Pennsylvania amusement parks and museums begin to open in July, but with restrictions

tfitzpatrick//July 14, 2020

Pennsylvania amusement parks and museums begin to open in July, but with restrictions

tfitzpatrick//July 14, 2020

Fun is making a comeback in Pennsylvania.

And Jeffrey Eisenberg heard the first rumblings of it Monday as he walked into work.

He’s the director of marketing at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, a playground for kids – with 35 rides, entertainment, campgrounds and a water park, which opens this week for season pass holders and admits the public starting Saturday, July 18. As he walked from the parking lot, he could hear the rides being tested.

“We have a lot of fun here,” he said, but it’s taken a while. “It was a very strange spring for us.”

Typically, the park would have opened in May, but with COVID-19 restrictions, the date moved back, then its employees faced the task of calculating social distancing on amusement rides and the seating capacity of 250 for its shows.

Like most of the state’s top family parks and museums, the capacity for Dutch Wonderland has been reduced by 25 or 50 percent, based on COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, some family-friendly activities are requiring advance ticket purchases.

“As excited as we are, we realize how important each and everything we do is,” Eisenberg said. “Safety and health are always our top priority. Along with our colleagues throughout the industry, we need to go above and beyond more than we ever have before.”

Some of the state’s family-friendly amusements are either open or opening soon; others haven’t made the decision to admit guests yet. So, get your masks ready and check below to see if you need to make a reservation ahead of time:

Crayola Experience: Coloring outside the lines is encouraged in this creative, playful Easton museum, but it is not yet open.

Dorney Park: Just opened this week, the Allentown park has more than 100 rides. Tickets: The park requires reservations in advance, and its main attraction, Wildwater Kingdom, isn’t open yet. Health and safety: A pre-visit health screening declaration must be completed 24 hours prior to arriving at the park; masks are required throughout the park; and a touchless temperature screening is a requirement before entering. Free admission: The park’s Pre-K Pass allows 3- to 5-year-olds to enter the park free of charge.

Dutch Wonderland: The kid-friendly, 57-year-old park in Lancaster will open to the public July 18. Tickets: Reservations are required to visit the park, even for season pass holders. Health and safety: Masks are required for all guests over the age of 3, and temperature checks will be done on each guest before admission.

Franklin Institute: This is the place in Philadelphia where science and technology meet interactive fun, and it is also open. Tickets: Like some of the other places on this list, reservations are required. The new hours during the pandemic are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. New experience: Every American president will be at the museum this summer – well, in wax form – along with some other famous leaders. So, when you have to socially distance from everyone else, you can cozy up next to a president for a photograph. Health and safety: Masks are required for all guests 3 and older, and no-touch temperature checks are performed at the entrance.

Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark: The indoor waterpark in the Poconos is open, including its four-story tandem tube ride. Capacity in the waterpark has been reduced, and social distancing is being enforced.

Hersheypark: Open! The 114-year-old amusement park near Harrisburg is looking good for its age, and always sporting a facelift. A new Chocolatetown area offers a new roller coaster, Starbucks, retail spaces, and a virtual reality game. Health and safety: The park requires masks for all visitors over age 2, except in the water ride area. Social distancing marks are found throughout the park for food and ride lines, and temperature checks are done before guests go through security. Here’s a good deal: Buy one ticket, and get a second day free. Or buy two tickets and get a third free. The offer ends July 31, but tickets are valid all summer.

Knoebel’s Amusement Park: The old-fashioned Elysburg amusement park with a little bit of everything in it opened July 1. Not all rides and food stands are open yet, and hours are limited to noon-8 p.m. Ride all day passes became available this week. 

Lake Tobias Wildlife Park: Animals from all over the world can still be seen at Lake Tobias, in Halifax, north of Harrisburg, this summer, as the park opened but with limited hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily). The safari tour, a park highlight with bison, elk, watusi and all kinds of other animals, is still available, but instead of riding in those cool cut-off buses, you’ll drive your own car. Health and safety: The zoo exhibits, reptile area, concession stands and gift shop are open, and masks are required. The museum and education center are closed.

Mount Gretna: This hidden treasure is one of the only Chautauqua-based communities left in the United States. Admission: The lake and beach, true retro fun, is open, but advance tickets are required. The Jigger Shop’s restaurant and ice cream parlor has a massive patio that is also open. Most of the events have been canceled for the summer, including the Outdoor Art Show, but a few will continue. 

Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium: It’s open with some new Cheetah cubs to visit. Health and safety: Masks are required both inside and outside for any guests older than 2. Tickets: Admission can be purchased at the gate, and the zip line, log ride and playground areas are closed. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. and close at 4:30 p.m., but the park closes at 6 p.m.

Please Touch Museum: This exploration museum in Philadelphia remains closed because of COVID-19 concerns.

Presque Isle State Park: Erie’s 3,000-acre peninsula of sandy beaches, biking, hiking and walking trails on the state’s Great Lake is open. All the beaches are open but limited to 75 percent capacity. Rentals: Boat and pavilion rentals are still available; all public restrooms are open; and family campsites, cabins, lodges and yurts are open. Environmental center: The Tom Ridge Environmental Center is only open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Health and safety: Visitors in all state park buildings must wear a mask, and possession of a mask is required on all beaches, though not required to be worn in the water.

Sandcastle Waterpark: The nearly 70-acre water park with 15 rides, a lazy river and a wave pool that overlooks the Monongahela River opened last week. Tickets: An RSVP is not required but highly suggested because if the park reaches its limited capacity for the day, unreserved guests may not enter. Health and safety: Masks are required for all guests over the age of 3, but not allowed on rides or in the pool. Temperature scans will be performed on all guests before entering.

Strasburg Rail Road: The country’s oldest operating railroad in Ronks (near Lancaster) is open, but plan ahead. Tickets: All tickets must be pre-purchased, and the trains are running at only 50 percent capacity to keep distancing in place. Health and safety: All guests over 2 years old must wear a mask, and temperature checks are taken at each entrance. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher won’t be allowed inside. Trains are cleaned between each trip. Here is the schedule for the trains.