After more than a year of enduring a global pandemic, Californians can now scream. At amusement parks, that is.
Six Flags Magic Mountain welcomed visitors again this past weekend as theme parks got the green light to reopen due to reduced COVID-19 case numbers.
During closure, Six Flags held drive-thru events and served as a vaccination site. It’s still doling out shots now.
The park opened at 15% capacity and was reserved only for California residents. Entering the grounds was drastically different. Visitors had to walk through a shipping container, with an employee scanning for high body temperatures.
Inside, plexiglass permeated several nooks and crannies, including the carnival-style games and retail stores.
Employees like Ben, who didn’t give his last name because he wasn’t authorized to talk to media, were happy to be back.
Ben worked a warehouse job during the park’s closure, describing that year as “dull.” He was elated to be back at what he calls his hobby, not his job.
“I can just feel the energy and it's ... uplifting and therapeutic to me,” he said.
Some park goers didn’t feel the same.
Maria Cruz drove to Six Flags from the San Fernando Valley with her husband and children to have fun after quarantine.
“We're like, ‘Finally we get to breathe a little bit,’” Cruz said. “[But] it’s not what I expected. I think it's too busy, I think the lines are extremely long. The waiting time is too much.”
Wait times were prolonged because several rides and queuing areas were closed, and safety measures were implemented.
Rides are now wiped with disinfectant between guests and no longer filled to capacity. Additionally, park visitors can only sit with who they arrived with, and rows of seats between guests are skipped.
Cruz said lines progressed at a glacial pace. When they did move, people crowded together instead of social distancing. Cruz felt unsafe.
“I lost my grandfather to COVID,” she said. “Being in the line for Tatsu, I saw there was no distancing at all. I decided, let's go, because I was getting anxiety.”
Cruz’s family was looking forward to Disneyland’s eventual opening but is now hesitant to do so after their experience at Six Flags.
Triston Partida and McKenze Darche, a couple who drove from Turlock to visit the park, had a different experience.
“We wouldn’t have come if we felt unsafe,” Darche said.
They made efficient use of their day, boarding a ride per hour.
Standing in an hour-plus line for “Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom,” Partida said he was savoring every prolonged minute.
“California is kind of progressing forward and kind of getting through this [pandemic]. Obviously, you want everyone to stay safe, but I’m just excited to be here. It's like a light at the end of the tunnel.”