Opinions, Pop Culture

Here comes the fun

Los Angeles is now officially in the orange tier as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline and more people get vaccinated. Under this tier, places like movie theaters and restaurants can now increase their capacity of guests from 25% to 50%.

Though LA County will still be enforcing strict regulations like operating curfews for some businesses, social distancing guidelines and a mask mandate, with looser restrictions “normal life” seems closer and closer every day. With normalcy approaching, something I’m most excited about reopening is theme parks.

Toward the end of 2020, socially distanced events were at an all-time high as companies learned to adapt to the unforeseen. One of these events was a “Stranger Things” Drive-Into experience.

As an ‘80s Sci-Fi fan, and thus obvious “Stranger Things” aficionado, I had to go! I was able to snag some tickets for December, and when the day finally came, I was pleasantly surprised by what was both a creatively orchestrated and well-worthwhile experience.

Though my mom, sister and I were already excited for the event by the activities emailed to us and the hype on Instagram, we were truly blown away by how much we were able to take in from the comfort of our car. Needless to say, if you’re a “Stranger Things” fan and have been on the fence about buying tickets, this is your sign to go before it’s a thing of the past.

By the time I attended the “Stranger Things” event, I’d actually gone to two other events during the pandemic, both at Knott’s Berry Farm. Like most folks after an entire summer bored at home, the idea of a themed event at one of my now-favorite theme parks was a no-brainer.

We got tickets to Knott’s Taste of Falloween experience and were blown away by what they had to offer. I had low expectations going into the park since Knott’s had never been a place I often found myself planning to go and in the past seemed to have little to offer. It was the first event that they had held since the pandemic, but something that took hold of my love for the theme park.

A food option from Knott's Farms Boysenberry Festival.
A food option from Knott’s Farms Boysenberry Festival. Photo credit: Cassandra Puentes

This event started a “Taste Of” trend among theme parks, in which guests get to experience a favorite getaway with safety measures put into place. What I loved about Knott’s Taste of Falloween was the focus on bringing in holiday/seasonal details, like characters and photo ops, and hands-down some of the best food options I’ve ever had at a theme park.

After enjoying a day of fun and delicious vegetarian options and feeling comfortable around others, I knew I’d be interested in attending future events.Since then I’ve attended two more “Taste of” events at Knott’s—Taste of Merryfarm and Taste of Boysenberry Festival—both of which met my newfound expectations.

These positive experiences encouraged me to then attend Universal Studios “Taste of Universal” and Disney’s “A Touch of Disney.” These were a little more difficult to get tickets to, especially Disney’s, which sold out within a few hours, but surprisingly both did not meet my expectations. Because in comparison to the two, Knott’s is a smaller theme park, I expected more from Universal and Disney since they have more funds to pull from, intellectual property and time to plan their events.

Cassandra Puentes posed with a Jesse statue at Disneyland.
Cassandra Puentes posed with a Jesse statue at Disneyland. Photo credit: Cassandra Puentes

What I found instead, were two events that were lacking in different areas, like generous food options (perhaps the most important part of a “Taste of” event) and more. Though both parks made sure to add socially distanced features, both had areas of needed improvement in terms of bang for your buck.

During these unique times, as more is available for us to attend, I highly recommend checking out reviews by people that have attended what you’re interested in and weighing the pros and cons. I upload full reviews onto Instagram after attending different events, museums, etc. that you’re more than welcome to check out @casspuentes.

So far, I’ve felt safe at every experience that I’ve gone to. Out of everything that I’ve been lucky enough to explore, I recommend checking out Knott’s Taste of Boysenberry Festival, Stranger Things Drive-Into, the LA Zoo and Cakeland, an immersive cake-inspired art exhibit in LA. For Universal and Disney, I simply recommend waiting until their parks fully reopen so that you can get the most out of your money.

This month, I’ll be going to Six Flags Magic Mountain which will be my first time actually riding theme park rides since the coronavirus turned our world upside down. At first, I was hesitant to buy tickets since it was unclear how masks would work on rides as fast as some of SoCal’s biggest rollercoasters. But after inquiring with friends that have gone, I think I’ll be ok with a double-fastened face mask.

I’m hoping to also snag some tickets to Knott’s, Universal, and Disney once those are available to get a full experience of what they have to offer, which will undoubtedly include both new and cherished attractions.

As the world slowly opens back up, I encourage you to start planning your own fun. There’s a lot to celebrate, from making it through COVID-19 to graduating and much more, all of which can now be enjoyed safely at most places. So grab your cutest mask and get ready for all the fun that’s to come!

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