What Will Theme Park Visits Look Like in 2021?
As theme parks across the United States open or plan to reopen, many of us are wondering what a visit to an amusement or theme park will look like in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. With vaccine distribution ramping up and case numbers declining across the country, there is cautious optimism about what the summer and later months of the year will look like for theme park goers.
Though there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, this pandemic is unfortunately far from over. Many of the health and safety measures that parks introduced in 2020 will remain in place for the 2021 season (and possibly beyond).
Below are some of the things that will likely still be present at theme parks in 2021:
Though some states are (prematurely) lifting mask mandates, many parks will likely continue to require guests to wear face masks.
For example, despite Texas lifting its mask mandate, Six Flags parks will continue to follow CDC guidelines:
We will continue to follow CDC guidelines and require guests over the age of two and older to wear masks while in our parks. We will also continue to implement enhanced sanitization protocols, encourage social distancing, and maintain our guest reservation system.
— Six Flags (@SixFlags) March 3, 2021
While wearing a face mask all day might not be the most comfortable thing to do at a theme park, it is a small price to pay for us to be able to enjoy our favorite roller coasters in 2021.
Many parks that opened in 2020 — especially the larger ones — required guests to make a reservation for their visit in an effort to manage park capacity.
This trend will likely continue in 2021. Therefore, check the park’s website well in advance of when you plan to visit so that you can reserve your spot.
Get those foreheads ready — you can expect to have your temperature checked upon entering many parks in 2021. You’ll be asked if you’ve had any COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to the virus within the last 14 days.
Some parks may also require you to complete a health questionnaire before your arrival.
Limited Ride Capacity
Just as parks will be limiting capacities inside the park, attraction capacity will likely be limited in 2021. This will include seating guests in every other row or leaving space between grouped parties.
This reduced capacity may lengthen wait times, but hopefully not too drastically since park capacities will be limited as well.
Social distancing measures may prevent some attractions from reopening in 2021.
These include dark rides, interactive play areas and other attractions where riders are enclosed or are in close contact with other guests.
Ride Reservations and Virtual Queues
While some parks are enforcing social distancing in queue lines, others are using technology to allow guests to make ride reservations or wait in a virtual queue.
To learn how one tech company is helping lead the charge on virtual queues, read our interview with accesso CEO Steve Brown.
Hand sanitizer will be flowing at parks in 2021. Even in pre-pandemic times, many parks offered hand sanitizer in high-touch areas such as restaurants, restrooms and queue lines.
In my 2020 park visits, I found that some parks were more diligent with refilling their hand sanitizer dispensers than others. So I still recommend bringing your own supply just in case.
You may even see these portable handwashing stations at some parks.
Social Distancing Reminders
After a week at Disney World last fall, I was seeing social distancing reminders in my sleep.
Though keeping six feet apart from others may have become second nature for many of us, I still find the reminder decals on the ground helpful.
This is especially true in queue lines, where over the years I’ve conditioned myself to minimize gaps between myself and others — as if that would somehow get me on the ride sooner.
A little more breathing room isn’t a bad thing.
Downtime for Cleaning
Though the risk of surface transmission of COVID-19 appears to be low, parks may continue to close rides periodically for cleaning.
Personally, I don’t mind waiting a few train cycles for a cleaner ride. Even before the pandemic, ride vehicles were often a little grungy. An occasional wipe-down is warranted.
This will be more noticeable for the larger parks with enclosed attractions with indoor queues.
Where possible, I found that parks tried to reroute queues in shaded areas. Of course, that wasn’t feasible in every instance. Bring a hat and a pair of shades just in case.
Dividers and Partitions
Plexiglass will continue to be a common sight at theme parks in 2021: in queues, at cashier stations, inside restaurants and even on some ride vehicles to shield parties from one another.
When used in ride vehicles, these dividers can help increase ride capacity, which will keep lines moving.
To learn how to stay safe at theme parks in 2021, see our tips we shared last year – all of which are still applicable.
Are you planning to visit a theme park in 2021? Let us know in the comments section below.