SAN FRANCISCO - A visit to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is much quieter these days.
"We are ready to move on to open our rides," says park president Janine Durette.
But in a place where crowds are a source of pride, there is also something else that brings a smile to this team.
Tough times have brought them closer.
As some workers had to stay home, other employees picked up the slack.
"We have a bond in this team that is greater and stronger than it ever was," explains Animal Care Director Dianne Cameron. "Because we've gone through something like this. (And there have been) really funny moments. When I’m trying to mow the lawn and I don't know how to use a lawnmower, so we get the giggles. We are trying to help and are really not that helpful."
You only have to look at the holiday celebration to know stepping up makes a difference for everyone.
"In particular, the stay-at-home order in December," says Durette. That order came at a time when the park had already planned an in-person holiday celebration.
"The entire team," said Durette "whether it was accounting and marketing and maintenance dropped everything and turned the park into a drive-through, in literally seven days. That's a feat that would not have been thinkable a year ago."
The unthinkable has also made San Francisco’s Pier 39 rethink what works but the pier says there are silver linings to be found in that incredible spot.
"Pier 39 had very little outdoor dining," Taylor Safford the President and CEO of Pier 39 said. "A couple of restaurants had outdoor seating but because of COVID, people’s comfort level with outdoor dining has just gone up exponentially so that is here to stay. I think people are going to want it."
Safford says about half the restaurants have been shut down during the pandemic, but the restaurants that stayed open had to make outdoor accommodations.
"Frankly, the aha moment was being on Pier 39 and these incredible views able to sit outside in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and drink wine and be served and feel like things are normal again," he said.
And Safford says there have been other positives. From the locals who fell back in love with their backyard, to the new businesses that are focused on a bright future.
"Lids at the height of COVID doubled down on their bet in San Francisco," Stafford says, "And opened their flagship store here on Pier 39, a 7 thousand square foot brand new lid store. As well we have two little retailers Lola and happy bubble that are fantastic little shops."
And while it hasn't been business as usual at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The virtual pivots of the last year have brought new opportunities.
"What's really nice about that is that we've been able to reach a wider audience sometimes than we have in the past," says Tomoko Kanamitsu, the Barbara and Stephan Vermut Director of Public Engagement at the SFMOMA.
And while the museum documents this moment in art, art was also created behind the museum’s closed doors. That where SF Ballet soloist and choreographer, Myles Thatcher, was able to film his project Colorforms.
"You don't have the galleries empty like that usually and for them to practice their art in the galleries was a special experience," says Kanamitsu.
And so this year is about tough times, but it also leaves people grateful for that which has gotten us through it.
For Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, the park president believes it’s the animals who have gotten them through this: "I would frankly say they have," says Durette.
They say together they found joy and the light in the many dark days.
"The things that were amazing was that none of us got sick we stayed healthy. The animals' lives did not change," says Cameron, "We provided the most exceptional care for these animals during these really challenging times."
So even in places that love big crowds, there are special moment being created without them. Teaching us all that we can make connections no matter what is going on in the world.