Coming of age in West Chester, Ohio, is earmarked, for me, by two things: There’s the trappings of suburbia: A pink brick home in the center of a cul-de-sac at the bottom of an excellently steep hill, perfect for 10-speeds. Friends who live down the street and the family you babysit around the corner. And, at least in Logsdon’s Ridge, wading into the backyard creek after a summer rain turns the narrow stream into something you can almost swim across.
And then there’s Kings Island.
I visited the theme park for the first time in sixth grade. A neighborhood friend invited me, and my protective parents reluctantly agreed to the trip. At the dropoff gate, my friend’s dad said, Have fun, girls! My friend hopped out of the car, and I tentatively followed. I don’t imagine my jaw actually dropped as her dad pulled away, but it took at least until the very first coaster I boarded—I think it was Adventure Express—to lose that I am here parentlessly and am going to get in So Much Trouble gut fear.
I was right, of course, but Kings Island still became my third place, from the summer after sixth grade through early high school. A group of friends and I would get season passes, pile into one of our parents’ sedans or minivans, arrive, have two or three hours until lunch, argue over LaRosa’s or the Bier Garten, then spend the rest of the sun-up hours traipsing from coaster to coaster. If the pickup parent didn’t mind driving late, we’d even get a fireworks show to celebrate the 10-plus hours we’d just lived at Kings Island.
Over the years, I would learn the park’s topography so well that, if blindfolded just inside the entrance gate with the Eiffel Tower in front of me, I suspect I could have worked my way to the Vortex, The Beast, Top Gun (the Bat’s OG name), and Soak City without too much difficulty.
The problem with this experiment in the summer of 2020, of course, is that even if I could still stumble my way to any of these landmarks—the remaining ones, anyways, my heart broke a little when the Vortex was retired last summer—I’d surely bump into kiosks and picnic tables, shrubbery, and, more than anything, people.
But that would be violating the rules of the coronavirus, wouldn’t it? Kings Island opened for the season July 2, starting with a smaller, passholder-only rollout until opening to the full public July 12. A range of safety protocols are in place, like social distancing markers throughout the park—including in lines—and “capacity management.” That means before you visit the park, you need to make reservations online.
This is all incredibly tough to imagine. How does one crowd control when the entire experience is, in essence, a crowd? The short answer: With an abundance of robust safety rules. In addition to limiting contact between guests, visiting Kings Island for the time being will require the following:
- Undergoing a health screening at least 24 hours before entering the park.
- Having your temperature taken, touchlessly, before entering. If anyone in your party has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you’ll need to reschedule your visit.
- Using the Location Services option on the mobile app, which will let you receive real-time notifications from the park.
- Wearing a mask.
- Limiting your contact with employees and other guests.
That doesn’t include the additional precautions taken by the park, like upping its cleaning regimen (including extra sanitizing and deep cleaning in busy areas like dining spots and restrooms) and scattering hand sanitizing stations throughout the park. (You can find the park’s complete seven-page guide online.)
It’s surely going to be different, but for all the passholders who proudly call Kings Island a home away from home, the summer of 2020 is going to be memorable, too.