Theme Park News: LEGOLAND New York Opens, runDisney Is Off to the Races, and More

LEGOLAND New York celebrates its grand opening! Plus: Masks are back, pre-pandemic perks are returning to Disney, and more theme park news for August 2021.
LEGOLAND New York entrance arch (Photo: LEGOLAND New York)
Photo: LEGOLAND New York

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.

While the early summer months saw a bit of return to normalcy around the country, things are once again taking a turn for the worse with COVID-19. That not only means the return of mask requirements at many theme parks, but also calls into question whether some of the park events we’re all looking forward to in the months ahead will stay on track.

Of course, there’s some good theme park news this month as well, and I’ll always be here to keep you posted on further changes. Let’s get to this month’s news!

Theme Park News for August 2021

Don’t Pack Your Masks Away Just Yet

Masks are back at theme parks (Photo: Tarah Chieffi)
Masks are back at theme parks (Photo: Tarah Chieffi)

Just when it seemed we were turning the corner in U.S. coronavirus cases, many areas of the country are now seeing spikes in infections and hospitalizations. Florida and California are two of the states experiencing such surges, and in keeping with CDC guidelines some leaders in both states are urging private businesses to reinstate indoor mask mandates that were dropped only a couple months ago.

DRESS CODE: What Not to Wear to a Theme Park (and What to Put on Instead)

Theme parks are heeding this advice and updating their mask rules once again in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. These changes are coming in as I write this column, but here’s what we know so far:

  • Walt Disney World: Face coverings are required in all indoor areas, regardless of vaccination status. This includes buses, monorails, the Disney Skyliner, and upon entering and throughout all attractions.
  • Universal Orlando Resort: Face coverings are encouraged indoors for all guests, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Universal Studios Hollywood: Face coverings are required indoors for all guests, regardless of vaccination status and are recommended at all times for guests who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Disneyland Resort: Face coverings are required in all indoor areas, regardless of vaccination status. This includes buses, monorails, the Disney Skyliner, and upon entering and throughout all attractions.

LEGOLAND New York Is Open for Business Play

LEGOLAND New York Brick Party Carousel. LEGOLAND is an amusement park for kids that has plenty for toddlers to do
Brick Party Carousel at LEGOLAND (Photo: LEGOLAND New York)

LEGOLAND New York opened a portion of its lands and attractions for previews on May 29, but now all of the park’s lands and attractions are officially open to visitors. This includes the first-of-its-kind  LEGO Factory Adventure Ride (the one I can’t stop talking about) where riders get to see themselves transformed into LEGO minifigures. The onsite LEGOLAND Hotel is already taking reservations this month.

runDisney Is Off to the Races

If you’ve missed waking up in the wee hours for the rare opportunity to run through Walt Disney World’s theme parks before they open for the day, you’re in luck. runDisney recently announced the return of in-person races, beginning with the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend November 4 to 7, 2021. This will be followed by three events already scheduled for 2022. I’ve got my eye on the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February because one of the events is sunrise yoga in front of Cinderella Castle.

Disney World Brings Back More Pre-Pandemic Perks, Entertainment, and Attractions

Everything I’m about to tell you is likely subject to change pending a further deterioration of the COVID-19 situation, but for now Disney has been pumping out the exciting news over the past few weeks about attraction re-openings and perks for onsite hotel guests.

Just in time for the start of Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration on October 1, Disney will begin offering early theme park entry for onsite hotel guests. With early theme park entry, you’ll be able to get into any of Disney’s four theme parks 30 minutes before the official opening time, every day of your stay (at this time, you still need a Park Pass reservation to enter your chosen park). 

PICK YOUR PARK: 10 Best Theme Parks in Orlando for Every Age Group and Interest

In addition to early theme park entry, guests of Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts can take advantage of ​​extended evening hours on select nights in select theme parks beginning in October. Disney has said specific dates, hours, and parks will be shared on a future date.

Though Disney World has brought some live entertainment back to its parks, there are quite a few shows and attractions that have yet to make their return. In late July, Disney announced that some of those longed-for favorites will be back in action in the coming weeks.

Hollywood Studios’ nighttime Wonderful World of Animation show returns August 1, while the same park’s Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage show resumes performances August 15. At Magic Kingdom, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor returns August 8 and Turtle Talk with Crush comes back to EPCOT August 21. 

Disneyland Halloween Is Coming Back to Life

Halloween Time at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will take place September 3 through October 31 (Photo: Disneyland Resort)
Halloween Time at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (Photo: Disneyland Resort)

Speaking of old favorites, Disneyland recently confirmed Halloween Time at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will take place September 3 through October 31. Disneyland Park will have decor, costumed characters, specialty treats, nighttime entertainment, and Haunted Mansion Holiday (a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay of the Haunted Mansion).

At Disney California Adventure, you’ll also find a “Haul-O-Ween makeover” in Cars Land and a nighttime Halloween overlay that will transform Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! into Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING: 7 Affordable California Vacation Ideas for the Whole Family

All of this is included with regular admission, but the popular Oogie Boogie Bash is also making a comeback and does require a separate ticket purchase (tickets are on sale now). Oogie Boogie Bash takes place select nights in September and October after Disney California Adventure closes to day guests, so you can enjoy trick-or-treating, photo opportunities, entertainment, attractions, décor, and more with much smaller crowds. You should probably start working on your costume now!

Tips For Your Trips

How to See Your Favorite Parades and Fireworks at Disney World

Disney's Happily Ever After fireworks show at Magic Kingdom (Photo: Kent Phillips)
Photo: Kent Phillips

On theme park vacations, there’s nothing worse than catching the tail end of a parade or show you really wanted to see. According to a recent article from Attractions Magazine, Disney World has added cavalcades (the mini parades that debuted during COVID) showtimes to the My Disney Experience app. When you open the app, click on “Today’s Showtimes” in the section that shows today’s park hours and you can easily see times for cavalcades, fireworks, and other entertainment in the app. No more missing your favorite shows!

Just Desserts

Food and dining at Disney (Photo: Walt Disney World Resort)
Food and dining at Disney (Photo: Walt Disney World Resort)

There are more than 30 global marketplaces at this year’s EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival (read our full guide to the festival here). While you probably won’t have time (or room in your belly) to try all the drinks and dishes on the menu, it can also be overwhelming to find the things you absolutely must try. Therein lies the beauty of Disney’s Foodie Guides! Naturally, they have a Foodie Guide for the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, but they often release other Foodie Guides for new food offerings, plant-based offerings, other popular festivals, and even Dole Whip treats. 

MORE FOODIE FUN: The Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic: The Ultimate Foodie Weekend at Walt Disney World

I live for these guides and always study them thoroughly before my visits. I’ll probably be at Disney World when you read this and I’ve majorly got an eye on the Crispy Chicken on a Sriracha-glazed Donut and Imperial Coffee Milk Stout at The Donut Box marketplace. Yum!

I recommend following Disney Parks Blog on Instagram so you don’t miss out when they release a new Foodie Guide.

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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.