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En español | After suddenly closing in March due to COVID-19's spread, many theme and amusement parks around the U.S. are slowly beginning to open their gates to visitors again — but with a slew of new rules and changes, such as requiring face coverings unless you're eating or on water rides, reminders for physical distancing and handwashing, hand-sanitation stations throughout the properties, and blocked-off seats on rides to keep guests apart.
And it might take longer to get inside once you arrive: All of the country's big parks listed below — including Disneyland, Hersheypark and Universal Orlando — are requiring visitors and employees to have their temperatures checked with a touchless thermometer. Anyone with a reading of 100.4 F or above won't be admitted.
Bottom line: Your experience visiting these popular amusement destinations this summer is going to be very different than it was in 2019. Their goal will be to allow you to have fun without drawing large crowds to one spot where it would be hard for people to stay physically distant, says Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. “You'll still be able to get your family picture in front of Cinderella Castle or Hogwarts,” he notes, but “don't expect to see fireworks, big parades or nighttime spectaculars."
Here's more on what to expect at some of the hottest attractions around the country — with a reminder that temperature checks and masks for everyone 2 and older are required at each.
Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando
When you can go: The Magic Kingdom Park and Disney's Animal Kingdom Park open on July 11, while Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot will begin opening a few days later, on July 15.
But the parks are not opening their gates to everyone all at once: The opening of the reservation system, which will occur in phases, will initially allow only guests with existing tickets, including annual passes, and hotel reservations to book their park reservations. On June 26, the ticketing reservations system will open to annual passholders and at some point later the broader public can make brand new reservations for park tickets and hotel stays in 2020. (Learn more about its new Disney Park Pass System online.) Disney Vacation Club members will be able to make reservations throughout the reopening. All guests can buy tickets and reserve hotels for 2021 by June 28. Park attendance will be limited at first, and FastPass+ service (for avoiding long waits for rides) won't be offered.
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"Social distance squads” will be deployed throughout the parks to ensure guests follow the rules of safe spacing. Crowded events such as “parades and nighttime spectaculars” are on hold.
The parks are not yet confirming which rides and attractions may remain closed as the summer progresses. Check the official website for status updates, and download the My Disney Experience App on your phone before you go for the most current information while you're there.
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California
When you can go: Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure Park opening has been delayed indefinitely. They were set to open July 17, on the 65th anniversary of the park's original unveiling, but officials announced yesterday that more time is needed. They plan to take into account California’s safety guidelines for theme parks that the state is expected to release sometime after July 4.
Universal Orlando Resort in Florida
When you can go: June 5 kicked off Universal Orlando Resort's phased reopening at all three of its Florida parks, including Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure (home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and Universal's Volcano Bay water park — and visitors are back, though not in the same numbers as before. The parks are keeping attendance at only 35 percent of capacity.
Visitors can either book tickets on the website in advance or walk up to a counter and purchase tickets in person the day of their visit.
Expect most of the same safety measures employed at Disney parks. Food service will emphasize grab-and-go and prepackaged options, and the park promises to increase its “already aggressive cleaning and disinfection procedures."
Before you go, download the Official Universal Orlando Resort App, which you can use while you're there to preorder food for pickup at participating park restaurants. The app is also useful for real-time updates on which rides are open, potential closures and estimated wait times.
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
When you can go: The behemoth Ohio amusement park is opening July 9, but only to 2020 Cedar Point Season, Gold and Platinum Passholders. On July 11, the park will begin welcoming visitors with reservations to stay at Cedar Point Resorts properties (those guests get guaranteed entry to the theme park on each day of their overnight stay, starting the day after check-in). No date has been announced for when tickets will be available for the general public who don't fall into the above categories. There are no walk-up sales or walk-up entry to the park this summer.
You'll be required to fill out a health screening declaration on the park's mobile app 24 hours before your visit. Use the app to make reservations and get the latest news on all the open rides and attractions.
Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania
When you can go: The 121-acre chocolate-themed park is welcoming the general public back on July 3 (on July 1 and 2 it's opening exclusively to Season Pass holders), when it's likely to draw some thrill seekers excited to try its new ultra-fast rollercoaster, Candymonium. Reservations must be made in advance through the park website.
Initially Hersheypark plans to operate at half capacity, with expanded attendance dependent on state guidance. Download and refer to the official Hersheypark app for updates.
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SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove in Orlando; and Tampa, Florida, parks
When you can go: Orlando's SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove parks (all under the same ownership) reopened on June 11 with adjusted schedules, capacity limitations and physical distancing requirements. For guests who need a break from mask wearing, SeaWorld has designated relaxation areas, called “Face Covering Relaxation Zones,” where you can take masks off while staying apart from others.
Advanced reservations, made online, are required (including for Annual Passholders and Fun Card holders looking for same-day tickets). The parks are capping attendance at roughly a third of regular numbers and will also be closed several days a week for extra cleaning. For now, SeaWorld is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Aquatica is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Discovery Cove is closed several days a week — including Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as many Tuesdays. The up-close dolphin encounters at Discovery Cove are suspended for now.
Similar protocols are in effect at the company's parks in Tampa — Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island, which opened to the public June 11 and also require advance reservations. Capacity is limited to 50 percent until further notice.
When you can go: The company's 26 parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada have different plans for opening. Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags Over Texas, for instance, reopened to the general public June 22. Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, has yet to announce an opening date. Check individual park websites for the most current information.
Capacity will be limited at all parks and gradually increase throughout the year, according to state guidelines, and reservations will need be made online in advance. Some indoor attractions and kiddie playground areas will be closed.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on June 22, 2020. It's been updated to reflect Disneyland's new reopening date.