Two of the Most Popular Tourist Attractions in the U.S. Are Reopening
These two iconic spots are welcoming visitors again—here's what you need to know.
After being cooped up in quarantine for months, we're all more than ready to get outside and breathe some fresh air. Luckily, two iconic attractions are reopening just in time—and they both have plenty of room to roam. Yellowstone, America's first national park, and the Grand Canyon, the second most-visited national park, are welcoming sightseers this week. But not everything will look as it did pre-pandemic. So, before you lace up your hiking boots and set off on your next adventure, make sure to double check these changes as national parks reopen. And for more quick trips you can take amid coronavirus, check out the 6 Easy Getaways You Can Safely Take This Weekend.
There are limited entry points.
Many tourist attractions and national parks are reopening in phases. The Grand Canyon, for instance, started by partially opening the South Rim. But travelers can only enter this popular section between 4 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Once you're in the park, you may stay until sunset.) The West Rim opened Jun. 1, so fearless tourists can now stroll across the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass bridge that teeters 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. On Jun. 5, both the North and South Rims will be completely reopened.
Meanwhile, Yellowstone's east and south entrances in Wyoming opened on May 18. On Jun. 1, the three remaining access points in Montana began operating as part of the state's second phase of reopening. All of Yellowstone's visitor centers are closed for the foreseeable future. And for places you won't see for a long time, check out These Will Be the Last Places to Reopen After the Coronavirus.
The lodges are closed.
Although both parks are open during the daytime, it's very difficult—if not impossible—to spend the night. At the Grand Canyon, the Mather Campground on the South Rim will reopen on Jun. 5, however the lodges and other campgrounds are shuttered indefinitely.
At Yellowstone, 37 cabins managed by Xanterra Travel Collection opened at Mammoth Hot Springs on Jun. 1, with more to come the rest of the month. However, campgrounds are set to reopen in phase two (sometime later in June) and the national park's lodges are scheduled to be part of phase three, but no specific dates have been announced. And for more ways hotels could look different post-pandemic, check out the 8 Things You May Never See in Hotel Rooms Again.
Most tours are postponed.
Have you dreamed of cruising along the Colorado River or driving down Yellowstone's scenic roads? Well, unfortunately, you'll have to wait a bit longer. At the Grand Canyon, the first river rafting trips to resume are those organized by the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, starting on Jun. 8. The remaining commercial whitewater rafting trips are postponed until Jun. 14.
Yellowstone, meanwhile, has banned all large tour buses, according to park superintendent Cam Sholly.
There are new safety measures, including temperature checks and mandatory masks.
Some states may be lifting lockdowns, but safety measures are still in full force. When travelers arrive at the Grand Canyon's West Rim, they will undergo a contactless temperature check and be asked about any COVID-19 symptoms. They must also wear face masks and social distance by six feet. Restaurants and gift shops will have occupancy limits and signs to remind groups to spread out. In addition, there will be hand sanitizer stations near key touch points (like doors and cash registers).
Yellowstone is also taking safety precautions seriously. The national park has spent $136,000 on sanitizing equipment, personal protective equipment, and signs promoting personal hygiene and social distancing. It has also expanded boardwalks around Old Faithful and other popular thermal areas to provide more space for people.
It costs less to visit.
To entice travelers, the Grand Canyon is offering some unbelievable deals. Healthcare workers, firefighters, first responders, and teachers can enter the West Rim area for free until Jun. 8. Tourists, on the other hand, can buy discounted tickets through Jul. 31. (This includes a $59 deal for the Skywalk, which typically costs $82.) And to budget for future vacation plans, check out This Is What It Will Cost to Fly After Coronavirus.