Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
Wow, that has to be one of the longest event titles going.
A group of friends from my church, all older than me (yes there are people older than me out there who aren't in nursing homes), decided they wanted to visit the park one day for the Christmas season. With everyone's schedules, the one day we could all go was Thursday the 17th. This happened to be one of the coldest days of the week, so I admit I was a bit surprised that nobody wanted to back out.
The park wasn't open until 5:00, so it was late afternoon that 6 of us, all wearing multiple layers of warm clothing were heading southbound along I-81 in a minivan. Since we got there around 4:30, we took a mini detour up toward the hotel to check out the new cottages they have for rent. Very nice looking, and apparently constructed very quickly and recently. One of our party says they were just starting work on them on Mothers' Day.
When we arrived at the parking lot, I climbed over the middle seat to show the parking attendant my season pass. Our party was thrilled that I had just saved us 10 bucks. Even being this early, I was still a bit surprised that we got to park right next to the attendant's booth by the stadium. Turns out, attendance was pretty light all evening. I don't know if it was strictly because of the weather, the fact it was a weeknight, or both. Actually, the weather was seasonal, maybe in the lower 20s, but not unbearably cold.
First stop was Chocolate World. I hadn't been on the "tour" since it was revamped a few years ago, so this was my first time seeing the singing cows. Some in our group reminisced about when you could tour the "real" factory years ago. All 6 of us fit into one vehicle, even with all of our layers. The highlight had to be the handful of Bliss candy we were handed at the end of the ride.
Hersheypark's website is featuring an Advent calendar for the month of December. http://www.christmasinhershey.com/advent_calendar/index.php You can open the door for each day of the month up to the current day, and they were offering discounts or other treats in the form of coupons. One of them was for a free cookie with the purchase of a hot beverage in Chocolate World. Not a bad deal, since you paid $2.50 for a cup of hot chocolate and a decent sized cookie. The cookie itself regularly costs $3.00. I took the Special Dark, which was a chocolate cookie with dark chocolate chips.
I decided to take some pics of our group-- had to stuff a camera in my pockets along with gloves, earmuffs, phone, and a balaclava-- only to find I forgot to replace the memory card when I last downloaded pics. <iinsert swear words> Luckily, I remembered I had the small memory card that came with the camera. Only 16 mb, but I should be able to take at least a few pics. Stayed tuned for an addition to the Day in Pics.
We finally got into the park itself around quarter to 6. Another coupon from the Advent calendar was used to get a 2 dollar discount for everyone from the regular $10,95 admission. I got in for free with my season pass. Seasonal music was playing throughout the park, and the walk from the gate through Carousel Circle was beautifully illuminated. It's also great that the organ on the Carousel has all Christmas music on its rolls.
Only a portion of the park is open for this event Obviously, no coasters are running. And there is no access beyond the Playdome toward the Boardwalk and Midway America. They do have a star illuminated on the Ferris Wheel facing Hersheypark Drive though. We didn't travel that way, but it also appeared that the path at the far end of Comet Hollow, beyond SDL past the flume and Amphitheatre was closed as well. I think the only access to the Minetown area was across the "high" bridge behind the Dodgems.
Surprisingly, the wind had died down considerably, so we decided to try Skyview. The person I was riding with told me she was terribly afraid of heights. She's pretty much of a jokester, so I thought she was clowning around, but it turned out she was really afraid. The entire ride was punctuated with comments like "What's that noise?" "Why are we going higher?" "Is it supposed to do that?" "Omigod, the cable's moving!" I'm telling her to look at Santa and the reindeer on the roller coaster (Comet), look at the lights, don't look down at the water.
Just as we passed back over the creek, the light show started below and behind us. NOEL (Nights of Extraordinary Lights) is a light and music show set up all the way along Spring Creek from the bridge next to the Aquatheatre to the bridge next to SooperDooperLooper's station. They also have the trademark Kissmas Tree set up. The show last for 10-12 minutes, maybe 3-4 songs, and runs every half hour. But we noticed they didn't play the same songs all the time either. You can go out onto any of the bridges to watch the show, plus observe from the area next to the Skyview queue.
Next we thought we'd try the Monorail, which sadly was out of commission. Bummer. That's one of the best rides for this event. I suggested we check out Music Box Theatre to see what the show schedule was. A show had started at 6:00, but they let us into the show a few minutes late anyway. The show is the same one I've seen for several years now, but the cast members have changed. I think it's called Home Sweet Home for Christmas. It's a pretty nice show, maybe some would find it a bit corny, but don't we give some allowance for corniness around Christmastime?
Our next stop was the Candylane Express, aka Dry Gulch RR. Now on days when the weather is nicer, the line for this ride can spill out past the queue. Tonight, we walked right through and down to catch the last few seats of a waiting train. This ride is usually very popular because of all the lights and animated figures along the route. I was facing backwards, so I wasn't in the best position to get pics. I also learned my lesson from Halloween at Knoebels that I can't take a nighttime pic while in motion to save my life.
After that, I conned one of our group into riding Pirat with me, but we had to ride the back seat. I enjoyed it, she didn't so much. Hmmm, this is definitely not a riding crowd. I passed on a solo ride on the Claw, which was running. Since I looked like the Michelin Man in all my layers, I knew there was no way the restraint was going to close on me. And I wasn't riding with less than 3 layers on. :)
Several of us had also noticed that the Kissing Tower wasn't operating. Double Bummer. Two of the must rides not running isn't good. We walked out onto the bridge toward Minetown and watched another light show. I figured it wasn't worth crossing all the way if the Tower wasn't running.
By that time, we were ready to head toward the front gate. We made a few stops to take in the atmosphere and some treats to take home. Caramel corn and chocolate. We were only in the park for around two hours, probably would have been longer if the Monorail and Kissing Tower were running, but everyone had a good time, and nobody felt they didn't get their $8.95 worth.
We headed to a town between Hershey and Lebanon called Annville for dinner at a pub/restaurant called Batdorf's. Interesting little place, if you're ever in the area. It has two bars, several cozy little side rooms where they also serve food. We ended up being the only party on the upper floor overlooking one of the bars. They had a live piano player and it was Martini night. But I had a beer called Arrogant Bastard. I think the group's bar bill was more than our food bill. So even though they're not much for riding, they're still a fun group to hang with.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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