eagerly anticipating a visit to their favorite theme parks. But what should you expect when you get there?
To find out, I spoke with Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. His website reaches more than a million visitors a month and is an invaluable resource for travelers researching the world’s top theme parks.
It’s no surprise that many people are enthusiastic about returning to theme parks, Niles says, but people are still quite concerned about COVID-19.
“A lot of fans are looking forward to getting back to the parks,” Niles continues, “but are anxious that we’re so close to the finish line, and fear that irresponsible people might jeopardize the progress we’ve made so far. We polled our readers, and nearly a third of them just aren’t considering theme park trips this year. They really want to get this pandemic beaten, so that we can all go back to the complete theme park experience again.”
Safety at the Parks
Niles says the major parks are following COVID-19 safety guidelines, but the restrictions are changing by the week. For instance, Universal Orlando recently announced masks would be optional. Check the theme park website prior to going to see if yours will be practicing things like guest temperature checks or requiring advance reservations. Also, some parks are still limiting their capacities, so you’re tempting fate if you plan to just drive up and get through the gates.
Related: Amusement Park Survival Tips
Parks have also stepped up cleaning and marking queues for physical distancing between parties in line. “With increasing vaccination rates, a lot of adults are feeling safer about travel in general and theme parks specifically,” Niles says. “But many parents remain concerned about their kids. That’s why abiding by parks’ safety rules continue to be important for all.”
It’s no surprise that Niles is advising as much advance planning as possible. “With Disney, Six Flags and many other parks requiring advance reservations, check the park’s official website for availability before doing anything else,” he says.
For example, with Walt Disney World Resort celebrating its 50th anniversary starting October 1, some of its parks are already booked for that date. “Open a couple browser windows to check park availability along with flight prices if you’re not planning to drive to the park,” Niles suggests. Happily, he says the big parks tend to offer good customer service, so if you can’t make your reserved date, contact them ASAP to reschedule.
What Our Expert Is Excited For
Theme parks are constantly evolving, which means building exciting new rides as well as designing new restaurants and shows. This year, Niles says the anticipated brand-new rides in the United States include:
- Jurassic World VelociCoaster (pictured above) at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure
- The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash at Universal Studios Hollywood
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (pictured below) at Walt Disney World’s Epcot
- The new Marvel-themed Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure
All but the Jurassic World coaster were initially scheduled to open last year, Niles says.
There are also big birthdays to celebrate this year. As mentioned above, Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Cedar Point is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a new Snake River Expedition boat ride; and Knott’s Berry Farm is celebrating its 100th with a new dark ride called Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair (pictured below).
A Few More Events and New Rides That The Real Deal Editors Are Loving
Book early if you want to attend Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. This is its 30th year of horrifying experiences, and it runs September 3 through October 31.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is opening a new thrilling roller coaster called Pantheon (pictured above), which is apparently (gulp) going to be the world’s fastest multi-launch coaster with twists, turns and scares galore.
Related: How to Save Money at Theme Parks
You can have all-ages fun when Legoland New York opens this summer.
A Final Word of Advice and Caution
Niles reminds us that we are are not yet back to ‘normal.’
“Yes, the future looks much brighter than it did last year,” Niles says. “But it will stay that way only if people stay aware and follow the latest rules. Kids [under 12] can’t get vaccines yet, so they need that protection as we work to beat COVID-19 for good. Beyond that, get your own vaccine ASAP, and look for opportunities to support destinations that are working hard to keep people safe right now, which, thankfully, includes many great theme parks around the country.”
The post What to Expect at Amusement Parks in 2021, According to a Theme Park Pro appeared first on The Real Deal by RetailMeNot.