Theme Parks Begin to Reopen


Photo by Quick PS on Unsplash

Sophia Luo, Social Media Manager

Sitting in her bedroom, sophomore Jada Hembrador swipes through photos on her phone showing memories of being with her friends and family pre-pandemic. She stumbles across a picture of herself posing with her cheer team in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Deciding to continue reminiscing about her favorite trips to theme parks, Hembrador finds photos of her family in Hogwarts robes at Universal Studios Hollywood. She sighs in disappointment remembering that the parks in Southern California are closed, unaware that they’re coming back sooner than she thinks.

California’s largest theme parks reopened to the public in April after being closed for over a year due to COVID-19. Friday, April 30, marked Disneyland’s return, two weeks after Universal Studios Hollywood opened its own gates to visitors again. 

“Disneyland’s only been closed around 3 times in history. The fact that it shut down because of COVID-19 was crazy and I was really sad when I heard about it. I’m really glad they’re reopening, it feels like another step towards getting back to normal,” junior Bridget Meagher said.

Along with their returns, both parks spent time developing new attractions and features while they were closed and began to introduce those to guests. Universal Studios’ latest park addition is an indoor ride based on the Illumination movie, Secret Life of Pets. There is also an updated ending to their relatively new Jurassic World ride which involves a new 22-foot Indominus rex animatronic.

Snow White’s Scary Adventures, an attraction that sat in Disneyland’s Fantasyland since opening day in 1955, went through several transformations and became Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. Along with changing the name to something less frightening, the ride itself has new scenes that contribute to a more magical, whimsical version of the attraction. Both parks are also working on entirely new park extensions, with Disney’s Avengers Campus and Universal’s Super Nintendo World both set to open soon.

“I’m really excited to come back and find all the changes, both major and minor, that they’ve made since closing last year. I’m definitely most excited to finally explore Avengers Campus, though,” Hembrador said.

Though the parks reopened, they are still taking preventative measures against COVID-19 outbreaks. All California theme parks can only operate at 25 percent capacity, and all employees and guests are required to wear masks unless they’re eating in specific locations. Visitors must go through temperature screenings before entering the parks, and hand sanitizer stations are positioned all over the resorts. Cast members actively enforce social distancing to avoid as much direct contact from different parties as possible. 

“The parks mean a lot to me personally because I’ve been going since I was little, and I’ve made so many special memories because of them. I think it’s good that they’re taking many precautions, but it still doesn’t seem fully safe for people to go if they’re not fully vaccinated,” junior Mia Schraith said.

Theme park experiences seem to have a lasting effect that many visitors cherish deeply. A combination of music, structures, and enthusiastic cast members contributes to immersing people back into the fictional worlds they love. From the Harry Potter series to the Star Wars Saga and even movies by Pixar Studios, individuals get to experience nostalgia and become part of these worlds through the parks.

“To me, the parks will always be a nostalgic remnant of my childhood. I used to go to them with my family every other year and grew up, literally, with the rides. They cater to all ages, and I’m really excited to see character actors and new attractions the next time I go,” Hembrador said.

After Hembrador’s parents announce that their family would be returning to the parks in the summer, she grins as her brothers jump and clap with excitement. She eagerly imagines riding the new Secret Life of Pets attraction at Universal Studios and finally visiting Avengers Campus at Disneyland. With a beaming smile, Hembrador lays on her bed, debating whether to already begin packing or not.