Here’s what visiting a theme park is like in the age of Covid-19

Here’s what visiting a theme park is like in the age of Covid-19


Buyers are socially distanced on rides like the Speculate Woman: Lasso of Truth of the matter at 6 Flags Great Journey in Jackson, New Jersey.

Kenneth Kiesnoski/CNBC

From yard cookouts to days at the beach, persons throughout the country have had to postpone or change quite a few beloved summertime rituals this calendar year amid the ongoing pandemic. Just one of the largest disappointments for quite a few has been the closure of concept parks across the state.

When what’s happening at Disney and Universal concept parks throughout the world may perhaps get the most significant headlines, the parks many People in america often check out are mainly local and regional — and 6 Flags Entertainment Corp. operates a lot of of them.

The Grand Prairie, Texas-dependent organization operates 26 topic and h2o park houses in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and in 2019 saw 32.8 million customers. At push time, 11— which includes Six Flags Terrific Journey & Safari in Jackson, New Jersey — are open, at restricted ability, to people who make on the internet reservations in advance.

As a Six Flags once-a-year move member who’d been subject matter to stringent New York-area lockdowns due to the fact mid-March, I jumped at the chance to do a self-generate by way of the safari part of Excellent Journey when the corporation reopened that attraction on May perhaps 30. Once it introduced the theme park and its rides would reopen at 25% capability starting off July 3, I designed sure I was logged on and ready to reserve a stop by as soon as I could.

Right after a  several error messages and two several hours of ready in a virtual queue, I experienced an 11:45 a.m. location reserved for opening working day. 

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The actual real-globe lines begun right before I even got to Wonderful Experience proper.

I sailed down the New Jersey Turnpike, and then I-195, from New York Metropolis to Jackson in just around an hour and 20 minutes but strike a 3-lane wall of backed up targeted traffic about a quarter mile down Monmouth Road from the park entrance. The caravan of autos then bit by bit snaked along Terrific Experience Boulevard just before splitting into separate queues for the concept park and the generate-through safari. When previous a safety cordon, it was a swift drive to the parking great deal.

All informed, it took over an hour to generate into the park — virtually as lengthy as it experienced taken to motor from Brooklyn to central New Jersey. I had an 11:45 a.m. reservation but did not get to the park turnstiles until 1:15 p.m.

And prior to I essentially got into the park suitable, I experienced to go as a result of Six Flags’ improved well being-screening course of action. (Whole specifics can be observed by clicking here.)

A pleasant park worker made available a squirt of hand sanitizer as I entered a new winding but immediately relocating queue of masked and considerably socially distanced parkgoers creating their way in blazing sunshine to a tent for a human body temperature scan. A booth halfway as a result of hawked superhero-themed facial area masks. Signage introduced expected best overall health techniques for people and sported 6 Flags’ “Together, we can Do The 6!” reopening motto.

Shoppers move by way of a body temperature screening tent at 6 Flags Fantastic Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey.

Kenneth Kiesnoski/CNBC

Subsequent up was a swift security screening, which felt more rapidly than usual, and then a small wait on yet another line to have my park pass and reservation scanned. I was handed a souvenir Opening Day 2020 pin. Last but not least, I stepped on to Primary Road, the park’s shop-lined entrance plaza.

The crowds were significantly thinner than typical. The second point I noticed was teams of 6 Flags “Clean up Team” personnel walking close to with sprayers and big yellow tanks of disinfectant strapped to their backs, hosing down and wiping railings, benches and rubbish cans.

I checked my Six Flags smartphone app to get a really feel for journey availability and hold out instances. Of the 50 rides and attractions stated, 10 had been closed — which include (disappointingly, presented the warmth) h2o rides Congo Rapids and Saw Mill Prolonged Flume, well-liked thrillers like the Kingda Ka coaster and Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, and Safari Off Highway Journey. (The safari is now a different, self-generate encounter, significantly as it was when Great Experience initial opened way again in 1974.)

It’s the initially working day and absolutely everyone is just getting adjusted to these new guidelines.

Greg Barker

6 Flags Good Journey shopper

Taking into consideration the offered solutions, I made a beeline for Nitro, a 230-foot-significant, 1.64-mile-extended steel hyper-coaster that is however a person of Fantastic Adventure’s leading attracts, even with becoming — at 19 decades old — older than many of the people lining up for a journey. However, I’ve by no means waited much more than 15 minutes to experience the coaster, which reaches speeds of 80 mph, so it appeared like a safe wager. This working day, having said that, the line started just the ride’s entrance indication, and I buckled down for a prolonged, sizzling hold out.

Stickers marking risk-free 6-foot distances for standing had been affixed to the ground along the outside experience queue but folks in line tended to pack in a small closer, far more like 3 feet apart. They did, even so, mainly keep their masks on — which surprised me, given the 90-diploma heat and blazing sun and their obvious common age of about 15 to 17. I observed my faith in the long run of humanity a little bit restored. Clean up Group workers on a regular basis created their way via the group, wiping down handrails and advising mask laggards to readjust confront coverings.

As we inched nearer to the boarding area, the group commenced to catch glimpses of a different purpose the wait around was so prolonged. Trip operators were spacing out passengers on the nine-vehicle, 36-individual trains, seating teams of two to three folks on alternating sides of the educate, using only every other row. So, at finest, trains were remaining crammed at only 50 percent pace. (Ordinarily, capability is some 1,800 riders for each hour.)

A 6 Flags Great Experience “Thoroughly clean Workforce” member disinfects handrails in the customer queue spot for the Nitro roller coaster.

Kenneth Kiesnoski/CNBC

What really got some in the group groaning was the sight of the occasional vacant practice chugging its way up the very first coaster hill. What I afterwards uncovered was that staff members sanitize every single of the park’s operating rides about each and every 50 percent-hour, spraying passenger cars and trucks and seats down comprehensively and then permitting them run through at the very least 1 trip cycle to disinfect and dry. Greater safe than sorry.

One hour and 15 minutes right after receiving on line, I eventually boarded Nitro, the sole man or woman in my 4-seat row, for my 2-moment, 20-2nd journey. The coaster was as thrilling as ever, the only variance currently being that I made sure to maintain my mask to my experience to prevent having it blow off on the steep hills and sharp turns.

Nevertheless, the mask didn’t impede a good time. Other riders agreed. Richard Santos, 18, of Washington Township, New Jersey, explained the encounter as “a small different.”

“It truly is continue to fulfilling, while,” he reported, whilst he, far too, was impressed at the hold out. “Nitro was the longest line of the working day,” Santos reported. “I’ve under no circumstances waited that extensive for that journey in my daily life.”

As it was way past my regular lunch time, I decided to head for the park’s Boardwalk segment — loaded with carnival online games of chance — to get a burger at the Backyard garden Condition Grill. 6 Flags has instituted cell purchasing by smartphone for pickup at most eateries and eradicated indoor seating. Enough out of doors dining spots were accessible through my check out, even so.

As lines for in-individual purchasing were being extensive at numerous places to eat and food stuff stands, pre-buying by cellular is a superior strategy. Nevertheless, I did run into a hitch with the method. I positioned an get for a burger-and-tater-tots combo and a medium soda on the Six Flags application and paid by way of PayPal but the buy never ever appeared in the application queue — or in the restaurant process.

I checked my PayPal app, which confirmed that, for some cause, I was charged by 6 Flags Frontier Metropolis in Oklahoma City and not Fantastic Adventure — wherever I transpired, incredibly hungrily, to be. When I spelled out the trouble to the Garden State Grill staff, and showed them my PayPal receipt, they filled my lunch buy for me without the need of any fuss.

In actuality, staff members during Terrific Experience were friendly and helpful to a fault — regardless of the inescapable hiccups of a first day in procedure underneath stringent and unfamiliar new guidelines. This did not go unnoticed by other customers. Greg Barker of Hillsborough, New Jersey, who was visiting with wife, Cheryl, and daughter, Kylie, claimed team “is performing really hard to keep the park where by it wants to be.”

6 Flags Excellent Adventure “Clear Crew” users pass through the concept park disinfecting all general public parts.

Kenneth Kiesnoski/CNBC

“It is the initially day and everybody is just obtaining altered to these new policies,” he added.

Rested and re-energized from lunch, I decided to avail myself of the totally free one particular-time “Skip The Line” ticket my once-a-year pass entitles me to. That entailed standing on a different relatively extended line, making me ponder if I should not just hold out on an true experience queue in its place. Granted, it was a customers-only working day, so there had been likely a lot more men and women than regular waiting around for passes. I trapped it out. The wait around was about 20 minutes.

I passed the time chatting with Santos and his mate, Alyssa Connor, also 18 and from Washington Township. They have been thrilled to be back at Good Journey just after months of Covid-19 lockdown.

“I was super-energized for it to open back up,” claimed Santos. “I was just waiting on it.”

My front-of-the-line ticket last but not least in hand, I headed to Good Adventure’s most recent experience, the 170-foot-substantial Ponder Female: Lasso of Truth, launched previous 12 months as the world’s tallest pendulum experience. The FlashPass line was brief but the hold out was nevertheless long, about 30 minutes.

A 6 Flags Good Journey “Clear Workforce” crew member disinfects the Wonder Lady: Lasso of Fact experience every single 30 minutes.

Kenneth Kiesnoski/CNBC

Riders had been, all over again, spaced aside in twos all over the frisbee-like seating part of the journey, with a few cordoned-off seats separating each and every pair. Noticed whilst ready down below the riders whooshing earlier above me at 75 mph: Facial masks do small to muffle the delighted screams of passengers.

Disembarking my second and final experience of the working day, I glanced at my enjoy and noticed it was coming up on 6 p.m. Virtually 5 hrs on internet site and I might managed two rides, 1 lunch, a refreshing Italian ice and heaps of walking, water — and ready.

I am a die-difficult topic park enthusiast who normally hits at the very least 10 rides for every visit but I  had my fill. The Barkers, on the other hand, advised me the long traces were being worth it.

“We are acquiring a excellent time,” Greg Barker mentioned. “The strains are understandably long but weren’t far too negative. And we acquired to go on some of the rides.”

(Disclosure: CNBC and Universal Parks & Resorts are the two subsidiaries of NBCUniversal, owned by mother or father Comcast.)


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