It was a very different opening day at Kings Island this year, coming two months after the original opening date, due to the COVID pandemic.
Normally, by noon opening day the main parking lot would have been packed at the Mason, Ohio, theme park.
But with staggered arrival times and limits on attendance, the lot was just one-third full, and guests were getting a very different experience.
It began with an unusual sight: a line of cars stretching from the entrance toll booth out onto Kings lsland Drive.
Jennifer Long and her kids had reservations for 10:30 am -- the earliest arrival time.
"We've probably been here about 40 minutes, sitting in our car," she said.
But to prevent a huge crowd congregating, and to keep social distance, the car gates didn't open until 10:30 sharp.
Once in the lot, lines were long but orderly, with temperature-taking stations slowing things down a bit.
And it was a visibly smaller crowd: Kings Island spokesman Chad Showalter told us on Wednesday's media tour they are keeping ride capacity to half the usual capacity.
"The reservation system we have now is so we will never be over capacity at the park, because everyone before they arrive has to have a reservation," he said.
But the most noticeable change: everyone must wear masks.
Kyle and Autumn Paul say they are fine with that.
"It's hot, but it's being responsible," they said. "We went to the zoo about 2 days ago as a test run and it was OK."
Major changes inside park
Opening day guests did find a few mask-free rest areas inside, with shade, for a welcome respite from the heat.
Also noticeable: hand sanitizer stations everywhere, and limits to the number of people in stores and restaurants.
Despite the smaller crowd, the wait for the new attraction -- Orion -- was almost three hours, similar to first-day waits for Banshee and Mystic Timbers. (CLICK HERE for our Orion first ride review.)
But we found no one complaining.
"It has been a long wait, but we are excited," one woman said.
In the end, most guests told us as long as they are able to enjoy the park and stay safe, they are OK with all the new restrictions.
As always, don't waste your money.
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