The ever-changing COVID-19 situation means that the status of theme parks, zoos and aquariums is also ever-changing. We have hopping news! As of June 15, 2021, California theme parks, water parks, zoos and aquariums may return to full capacity and pre-pandemic operations. But will they? The theme parks, zoos and aquariums can set their own guidelines. We will get into those below as news rolls in for each park. You should also visit the park's site before visiting to get the most up-to-date information during these changing times. We have big news for out-of-state visitors, who are allowed to visit all the parks as of June 15!
How California Theme Parks Are Reopening
The parks are now open! Our froggy fingers have been busy at the keyboards keeping our blog up-to-date with the latest guidelines for California theme parks, zoos and aquariums over these past few months. Of course, things may not necessarily go back to "normal" immediately, but we can expect a general relaxation of the strict protocols under which the parks reopened. Each park is a little different in its approach.
As of June 15, 2021:
- California theme parks may return to full capacity.
- The parks are no longer required to maintain physical-distancing guidelines.
- The California Health Department added special regulations for venues such as theme parks to be classified as "mega-events" as outdoor venues with over 10,000 people.
- The agency strongly recommends that the venues require a vaccination record or COVID-19 test, but this will not be enforced. If an individual at an outdoor event cannot verify that they have been vaccinated, it is recommended that the venue asks the guest to wear a mask.
- The State of California strongly recommends that all guests be fully vaccinated or obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering the theme parks.
- California is not considering a statewide vaccine passport.
- Restrictions on travel outside the state are lifted as of June 15. Any future travel restrictions will align with CDC guidelines.
- The California mask mandate ends June 15. (Some parks will simply encourage mask use while others may still require face coverings for unvaccinated guests indoors and encourage their use outdoors.)
- The new mandates will run through October 1, and will be reassessed on September 1.
But wait. Even though the theme parks may fully reopen at full capacity on June 15, some will not. Each theme park can come up with its own capacity and physical distancing guidelines, rules for masks and overall plans to keep guests and employees safe. Plus it takes time to rehire and retrain employees, so some parks may slowly inch up to full capacity.
Until June 15, the theme parks are limited in capacity and must track contact information (including a phone number) for ticket buyers. We will get into more details below. But first, let's look at the important stuff we all are hopping to know — who can visit and do we need to wear a mask?
Who Can Visit and Do We Need to Wear a Mask?
Some theme parks have allowed fully vaccinated out-of state travelers to visit. Others have limited attendance to California residents. As of June 15, anyone can visit.
Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm start allowing out-of-state visitors June 15, 2021. Six Flags will make its own announcements soon. SeaWorld, LEGOLAND and Universal Studios Hollywood have already begun welcoming back out-of-state visitors with proof of vaccination. These parks will now accept them without proof of vaccination after June 15. Even though masks become optional in some parks, the parks and CDC guidelines strongly encourage unvaccinated guests to continue to wear face coverings.
All of the SoCal theme parks, water parks, zoos and aquariums have reopened! Here is a quick look at status for out-of-state visitors (subject to change) and facial coverings as of June 15, 2021 (subject to change):
- The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are both open (and will no longer require reservations or dated tickets). There are no restrictions for out-of-state visitors. Face masks will not be required. Buses and tours will resume without limits.
- Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor are now open. You no longer need to make a reservation to visit. No capacity limits or distancing on rides. Out-of-state visitors are welcome. Fully vaccinated guests are not required to wear a mask. Unvaccinated guests ages 2 and up should wear a mask indoors.
- LEGOLAND California Theme Park, LEGO CHIMA Water Park and SEA LIFE Aquarium reopened April 15, 2021, with a reservations system. Hotels are open. Out-of-state visitors are welcome and face masks are encouraged.
- Disneyland reopened April 30, 2021, with a theme park reservation system. Only California residents may attend before June 15. As of June 15, out-of-state visitors may come. Masks will be optional for fully vaccinated guests in all areas of the resort, except transportation. Guests ages 2 and up who are not fully vaccinated will be required to wear masks in all indoor locations, except while dining.
- Universal Studios Hollywood reopened April 16, 2021. The park will resume normal operations and post the new mask policy on its site (TBD). Out-of-state visitors will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination.
- Knott's Berry Farm reopened May 21, 2021. Out-of-state visitors are welcome back June 15. Knott's Soak City reopened to the public May 29, 2021. Knott's requires unvaccinated guests to wear masks in indoor settings.
- SeaWorld San Diego Resumes normal operation as of June 15. Masks are not required. Out-of-state visitors are welcome back without restrictions. SeaWorld will remind guests of the state's recommendations. Aquatica reopens May 29, 2021.
- The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is open with a reservation system. There are no restrictions for out-of-state visitors. We are awaiting further news regarding masks, but the site still says masks are required when we checked on June 15.
Keep hopping back for updates!
What to Expect at Each Southern California Theme Park, Zoo and Aquarium After June 15
Here's a fresh look at how the Southern California theme parks, zoos and aquariums are reopening now that government restrictions are ending.
If you are anything like us frogs, you’re curious about what the Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego theme parks, zoos and aquariums will be like after June 15. We've put on our themed character masks and have been hopping to the parks and zoos now that they have reopened to get the full scoop on what to expect when the California theme parks reopen. But now we enter a new period of returning to a new normal. These are exciting times, but we do not know what to expect and the parks may vary in their approach.
Our big questions are:
- Does the park still require face coverings after June 15?
- Will there be physical distancing guidelines in place for queues and rides and dining areas?
- When will Single Rider lines return?
- When will entertainment return (it already has in some parks)?
- When will options for skipping the lines return (they already have in some parks)?
- Will the parks be crowded?
The answers will vary per park. We are sharing everything we know and have several visits scheduled to find out what things are like in this new time. Keep hopping back as we share what we learn.
We’ve broken this list down by general region and resort. Here's a look at what to expect when these Los Angeles County and Orange County theme parks reopen.
Disneyland Resort theme parks reopened April 30, 2021. Here is what we expect in the phased Disneyland reopening:
- Ticket sales and park reservations are open. Walt Disney Travel Company packages are now available for purchase.
- Dining reservations are open with more restaurants and reservations opening all the time.
- April 29, 2021 — Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa reopened.
- June 15, 2021 — Disney's Paradise Pier reopens and out-of-state visitors are allowed. Masks are optional for fully vaccinated guests in all areas, except on transportation. Unvaccinated guests ages 2 and up will still be required to wear a mask in all indoor areas, except when dining.
- July 2, 2021 — Disneyland Hotel reopens.
One of the biggest changes that came with the Disneyland reopening that remains in place for some time is the new park reservation system. Disneyland manages attendance through this new theme park reservation system. It requires all guests ages 3 and up to get an advance reservation for park entry. You need valid admission and a park reservation for the same park, on the same day, for entry; dining and/or hotel reservations do not guarantee park entry.
To get an in-depth look at what the theme parks are like right now, hop over to these posts:
- Ready to Hop Back to Disney California Adventure Park? Here's What to Expect
- Planning a Visit to Disneyland? Here's What It's Like After Reopening
- What Is Closed or Open at Disneyland Right Now?
Disneyland has canceled its Annual Passholder program. Passholders who held active passports as of March 14, 2020, will receive pro-rata refunds. Follow this link to learn about Annual Passholder refund information.
The parks, hotels, restaurants and other locations will remain limited in capacity. Disneyland is following the guidelines from the health experts, the Centers for Disease Control and the California state government. Here's what to expect:
- Temperature checks end June 15.
- Capacity is still limited via a theme park reservations system.
- The theme parks will slowly increase capacity of the parks and restaurants.
- Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in May that he expects the company’s U.S. theme parks to see low double-digit attendance increases over the next several months, with the parks reaching full capacity by the fall.
- Lifting the 15-minute for indoor rides and queues could mean that pre-show elements for popular rides such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout could return.
- No FASTPASS or MaxPass yet.
- Disneyland is encouraging cashless transactions and will reduce interactions between cast members and guests through the use of technology and other measures. You can expect contactless payments and expanded mobile ordering in the Disneyland app, Apple Pay and more. Plexiglass partitions add separation at park entrances, shops and restaurants. Expect temporary closures of play areas.
- You'll see increased cleaning and disinfection around the resort, especially for high-contact areas. Hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer is available throughout the resort.
- Expect to rely on Mobile Order for food.
- Entertainment is returning slowly.
- Face covering policies change as of June 15; fully vaccinated guests have the option to go maskless in all areas on property, with the exception of on transportation. Unvaccinated guests ages 2 and up will need to wear masks in all indoor areas, except while dining.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal CityWalk reopened in summer 2020, and the theme park fully reopened April 16, 2021. Hop over to our Universal Studios Hollywood reopening post for all the details. Universal Studios Hollywood complies with health and state/local government guidelines.
Universal Studios Hollywood plans to resume business as normal on June 15 and will not have any attendance or ride capacity restraints after that date. The park always manages park capacity to provide the best guest experience (which is why we frogs always recommend arriving early in the day). The following guidelines apply after June 15:
- No ride capacity restraints.
- No advance reservations necessary.
- The park will continue to follow state requirements when it comes to masks.
- Unvaccinated visitors are strongly recommended to wear a mask in accordance with state COVID-19 guidelines.
- The park will post vaccination signage in the park and notices online.
- The park will no longer check for proof of vaccination.
- Out-of-state visitors are welcome.
- Use the Universal Studios Hollywood app for contact-free features.
- The park already phased out temperature checks.
- Universal Express has remained available for skipping the lines.
- Some shows have returned.
Knott’s Berry Farm
The western theme park reopened to the public May 21, 2021, and Knott's Soak City reopened May 29, 2021. Knott's Berry Farm has the following rules in place as of June 15:
- The park already phased out temperature checks.
- Out-of-state residents are welcome starting June 15.
- Timed entry has been discontinued, but you still need to make a reservation to visit.
- Knott’s will require guests to self-attest their vaccination status and wear masks in indoor settings.
- Guests are required to wear face coverings indoors unless fully vaccinated.
- Guests undergo health screenings.
- The park is hopping with entertainment, especially during Summer Nights.
Knott's is celebrating 100 years this summer with musical entertainment and a new ride. Find out more in Our Hoppening Guide to Visiting Knott's Berry Farm This Summer.
Outside the park, select locations in the California Marketplace are open daily. Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant is open. You can also enjoy Mrs. Knott's Chicken-to-Go Restaurant, Farm Bakery and the Knott's Berry Market. We always grab a boysenberry pie there when we leave the park. Yum!
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain reopened to California residents with rides April 1, 2021. Hurricane Harbor at Magic Mountain returned May 22, 2021.
Six Flags welcomes back out-of-state residents without restrictions. There are no more attendance or capacity limits. Guest no longer need to make a reservation.
Fully vaccinated guests do not have to wear face coverings. Unvaccinated guests ages 2 and up should wear a mask in indoor spaces.
Aquarium of the Pacific
The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is fully open. In order to maintain social distancing, the aquarium has introduced timed reservations. Visitors need to select a date and time upon purchase. Psst ... we frogs love a good deal, so it's no secret that you can purchase discount Aquarium of the Pacific tickets through Undercover Tourist. You can select the date and entry time before you check out. If you already hold an unused ticket, you can make a free reservation on the aquarium site. Capacity is limited by a reservation system, so weekends and popular times may sell out. Buy early! We are still awaiting further details on what to expect after June 15, but as of July 15 morning, the mask policy remains in place. Until further notice, all guests ages 2 and up are required to wear a mask both indoors and outdoors.
San Diego Zoos and Theme Parks
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park have roared back to life. Beginning June 15, in accordance with state and local guidelines, the San Diego Zoo and Safari park are lifting most COVID-19 restrictions:
- Date-specific tickets are no longer needed. If you already have a ticket, it will still be honored.
- No more health screenings prior to guest entry.
- Proof of vaccination is not required upon entry.
- Facial coverings are no longer required on grounds. Those who are not fully vaccinated are recommended by the CDC to wear facial coverings.
- Special experience tours are no longer limited to household groups. This allows for individual pricing and greater availability.
- The tram and bus tours return.
LEGOLAND California Reopening
LEGOLAND California Resort reopened the theme park, SEA LIFE aquarium and LEGO CHIMA Water Park on April 15, 2021. The LEGOLAND hotels are open. Hop over to our post on the LEGOLAND California reopening for the latest news and details, as well as the LEGOLAND site for updates! Here's what we know so far:
- LEGOLAND will operate without attendance capacity restrictions.
- Online advance reservations are still required.
- Rides, attraction queues, indoor shows, restaurants and shops return to full capacity on June 15.
- Mask usage is still strongly encouraged (but not required).
- Physical distancing is still encouraged, with space between parties in show venues.
- All rides are regularly cleaned and hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the park.
- Unvaccinated visitors are strongly recommended to follow state mask guidelines and will be required to agree to those terms when purchasing tickets and making advance reservations online.
- The new LEGO Movie World has opened and may we say that "everything is awesome!" The tadpoles also loved the water play area in the land, so bring those swimsuits!
- Reserve 'N' Ride is available.
- The resort is still cashless.
SeaWorld San Diego Reopening
SeaWorld San Diego opened with rides on April 12, 2021, although the rides selection has been limited. The park had been operating as a zoo and aquarium until rides began to reopen. Hop over to our SeaWorld San Diego reopening post for the latest dates, news and details about the SeaWorld San Diego events this year. Here is what we know about operations as of June 15:
- SeaWorld San Diego will return to full capacity and usual operations with no COVID-19 restrictions.
- Restaurants, shops, rides and indoor exhibits also return to full capacity with no 6-foot physical distancing requirements.
- Quick Queue front-of-the-line system is back.
- Visitors are no longer required to wear masks.
- No restrictions for out-of-state visitors.
- The park will remind visitors of the state’s vaccination and mask recommendations, but won’t require proof of vaccination after June 15.
- The California Department of Public Health strongly recommends visitors who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine (or a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours) to wear a mask while visiting the park.
- Shows are operating.
SeaWorld was the first Southern California theme park to bring back fireworks on select nights. It offers socially distant viewing areas around the park.
Hopfully, this gives you a sense of what to expect when the California theme parks reopen. We expect this situation to continue to evolve, so be sure to keep hopping back for the latest updates. For park closure and reopening dates, hop over to our post on COVID-19 Information for Theme Parks and Hotels.