Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Knoebels: 5/22-24

Monday, May 25, 2009 2:18 PM

We settled on a PA coaster trip for the long weekend, as it was the most economical of our choices. Our hotel stay in Allentown was free, so our total expense was two tanks of gas, one hotel night and Hersheypark tickets. Not counting food, I don't think we spent more than $250. That's a plus because I'm po.

We arrived in Hershey on Friday around dinner time, and met Carrie M. at our hotel. We went to dinner, and she used some season pass coupons to get us $31 tickets, a far cry from the $52 gate. Do people really pay that much? That seems really high. In any case, you can get in the night before for 2.5 hours on your ticket, which is incredibly awesome. Being a holiday weekend, we were nervous about what we may encounter. Friday night, hoards of band geeks were leaving as we got there, and the only thing we had to wait for beyond a few cycles was Fahrenheit.

Fahrenheit is a pretty solid ride overall. As others have said, the first few inversions are a little slow feeling, but beyond that, it's a lot of fun. The short trains really offer a lot of flexibility. It's very quick in the turns. The first drop is better than Maverick's since it's longer, but it obviously lacks the same kind of speed. It's a nice addition overall.

I finally got a "good" ride on Wildcat, which is to say that it was tracking well and mostly smooth, except for some jackhammering near the end. But it's really not that interesting of a ride, unfortunately.

We also got spins on Lightning Racer, which is still running extremely well, the Wild Mouse with almost no brakes, Great Bear, one of the most underrated of the B&M inverters and Comet, which appears to have an adult, single-sex crew this year and is better for it. We finished on the Arrow flume, which is a total classic of a ride. It makes me miss White Water Landing.

Saturday we returned to the park, after a night at the Quality Inn which was just OK. I dunno, it didn't feel clean enough. The park was surprisingly not all that busy, and we had no problem rounding out the coasters we didn't already ride, save for Storm Runner which was closed. That sucks, because Diana has yet to be on an Intamin hydraulic launch. The new water park was an absolute zoo. I've never seen a line like that for a lazy river. Zoomerica was wholly unremarkable.

Service and operations are a mixed bag. Some crews are better than others. Food service is hit or miss too. We tried scoring ice cream under Great Bear's zero-G roll, and the kid was filling in circles on his cup lid, not even bothering to look up. I should have asked if I was bothering him. On the other hand, the kids at the potato chip joint were eager to help.

Overall, it was fun to visit Hersheypark, and it's still one of the nicer parks I've been to. They have a nice mix of rides.

We left Hershey in the afternoon, and made the hour drive to Allentown. The hotel that we're plugging on the CoasterBuzz Club page for 20% off is really solid, and it's literally across the street from Dorney. We went to a Carrabba's down the street for dinner, and got a second wind and decided to go into the park.

I told Diana it was like "little Cedar Point," and that was exactly the impression she got. The park has really filled in a bit since my last visit, which was in 2001. Talon looks fantastic. The water park crowd had spilled out, so we decided to snag a few rides and get out, as the fatigue started to set in again. We got laps on Steel Force, Hydra and Talon.

Hydra is awful. I doubted all of the haters, but there's something fundamentally wrong with it. I don't think it's poor train maintenance, because you don't see any of the shimmying around of the cars that you see on Hulk, for example. It's so rough. Something ain't right.

Talon, on the other hand, is just as awesome as I remember it. I remember now why I thought it was one of the best B&M inverters, right up there with Fire, Raptor and Montu. We got up to Talon's station just as a line of serious thunderstorms, with ample lightning, was rolling in. They closed the ride as soon as we got back. What a fantastic setting that was, at dusk with the storms. The forces that thing pulls are outstanding.

On Sunday, we slept in and missed another "complimentary continental breakfast," and got to the park at around 11. I was shocked at how non-crowded it was. We endeavored to hit the rest of the coasters, and even snagged a credit on Woodstock's Express.

It's funny to think about how Superman-Steel Venom-Voodoo-Possessed has now had four names in two locations. The ride looks pretty good there, with the new paint and all. I will say that I like how Six Flags originally put the electrical room under the ride, as it made the ride feel more open. It's a little sad to see Laser missing.

We did everything we wanted by 1:30, and decided to make a run for Knoebels. I originally let the idea go feeling we wouldn't have enough time, and I couldn't justify full wrist band purchases, but found a way to make the park "on the way" and had no problem spending ten bucks on a couple of rides know in enthusiast circles as being legendary.

Being an open picnic grove kind of place, I shouldn't have been surprised at how crowded it was, but yikes. Fortunately, with most people riding via tickets or spending time in the water stuff, there was almost no wait for either coaster.

So I finally understand what all the noise is about when it comes to Phoenix. What a fantastic ride. Great crew as well, really taking pride in moving people through there. See, this is a ride that was worth preserving, because it has something going for it other than age. Total air time machine, start to finish. Loved it.

Twister was a solid ride as well, particularly if you're a lateral fan. It's one of those things where when you consider the constraints of a piece of land, you get something interesting like this.

Overall, there are a lot of things I would have liked to have done at the park, if we had more time. Didn't get the flyers, which is some kind of sin, I know. In order for us to get home in time to see at least half of the tragic Cavs game, we couldn't hang out much. Food pricing looked reasonable, and we enjoyed some ice cream, which was delicious. At least now we have a better idea of what's there, and can plan appropriately. No idea where we'll stay, as there aren't a lot of hotel options near by, and I'm no camper.

In the end, we spent time in three different parks inside of a 36 hour window, which really brought back my inner-coaster geek. I can't remember the last time I took a multi-park trip that wasn't Orlando. Good times.

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Monday, May 25, 2009 3:00 PM

Glad you've "found" Phoenix. It truly is the ride people give it credit for being. Hotels are generally Danville, less than 15 minutes once you get used to the winding roads.

Hershey is kinda weird in that it occasionally has some of that "big park" feeling, esp. with regards to food, despite being in generally much more personable PA. Nonetheless, they HAVE the rides.

Oh, and ummm, go Magic! ;)

Last edited by rollergator, Monday, May 25, 2009 3:01 PM
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:26 AM

Hyrda is a funny ride for sure. The only coaster that I know that the smoothest seat bar far is in the back and on the right side. The front has a weird "push" feeling into all the inversions and it just doesn't feel good at all. Back is where its at, but even then it is still just a mediocre ride.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 2:32 AM

MythMaker, I too have had some great rides on Hydra, but it's not worth a ride unless it's pretty much a walk-on. The front seat is butter smooth typically.

Jeff, excellent trip report! I also think Great Bear is underrated. It DOES peter out at the end, and I believe they could have possibly put ONE more barrel roll before that long straight section, but it's got a unique start with that helix, and the winding course through the other two coasters is super cool. That IS unfortunate about Storm Runner. I still think Storm Runner is one of the most intense launches I've ever had. It is absolutely amazing to me that you hit all those parks in that little bit of time. That's hardcore. :) And don't worry. I've missed the flyers at Knoebels all three times I've been there. Next time will definitely be a go, though.

Congratulations again on your recent marriage!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 9:35 AM

The weird thing about Great Bear I think is that the ending, everything from the last inversion to the brakes, is designed just to get the train back to the station. I find it hilarious that the on-ride photo is at the brakes as well.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 9:58 AM

I stayed at a decent hotel not even 15 minutes from Knoebels after a rainy night at their campground. Pretty sure it was a Courtyard.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 11:22 AM

I'm glad you enjoyed our little piece of coaster heaven in eastern PA.

While I don't love Hydra, I don't hate it either. It's worth a spin or two.

Out of curiousity, did you get to ride anything at Knoebles other than the 2 coasters?

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:07 PM

Unfortunately, no. I didn't want to be on the road too late, and I wanted to see the second half of the game (which ended up being a waste of time). Next time we head out that way, we'll make the time.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:42 PM

By the way, I uploaded a snap looking into the trough of Flying Turns.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 4:30 PM

I agree that Great Bear is underrated. Also in that category: Sooperdooperlooper, the layout of which I always find very interesting and fun.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 5:07 PM

I took into the hype of phoenix a few years back, its like an unassumingly fun roller coaster. The layout of the ride doesn't get you to think its going to be great by any means, but once it lets go man that is one of the best wooden coasters out there.

Yeah and kudos to the Cavs game sucking. Its still not over though, which is a good thing, right?

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 9:00 PM

Congrats Jeff on busting your Phoenix cherry... I was surprised to see that you have never been to this park before. Someday I will respond on a post of my Blackberry experience with the ride that proves the airtime and quality of a Blackberry device.

I only got there once and was extremely impressed with the park all around. It is one of my favorites. The pizza was the best I have ever had at a park and cost almost nothing in comparison to CP.

I was also in the same shoes as you. I only had a few hours, since this was a last minute detour I talked the wife into. We were on our way back from a weekend at the Poconos and decided to get of of I80 on our ride home.

To bad you did not do the dark ride. It was the best one I have been on in the cheesy non-Disney budget category. I missed the log flume though, which I kick myself to this day for not doing.

I also loved Twister, I never expected the two lift hill in a row.

I will be back to this park. It may cost me another Poconos weekend, but I will be back in the next few years.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009 8:44 PM

WE just went for the first time on 5/27. It was raining in the A.M. and Phoenix was closed, but it cleared up and Phoenix was open by 1pm. Our first spin on this highly touted classic (in the very back) yielded as response of "that's it?.... not so special." Our second spin (in the very front) brought out the "Holy Crap!!!!" After several more spins near the front, we deemed row 3 as the best. If you like airtime, this coaster delivers!!!!! Best ejector air and in multitudes! But stay away from the back.

All that being said, Phoenix wasn't my favorite ride. THE BUMPER CARS!!!!!! Knoebels calls them Scooters. They are as great as people make them out to be. Fast, and slippery. You can easily jackknife a competitor into a 360 as you careen through the one-way track. LOVED 'EM! Don't mis them ext time. Also, the Flyers are scary as Heck! The LOOPER is a crazy last of its' kind ride, and The Haunted House is pretty cool, in an old-fashioned cheesy sort of way.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009 11:08 PM

Any updates on Flying Turns? Are they still having issues with the trains?

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Saturday, May 30, 2009 11:12 PM

Does it matter if the track isn't done? :)

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Sunday, May 31, 2009 11:20 AM

LoadedG, I wouldn't dismiss the backseat on Phoenix so quickly. When you rode it, the train was just warming up. IMO it's more air-filled than the front seat and even the much touted row 3. I've ridden both ends of the train at the end of the day multiple times and always find the back to be superior.

I too think Talon is fantastic, but what about Steel Force? Whenever I ride the back on that at night, I can almost imagine I'm on Magnum. Love love love it! Lately, it's been vastly superior to Mamba and Wild Thing. And yes the park has filled out nicely. Ten years ago, I didn't care much for it, but now it's one of my favorite parks out this way.

The good rides on Wildcat were with the PTC's when the ride was running well. That thing was fantastic. Now, it's smooth, but very boring. Great Bear is another great, underrated B&M. Super Dooper Looper is my personal favorite ride there.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009 12:13 PM

Jeff said:
Does it matter if the track isn't done? :)

Done or re-done? Not sure which is the proper term to use. They had a closed circuit, but they removed and slightly relocated the original brake run and final lift into the station. The turn from the brake run into the little lift is more sweeping and less abrupt than originally built.

They never did construct the transfer track outside of the helix. They pretty much said up front that was going to be totally dependent on the final design of the cars.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009 12:26 PM

Jeff said:
Does it matter if the track isn't done? :)

The funny thing is, the track was done almost two years ago. It was only this past winter that they tore it apart.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009 12:43 PM

Well looking at it from the "midway" angle, it appears there's one more turn that has not been constructed, or they've got a bunch of footers they decided they didn't need.

I gotta say, the thing looks like a curious science project, though the cost I would imagine is not cheap.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009 8:05 PM

If the midway you're talking about is the road (and a road it used to be) that separates the swimming pool / Twister / campground from the rest of the park, those footers were for the storage / service track. Yes, for some unexplained reason, noted visionary John Fetterman thought it would be appropriate for the storage track to be wrapped around the outside of the ride's first element, a helix. (If any of the original rides did that, I've never heard of it.) They had the transfer tracks, at the top of the first lift and bottom of the second lift, completely functional, and had gone as far as putting up bents and walkboards for the storage track when I last saw the ride last fall. I don't know what happened over the winter, but suddenly the storage track is going to be in a much more sane position, not to mention inclination, next to the first brake run.

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