Theme Park News: LEGOLAND New York Nears Completion, Parks Adjust Mask Rules, and More

In accordance with CDC guidelines, theme parks have begun adjusting their outdoor masking rules. Plus: LEGOLAND New York nears completion and more May 2021 theme park news.
Magic returns to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California (Photo: Disneyland Resort)
Magic returns to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California (Photo: Disneyland Resort)

Welcome to Please Remain Seated, FamilyVacationist’s monthly theme park news column by Tarah Chieffi. Keep reading for the latest news and tips from the world of Disney, Universal, and other popular parks.

Welcome back to another month of theme park news! I’m feeling more qualified than ever to write this column as I just returned from my second Orlando trip of the year and already have at least three more planned in 2021.

My family and I spent a few days at Walt Disney World checking out the Taste of Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival (if you go, try the Fruit Loops shake!) and the Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. We even made a funny memory at Magic Kingdom, where my four-year-old called Peter Pan “Peter Pants.” Now we’ve officially changed his name to Peter Pants. But enough about me, let’s get to the news.

Theme Park News for May 2021

California Theme Parks Are Open and Growing

California theme parks have officially reopened to Golden State residents! A few, including Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld San Diego, are even accepting fully vaccinated visitors from out of state. To add to the excitement, the parks have already started announcing new attractions and lands to entice you when you’re ready to travel again.

Avengers Campus is set to open at Disney California Adventure on June 4. Guests will have the chance to meet their favorite Marvel super heroes, sling webs with Spider-Man, and dine on miniature and oversized treats in the Pym Test Kitchen. 

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Over at Universal Studios Hollywood, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash ride is finally up and running. It was scheduled to open last March, but was delayed when the park shut down due to the pandemic. I couldn’t resist watching a POV video online and, let me tell you, it looks like it was worth the wait. Those pets are just too cute. Also at Universal Studios, Jurassic World–The Ride added a couple of updated show scenes with the terrifying Indominus Rex.

LEGOLAND California announced April 27 that its newest land, THE LEGO MOVIE WORLD, will open May 27. The land will house three new rides, character meet-and-greets, a playground, a LEGO building zone, restaurants, shops, and more. I can’t wait to try out Unikitty’s Disco Drop!

LEGOLAND New York Nears Completion

The entrance to LEGOLAND New York (Photo: LEGOLAND)
The entrance to LEGOLAND New York (Photo: LEGOLAND)

Speaking of theme parks built from LEGO bricks, LEGOLAND New York is nearing completion and slated to open this year in Goshen, New York (about 60 miles northwest of New York City). The park’s 250-room LEGOLAND Hotel will also open this year with rooms themed to various LEGO toys like LEGO Friends and LEGO NINJAGO.

Some of the attractions are similar to those found in other LEGOLAND parks, but there is one particularly exciting attraction that you won’t find anywhere else: The all-new LEGO Factory Adventure Ride will give riders a brick’s-eye view of how LEGO bricks are built. The ride uses all kinds of fancy motion-tracking and computer-mapping technology to transform riders into LEGO minifigures. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been curious what I’d look like as a minifigure.

Summer Lovin’

Ratatouille topiary (Photo: Kent Phillips / Walt Disney World)
Ratatouille topiary (Photo: Kent Phillips / Walt Disney World)

Theme parks across the country are gearing up for summer with new and returning shows and festivals. Every weekend (and select Fridays) through May 16, guests at Six Flags Over Texas can enjoy the brand new ¡Viva la Fiesta! Festival. As part of the park’s 60th anniversary, there will be specialty food and drinks, live Latin music and dance performances, and more.

Dollywood’s Summer Celebration runs June 25 through July 31 and features a daily street party with a DJ and dancers, a colorful nighttime show with fireworks and drones, and extended park hours so you can enjoy nighttime rides.

Disney World’s Epcot International Food and Wine Festival kicks off July 15 and runs straight through November 20. That’s more than enough time for you to experience the global food and drink marketplaces, live concerts, souvenir shopping, and Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak food-themed scavenger hunt. 

Last but not least, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay recently announced the return of its fan-favorite “Turn it Up!” ice-skating show and the debut of an all-new “Cirque Electric” acrobatic stunt show on May 28. Both shows will be held indoors with social distancing between groups, required face coverings, and stringent cleaning between shows. 

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To Mask, Or Not To Mask?

Tarah Chieffi at Epcot (Photo: Tarah Chieffi)
Tarah Chieffi at Epcot (Photo: Tarah Chieffi)

After more than a year, most of us are getting pretty used to wearing masks in public spaces. As scientists are better able to understand how COVID-19 spreads, and more and more people are receiving their vaccinations, the CDC has slowly been loosening mask guidelines. This especially applies to outdoor masking when social distancing is also present. 

In accordance with those guidelines, theme parks have been adjusting their own rules when it comes to masks. On our recent visit to Walt Disney World, we were able to briefly remove our face coverings for photos, though the same rule is not in place at Disneyland. Dollywood and Cedar Point are not requiring masks outdoors as long as you can keep up to six feet between yourself and other parties. Each park is handling things a bit differently, so be sure to read up on current rules before you visit. 

Tips For Your Trips

Veterans and Active Military

Great news for active-duty and veteran U.S. military members and their families! SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks across the country are showing their gratitude by offering military members and veterans a complimentary single-day ticket for themselves and up to three dependents. You also have the option to purchase up to six additional tickets at a 50 percent discount. Visit the Waves of Honor website to learn more.

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Just Desserts

Reusable kitchenware (Photo: shopDisney)
Reusable kitchenware (Photo: shopDisney)

Rather than showcase tasty treats this month, I wanted to share a new collection of reusable kitchenware from shopDisney that will help you enjoy your theme park treats more sustainably. The collection includes silicone straws, snack containers, utensils, washcloths, and even a fold-up water bottle. They’re all perfectly packable and a great addition to your park bag so you can “just say no” to plastic waste on your next visit.

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Tarah Chieffi
Tarah Chieffi is a theme park and family travel journalist who discovered her words were best used to help travelers plan fun-filled family vacations. When she isn't eating theme park food and riding roller coasters, she can be found cycling wherever her bike will take her, tucked under the covers with a good book, or planning her next adventure with her husband and three sons.