When amusement parks and indoor play places reopen this spring, children and families will be able to return to roller coasters, virtual reality games and climbing walls.
But the play will look different from it did pre-pandemic, in some ways due to restrictions required to keep everyone safe, and in other ways, because the venues are introducing new attractions, from an oh-so-high Sports Tower at Adventureland in Farmingdale to new ropes courses at The Adventure Park at Long Island in Wheatley Heights to a new albino wallaby — and maybe even a baby zebra — at the Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park & Children's Zoo in Manorville.
Here’s what to expect before you go:
1. Price structures may change.
Adventureland, for instance, is moving to an admission fee. Previously, only those riding paid. But with the outdoor amusement park limited to 33% capacity, it’s not financially feasible to have a chunk of visitors be nonpaying, says manager Jeanine Gentile. The park hasn’t yet decided whether the policy will become permanent, she says.
2. Time slots will need to be reserved online to guarantee entry.
Urban Air in Lake Grove will book rolling two-hour time slots online to control capacity at its indoor play center, says managing partner David Wolmetz. Colored wristbands will indicate time slots and announcements will alert visitors when their session is over, he says. Walk-ins will be allowed if space permits.
Adventureland also will issue timed entry tickets, but once in the park, visitors can stay as long as they wish, though the average stay is about 2.5 hours, Gentile says. Timed ticketing is an effort to control capacity and maintain the ability to notify customers should contact tracing be needed, Gentile says. Walk-ups may still be admitted based on the day’s capacity.
3. New attractions will debut.
Three new in-the-trees ropes courses are opening at the outdoor Adventure Park at Long Island, says Candie Fisher, vice president of sales and marketing. "They have some unique elements we don’t have on our other trails," she says, including the longest zip line in the park. "We wanted to have something to enhance the experience for people but also have the ability for people to spread out a little more."
At the Long Island Game Farm, new additions include an albino wallaby with red eyes and a new rescue turtle exhibit. There may be one more addition — the park staff suspects that their Zebra named Zephyr is pregnant and may give birth by the end of the summer, says owner Melinda Novak.
The Long Island Aquarium hopes to debut an obstacle-course style treehouse by July 1, as well as a new outdoor animal habitat called Coconut Bay that will feature, among other creatures, coconut crabs.
And Adventureland will launch its Sports Tower, which was supposed to be unveiled in 2020, with cars shaped like basketballs, tennis balls, soccer balls and golf balls sailing 60 feet into the air.
4. Ridership — and show seating — may be controlled.
The number of people on a ride or attraction at one time may be reduced. "Certain rides will have certain cars or certain seats x-ed out," Gentile says of Adventureland. Lines will also be controlled with social distancing markers on the ground, she says.
The Long Island Aquarium will continue its sea lion shows, which run three to four times a day, with seating marked to separate family groups, says Darlene Puntillo, director of marketing. "We kind of have a checkerboard of where people can sit," she says.
5. Some overall capacities may increase.
Social Play Haus, an indoor play place in Plainview, had been operating at 50% capacity, but increased to 75% capacity mid-March, says co-owner Marc Bacayon. Play sessions will continue to be by reservation only. Social Play Haus will also continue to offer private play sessions.
6. Venues may offer, encourage and perhaps even require no-contact payment.
Laser Bounce Family Fun Center in Levittown has implemented online timed registration and payment. "We have an entirely new system on our website. It's very intuitive; it's very simple for customers to use," owner Ryan D'Amico says.
At Urban Air, in addition to touchless reservation, payment and check-in for entry, there even will be touchless payment for cafe purchases. Customers will order and pay on their mobile phones, show the receipt to the cafe and have their orders prepared, says managing partner Keith Handler.
7. Some offerings created during the pandemic will continue.
The Long Island Game Farm started private VIP tours for families during 2020 to allow visitors to tour the park without being exposed to others. It was so successful that it will be continued, Novak says. The tour is led by a park employee and is $250 for four people.
The Long Island Aquarium has also been offering private tours one hour before the venue officially opens, at a cost of $200 for a group of four people, which includes daily admission to the aquarium. "If they are comfortable and want to stay, they are certainly encouraged to. We are getting a good response to it," Puntillo says, and it will most likely continue through the summer.
Liddle Bites Play Cafe in Long Beach also plans to continue private play sessions it started to offer because of the pandemic. "They're actually becoming really popular," says owner Ingrid Ceniceros. "A lot of times moms like to get together with just their friends. We've had a lot of repeat bookings." Private play is $75 for up to four children for three hours; each additional child is $12.
8. Safety precautions will be in force.
Masks will be required even at Splish Splash, which plans to open Memorial Day weekend, says Mike Bengston, general manager. "Masks can get wet," he says. The masks can come off just on each ride, and Bengston says he’s not concerned about riders figuring out ways to hold them; after all, a lot of them already ride with their cellphones. "Our guests are very resourceful," he says. Plexiglass has been added where appropriate, and social distancing will be practiced at the gate and in the park. "We've modified some of the queue lines and queue areas to make sure social distancing is appropriate," he says.
Laser Bounce Family Fun Center has employed a "Clean Team" whose sole job will be to circulate through the facility cleaning and sanitizing games, inflatables and play equipment, dressed in green shirts that say Clean Team, D'Amico says. They've also installed an HVAC system to filter air inside the facility, he says.
At Urban Air, staff members will have daily temperature checks, wear masks and practice frequent hand washing. Guests will have temperature checks upon entry and will be required to wear masks. Hand sanitizers will be required before each attraction, Wolmetz says. Individual-use attractions will be wiped down after each use, and every hour, high-touch areas will be wiped down. Urban Air has also upgraded its air filtration. "It’s a constant cleaning culture here," he says.
Adventureland, 2245 Broadhollow Rd., Farmingdale. Indoor arcade and food service opens March 27, outdoor amusements open April 9 for season passholders, April 10 to the public; 631-694-6868, adventureland.us.
Urban Air Lake Grove, 3147 Middle Country Rd., Lake Grove. Grand reopening ribbon cutting at 5 p.m. on March 26; 631-861-4125, store.urbanairparks.com.
The Adventure Park at Long Island, 75 Colonial Springs Rd. Gate 3, Wheatley Heights. Opens March 26 through April 4 for spring break; then Fridays through Sundays through June 16, when it opens seven days a week; 631-983-3844, myadventurepark.com/location/wheatley-heights-ny.
Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park & Children's Zoo, 489 Chapman Blvd., Manorville. Open weekends beginning April 17; 631-878-6644, longislandgamefarm.com.
Splish Splash Water Park, 2549 Splish Splash Dr., Calverton. Opens Memorial Day weekend; 631-727-3600, splishsplash.com.
Long Island Aquarium, 431 E. Main St., Riverhead. Now open daily; 631-208-9200 ext. 246, longislandaquarium.com.
Bayville Adventure Park, 8 Bayville Ave., Bayville. Opens March 27 for spring break; then open weekends until June 14, when it will be open daily; 516-624-RIDE, bayvilleadventurepark.com.
Liddle Bites Play Cafe, 132 E. Park Ave., Long Beach. Now open; 516-442-3131, liddlebites.com.
Social Play Haus, 200 Express St., Plainview. Now open; 516-200-6444, socialplayhaus.com.
Laser Bounce Family Fun Center, 2710 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown. Grand reopening March 26; 516-342-1330, laserbounce.com.