SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - For the first time in 13 months, theme parks across California are ready to fully reopen, including Legoland in Carlsbad and SeaWorld San Diego. But the new normal will come with some significant changes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I have to remind everybody that the fun doesn't go away. It just looks a little different in terms of the experience," says Legoland President Kurt Stocks.
His park will be the first major theme park to reopen fully to guests in the state.
On April 1, Legoland will admit annual passholders, hotel guests, and anyone who bought a ticket before the pandemic started. Then on April 15, the park will open to the general public.
"After 13 months of not seeing families and kids and fun faces and interactions, we're very ready to go again," says Stocks.
New guidance from the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA says theme parks can reopen at 15% capacity if their county is in the red tier for coronavirus cases. Attendance can expand to 25% in the orange tier and then 35% in the yellow tier.
The rules also require masks for everyone, temperature checks before admittance, and social distancing throughout each park.
The rules also say that only California residents will be allowed to attend.
SeaWorld San Diego, however, will not have to abide by all of those rules because it will continue operations as an accredited zoo. It has been open since Feb. 6 under those guidelines, which allow for a higher attendance limit and out-of-state visitors.
But, as a zoo, it cannot operate rides.
"We'll stay as a zoo through the first part of April, while spring break is going," says Park President Marilyn Hannes. "We certainly need the room. We need the capacity."
Hannes says she expects the park to transition to the theme park rules sometime this spring. In the meantime, the park has added fireworks shows, reopened its indoor exhibits, and refreshed the Sesame Street Bay of Play area.
One of the most significant additions is a new show, "R is for Rescue," which features Sesame Street characters teaching kids about SeaWorld's animal rescue efforts. The show is only available at SeaWorld San Diego.
"It's a really fun way to learn about rescue," says Hannes. "When Elmo and Abby come out, all the kids go wild. You would think it's a rock star coming out on the stage because the kids just really, really love it."
But some of the most-anticipated attractions will still be off-limits when Legoland and SeaWorld reopen. Both park presidents say they plan to wait until later this year to open their new attractions: Lego Movie World at Legoland and the Emperor Roller Coaster at SeaWorld.
As for annual passholders, both parks say any pass that was active when the park shut down will still be accepted.
They say people should check the park websites for more information about tickets and reservations.