Sunday, July 12, 2020

Mystic River Falls in Preview Mode at Silver Dollar City + New Ride POV

© Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City has not delayed their new for 2020 mega-attraction, Mystic River Falls, and is just about ready to open it to the public.  For right now, the park is doing previews of the ride for lucky visitors who are in the parks, and social media is buzzing about what a great attraction it is.

The ride replaces the park's former river rapids ride with a more modern version that includes a dramatic vertical lift hill that stands 82 feet tall and the tallest drop on a ride of this kind in the Western hemisphere.  Mystic River Falls represents a $23 million investment, part of an overall $27 million expansion this year.

The ride and its surroundings are beautiful, and I'm impressed by the speed of the river at various points through the ride.  Looks like a blast!

While many are traveling less this summer, you're still able to experience all that Mystic River Falls offers through a new point of view ride video that the park has released.  Check it out below!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Look at Dorney Park's Opening Week of the 2020 Season + What's New This Year

© NewsPlusNotes
To say that parks are having an unusual year in 2020 is an understatement, and we've all been closely watching to see just how they adapt to a "new normal" in light of the current global pandemic.

Dorney Park soft opened a few days this past week for season pass holders, and today was their official opening day for all ticket types.  The park has made a dramatic set of operational changes that are similar to other amusement parks - all in the name of safety surrounding COVID-19.  We'll be seeing them in this update, but the full set is available on their website.

I got to visit the park and see how things were going and to be honest I am quite pleased.  I felt safe while visiting, and these days that is a very important factor.

© NewsPlusNotes
When you arrive at the park the friendly parking attendant will inquire if your party has masks, and also if you've made a reservation.  I also noticed that parking is now only $10, which is at least half of what it was last year.

Once parked you make your way to the entrance and there are two sets of tent structures set up that allow the park to do thermal imaging of visitors to check for anyone with a high temperature.  The tents have big fans in them and honestly it was so hot today it was kind of a nice place to hang out!

After that is the security check, where I did not have to take anything out of my pockets so it was super fast and easy with no line.

© NewsPlusNotes
Also of note, the entire park is now non-smoking and vaping this year.  Makes sense considering the pandemic, I've noticed other business types that still allowed smoking in certain areas doing the same.  If you want to smoke at the park, the above area is located in the entrance plaza, outside the main gates. 

© NewsPlusNotes
The park's operations right now only include the rides in Dorney Park.  It is important to note that Wildwater Kingdom is not open.  There may be different ride closures each day, as the park works through various challenges that are unique to the 2020 season.  On my visit White Water Landing, Meteor and Possessed were not in operation.

© NewsPlusNotes
As with most parks, there will be changes nearly day to day as everyone continues to adapt to what are the best and most safe practices.  The pandemic disrupted a great deal of the time that the park usually prepares for the season and I'm honestly happy they were even able to open at all.  Whether or not the water park is able to open remains to be seen, so Seaside Splashworks may be a new for 2021 addition.

Also of note in the above photo, a nice new carousel horse topiary can be seen just after you enter the park.

Getting through the entrance turnstiles is also very quick and easy, as making a reservation and purchasing tickets beforehand means all you have to do is open the Dorney Park app and have your reservation scanned, and that's it.  There are some changes like this that may have been forced by the pandemic, but they sure make a lot of sense and I wouldn't mind seeing them stick around in the long term.

Also, no park maps this year as it's just one less thing for people to touch.  Plus, the Dorney Park app has a very detailed park map that's honestly way more efficient than a paper one.  And I adore printed park maps so that's a lot coming from me!

© NewsPlusNotes
If you need to exit the park and come back in you can stop in at one of these stations right by the exit to get a ticket to come back in.  The process is most important for those who purchased one day tickets online, as season pass holders can just have their pass re-scanned when they come back in.

© NewsPlusNotes

© NewsPlusNotes
Social distancing is a very important part of a visit to... anywhere right now, and Dorney Park is on the same page.  They've cleared the midways of various stands and other items to make as much room as possible for guests to move around.

I'm not sure if this is a part of it, but as seen above the park has moved the entrance to the park's Antique Carousel to the side of it closest to the Funnel Cake building.  The former entrance area is now the exit, which means less people in the area of the entrance gates.  A smart move, helping to keep people spread out.

© Dorney Park
All buildings have very clear signage showing where to enter and exit, and those with more than one door have a dedicated entrance and exit area.  The signs on the doors of the Funnel Cake building are an example of that, though every single place you go inside at the park is the same way. 

© Dorney Park
The park also has plentiful seating for guests, and they're all spread out to make sure there is proper social distancing in place.  In the case above, Dorney Park has even stored the classic cars out front of Coasters to make more room for comfortable seating that is safe.

It actually seems that there is more seating than ever before, perhaps a result of the additions that were made last year for Grand Carnivale.  The park has made the most of not being able to hold that event this year in that sense.

© NewsPlusNotes
It is also pretty easy to remember to keep your distance from others with a little help from the park, which has placed plenty of these ground markers all over the place. 

© NewsPlusNotes

© NewsPlusNotes
And if you're not looking down enough to notice the distance markers, the park also has plenty of signs out reminding all guests of their Stay Safe rules.  Plus, there are recordings (definitely Tony from Cedar Point) that are occasionally played that remind guests that "we're all in this together" and go over the requirements for a safe, fun day.

© NewsPlusNotes
Rides are pretty much why we came here though, and the park has done their best to figure out a way to let people enjoy them safely and keep their distance.  For example, the Wave Swinger has had many seats removed so that guests aren't too close to one another.

Other rides limit parties to one seating area, have closed off rows to allow distancing, and other tactics - each ride is different so the park is doing what makes the most sense on each.  For roller coasters, the goal is to keep people six feet apart so on some that means every other row, and others every third row.

© NewsPlusNotes

© NewsPlusNotes
Here are some example photos from Steel Force.  The entire queue is marked at six foot intervals to show visitors where to stand.  And the rows in the station are clearly marked so you know which are open and which are unavailable.

Obviously the closed seats result in reduced capacity, but the park has reduced overall capacity as well and so that means less people in the park, less people in lines.  There were anywhere from zero to about five minute waits when I visited, so no issues there.

Rides also go down at regular intervals for full cleaning of the trains, seats, etc.  Since this is all very new that process could be changed in the future as Dorney Park (and all parks) are looking for the best method to let people enjoy rides quickly but keep them clean and safe.

Obviously patience is an important part of a visit to an amusement park right now (or the grocery store, Old Navy, or anything at all) and if you have it, you're actually able to have an enjoyable time easily.

© NewsPlusNotes
Wearing a mask to an amusement park isn't the most fun thing on earth, but personally I'd like to protect my fellow humans so I keep it on.  Yes, it was a sweaty experience in there and today it was sunny, about 91 degrees and very high humidity.  The park gets this, so when it becomes too much there are several Relax Zones in the park where you can sit down, enjoy a giant industrial fan that blows at you, and have a drink from a couple of water stations.  Perfect idea!  I've seen other rest zones on social media at parks, but the giant fan plus the water is a huge bonus.

I'm also happy to report that the vast majority, I'd say around 80%, of visitors were properly wearing masks.  That was one of my larger concerns (not only for the park, but everywhere), and the ones who had pulled them down appeared to have done so due to the high heat/humidity combo, not in blatant disregard for the rules.  And I did see employees asking guests to wear them properly, which is a great move in my opinion.  Also, employees were 100% on point with mask wearing and safety.  Kudos to the park on their training initiatives.

I think that generally wraps up most of the COVID-19 changes in place, though I may be forgetting some details.  Now, on to some other changes I noticed.

© NewsPlusNotes

© NewsPlusNotes

Late last year the American Coaster Enthusiasts designated Thunderhawk as one of their International Roller Coaster Landmarks, given to rides of great significance in the history of coasters.  The park is celebrating the honor with new signage along the ride's path, noting that the coaster is now in its 97th operating season.  Only three more until 100!  Quite a milestone for old Thunderhawk.

© NewsPlusNotes
Center Stage has received some major renovations, and while it still has the same name it's now much more a beer garden atmosphere than a typical theme park musical review locations.  The bench seating has been removed, replaced with great high top tables, plenty of new theming, plants and festive lights.  It looks really great!

The area is central to many of the food stands in the lower part of the park so this is a nice place to chill and have a meal.  There is live entertainment here this year, The Uprights are a dueling piano show that changes theme constantly throughout the day adding tons of variety.  Crowds were loving the change and I can't agree more with them.

© NewsPlusNotes
The lower part of the park has seen other changes as well.  The former burrito location (and rotisserie before that and pizza before that) is now a funnel cake and ice cream stand.  This move allows for these amusement park classics to be presented much more efficiently... also indoors with air conditioning!

© NewsPlusNotes
Additionally, Center Stage Snacks now also offers both fresh lemonade and ice cream on one side of the operation.

And here is why these moves have taken place:

© NewsPlusNotes

© NewsPlusNotes

Dorney Park has done a little deconstruction in terms of older food buildings that were probably showing their age and just needed to be retired.  The first photo is the location near Dominator's entrance where the lemonade and funnel cake stands were, now an extension of a large green area that divides the midway.

The second photo is where the old soft serve ice cream stand was, which has also turned into more green space.  This one gives a nice view of the Sea Dragon in operation as well!

© NewsPlusNotes
Also, because inquiring minds may want to know, the former Stinger plot, rumored to be home to the park's next big roller coaster, is still just an empty field.  If you ride Steel Force you can see some weird circles in the area, suggested to me as soil sample locations, but I think it could just as easily be something left over from when the Monster Trucks were here last year.  Time will tell.

© NewsPlusNotes
The 2020 season will be one for the history books, no doubt, not just for Dorney Park but all parks.  There's still plenty of fun to be had at the park!  Just be sure to take your good friend patience along with you, and I think things will be just fine.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Michigan's Adventure + Six Flags Great America Opening Only Waterparks Soon

© Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair's Michigan's Adventure has announced that they will open the property's water park, WildWater Adventure, on July 16th.  The first day will only be for season pass holders, then starting July 17th all ticket types are welcome.

At the same time of this announcement, the park has also made it clear that the rides in Michigan's Adventure will not be operating in 2020.  The park has always had a much shorter season than the other Cedar Fair parks, closing out the season at the end of summer, so in that regard this makes sense.

The parks that have opened ride-only operations appear to be having light attendance - not only for Cedar Fair - so the method of opening a water park only makes sense to me.  It's been a rather hot summer so far in many parts of the country, so perhaps there will be a larger draw for the water attractions rather than steel rides.  Also of note, I am not sure and did not research whether Michigan and Illinois are allowing theme parks to open, it could be that only water parks are allowed at this point.

WildWater Adventure at Michigan's Adventure will require a reservation to visit, and the park will follow the same standards that other Cedar Fair parks have employed - including mandatory face masks.  Right now the park's hours reflect operations Thursday through Sunday only, 11 am to 6 pm each day.

© Six Flags Great America
Six Flags Great America is going with a similar plan as it has announced opening Hurricane Harbor Chicago starting on July 20th.  The park will be open only for season pass holders and members from that date until July 26th.  Starting July 27th the park is planned to open to all ticket types.

The safety standards set in place at other Six Flags parks that have already opened will be used at Hurricane Harbor Chicago.  Guests must make a reservation to visit ahead of time, wear masks and practice social distancing while at the park.

Hurricane Harbor Chicago was set to debut a brand new water roller coaster, named Tsunami Surge, which has now officially been delayed until the 2021 season. 

For now the park appears to be saying that the theme park is remaining closed at the moment, I'm not seeing them list that it definitely will not open in 2020 as Michigan's Adventure said.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Worlds of Fun Ends Reservations and Reduces Operating Days

© Worlds of Fun
Worlds of Fun was the first large Cedar Fair park to open this summer, and as of this week has made some changes to their operations that are noteworthy.

I had a feeling that after some of the large parks opened we'd see changes in response to consumer demand, especially with regard to hours and operating days - though I wasn't sure in which direction exactly.  Obviously there have been a lot of very small changes as the parks have learned how to open in a COVID-19 world, but Worlds of Fun has now implemented two large modifications.

First, the park has stopped using their reservation system to track attendance to limit ahead of time the overall number of visitors in the park on any give day.  The use of reservations was a change that many parks have implemented, and while I'm not sure if Missouri is requiring reduced attendance at this point or not - it seems that the park isn't concerned about hitting any given maximum. 

There have been many reports online of the park being quite empty on some operating days, and depending on what their given maximum capacity is I guess they're getting no where near it.  So far from it that they're comfortable assuming they probably won't hit the limit.. and now are advertising no reservations needed to visit.  Of course, I guess if they do have a limit and hit it they'd have to turn away guests at the entrance, something they'd never want to do no doubt.

© Worlds of Fun
Second, and more telling of the reason for change number one, Worlds of Fun has revised their operating calendar to reflect that starting next week they will stay closed Monday through Wednesday.  That means they will operate only Thursday - Sunday for the rest of the summer... as of right now.  The daily hours of 11 am to 7 pm have stayed the same.

If the park was operating at such small capacity that they needed to close three days a week then I'm thinking that crowds were considerably smaller than expected.  Even on prior earnings calls Cedar Fair noted that most parks are profitable at much smaller attendance levels than we might think, so for them to bag three days a week to try to remain profitable then things must be slow.

In the end it is what it is, this is really a lost summer anyway, and I have a feeling that if cases continue to trend upwards, and the water parks attached to these parks are not opened, that this type of change will be common in the coming weeks.  On the plus side, if you visit you may have the smallest wait times you've seen in a long time!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Adventureland Iowa Makes 2021's Dragon Slayer Official

© Adventureland
Welp, this wasn't much in the way of a grand announcement, but Iowa's Adventureland theme park has made the addition of Dragon Slayer, an S&S 4-D Free Spin roller coaster, official.  The ride will open in 2021 per the video that Adventureland released on Facebook:

There's not too much information in it however, basically there are shots of an existing 4-D Free Spin, Batman the Ride at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, with some unique editing as well.  The ride had previously been discovered to be coming since track pieces, easily identifiable as Free Spin track, have been arriving at the park for a while now.

The park is removing their Dragon roller coaster in order to add the Dragon Slayer.  The ride will feature bright red track and silver supports.  We're assuming the coaster will be the same layout as the ones at the Six Flags parks, which means it will stand 120 feet tall.

It's impressive for the park to be moving forward with a new coaster considering the pandemic, it is a hopeful sign of the future for the park!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Dutch Wonderland to Open, Kennywood Delays Reopening

© Dutch Wonderland
Happy 4th of July everyone.  Please make sure to stay safe today!

We continue to watch as parks announce reopening plans, and in some cases delay or cancel them.  A little of both again today.

Dutch Wonderland, located in Pennsylvania, has announced their plan to reopen to guests on July 14th for season pass holders, a period that will last through July 17th.  Starting July 18th the park plans to be open to all visitors.

The park will follow its sister parks changes in terms of COVID-19 prevention and safety.  This includes a reservation system to control attendance (which will go live soon), social distancing throughout the park, increased sanitization standards and more.  Face masks will be required for a visit.

The park has all this information, along with guest and employee responsibilities, listed on their website.

© Kennywood
Kennywood had planned to open this Monday for the first time this year, but due to spiking numbers of COVID-19 cases in their county, they have had to delay the reopening.

Allegheny county, where the park is located, has set in place a one week stay at home order, which also included closing indoor dining at restaurants, casinos and limiting gatherings to 25 people.  Potentially this means the park's opening may only be delayed by a week, but it has been proven that anything can happen in 2020!

The delay also includes Kennywood's sister waterpark, Sandcastle, which was also scheduled to reopen.