Everything you need to know about California’s theme parks reopening, and the “no scream” policy


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Every spring, there is a flurry of activity as families make spring break plans that include a visit to a California theme park. This spring promises to be a special one, however, as Americans who may have been socially distancing for more than a year could be looking to make up lost time.

It’s fortuitous timing then that the California state government has offered theme parks and attractions all across the Golden State to reopen as early as April 1, 2021, as long as they adhere to several guidelines laid out by leaders in Sacramento. Some parks have published dates on when this will happen. As an example, one of the first to reopen will be Six Flags Magic Mountain in North Los Angeles County, which states on its ticket page that the park will reopen on April 1.

Further down the coast is Knott’s Berry Farm, the Cedar Park-operated, farm-themed amusement park in Buena Park, which plans to reopen in May. And at the other end of the spectrum is Universal Studios Hollywood, which has not yet published a reopening date.

Opening dates aren’t all up to the theme parks. The county in which they are located must first attain red/substantial tier 2 risk status.

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What parks are opening when?

Here’s the latest information on when you might be able to visit your favorite park once again:

  • SeaWorld San Diego: Already open; The park is open now as a “licensed, permitted and accredited zoo” in compliance with state safety guidelines for zoos
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain, North LA County: Reopening date April 1
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo: Reopening date April 1
  • Disneyland Park, Anaheim: Reopening date April 30
  • Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park: Reopening in May
  • Universal Studios Hollywood: Reopening date uncertain, but while regular passes are not being sold, the park is offering an alternate experience that they call Taste of Universal, a separately ticketed, limited-time event

For all parks, capacity will be limited to comply with governmental requirements and promote physical distancing, and advance reservations are required for guests ages 3 and up. Note that, until further notice, tickets are only available to California residents. The buyer’s location will be verified by a new reservation system that uses GPS data to track purchases.
(The system also allows for contact tracing should there be a COVID-19 outbreak tied to a park.)

And finally…

Will theme parks really ban screaming?

In spite of rumors you may have heard, Disneyland Park probably won’t ban you from screaming during Splash Mountain’s climactic plunge into the briar patch. At least, they have no plans to. The same is true for other amusement parks and attractions across California, including Neptune’s Kingdom on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where no rules explicitly prohibit you from ecstatically screaming about the chicken tenders and garlic fries you grabbed at the Barbary Coast restaurant.

Earlier this week, a now-corrected story suggested that guidelines described by the California Attractions and Parks Association (CAPA), an industry group that represents parks and attractions of all sizes across the state, could mean these businesses would enact rules that limit shouting.

What’s actually true is that, in its own report titled “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” the California State Government listed various factors that could make it harder for a business to reopen. One of those was the business’ ability to “limit activities that are known to increase virus spread (like singing, shouting and heavy breathing).”

CAPA, however, has mentioned no plans to institute a ban on shouting. Instead, they include ways to mitigate that risk, which include face-covering usage, modifications to seat loading patterns and taking advantage of the fact that on rides, guests generally face in one direction.

Bottom line

We have reason to be hopeful. Cases in Los Angeles County, the most populous in the state and home to several of the state’s high-traffic parks, have been on a downward trend since peaking in January. As of Monday, March 15, L.A. and Orange counties moved into the less-restrictive red tier within the state’s reopening plan. With the three highly effective vaccines and aggressive efforts to vaccinate the state’s most vulnerable communities (many of whom keep the state’s tourism running), it’s safe to assume we could be touring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this spring, summer or fall.

Featured image of Knott’s Berry Farm by Julie Bigboy

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And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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