What To Do: Even in Yellow status, options limited for activities

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Great Adventure’s Safari Park

In a few days, Chester County and the other counties in the Philadelphia area will move from Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 “red phase” to the “yellow phase” and that may or may not be a good thing. Only time – and pandemic infection numbers – will tell.

With the arrival of the yellow phase, some stores and restaurants will re-open with health-related restrictions, but the stay-at-home guideline is still in effect – sort of.

As of June 5, the “Social Restrictions” of the yellow phase according to Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s website are: Stay at Home Order Lifted for Aggressive Mitigation; Large Gatherings of More Than 25 Prohibited; In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable; Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities and Personal Care Services (such as gyms, spas, hair salons, nail salons and other entities that provide massage therapy), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed; Restaurants and Bars May Open Outdoor Dining, in Addition to Carry-Out and Delivery.

I guess that means you don’t have to “stay at home” but have to keep things under control – to not go wild.

COVID-19 is still kicking ass all around the area so don’t go overboard. Realistically, you still need to stay at home for health safety reasons. Besides, even if you venture out, there really are not many places to go.

Restaurants and retail food service businesses will be permitted to add dine-in service in outdoor seating areas so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of the guidance, including maximum occupancy limits. Many local, county and state parks are open for hiking and most beaches in New Jersey and Delaware have reopened (with restrictions).

All 58 state park beaches will be open to swimming starting June 6. State park pools will remain closed through at least June 12, with most in designated yellow and green counties reopening June 13. All state parks and forests now have at least one restroom open to the public in day-use areas.

Lakes, rivers, streams, forests, trails and parking areas are also open statewide for recreation. On May 29, campgrounds at 18 state parks move into the yellow phase with cabins, cottages, lodges, and yurts opening on June 12.

South Jersey beaches are open in Atlantic City, Avalon, Brigantine, Cape May, Margate City, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor, Ventnor, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.

Six Flags Great Adventure (https://www.sixflags.com/greatadventure) just announced that it will open its Safari adventure as a drive-through experience. This announcement follows New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order permitting drive-through events implementing social distancing guidelines.

Six Flags Great Adventure’s Safari operated as a self-drive-through experience from 1974-2012. Since 2013, Great Adventure has offered guided truck tours of the Safari. Returning to a standalone, drive-through format enables guests to enjoy the Safari’s 1,200 exotic animals from the privacy and safety of their own vehicles, while allowing for proper social distancing. The theme park is currently finalizing new safety procedures to protect guests, team members, and animals.

To prevent overcrowding, the Safari experience will require advance registration using Six Flags’ new online reservation system. Once the opening date is confirmed, the reservation system will be activated to allow Members, Season Pass Holders, and single-day ticket holders to make reservations at www.sixflags.com/reserve. All tickets must be purchased online and in advance. Sales will not be available at the gate, and guests without advance reservations will not be allowed to enter.

Per state, local, and federal guidelines regarding COVID-19, the theme park and waterpark will remain closed until further notice.

Admission to Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure is $17.99 per person

Still, the smart money is on “staying home.”

But, “staying home” physically doesn’t mean that you have to totally stay home. Fortunately, there are many places and experienced to visit in the virtual world – including awesome train rides.

Many people fail to realize how much fun it can be to take a train ride – especially if their only experience is riding SEPTA commuter rail trains.

Riding the rails for long journeys is a wonderful experience – a great way to move from point-to-point without having to worry about traffic jams, gas prices, pitstops or other inconveniences found when you drive on vacation.

Trains offer dining cars, plenty of restrooms, the availability of being able to walk around and the pleasure of just sitting back and enjoying the ride.

If you’ve ever driven to Florida on I-95, your memories probably consist of traffic jams in the Baltimore/Washington area, backups caused by road crews at work, scenery consisting mostly or repetitive billboards, an abundance of state troopers manning speed traps and, of course, South of the Border.

Amtrak’s California Zephyr

If you travel on Amtrak via the “Silver Service/Palmetto” train, it’s a completely different experience as you move past the big cities of the Northeast (Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington), past the small cities and towns of the South (Charleston, Savannah) and through the Sunshine State (Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami).

You are provided with an opportunity the see life as it really is along the Eastern seaboard as the train rolls through small towns, along riverbanks and past backyards with laundry hanging on the line. All you need do is sit back in your seat, look out the window and enjoy.

The East has many special Amtrak trains that are scenic delights – Adirondack (Montreal – Westport – Saratoga Springs – Albany – New York), Crescent (New York – Washington – Charlottesville – Charlotte – Atlanta – Birmingham – New Orleans), Empire Service ((Niagara Falls – Buffalo – Rochester – Syracuse – Albany – New York), Maple Leaf (Toronto – Niagara Falls – Buffalo – Rochester – Syracuse – Albany – New York) and Carolinian/Piedmont (New York – Philadelphia – Washington – Richmond – Raleigh – Greensboro – Charlotte).

There are trains that can take you on the first part of a transcontinental journey – trains that go from eastern cities to Chicago such as the Lake Shore Limited (New York/Boston – Albany – Buffalo – Cleveland – Toledo – Chicago), the Cardinal (New York – Washington – Charlottesville – Cincinnati – Indianapolis – Chicago) and the Capitol Limited (Washington – Pittsburgh – Cleveland – Toledo – South Bend – Chicago).

Chicago is the “Gateway to the West” with train routes such as California Zephyr (Chicago – Omaha – Denver – Salt Lake City – San Francisco), Empire Builder (Chicago – Milwaukee – St. Paul/Minneapolis – Minot – Spokane – Portland/Seattle) and Southwest Chief (Chicago – Kansas City, MO – La Junta – Albuquerque – Flagstaff – Los Angeles).

The Windy City is also the starting point for the Texas Eagle (Chicago – St. Louis – Little Rock – Dallas – San Antonio – Tucson – Los Angeles) and the famous City of New Orleans (Chicago – Champaign-Urbana – Carbondale – Memphis – Jackson – New Orleans). New Orleans is also the terminus of the Sunset Limited (New Orleans – Houston – San Antonio – El Paso – Tucson – Palm Springs – Los Angeles).

The list of highly acclaimed Amtrak routes in the West includes Amtrak Cascades (Vancouver, BC – Seattle – Tacoma – Portland – Salem – Eugene), Coast Starlight (Seattle – Tacoma – Portland – Sacramento – San Francisco area – Los Angeles), Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo – Santa Barbara – Los Angeles – Anaheim – San Diego) and San Joaquins (San Francisco Bay Area/Sacramento – Bakersfield/Southern California).

Amtrak also offers “Trails & Rails – Heritage Appreciation Onboard.”

An innovative partnership program between the National Park Service and Amtrak, the Trails & Rails program provides Amtrak passengers with educational opportunities to foster an appreciation of a selected region’s natural and cultural heritage and renews the long tradition of associating railroads with National Parks.

Realistically, now is not the best time to go to a large railroad station and get onboard a train to take a long ride. But it is a great time to spend time taking a few virtual train rides.

Here are links to virtual rides on some of the most thrilling, scenic and adventuresome rail lines on the world.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Durango, Colorado (https://www.durangotrain.com/)

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad winds through spectacular and breathtaking canyons in the remote wilderness of the San Juan National Forest. Riders experience the adventure of traveling by a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive on the same tracks miners and settlers of the Old West took over a century ago.

This three-part tour offers guests a virtual ride on the three-foot-wide narrow-gauge railroad as it travels more than 45 miles between Durango and Silverton. Part One features a breathtaking journey along a narrow ledge cut into a sheer cliff face far above the Animas River. Part Two heads high up into the Colorado mountains. Part Three looks at the ride down the mountain pass into the Wild West town of Silverton.

Video link — https://youtu.be/jVDNsH4YfDY.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Manitou Springs, Colorado (https://www.cograilway.com/)

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway is an Abt rack system cog railway with 4 ft 8 ¹⁄₂ in standard gauge track climbing the well-known mountain Pikes Peak. The base station is in Manitou Springs near Colorado Springs. The railway is the highest in North America by a considerable margin.

The ride allows you to make it to the top of Colorado’s Pikes Peak, which sits 14,115 feet above sea level. The trip starts at the station in Manitou Springs and climbs the well-known peak in a matter of minutes, allowing the viewer to sit back and enjoy the dizzying ride.

Video link — https://encrypted-vtbn3.gstatic.com/video?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ4pQqvU1N-vI4XyYoAw46o9PFudUm9dg8EMLPDyFLJE9-FUcZU

Not surprisingly, two of the most awe-inspiring rail rides are in Norway – Nordland Line and Flåm Railway.

Nordland Line, Trondheim, Norway (https://www.scandinavianrail.com/scenicrail/norway/nordland-railway).

Nordland Line

The Nordland Line is a 729-kilometer railway line between Trondheim and Bodø, Norway. It is the longest in Norway and lacks electrification. The route runs through the counties of Trøndelag and Nordland, carrying a combination of commuter, long-haul passenger and freight trains.

This incredibly scenic route features snow-capped mountains, tunnels and fjord bays. The adventure starts on the Trondheim Fjord in Trondheim and only seems to get snowier as you head farther north. Riders will also experience passing the Arctic Circle which is marked by stone pyramids on either side of the track, before arriving in Bodø, where the sun never sets in the summer.

Video link — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rDjPLvOShM&list=PLBNSj4twAXdLW44t7Z0fXLoedzXpHshec&index=8.

Flåm Railway, Flåm, Norway (https://www.visitflam.com/activities/flamsbana—the-flam-railway/)

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, this 12-mile route takes you from the end of Aurlandsfjord, a tributary of the Sognefjord, up to the high mountains at Myrdal station. Along the way, you’ll pass waterfalls, deep ravines, snow-capped mountains, and high-altitude farms, all while watching the weather shift from sun to rain.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the Flåm Railway in Norway, Expedia Norway has partnered with Visit Flåm to create a 360° virtual reality video of the entire journey.

You can explore the view from any possible angle by dragging the screen – or if you have a virtual reality headset (or VR glasses and a smartphone) you can switch to VR mode to experience the journey as if you were actually there.

Video link — https://youtu.be/yHuGHrzwlqE.

Switzerland also is home to two of the premier rail rides in Europe.

Bernina Railway, St. Moritz, Switzerland (https://www.eurail.com/en/get-inspired/trains-europe/scenic-train-routes/bernina-express)

The Bernina railway is a single-track narrow-gauge railway line forming part of the Rhaetian Railway. It links the spa resort of St. Moritz, in the Canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, with the town of Tirano, in the Province of Sondrio, Italy, via the Bernina Pass.

The trip starts in St. Moritz, Switzerland on a perfectly sunny day and ends in Tirano, Italy via the high-mountain Bernina Pass.

The train cuts through picturesque villages and rumbles alongside dizzying cliffs and sparkling blue waters. It is the highest railway alpine crossing in Europe and the highest adhesion railway on the continent.

Video link — https://youtu.be/Mw9qiV7XlFs.

Wengernalp Railway, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland (http://www.switzerlandbyrail.com/)

First opened in 1893 the Wengernalpbahn is a cog wheel railway, in green and yellow colors. The route connects Lauterbrunnen to to the carless village of Wengen and travels via Wengen and Wengernalp up to Kleine Scheidegg at 6762 feet, where it connects with the Jungfrau Railway which travels onward to the Jungfraujoch Top of Europe Station.

The Wengernalp railway is the longest cog wheel rack and pinion railway in Switzerland, running legacy classic trains and newer stock. It travels in two routes connecting Lauterbrunnen, Wengen and Grindelwald over the Kleine Scheidegg.

above Wengen.

On this trip, you’ll virtually cross picturesque Swiss villages and tree-covered slopes as you climb up into the mountains, eventually passing views of snow-covered mountains and deep valleys.

Video link — https://youtu.be/cfSsP706mR4.

Another pair of not-to-be-missed rail rides are located in countries that were part of what was formerly known as Yugoslavia.

Belgrade–Bar Railway, Belgrade, Serbia (http://www.zeleznicesrbije.com/)

The Belgrade–Bar railway is a railway connecting the Serbian capital of Belgrade with the town of Bar, a major seaport in Montenegro.

You’ll start your journey in the town of Bar, near the Adriatic Sea, before passing through the line’s longest tunnel (20,246 feet) and over the highest railway bridge in Europe. After zipping through the country’s impressive mountainous region, end the virtual trip in the town of Bijelo Polje — 102 tunnels and 96 bridges later.

Video link — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zomZywCAPTA.

Sarajevo–Ploče Railway, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (https://rail.cc/en/train/sarajevo-to-ploce)

The Sarajevo–Ploče railway is a 194-kilometre long railway in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The line connects Sarajevo with Konjic, Mostar and Ploče. The route operates through the regions of Sarajevo Canton, Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

You can explore the Balkan country of Bosnia and Herzegovina by train, thanks to this virtual cab-view video. Starting in Čapljina, you’ll dip into Croatia quickly before crossing the border back into Bosnia and Herzegovina and ending your trip in the country’s capital, Sarajevo. A good portion of the journey follows the Neretva River and passes through tight, mountainous terrain and over the Bradina Pass.

Video link — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNw8Htu6pMI.

England is also home to two rail experiences that belong on the bucket list.

North Wales Coast Line, Chester, England (http://www.nwrail.org.uk/)

The North Wales Coast Line, also known as the North Wales Main Line, is a major railway line in the north of Wales, running from Crewe on the West Coast Main Line to Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey.

On the ride, you will travel along the beautiful Wales coast aboard a British Rail Class 175, a type of diesel passenger train used in the United Kingdom. The virtual excursion kicks off in the city of Chester, England and quickly travels over the border into Wales, passing through lush countryside before hitting the coast and continuing west.

Video link — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUYQxOCQqsA.

South Western Railway, London, England (www.southwesternrailway.com)

South Western Railway operates the majority of commuter services from its Central London terminus at London Waterloo to South West London and is the key operator for outer suburban and regional services in the counties of Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. It also provides regional services in Devon, Somerset, Berkshire, Wiltshire and on the Isle of Wight.

You’ll start your virtual journey on the London Underground at London Waterloo station and then head west, eventually dropping south toward Southampton and ending at Southampton Central station. Along the way, you’ll see the London skyline before moving into the vibrant, green countryside.

Video link — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7hfyN5EvQM.

South America also needs to be represented on this list.

Ferrocarril Central Andino, Lima, Peru (https://www.ferrocarrilcentral.com)

Ferrocarril Central Andino is the consortium which operates the Ferrovías Central railway in Peru linking the Pacific port of Callao and the capital Lima with Huancayo and Cerro de Pasco.

This four-part virtual journey begins in Chosica and ends near the Galera railway station in the Andes. In part one, you’ll traverse the massive Puente Carrión bridge; part two climbs from Matucana to San Mateo, one of the most scenic parts of the line; part three takes travelers over the Puente Infiernillo bridge, which passes through a tight canyon with high rock walls on either side; and finally, part four lets you travel virtually through one of the world’s highest railroad tunnels.

Video link — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4Yyti9K9cg.

Another interesting – but not train-related – virtual visit destination is South Korea.

In May, D’strict, a digital design company, unveiled its latest project, “The Wave,” in Seoul, South Korea.

The design house describes its creation as an “anamorphic illusion,” which they created using the largest and highest definition outdoor advertising screen in South Korea. The illusion works by distorting the projection so when the viewer looks at it from just the right angle it appears to come alive with depth effect.

According to the design house, the screen they used to create this gorgeous digital piece is a whopping 262 x 65 feet. The screen’s resolution is 7,840 x 1,952 pixels, which is nearly twice the resolution of normal UHF, meaning this wave looks almost identical to the real thing.

Just as the name implies, the installation shows a massive wave on loop, crashing against the screen over and over again. It’s so massive and so crisp that it makes those underneath the projection feel like the wave could crash down on them at any moment.

The forward-thinking installation also happens to have a perfect futuristic home in K-Pop Square at the Coex Convention and Exhibition Center in the city of Gangnam in southern Seoul.

The installation took nearly two months to build and took special attention as two LED displays needed to be fused together. However, with cured edges and more than 30,000 separate LED display modules, that was no easy task.

Not only can viewers see it in real life while it’s on display for 18 hours a day, but everyone at home can see it too on YouTube at https://youtu.be/ZzxuftgFuoE.

And now for something completely different –

CNN is partnering with “Sesame Street” for a second special town hall about coronavirus, focused on kids and parents.

“The ABCs of Covid 19: A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Kids and Parents” will air on Saturday, May 30, at 10 a.m. ET and tackle issues such as summer safety, play dates, schooling and how kids and families around the world are creatively coping during these challenging times.

The 60-minute town hall will feature experts and “Sesame Street” characters — including Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Rosita and Grover — answering questions submitted by families.

Big Bird will join CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN anchor and national correspondent Erica Hill to moderate the event.

The town hall will air on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Español. It will stream live on CNN.com‘s homepage and across mobile devices via CNN’s apps, without requiring a cable log-in.

You can also watch on CNNgo, and subscribers to cable/satellite systems can watch it on-demand.

Finally, here’s something that’s out of this world.

SpaceX (/www.spacex.com) is targeting Saturday, May 30 for Falcon 9’s launch of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration (Demo-2) mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test flight with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board the Dragon spacecraft will return human spaceflight to the United States.

Demo-2 is the final major test for SpaceX’s human spaceflight system to be certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX is returning human spaceflight to the United States with one of the safest, most advanced systems ever built, and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a turning point for America’s future in space exploration that lays the groundwork for future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

The instantaneous launch window opens at 3:22 p.m. EDT with a backup instantaneous launch opportunity available on Sunday, May 31 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Link to https://www.spacex.com/launches/index.html to watch the launch webcast. Coverage will begin about four hours before liftoff.

Video link — https://youtu.be/Z4TXCZG_NEY.

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