Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (2023)

Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (1)

Amusement parks have changed while you were away in 2020. Here's what's new in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.

Jim MartinErie Times-News

PublishedUpdated

Amusement parks have changed while you were away in 2020. Here's what's new in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.

Jim MartinErie Times-News

PublishedUpdated

The Jersey Devil Coaster, scheduled to open in 2020, was billed as the world's tallest, fastest and longest single-rail coaster.

But the first eager rider is still waiting to climb aboard. Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, was forced to shut down construction this past summer because of the pandemic.

The new coaster is expected to open sometime this year, joining a lineup of 13 roller coasters and 52 other attractions at the park in Ocean County, about 100 miles from New York City.

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Six Flags Great Adventure and Safari introduce 'Coaster Power Hours'

Offering exclusive ride time on up to 12 roller coasters, Coaster Power Hours will include music, specialty food, free parking and surprises for guests throughout the night.

Brian Johnston, Asbury Park Press

Some version of that scenario is expected to play out at amusement parks across the country, where owners moved ahead with building plans despite the COVID-19 slowdown, or are ready now to bring new offerings online.

Sweet upgrades atHersheypark

Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (2)

That's the case at Hersheypark, a theme park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which features 70 rides and attractions, including 14 roller coasters.

This year's additions to the park,owned by Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Co.,aren't rides that twist, spin or plunge, but three new restaurants and food venues that trade on the chocolate and sweets that made Hershey famous.

Here's a look:

Lost ground

Time will tell whether expanded water parks, fresh ice cream and the promise of a fast new roller coaster will bring the crowds back to the nation's amusement parks, including those in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.

There is some catching up to do.

Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (3)

Six Flags, the world's largest regional theme park company with 27 amusement parks, reported that both attendance andrevenue fell 96% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year.

Things hadn't improved much byOctober when Disney announced the layoff of 28,000 employees.

The Whirlwind at Waldameer

Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (4)

In Erie, Pennsylvania, management of family-owned Waldameermakes an effort to add something new each offseason.Sometimes it's a ride. Sometimes it's an expansion of its water park. Sometimes it's both.

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New for 2020 was a family-oriented spinning roller coaster called Whirlwind. The park also continued to expand its water park, adding a six-lane racing waterslide, the construction of which was delayed by a statewide shutdown on construction.

"It was very popular for the people who did come in the park," said Steve Gorman, the park's president.

The problem was that not enough people came to the park.

“Our attendance is much lower than we had anticipated and hoped for,” Gorman said when he was interviewed in late July. “I was optimistic that most people were willing to get out and resume life and have fun. I appear to have been mistaken.”

Gorman's hoping this year will be different. He's hoping thatthe desire to do something fun after a year spent mostly at homewill bring the crowds. And he's hoping last year's crop of new rides — still unseen and unridden by most of the park's fans— will still offer the glimmer of something new.

A visit to Steelers Country

At Kennywood Park, near Pittsburgh, park fans will be ableto renew acquaintances with the Steel Curtain, a giant roller coaster that's part of Kennywood's Steelers Country, a themed section of the amusement park.

The Steel Curtain, an inversion coaster that flips riders upside-down a record nine times and was named Best New Roller Coaster by Amusement Today magazine, drew crowds when it opened in July 2019.

Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (5)

But in a pandemic-shortened 2020, the signature coaster sat unused and silent.

Now, the big new coaster, which tops the Pennsylvania speed limit at 76 mph, was ready to go whenthe park openedon May 8.

For many park patrons, a re-imagined version of the Old Mill, one of Kennywood's oldest rides that was reinvented for 2020, also will feel like something new, said Nick Paradise, a spokesman for Kennywood.

"We are feeling very optimistic for this year," he said. "That's the signalwe are getting from our sister parks,"

The combination of attractions that will be new to many patrons and improved public health outlook is fueling optimism, Paradise said. "Just to start our season at the beginning of May, that is really going to help you get closer to a normal season," he said.

Safety measures and Six Flags' Jersey Devil

But some things won't be normal just yet. Amusement parkfans from across the country— including those who stayed at home last year— will likely find their favorite park continues to follow COVID-19 safety measures.

At Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, for instance, that means temperature checks andtouchless security screening, as well as masks and social distancing guidelines.

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It's a good bet, though, that patrons of the park, which opened at the end of March, are more excited about new attractions.

According to MeganWerts, spokeswoman for Six Flags Great Adventure, those attractions will include:

Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (6)

Did you miss out on Skyscreamer?

Another property owned by the same company, Six Flags Darien Lake in Corfu, New York, isn't touting any new rides for 2021.

But newcomers and patrons who have been away for a while might be getting their first look atSkyScreamer, which made its debut in 2019.

The Buffalo News describes it "as a 24-story high elevated swingridethat spins 32 passengers around a 98-foot circle at 35 mph."

Delayed Spinsanity

AnotherSix Flags property, Six Flags America in Bowie, Maryland, had planned to open a new ride in 2020, but delayed those plans until this summer.

According to the park, "With a top speed of 70 miles per hour, riders will experience weightlessness as the ride reachesmaximum swing heights of 15 stories in the air."

Luna Park and Deno's bring new rides toConey Island

Two of the nation's most iconic amusement parks, Luna Park and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, both in Coney Island, New York, have both reopened after being shut down since the fall of 2019.

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AtDeno's, the 101-year-old Wonder Wheel is spinning once again. The park also plans to debut the Phoenix, described by Attractions magazine as "a new family-friendly steel suspended roller coaster."

Meanwhile, Luna Park, also on Coney Island, has opened the season with six new rides.

Building an adventure at Legoland New York

Finally, ride openings weren't the only thing in the amusement park world that was delayed by the pandemic.

Legoland NY: See inside the soon-to-open theme park

Take a look at the progress of Legoland New York which is slated to open in phases summer 2021 in Goshen NY

John Meore, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

In Goshen, New York, about 60 miles from New York City, the opening of an entire park was pushed by a year because of the pandemic. Legoland New York Resort is expected to open this summer, with daily tickets and annual passes now on sale.

According to the Orange County Register, the "500-acre New York location will feature more than 50 rides, shows and attractions in eight themed lands — including Pirates Shores, Lego Ninjago World and Heartlake City."

The new park is billed as the world's largest Legoland park.

Amusement parks upped their game while fans sheltered at home. Here's what's new for 2021 (8)

Jim Martin can be reached at jmartin@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at@ETNMartin.

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