7 Things You'll Never See in Theme Parks Ever Again
Long lines and buffet-style restaurants will be missing from theme parks after coronavirus.
Few venues will be untouched by the changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic when they reopen. But the modifications will be especially evident at theme parks—places designed to welcome large groups, with many congregating together. Indeed, when theme parks reopen, they're likely to do so with significant changes to their infrastructure, in details both large and small. And while guests might miss out on some cherished opportunities of the past (like hugging their favorite characters), they might find some changes actually improve the overall experience (like the end of snaking in-person lines). We asked experts to predict what theme parks will look like after coronavirus. And for more changes to prepare for, check out these 8 Major Ways Disney World Will Look Different After Coronavirus.
No more crowds gathering for shows or parades
In addition to rides, many theme parks offer timed attractions such as shows or parades. And not only do these draw crowds during scheduled events—they also often lure crowds to assemble in large groups well ahead of time, even lining the parade route for hours to stake out a spot. But don't expect to see that kind of setup anytime soon.
"I would expect theme parks to cut down on activities that draw large crowds, including shows in enclosed areas where patrons sit close next to each other," predicts Vassilis Dalakas, a professor of marketing at Cal State University San Marcos. "Some of those decisions will be harder than others because some of the activities that draw large crowds are well known and popular. Eliminating them will be faced with disappointment and even protests by many of the theme park's fans. But it's safe to assume that [these events] will be executed in a different way to ensure safety of the cast members as well as the visitors."
No more 3-D glasses
Many theme parks offer rides, screenings, and other attractions that transport them right into the action by way of 3-D (or 4-D) experiences, for which guests pick up special glasses on the way inside—and return them on the way out. Don't expect this kind of equipment reuse going forward.
"I think that the parks will be forced to cease all 3-D and 4-D attractions due to the risk of wearing the reusable glasses," says Melody Pittman, travel blogger at Wherever I May Roam. "Kids also tend to put them in their mouths, as I've witnessed too many times to count. The parks currently do a good job of sanitizing them between uses, but that may not be enough to counteract the COVID-19 spread."
No more buffet restaurants
Much has been made of self-serve and buffet-style dining in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. (California's decades-old self-serve restaurant chain Souplantation is already among the pandemic's casualties.) So certainly, buffet-style restaurants in theme parks are also likely to fall away as a dining option.
"Several theme parks rely on buffet-style restaurants to serve the large number of guests who visit parks daily," says travel agent and theme park enthusiast Allen Estrada. "There is simply too much risk to guests to keep things the same. One infected person can ruin it for the entire theme park." And for more things that will be missing on your next Disney trip, discover 7 Things You Won't See at Disney World Ever Again After Coronavirus.
No more shared beverage stations
Because theme parks are in the business of moving as many people through the area as efficiently as possible, some offer water fountain stations large enough for multiple people to drink at once—and that's not going to fly in the age of coronavirus.
"No more shared drinking stations. I'm referring to the circular ones where four or more people can drink at the same time," Cua predicts. "It is an efficient way to reduce lines, but with social distancing measures, these will be gone. You don't want to be drinking from a water fountain next to someone who also has their mouth open, drinking water."
Similarly, Estrada predicts, you probably won't be seeing self-serve soda stations—where guests grab their own cups and lids—at park restaurants anymore, either.
No more long lines
In what should sound like positive news for theme park fans, those endlessly snaking lines for rides are likely to be a thing of the past, replaced by new protocols meant to establish more social distancing.
"Switching to virtual queues seems inevitable and, frankly, it is a change most visitors would welcome given that waiting in line with many other people is one of the least enjoyable parts of a visit to a theme park," notes Dalakas.
Raymond Cua, Travelling Foodie founder and editor-in-chief, suggests it could work this way: "You'll receive a time slot on when to arrive for the ride or show, but time slots will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, except for VIP passes." And for more ways to avoid contamination, learn which 7 Things You'll Never Want to Touch Again After the Coronavirus.
No more physical contact at meet-and-greets
Kids (and many adults!) cherish the opportunity for character meet-and-greet opportunities at theme parks. In addition to a photo opp, it's a chance to go in for a big hug—but that won't be the case going forward. To honor social distancing and reduce virus transmission risk, Estrada says, "no longer will guests be able to hug their favorite character." And to make sure you're staying safe, these are the 7 Germiest Public Places You Should Avoid Even After They Reopen.
No more spontaneous visits
Estrada predicts that theme parks may move to implement a system requiring advance reservations—rather than welcoming an unknown number of guests to purchase tickets at the gate. "Everyone is going to want to visit a theme park the moment they open," he says. "This would cause that park to have to turn people away at the gates, which would possibly cause a large gathering outside of the park as well as inside it."