Park Review of Hersheypark
Day: Thursday Night- Preview and Friday- Full Day
Dates: July 25th and 26th
Weather: Warm (Mid-80s)
Overall Rating: Good
Ride Rating: Good
Opinion: Worth a visit if you've never been.
Staff: Carrie and Kitsune
Overview: Hersheypark was built in 1905 by Milton Hershey as a picnic grounds for his chocolate factory employees, in 1907 they began adding attractions which is when it became an amusement park in truth. By 1923 they added their first roller coaster, the original Wildcat. Once that happened the park began to add rides on a regular schedule except during the years of WWII. In the 1970's the park went through a period of re-development, eventually expanding the 110 acre park it is today that features 11 roller coasters and dozens of flat rides.
To begin our review properly it would start with our search for decently priced tickets. With some minor digging around online we found the perfect ticket option that even supports a good cause. The Boy Scouts of America- PA Dutch Council offer a special ticket option for $43.10 with $5 of that going to support the BSA. This is a discount of nearly $17 versus the gate price! These tickets also come with the normal "preview day" allowing you to enter the park the night before your full visit to get in a little ride time, normally 2-3 hours before park close. With this you 'preview day' system you also get a discount in parking, only paying once rather then both days (just make sure you get your parking validated at the gate).
To Purchase Tickets from the BSA-PA Dutch Council please follow this link: BSA Hersheypark Tickets
Our preview night began as just that, a preview. At this point it has been more then 8 years since our last visit to Hersheypark and a lot had changed in that time. Several rides had been added and a few old favorites had been fixed. However, it was rather surprising to see the crowds were still rather high for a Thursday night so we quickly migrated away from the front of the park and headed towards the Hollow and straight after roller coasters!
Spotting one of our favorite style of coaster, we headed straight towards "Great Bear" which is Hersheyparks inverted B&M. Built in 1998, we found it to be something of a surprise. Some Inverted coasters have gotten rather rough over the years, providing a rather jarring ride.
Imagine our shock and pleasure when we found Great Bear to be as smooth as silk and just as much fun as it was years before! This ride has aged beautifully and shows none of the roughness some of it's sisters face. Perhaps it's not the longest or biggest of the inverted coasters but it's surely one of the smoothest I've ridden in years.
Up next we trudged back up the hill and headed to one of Hershey's classic wooden coasters, The Comet. A classic Philadelphia Toboggan Company Coaster, Comet underwent some work since our last visit. A lot changed around on this classic ride to accommodate the parks newest (and most painful) roller coaster, Skyrush. The exit area was moved to the loading area and the exit line now winds all over kingdom come.
Thankfully other then this, no major changes happened to the coaster. Now, I'll admit she's a little rough and a little angry unless you're familiar with how to properly ride a wooden coaster but that's really what makes these old woodies so much fun. Comet is a classic and really shouldn't be missed.
Slowly but surely we began to run out of time on our preview night so we hustled next door to Comet and checked the line on Skyrush. Rather surprisingly it barely had a 15 minute wait so naturally we jumped in line.
Skyrush is an odd duck. The two end seats dangle off the end giving it the feel of a floorless coaster yet the seats have just the single restraint that comes over your head to lock at your thighs. The seats have little to no side support so holding on is pretty much mandatory unless you want your spine broken. The ride is fun but I've got a rather large problem with this restraint system, it's painful. It tightens during your ride to the point that it's gotten the nickname "ThighCrush" and it does. By the time our ride was over I had completely lost feeling below my knees due to how badly it had tightened up, I sported bruises on both thighs for nearly a week after this ride. Oh it's fun but it's painful fun, so rider beware with this one.
Our Preview night was finally over, after standing around for a solid ten minutes to get feeling back into our lower extremities Kitsune and I headed out. Tomorrow was our full day at the park and having tackled three of the big rides already we knew the next day would be nice and relaxed.
As stated before we already tackled 3 of the 11 roller coasters at the park so we took the time and relaxed during the morning, we arrived at the park around 11am and this time headed towards the left and the Midway America area.
Now, let me give you a little word of warning. The park map for Hersheypark is pretty much CRAP. Aside from rides, It doesn't give you exact locations of things like smoking areas, restaurants and bathrooms only rough estimates of the general area something can be found in. The employees don't seem to be much help in the matter as most of the ones I asked directions from were not entirely sure where things in their own area are located, so I hope your good at guessing!
For our first ride of the afternoon we found Wildcat to have only a five minute wait, so naturally we jumped in line! This is actually the second coaster named "Wildcat" that Hersheypark has had, the first was oddly enough not owned by the park but was on land that was leased to Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It was demolished in 1945.
This bigger, fast sister was built in 1996 by Great Coaster International. It originally opened with the PTC trains but those were replaced in the 2006 for the Millennium Flyer trains. Wildcat is a great ride, it's a little rough in some spots but unlike some it isn't out to rip your spine out and has plenty of air time. It seems you either love it or hate it, personally I love it but leave it up to you to make that choice on your own.
Already in the area we found one of our favorite classic flat rides off to the far side of Wildcat, a Whip. There is nothing complicated about these rides, they are simple fun with physics. They may not be the most exciting flat ride in the world but how can you not love them for their simplicity and classic attraction status?
Hershey's whip is just weird. They no longer have the classic wood and metal trains, those have been replaced with a retro 50's looking fiberglass model. Let me tell you, it wasn't a good idea. I've ridden classic Whip's all my life and this one has surpassed "simple and smooth fun with physics" and gone into "Ow, I think I got whiplash" mode. The Fiberglass cars are just too light for the forces a Whip ride generates, the ride is no longer the smooth ride of years past but jolting and jarring as the car skips around like a bunny on acid. It really pains me to say this but I'd avoid it.
After having our brains mildly scrambled from an unexpected place we noticed that Lightning Racer barely had a line. All we can figure is since the sun was pretty strong everyone had decamped to the waterpark area leaving the lines nearly empty. Not one to waste a chance, we walked right onto the ride.
Lightning Racer isn't a true "racer" as it doesn't switch tracks but it does race the other train in purest sense of "who will get there first, depends on weight". None of this "that one wins, then this one wins.. blah blah blah" crap. Nope! This one really does race it's partner. The most shocking part of Lightning Racer is the fact after 13 years of operation and Pennsylvania winters it's a smooth as glass. It really is, on both side, which shocked the daylights out of me. You can easily throw your hands in the air and ride with pure delight without fear of being tossed around like a total ragdoll.
At this point we've both worked up an appetite so we opted for lunch. Heading into the valley we got ourselves a cheese-steak at Country Grill. For around $14, with a drink mug refill, we got plenty of food and fries that was decent.
My real complaint comes at the shocking rudeness of the employees who worked the restaurant that day. Not surprising, a bunch of teenagers with zero service skills and not a manager to be seen. These kids were cussing loudly enough to be heard from were we stood and even from were we sat (outside the restaurant/show stage area). They cussed about the food, the customers (us and the folks in front of us) and just about anything. The poor girl who rang us up seemed to being dying of embarrassment at her co-workers antics but didn't apologize (guess that isn't cool anymore). The most shocking part of this is the fact that they didn't have a manager at this location, I can't imagine one allowing that kind of language at what is suppose to be a "family park". So I'd be careful about letting your kids stand in line with you when eating here from my experience.
After a little more relaxing to digest in slightly more pleasant sounding surroundings, we headed towards Trailblazer. Trailblazer is a mine train ride and like most of it's sisters, it's a snooze but perfect as a family ride. We chose it because it was in the valley right across from the restaurant and only had a ten minute line. Plus, it's always nice to have a relaxing ride after lunch!
For kids, it's great but adults tend to fair a little worse on Hershey's version of a mine ride. It's not that it's rough, just uncomfortable for adult sized folks around the helix. So while the kids may have their hands up, if your taller then about 4 foot I'd suggest just riding normally!
Relaxing and digesting done, it was back to the serious business of having fun. We headed out of the valley and back up to Storm Runner who's line had severely died down.
Now, as your aware if you've read my other views, launch coasters aren't my favorite rides ever. Storm Runner is no exception, it's an Intamin AG Launch Coaster going 0-72 MPH in 2 seconds. It's not a bad ride, I'm just not a huge fan of this style coaster. It's smooth but the fast direction changes these style rides feature are rough and tend to toss your head about (even if braced properly). Much like the other coasters of the style it's also a very short ride, halfway over by the time you manage to blink more then twice. So while fun to watch and listen too, not the best ride I've ever had.
Meandering around, we were both pleased to find that the Falcon was running. During our last visit it wasn't operational and according to Kitsune, didn't run for several years before that. So we quickly jumped in line and got a ride in.
Explaining the Falcon is a little more difficult because not many of these style rides are left. It's basically a scrambler style ride that lifts off the ground, spinning you into the air. One nice touch about the Falcon at Hersheypark is that once you reach the top it slows down allowing you a nice look around both the park and the town of Hershey. The views from the top are simply amazing then it speeds up once again and spins you on your descent to the ground. I can't honestly tell you where another of these may live so I'd suggest riding this one before it disappears or breaks again!
After this we went through Zoo America. Zoo America is Hershey's own little zoo featuring the native animals of North America. I've done a separate short little write up of our visit to Zoo America which can be found at the following link: Hersheypark's Zoo America
After a nice walk around Zoo America we headed back towards the front area of the park. Deciding we'd ride the Monorail while snapping pictures and plotting out our next move.
One unique thing about the Monorail at Hersheypark, it goes outside of the park into the town of Hershey. This gives you a good view of the town, some of the historic buildings and the sad site of the partly demolished original Hershey's Chocolate factory. It also takes you for a quick jaunt through the Zoo America area before depositing you back at the front of the park. It isn't the longest ride but it's a relaxing little site-seeing tour that provides for excellent pictures and views of the park and town.
Since we are at the front of the park we jumped in line for Hersheypark's shooter style ride called "The Reese's X-treme Cup Challenge" which is a mouth full. Like most of the other little shooter games this one is the same idea with a different theme.
Something about Peanut-butter and Chocolate Lovers, trying to decide which side is better but with a much more complicated back story. Honestly, I got bored after the first 3 minutes and stopped listening to it. I just wanted to shoot stuff. This one doesn't work on the typical "laser beam" principal and instead fires more like a flashlight at various colored targets worth points. The scenery inside isn't great, it's pretty dull to be honest but it's amusing enough. Naturally, I kicked Kitsune's butt and we headed towards something else.
Heading deeper into the park again we decided we'd take a spin on their Waveswinger. Yes, I almost always ride the swings. They are fun, don't judge me! This one is a classic made by Zierer so it has some style, one unique thing about Hersheypark's WaveSwinger, it's EVIL!
Okay, not really but it does glow a very bright red color. This has always made both myself and Kitsune giggle. It looks all normal when the sun is up but once the lights come on and it reaches max height, it then lights up the entire area in bright red light!
The sun was beginning to set at this point and lunch had worn off a long time ago, so it was dinner time! One neat thing Hersheypark offers is a "Meal Deal Ticket". For $13.95 you get one meal at your choice of restaurants with one side and the refillable drink cup. This is a good deal alone considering the drink cup separately costs $8.95.
Having been to the park once before I knew exactly where I wanted to eat. The Spring Creek Smokehouse has some of the best barbeque I've ever had at an amusement park and the portions are pretty damn massive. We got the 'Pit Beef Sandwich' and our side was the 'Smoked Mac'n'Cheese'. The sandwich was huge, it easily fed both of us and I doubt either of us could have finished a whole one on our own. It easily had a half pound of beefy smokey goodness piled on the bun and the mac'n'cheese was baked in the southern style and delicious. Spring Creek Smokehouse has to be one of the best quick-service meals I've had at a park in a very long time, I'd highly recommend nearly anything from their menu as well as the "Meal Deal' ticket as the sandwich and two sides normally cost around $15.
Full of a delicious dinner we wandered around a little bit and snapped some nighttime shots of the park, slowly making our way towards the entrance. However, we had one more thing we had to ride.
The SupperDooperLooper was the first looping steel roller coaster built by Schwarzkopf on the east coast in 1977. This ride was a BIG DEAL, the first loop on the east coast is nothing to sneeze at and the fact Hersheypark has kept this bit of history around is amazing. The one downside is that in 2012 Hershey upgraded the ride from it's original nature, replacing the coaster trains and upgrading the brake run. Either way, this is a magnificent little gem of a coaster and a big piece of history that any coaster lover should experience at least once.
Our day finally ended and I admit, we were both still pretty pleased by what we saw at Hersheypark. It's a fun, clean park that's good for both families and serious riders. Other then a few problems we encountered I'd have to say it was still a great day. At some point, everyone should check out Hersheypark. I wouldn't say drive across the country for it but if your close or even passing near the area you should make the side trip because it's really worth the time and money.