Hersheypark - 8/19/06

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Jeff's avatar
I'm kind of exhausted on traveling this summer, but Catherine wanted to go to Hersheypark, and I had never been there, so I agreed. The truth is that I didn't have any real strong expectations, but I was absolutely blown away by the park.

We arrived in Harrisburg the night before, and stayed there because it's a lot less expensive than staying in Hershey. We stopped the next morning at a Giant grocery store to buy discount tickets, off $10 each. They also gave coupons for a free souvenir "Xtreme Cup," a $6.29 value. Not bad! I was surprised to see that regular price was $44, more than Cedar Point even.

As soon as we approached the property, I was impressed by the level of development with the arena and excellent traffic management. I was also impressed with the relationship that Hershey Entertainment has with Hershey the chocolate company. Nice arrangement to have the chocolate company build a free dark ride near the gate.

The entrance area reminds me a lot of Busch Gardens Will... er... Europe. It's very clean, very lush, and really quite beautiful without being cheesy. We entered the park just before 10, so beyond that they had not yet let people into the bulk of the park.

Going with the flow of traffic, we got as far as the location for the Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge, and seeing a short line, jumped right on. The theme is still pretty silly, and not really interesting. However, it's another one of those shoot-the-target dark rides, and those are kind of fun. I scored half the points in my car, and we still lost because the other car had four teenage boys. Not fair! We got little chocolate bars on the way out.

There were a lot of really good smells on the midway from there out. I found most of the food offerings to be kind of average, and a little on the expensive side, but I also didn't get to try some of the more interesting places. Perhaps next time.

We went to Storm Runner next expecting a crazy line, but there was no line. We were in the station in less than 15 minutes, and at that point decided we might as well wait for the front. It's funny how brave Cath has become. She wouldn't even get on a ride like this when I met her a few months ago.

The ride is really quite striking all the way around, and I'm amazed the way it was squeezed in (as is the case with many of the rides in the park). The station is nice and very bright inside. The lighting on the top hat at night is very cool. It appears the supports are filled with some kind of dampening material too, because it's very quiet. The dispatch seems a little inefficient. The track switch moves as soon as the train clears the top hat, but the next train just sits. I don't get that at all. Unless the hydraulic motor is using that time to reset, it seems like they could boost capacity a little.

While short, this is still the best use of Intamin's hydraulic launch that I've seen, and I think it beats the pants out of Dragster. I absolutely loved it! Absolutely great fun from start to finish. This is really one of my favorite steel coasters, certainly among the top ten if I actually ranked them.

We did the Boomerang next. Credit. Move on.

Next up, Wildcat. I've been anxious to get on more GCI coasters, because I love Roar at SFA, and Gwazi at least shows promise at Busch Tampa (if they'd actually run the damn thing and maintain it). Wildcat exceeded my expectations by a lot. It was a little rough on the pullout from the first drop, but generally speaking it was full of surprises and just doesn't let up. Well done! We had a nice conversation with a woman in line about PKI. She had not heard that Sonny was down, but the kids love Sponge Bob, so we told them they'd love Nick Universe.

Working our way around the midway, which is beautifully themed with the grand coaster stations and county fair style food trailers, we hopped on the Wild Mouse. Pretty standard stuff, but we got our best ride later. I love mouse rides. I couldn't figure out, however, why they were not pairing couples and sending cars around with only people in them. We only waited ten minutes, but still, why keep people waiting at all if you don't have to?

Lightning Racer is a stunning looking ride with a grand station. I was excited to finally get on a coaster with Millennium Flyer trains, and they really are quite beautiful when you see them up close. As for the ride? Awesome! Those trains track so well. The dueling aspect of the ride sounds like a gimmick, but I don't think they had to make any substantial compromises at all in the design of the coaster. It has amazing drops, surprising laterals, great air time... really the whole package. So far, Hershey was impressing me on every turn! Really great crew on this ride as well. We did one lap on each side.

After grabbing some lunch from the fairly mediocre food court area near Storm Runner, we jumped on the monorail. It's a neat ride, but the views are frequently obstructed by buildings or other non-interesting things. From there we headed to the older section of the park, and it was getting crowded. Sooperdooperlooper was closed, with no sign of activity, and that was a serious bummer. We took a spin on the kissing tower, and then decided to take a break around 3 p.m. We ran up to Allentown to visit Cath's brother and friends. No, we didn't stop at Dorney.

We returned to the park at 7:30 p.m., and an afternoon shower chased away a fair amount of people. Cars were parked well out beyond the arena, so clearly they were having a good day.

We picked up where we left off, and got in line for the Comet. I was really impressed that this thing still operates with friction brakes, and the computer actually parks the train with them. Neat. What a fantastic ride this is too. Not an extreme air time machine, but really great fun, and it's maintained very well. The topography kind of hides just how big the first couple of drops are.

We climbed the hill up to the flume. The boats were packed in and they were running at high capacity. Really nice station, and the ride itself looked like it was in fantastic shape. It really made me nostalgic for White Water Landing, with its double chutes. Loved it.

Next was Great Bear, and my one negative on the trip, though I'll get to that in a moment. From the ground, I was really struck by the speed throughout the entire course, and wondered how it would feel on the ride itself. It even comes flying into the brake run pretty fast! I also wondered if the turn off the lift would interfere with the general pace of the ride, but it's one of the neatest things I've seen on an inverter in a long time.

Great Bear is fast and relentless, and pushes you harder than most of the B&M inverts that I've been on. It's very smooth, and while it has the standard set of elements, they're all taken very quickly and over very cool terrain. I'm not sure why you don't hear more about this ride. I really dig it!

Now about the negatives here. The ride itself is outstanding. The crew is really bad. First off, the kid measuring height let collar-flip-Fitch boy on the rear dispatch talk him into allowing a little girl ride who was too short. Was she in any real danger? Probably not, but the point of measuring is so that you don't have anything to interpret or make a decision on. The kid is in or out, and that's that. Collar-flip boy was also slow, and showed no signs of hustle at all. I've never seen so many trains stack on a coaster with only two trains. Dispatches were at least two minutes apart, and I doubt the ride was getting even close to a thousand people per hour. This was the longest line we waited in for no other reason than a crappy crew and really bad protocol.

Generally speaking, the entire loading procedure is inefficient. Start by getting those lazy asses off stools. They don't need to sit for the seven seconds between trains. Let's not put drinks on controls either. Going back and forth through the rows takes too long while checking restraints. You've got four people, have them each do the two seats on their side in each of their four rows. Put a window around the lead controls so the three employees standing around can't distract the operator. Someone needs to visually check restraints as the train leaves. Ready signals should be arms out with a thumb, not an OK signal held close to the chest. And for God's sake, get the operators where they can see each other. They're going to dispatch with someone in the train one of these days.

We snagged our final new coaster on the mine train, and all things considered, it's not a bad ride at all. The helix goes on forever! It's not Adventure Express, but still lots of fun. Strange retrofit with stiff ratcheting lap bars.

With almost an hour to spare, we wanted to roll back to Lightning Racer. It was drizzling a little, so I suspected it would be faster. Wow does it look amazing at night. That whole part of the park is beautiful, and I hope the new water stuff for next year doesn't ruin that look. The LR crew did a quick job of cleaning up a protein spill, and we were off once more. Another fantastic ride! It was substantially faster I think.

The fair trailer food stands lured us in with their fried stuff, and we snacked on a funnel cake and fries. Good thing the park was hilly to help with the calories.

As we headed out, the rain started to pick up a little. I noticed empty cars running on the mouse at five to 11, so we jumped on it. With fewer cars on, it appears to run with the blocks wide open. It was the single most intense mouse ride I've ever had, and Catherine really freaked out. Good times!

By the time we got up the flyers, the park was still open, so I jumped on. I was disappointed that they really don't snap at all. I got the structure to make a little noise, but I think the cables were too short or something. You just couldn't get a good stall. I tried. :)

So overall, Great Bear crew and operations aside, I was absolutely enamored with the park. Lightning Racer and Storm Runner are absolutely amazing rides. I really look forward to going back again.

Sunday morning, we ran out to Chocolate World to do the brainwashing, er, I mean, dark ride. Didn't know that chocolate was so complicated to make. I actually managed to get through without buying anything. Catherine wasn't so lucky.

Hersheypark ranks high on my list of places to return to.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Lord Gonchar's avatar

This is really one of my favorite steel coasters, certainly among the top ten if I actually ranked them.

Definitely. Like I was telling you last night, my TR from 2004 said something like, "California had the first, Ohio has the biggest, but PA has the best." (Of course, those were the only three rockets at the time.)

Sunday morning, we ran out to Chocolate World to do the brainwashing, er, I mean, dark ride.

Ha! So true. The last time we were there my son was a few month shy of turning three. That was two years ago and to this day all I have to do is start singing the "Hershey's choc-o-late" thing and he starts singing along and doing a 'mixing' motion with his hands and trying to replicate the chocolate making process. It's sick. :)

Nice TR

Hershey could sure use a lesson from Knoebel's regarding their food quality and pricing.

We usually exit the park and eat at Red Robin next door.

Heading back Friday for our yearly visit.

Great report on a nice park that seems to be getting lots of love this year.

Six Flags might just want to be seeing this place as an example of how things should be done.

That mouse is my favorite mouse that doesn't spin. I love the air I catch on it.

I also agree about the no-so great Great Bear crew. They tend to take away from a ride that doesn't deserve them.

Watch the tram car please....
Thanks for the report, and I'm so happy you loved the park, it's my favorite. Next time you'll have to check out some of the shows. Entertainment is another department that Hersheypark does a great job with. Great Country, Chapters of Love, The Milkmen, and Trashtime are awesome shows, and the Amphitheatre has a variety of acts all summer long.
Nice TR. It's always nice to get a take from someone visiting a park for the first time that I've been to numerous times.

Once upon a time, GB sent the trains out fairly regularly and stacking was unheard of. It's only within the past 2 or 3 seasons it's degraded to the point it is now... the double and triple restraint checks by slo-mo ops.

Since the ruler guy has little else to do, maybe they should station him out by the entrance. People only get more determined to put their kid on the ride after they've waited for 30-40 minutes. I still enjoy the ride a lot though.

Gotta love SR. It looks like something I'd draw on an etch-a-sketch, but what an awesome ride. Did you get any night rides? Glad you enjoyed your trip to PA.

Vater's avatar
Nice to see another soul who enjoys the hell out of Great Bear. Short, yes, but I love the speed it maintains. And that quirky initial helix is just cool...and more powerful than it looks.

That's too bad the 'Looper was closed. It's far from 'thrilling' by today's standards, but I adore that thing. I'm actually surprised it was down; I don't think I've ever seen it closed for a full day.

Do I hear shouts for Chocolate Buzz?

A day at the park is what you make it!

I'm all about Storm Runner and Great Bear, but does anyone else think that GB's ending is a huge letdown after a ride that is otherwise practically pitch-perfect?

Agreed on all the assessments of Hershey (and especially the Red Robin -- oh my...!), as I've been going for a few days every year for the past four and, save for an unfortunately timed stomach virus this year, it hasn't once disappointed. On a Saturday after a Dave Matthews Band concert in the middle of the summer, we managed to ride every ride we wanted with 20 minutes max waits and still leave at dinner time. Who could ask for more?

SFGAdv, take notes.

[Nitro Dave -- Track Record: 231 coasters] [url="http://rapturousverbatim.blogspot.com"]A Rapturous Verbatim[/url] & [url="http://atournamentoflies.blogspot.com"]A Tournament of Lies[/url] -- my blogs...they're blogtastic.
I guess i'm in the minority when I say I like the food and prices at Hershey... especially the Large soda for $2.50... considering you can't get a small soda for that cheap anywhere else.
I also agree that the food at Hersheypark is very good and the prices are ok for a major park. My favorite food at HP is Freeman's Barbque.

Regarding Superdooperlooper, it was open during my visit on August 6,7,and 8, but it was closed all day upon my return on August 15 and 16. It is indeed rare for a ride to be down for long at HP, so I hope it's up now or soon.

Hershey is an outstanding park, easily among my top 3 parks. Really hard for me to let food sway my opinion, because lets face it, park food is not exactly gourmet. Not to say I haven't enjoyed park food, but never really compares to what you can get on the outside.

Sorry about that...Did I mention I love Hershey? Jeff, I was in the same boat, wasn't expecting too much, and was extremely surprised.

Jeff said:

I was also impressed with the relationship that Hershey Entertainment has with Hershey the chocolate company. Nice arrangement to have the chocolate company build a free dark ride near the gate.

Nice that you get to smell chocolate the whole flipping ride. It's a good thing they handed out Kissables on the way out otherwise someone was gonna get hurt as I went for chocolate! Downtown Hershey was interesting too, with the Kisses streetlamps and the tasty street names. I could never live there though, the whole town smelled like chocolate, I would lose my mind.

It's funny how brave Cath has become. She wouldn't even get on a ride like this when I met her a few months ago.

Nice quick conversion! I'm convinced that anyone that is afraid of them needs just one good ride to get them started, that's how it happened for me. Either that or you BEAT them down and drag them on kicking and screaming! ;)

Sooperdooperlooper was closed, with no sign of activity, and that was a serious bummer.

A major letdown. It broke down the second time we got in line for it over Memorial Day weekend. We exited the line and the dang thing was running 5 minutes later. I'm just happy we did get to ride it once because I had my daughter all hyped up for her first "upside-down" coaster.

We took a spin on the kissing tower, and then decided to take a break around 3 p.m. We ran up to Allentown to visit Cath's brother and friends. We returned to the park at 7:30 p.m.

Just how quick of a trip is it up I-78? I always thought it would take too long to do that, but then again I have never been on I-78. I just keep thinking about how long it takes to get to Philly from there and just assumed Allentown would be similar.

Great TR Jeff. I attempted to post one back in June after our HP/DW trip, but after typing in the whole thing I accidentally clicked in the wrong spot and the whole thing was gone. I didn't feel like typing it again, and besides I didn't hit many coasters due to a 3 year old and 6 year old in tow. I have yet to ride TTD or SR, Intamin launches are unknown to me still. :(


*** Edited 8/22/2006 4:23:03 AM UTC by LdScotsman***

You have disturbed the forbidden temple, now-you-will-pay!!!

Hershey is definitely my favorite park, hands down, and I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it, Jeff!

'Looper is not the most thrilling ride in the park, but it's definitely fun...has a good pace throughout the ride, is smooth as silk, and provides some good views of the other coasters that fly around it. Plus there's a good photo op in the 'Looper queue where the Bear and 'Looper tracks pretty much run parallel. If you could only catch a moment when the trains are there at the same time...

Comet also is definitely a fun ride...I always rank it among my top woodies that I've ridden because it's the one ride (other than Storm Runner) that I absolutely must ride on a visit to Hershey.

Haha no I'm not giving Patrick the finger

Scotsman, you could make it from Hershey to Allentown in 1:15-1:30, depending on the traffic. It's about a 70-mile trip. Worst traffic along I-78 is the 20-mile stretch between Route 61 and 100. There are usually a few accidents a week in that stretch in one direction or the other. Not to mention the perpetual construction going on.

Actually, with the "accidents" and "construction" on I-78, I have been taking Rt 22 (paralleling 78) more and more. Not an interstate, but sometimes just as quick and definatel less annoying.

"Yes... well... VICTORY IS MINE!"
^ But you meet up with 78 again at Fredericksburg, and they run together until just outside of A-town. Or do you mean "Old 22" (aka The Hex Highway)? Now that's a scenic route (if you like cows).
Glad that you enjoyed HP, Jeff. I've been going to this park ever since I was 4 (I'm mid-20s now), and it's one of my favorite parks. It stinks that SDL wasn't open--it's such a classic steelie.

As for the Great Bear crew, why in the world do they do double checks? Why don't they give each person 8 seats to check? I do, however, like Great Bear--I think it's one of my fav steel coasters.

I'm curious as to why Storm Runner is so highly rated. Personally, I like the Intamin ones with the lapbars. I find that to enjoy Storm Runner, I have to ride defensively. I like Xcellerator and TTD the best.

Someone mantioned HP's food. I think they are fairly decent with food in certain places, but not across the board. I definitely like Decades, as they have decent burgers that you can add the fixin's yourself. Also, Tudor Grill (right outside the gate) is nice and not too pricey for a park restaurant.

Wildcat is CRAZY! I definitely like the ride, but this year is a bit too painful for my liking.

Wild Mouse is THE best wild mouse I've ever ridden--period.

coastin' since 1985

Jeff, great TR and I completely agree with your assessments on the coasters and the park and I, too, was completely blown away by the park on my first visit last year. I was also quickly reminded of BGW/BGE as I approached the gate.

Hersheypark easily became my second favorite park after my visit.

X Factor

Well Jeff, I have never got the chance to ride great bear, but I have watched a great bear POV and my thoughts are the same. That ride plows through the course without letting up one bit.

I know alot of people are anti-POV fans, but the one I watched was incredible. I sat at my computer in complete loss of words because this inparticular inverted ride looked so pulsating and unforgiving.

I am trying to juggle my own weights to see if another invert is better "IMO". There probably is, though this one looks impressive and deserves justifiable consideration as a great ride.

A park that treats you well your first time will undoubtedly be your friend for years to come.

Enjoyment! Sounds like you did.


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