I had the pleasure of attending the Platinum Season Pass Preview day at Holiday World this past Sunday. A couple of things to note before I get this trip report started. Indiana has a pretty aggressive plan to reopen their economy and are pretty lax on their social distancing guidelines and masks. The state just entered phase 4 of reopening and wearing masks is not a requirement anymore. Therefore, Holiday World does NOT require a mask to attend, but they're strongly encouraging their guests to wear one. They're requiring all of their staff members to wear one. As of now, Holiday World will be operating at 50% capacity and will be allowed to go up to 75% capacity on July 4th in the state's plan.
So how has HW changed now that they're operating in a pandemic? The first change you'll notice is as you walk up to the front gate. They've installed a ton of switchbacks that have feet marking every 6 feet leading up the security check. They'll ask your group to keep it at 2 people per marking. Instead of bag search's this year, they've installed metal detectors so there's less contact between their security staff and guests. After the security check, they installed another round of switchbacks with the social distancing markers that lead to the admissions area.
Once you've had your ticket scanned, and go through the entrance gate, you'll be handed a wristband for their new inLine Reservation System for virtual queuing which will be used on all of their attractions. It's the same kind of wristbands you used for their fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo if you're familiar with them. The instructions on how to use it are on the wristband. You'll set it up on your smartphone by going to HolidayWorld.com/inLine. You'll have to setup an account on your phone with an email and password. You can use a fake email too and it's a one step simple process. I suggest setting it up before your visit so you don't have to worry about it once you get there. When your account is setup, you'll have to register your wristband by entering the QR code on it. You can do this for multiple people on one account.
Once you've registered your QR code, you're able to start reserving rides and riding. Once you select a ride, it'll give you a 15 second count off before your entered into the virtual queue. You will have to keep track of your time. It'll give you a countdown bases off how long the queue is. So if Thunderbird is a 15 min wait, it'll have a 15 min countdown clock and once those 15 mins are up, you will then have 15 mins to report to the queue or you will lose your reservation. Once you arrive at the attraction, their will be a ride host standing behind a Plexiglas stand at the entrance with a phone. They'll take a picture of the QR code on your wrist with that phone and it will then pop up on their screen on if you had a reservation for that time and how many people are in your group. They'll then tell you can enter the queue. All the queues have social distancing foot markers 6 feet apart. It appears that the parts of queues they're utilizing will be the same all year long. They'll ask you to keep to 2 people per marker in your group.
At the ride, there will be another host who will ask you how many people are in your group and if you need a basket to put your belongings in. They will then assign you a seat. All rides are like this now. They will keep your group together. On the roller coasters, once they assign you a row, you'll enter the station and see social distancing markers that are placed 6 feet away from the train at the gates. You have to stand behind these markers and they were enforcing it. The woodies will be hurt the most on capacity. They're not blocking off any rows, so they can allow groups to ride together, but they will space a row in between groups. The most they'll be able to get on one train is probably 20 people depending on the group sizes. Thunderbird will actually be able to operate at full capacity because the span between seats on the wing coaster trains are actually 6 feet.
Periodically throughout the day, they will shut down attractions to do a complete deep clean on them. They went as far on Voyage at one point to deep clean the train, then transfer on the second train and take off the train they just cleaned, and then deep clean the new train before opening it back up.
There is hand sanitizer or as the park is calling it "Santatizer" available throughout the park. It's available at all restrooms, drink stands, and the entrances of restaurants and food stands. It's also available at the exit of most attractions although it seemed the employees at the bottles pulled more toward where they were working most of the time.
There are also social distancing markers in what seem to be high traffic area's, but none really at all in the rest of the park.
Pros about my visit:
First of all it wasn't busy at all and we were able to ride everything multiple times.
I loved the new inLine Reservation system. It worked without a single issue for me and I really enjoyed being able to plan my day. I'm curious though to see how works when there are more people in the park,
There was a strong upper-management presence in the park ALL day. I talked to a couple of VP's, saw one of the owners at least 4-5 times walking around and observing how things were operating throughout the park. I also saw the park president and CEO doing the same a couple of times.
Everyone was as friendly as ever and happy to see guests again.
The park looked GREAT with all it's landscaping and it didn't look like they cut anything out of the budget because of Covid-19.
They were enforcing all of the social distancing policies they've put in place to the best of their abilities.
Cons about my visit:
Food service is going to be an absolute nightmare this year. Their two biggest and only indoor restaurants are setup to be run cafeteria style. That doesn't really work in a pandemic. They've tried to come up with the best solution they can. At Santa's Merry Market Place, you'll go in follow the signs to the food.They're limiting their menu options this year. They've put in a makeshift order stand. There will be employees there that will write down your order on sided thermal paper. They'll hand you paper copy and give the thermal copy to a host, who is going to go get your food. You'll walk to the pickup area and wait for them to bring it over there. They'll hand the trays over to the hosts at the pickup area and they'll call all your ticket number and give you your food and then you go pay. This idea seems good on paper, but people getting the food kept getting confused and mixing up tickets. Their gonna have to figure out a better plan or smooth out the one they've got, because will be a disaster if this continues once more people are in the park.
Most of HW's clientele have no regard for anything to do with social distancing or CDC guidelines. Counting my group, I probably only saw 10 people wearing masks. The majority also spent most of their time complaining about the new inLine Reservation system while they let there kids walk as close as humanly possible to other people. The number one complaint I heard several times and have seen several times online "Why should I have to reserve a spot if no one is standing in line and they have empty seats on trains" .
I also found it hilarious at the amount of Karen's who are complaining because they just can't let their kids run off and do what they want anymore. Now they have to sit with them and make reservations for them to ride rides and actually watch them instead of letting the park do it for them. Simply, HW had to implement this system or none of their guests would have ever socially distanced.
Some other notes to pass along coming from a VP:
The inLine reservation system WILL be used in the waterpark and they expect all attractions to be open in the park. They're still trying to figure out how they're going to use inLine in the waterpark, which is why they haven't made an official announcement yet. He also thinks this is the future of the industry and it's here to stay at HW.
The waterpark WILL be open by July 4th.
Cheetah Chase will open with the waterpark and one of the VP's I talked to has ridden it and says it the best ride in the water park which is some pretty high praise.
Final parting thoughts:
First, I wanna give a shout out to HW's maintenance and the people at PTC. PTC wasn't able to go back to work in Pennsylvania until this past Monday and Voyage's trains were still there awaiting final assembly and shipment. PTC got the trains finished and sent to HW by midweek. HW was able to get them on, connect all of them and have all the test laps complected for certification by state by Saturday.
All coasters were riding good. You can really tell the difference in the work they've done on Voyage over the last 2 years. I think they've finally found a solution using IPE wood as the top running boards.
It was good to finally get out and go to a park again and ride roller coasters. I'll be back on opening day and I'm curious to see how everything works with a bigger crowd. People are gonna moan and groan, but it's going to be the new normal.