Six Flags Magic Mountain will kick off the return of California's major theme parks by reopening to its members and annual passholders April 1. Both the Los Angeles-area park and and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in the Bay Area are now accepting reservations to visit starting that day - the first that California parks are allowed to reopen under the state's pandemic rules.As expected,
Under those rules, only California residents may book reservations and visit the parks, and Six Flags says that it will require proof of residency to enter. While Magic Mountain's home Los Angeles County is now in the "Red" Tier 2 that would allow the park to operate at 15 percent of its capacity, the county's average daily Covid case rate is just a couple of tenths of a percentage point away from allowing LA County to enter the "Orange" Tier 3, where allowed theme park capacity rises to 25 percent. It's expected that the county should reach that tier by April 1, allowing Six Flags Magic Mountain welcome more guests on its reopening day.
The parks will be open to Six Flags members and annual passholders on April 1 and 2, with the parks opening to the general public starting April 3.
"Californians are ready to visit their favorite Six Flags theme park and have some fun," Six Flags Senior Vice President of Park Operations Bonnie Weber - a former Magic Mountain park president - said. "Last year, we set the standard for safely operating our parks and entertained nearly seven million guests in adherence to government and CDC health guidelines. We will follow those same stringent guidelines as we reopen our rides and attractions in our California parks."
In addition to making advance reservations to visit via the Six Flags website, Six Flags guests will need to bring their credit card or mobile phone for payments inside the park, as Magic Mountain will not be accepting cash for any purchases. Physical distancing will be enforced inside the park, as will mandatory mask use.
Six Flags Magic Mountain will be the first theme park in southern California to return, following Disneyland's announcement that it will reopen its theme parks on April 30. Knott's Berry Farm has said that it will reopen in May. In northern California, California's Great America has announced a May 22 opening date for its 2021 season.
For those who didn't get the chance to experience it in the two-plus months it was open before the park closed for the pandemic, Six Flags Magic Mountain's "new" ride for 2021 will be West Coast Racers, a 4,000-foot mobius-track Premier Rides coaster with a 55-mph launch and four inversions.
You can watch more on-ride videos from the park's coasters on our Six Flags Magic Mountain page.
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I've been pretty satisfied with the operations at SFA since they reopened last fall. However, I have yet to visit any of the busier SF parks (most notably SFGAdv), so I'm not sure how they are managing crowds and queues. Obviously, admitting just 25% of the park's capacity through the gates will help, but I still worry about some of the park's queues and the types of guests SFMM tends to draw (careless teenagers and generally inconsiderate guests along with sparse enforcement of posted rules) even with smaller crowds.
It will be interesting to see how long they will maintain the Californians-only rule, and if that will extend through the busy summer tourism season. Currently, no other parks that I know of are limiting admissions to residents of specific states/regions, and with road trips being recommended as the go-to summer vacation by many American travel experts, I wonder if the California parks will be missing out. Most of the California parks don't necessarily need out-of-state visitors to survive, especially with strict park capacity limitations, but cutting off those visitors now could hurt down the road when capacity restriction are lifted. The California parks will have to do some serious national advertising ($$$) to get back in the greater public consciousness if they are only open to Californians for an extended period of time.
Under the current rules, the Californians-only rule applies in all tiers, so it would remain until the Governor lifts the state of emergency. That said, California has changed the rules before, so I would not be surprised to see more changes ahead. But I suspect that the state will keep the California-only rule for this summer.
Disneyland announcing a reopening was exciting, but I'm not planning to visit there again until Avengers Campus opens. On the other hand, I've got a Six Flags pass, so this is the best news I've gotten from the industry in some time. I booked a reservation for SFMM as soon as I saw the news this morning and can't wait to ride some of my favorite coasters again. Based on my experience at a variety of parks in 2020, Six Flags has done the best job adjusting to pandemic operations after Universal, and if the same holds true in California I expect the park to be very safe yet highly enjoyable. With Knott's not likely to reopen until the second half of May, I've got a feeling I'll be making the trek up from south OC more than once as well.
As for the California restriction, my impression is that rule is tied to the state's travel advisory rather than the tiers and will be lifted along with the advisory. I'd probably put the over/under on that at sometime in June, both because tourism is a big part of California's economy and by then the vaccine should be in open distribution throughout the country, making such advisories questionable at best.
I think Russell makes a good point about the general ~enforcement~ of the general COVID protocols as we've come to call them. The rules are only as useful as they're enforced — I went to a NASCAR race in Phoenix last weekend to do some networking and despite only allowing something around 25 percent capacity (not sure what the official number was), enforcement was non-existent.
Masks were infrequently worn, the track didn't hire ushers for the event (likely to keep costs low) and security was not concerned about ... well, not about much. I'm fairly certain Disney will be on top of things (there's an image to maintain, after all) but there's only so much you can ask of a skeleton crew being paid minimum wage. Or, so much you can expect, I suppose.
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We pretty much all called this one, the easiest of the various parks to get up and running.