Want to go for a ride in January? The coaster is clear as theme parks expand their seasons

Folks with a yen for negative G-forces and churros in the heart of winter have long been able to head to the large destination theme parks in temperate Florida and California.

Those hoping to get their roller coaster fixes at parks in other parts of the country were generally out of luck. That’s changing as some seasonal parks open their gates in January and February and switch to four-season, year-round operation. But the screams reverberating on their midways this time of year may be as much from cold-weather chills as coaster thrills.

In recent years, halloween events expanded shoulder seasons at regional theme parks, along with holiday events that kept gates open through late December.

Now, the carousels practically never stop spinning at parks such as Six Flags Over Texas near Dallas and Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia.

The trend is partly fueled by the pandemic. “With COVID, people are craving to get out, and Six Flags has a safe, outdoor environment conducive to social distancing,” says Bonnie Sherman Weber, the park chain’s senior vice president of operations. She also notes that people aren’t working traditional schedules and have more flexibility to visit parks.

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