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How America’s biggest theme parks are responding to coronavirus

Across the nation, theme parks are closing shop

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Busch Gardens roller coaster empty and slightly ominous Photo: Busch Gardens
Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

Various theme parks across the country have been closing their doors in response to the spread of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization (WHO) classified as a pandemic on March 11. The spread of and prevention efforts over COVID-19 have forced high-profile cancellations, such as South by Southwest, Coachella, and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, along with various major movie delays.

After the WHO announcement, California Governor Gavin Newsom called for the banning of public gatherings of 250 or more, putting pressure on Disneyland to make a formal move. Despite previous, ambiguous plans, Disney officially closed its California locations on March 14, with the the Florida parks closing their doors on March 15.

The Disney resorts are just a few of the many theme parks across the country, where thousands of guests flock to each and every day. While some, like Universal Studios, have also made the call to shut doors, others are keeping the parks open or still readying for an upcoming tourist season. We’ll update this story as new information emerges.

Walt Disney World Resorts: Closed

A high-res shot of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland in Anaheim, California Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

Disney announced that its locations in Florida would close on Sunday, March 15 through the end of March. This includes Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

Update (March 16): Disney is shutting down all of its stores and dining locations in both Downtown Disney and Disney Springs starting March 17. Additionally, all Disney-owned and operated hotels will be closed starting March 20, to give guests time to make alternate accommodations.

Update (March 27): Disney announced that all properties in the United States will remain closed until further notice. The company will continue to pay cast members through April 18.

Disneyland Park and California Adventure: Closed

Disney’s California locations, including Disneyland and California Adventure, closed their doors on March 14 through the end of the month. Disney has stated that they will work with guests when it comes to rebooking and will also provide hotel refunds to those with rooms booked during the closure period.

Update (March 16): Disney is shutting down all of its stores and dining locations in both Downtown Disney and Disney Springs starting March 17. Additionally, all Disney-owned and operated hotels will be closed starting March 20, to give guests time to make alternate accommodations.

Update (March 27): All Disney properties in the United States will remain closed until further notice. Disney will continue to pay cast members through April 18.

Universal Studios parks: Closed

Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Hollywood, opened in 2016. Photo: James Hilger for Polygon

All Universal Studios locations in the United States — Universal Studios Orlando, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Hollywood — will temporarily close. Universal Studios Hollywood will close on March 14 with plans to tentatively reopen on March 28. Florida locations will shut doors on March 15. Dining and retail locations at Universal’s Citywalk in Orlando will remain open, as will hotels.

Update (March 27): All Universal properties in the United States are closed through April 19.

SeaWorld locations: Closed

Update (March 16): SeaWorld announced it would close parks starting March 16 through the end of the month. Animal caretakers will continue to look after the animals in the parks.

“The health and safety of our guests, ambassadors and animals are our top priorities,” reads a blog post. “Our parks employ experienced health and safety teams and have protocols to follow high sanitary and cleanliness standards in line with the CDC recommendations.”

Busch Gardens locations: Closed

Families having fun on a Busch Gardens Williamsburg roller coaster Photo: Courtesy of Busch Gardens

Update (March 16): Owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, both Busch Gardens locations are now closed till the end of the month.

Knott’s Berry Farm, Cedar Point, and other Cedar Fair parks: Closed

Of all the parks that fall under the vast Cedar Fair umbrella, only Knott’s Berry Farm is open year-round. On March 13, Cedar Fair announced that Knott’s Berry Farm will be closed until the end of the month, beginning March 14.

The other locations (Cedar Point, California’s Great Adventure, Canada’s Wonderland, Carowinds, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Gilroy Gardens, King’s Dominion, King’s Island, Michigan’s Adventure, Valleyfair, and Worlds of Fun), which open their doors starting in late March and throughout the spring, are scheduled to continue opening as usual. A letter from CEO Robert Zimmerman states the following:

All Cedar Fair properties intend to welcome guests in accordance with our published schedules, and we continue to implement preventive measures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as our own health and hygiene protocols. All our parks and resorts have high standards of cleanliness, which assists with illness prevention.

(Update March 20): Knott’s Berry Farm, California’s Great America, Carowinds, Kings Dominion and our Schlitterbahn parks are temporarily closed, according to an update from Cedar Fair. “It is our hope to reopen those parks mid-May or as soon thereafter as possible,” the company said in a statement.

Six Flags parks: Closed

six flags roller coaster kids having fun Photo: Courtesy of Six Flags

Update (March 16): Six Flags announced that its two open locations in California, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags Magic Mountain, would close their doors till the end of the month.

Six Flags president and CEO Mike Spanos previously released a statement addressing concerns about COVID-19.

“We are taking several actions to help you feel confident about your health and safety while you are in our parks. We have significantly enhanced our cleaning and sanitation efforts on all guest and employee touch points; additionally, we are providing an abundance of anti-bacterial soap in all hand-washing stations, and have placed dozens of alcohol-based hand sanitizers throughout all areas of the parks,” reads the statement. “Finally, we are frequently cleaning and disinfecting all ride vehicles, queue lines, restrooms, food locations, and employee break areas.”

Hersheypark: Delaying opening until May

Update (March 16): Hershey has closed its Hershey’s Chocolate World locations in NYC and Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania-based theme park intends to open its doors as usual on April 4. A letter from president and CEO John Lawn reads:

As part of our commitment to your health and well-being, we are carefully monitoring the COVID-19 situation with regular updates and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as well as additional government agencies and health care providers. We are also working closely with our partners throughout the amusement park, entertainment and lodging industries.

(Update March 27): Due to the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolving in Pennsylvania, Hershey Park will delay opening until May 1, 2020.

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