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What You Need to Know About California Theme Parks

What You Need to Know About California Theme Parks

While many rules have been relaxed or eliminated entirely, a few pandemic protocols are keeping the reopening safe and streamlined

Here’s a good reason to sigh, or even scream, in celebration: For the most part, California theme parks have returned to nearly normal, thrill-raising operations.

Because each county’s rules and individual theme parks’ policies can vary, it’s still smart to check a park’s website before you visit. It’s also a good idea to peruse Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub. As you plan, keep these tips in mind, too:

For some parks, you still need to book tickets online—and get a reservation.

At Disneyland Resort, you still need both a dated reservation as well as a purchased ticket, though you can now book those reservations up to 120 days ahead of time. You’ll also find required reservations or buy-online systems at LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad.

At many parks, visitors can once again buy a ticket at the gate. At SeaWorld San Diego, you can get a same-day ticket and reservation at the gates if there is room—but it’s not guaranteed. In ValenciaSix Flags Magic Mountain no longer requires reservations and you can buy a full-price Any Day ticket online or at the gates. But it literally pays to reserve a date and buy online anyway—prices are roughly 50 percent lower that way. Tickets are also cheaper online from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo than they are at the gate. Likewise, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk sells tickets onsite, but you save $10 on a ride wristband when you book online.

You don’t need to show proof of vaccination, with a few exceptions.

All the parks encourage visitors to be fully vaccinated by the time of their visit, or to have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arriving. A few, such as Universal Studios Hollywood and—on a limited number of designated days—Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles County, require proof of vaccination to enter. Parks that do not require proof of vaccination ask that guests still be mindful of maintaining physical distancing from other folks, and guests are encouraged to stay at home if they feel sick.

Bring a mask, even if you’re vaccinated.

Typically, if you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear it outdoors, but both the vaccinated and unvaccinated should wear a mask indoors to help ensure the safety of others—such as small children who are not yet eligible for vaccination.

Be patient as some other park features return gradually.

Since parks have been operating at a limited capacity, both in terms of guests and staff, it may take a little more time for all rides and attractions to reopen.

It still makes sense to download the park’s mobile app.

While mobile ordering of food may become less of an option now at some parks, apps such as the Universal Studios Hollywood Mobile App offer a lot of perks to streamline your visit, such as park maps and checking out menus. You also need the app to snag a spot in Universal’s Virtual Line for some attractions, such as the new ride Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash. The Disneyland Resort App lets you see wait times, order food, and, for an extra free,  reserve your spot in some rides’ Lightning Lanes. Since most parks are still going cashless, a park app can sometimes help with purchases, too.


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