My friend and I arrived around 11:00am on Saturday April 19. I was worried about rain, but figured it might keep the crowds at bay. Wrong! Tons of cars ahead of us on Hersheypark Drive and crawling into the parking lot. Incidentally, I'm not sure if I like the parking lot's new layout, with the addition of the Giant Center. Also, I miss the big train-shaped marquee at the old entrance. Maybe they're planning to spruce up the entrance for the summer season.
We took the tram to the entrance of the park, considered going to Chocolate World first, then just decided to go there afterwards. (I was anxious to hit the rides!)
From my last visit there for Christmas Candylane 2001, it didn't appear that many changes had been made to the European sections of the park, except for the remodeling of the restaurant in Tudor Square (which used to be called Pippins, I think). For some reason, I was happy to see that Hersheypark still has not put in metal detectors, like those big, bad urban parks like SFAmerica (my home park now) or Great Adventure.
Entering Carousel Circle, I wasn't quite as upset as I thought I would be seeing Starlight Arcade removed. The fountain put in its place (with future statue of M.S. Hershey) added a nice touch to the area. Our first ride was here, the Giant Wheel, always relaxing and offering a great view. However, I was disgusted seeing the Giant stores logo in place of the Hersheypark logo on the wheel we rode (as well as several of the gondolas). I guess corporate sponsorship is everywhere these days.
We then proceeded to the Comet, saw the ungodly long line extending out from under the canopy, then decided on the Sooperdooperlooper. I don't ever remember waiting this long for the Looper, but the wait was worth it. You're upside down for all of a second, but what a force you feel as you're pushed down into your seat. And long live the lap bars!!! May OTSRs never taint this ride.
Next up, we hit the Comet. Still a long line, but I didn't care (we were probably in line for about 45mins). Fantastic ride, made even more exciting by sitting in the back seat. My friend absolutely refused to do front seats (he's not a coaster buff), but was willing to tolerate the back. (Upon exiting the ride, we wound up near the Carousel. But I seemed to remember at one time disembarking the train on the same side as we embarked, and wound up back in Comet Hollow.) After that we went on Skyview, a SLOW ride. (I still want to know why they took out the Skyride that ran from Rhineland to Minetown; that actually went somewhere!!)
Next up were the Monorail (long line, one train running), Pirat, and Dry Gulch Railroad. We skipped the Frontier Flyers. I paused for a moment of silence to remember the Cyclops as I looked where it had been. Now just a hole in the ground, awaiting the Claw! Same for the Conestoga, whose entrance sign and queuing area are still there. Something called Frontier Virtual Theatre will be taking its place. We also went on Rodeo, and I was amused to hear the operator stop the ride after the forward run to ask if anyone didn't want to go backward. They used to run it backward without asking. The Sidewinder was closed, and upon close inspection, I noticed something strange. One of the trains was stuck between the teardrop loop and the butterfly twist between the arms of the coaster. I hope it didn't stop that way with people on it.
Down to the Trailblazer (and toward the tantalizing scent of cooking beef)! I noticed the line snaking out of the barn, down the steps, and into the outside queue. I figured, not too bad of a line. I completely forgot the LONG maze of bars once upstairs, in the barn. Worse, they were only running one train, so the line moved at snail's pace; we must've waited about an hour. I'm a diehard nostalgic, otherwise I would have said the heck with it. Truthfully, it's not worth such a long wait. The only real highlight is the final helix, for which reason my friend made me right on the right-hand side, which is closest to the ground when the train goes sideways. And those beams once you reach the station... I still swear one of these days someone is going to lose their head. My hands were up most of the ride, until that point! Also, I have to agree with the earlier post that this little valley is one of the prettiest spots in the park (and when the entire park is open, one of the more forgotten).
Up the steep hill to Minetown, and the Flying Falcon... beautiful, exhilarating ride. I love how they speed up the cars once you reach the top; my friend didn't. We sat in separate cars, and I called to him several times, but I could see he wasn't enjoying himself. He insisted that we ride a few slow rides to allay his lurching stomach, so we hit the Kissing Tower. Around this time it was beginning to get dark, and I was determined to go on Great Bear (I rode alone, surprise, surprise!). Another fantastic coaster experience, speed with a smooth ride. Not a migraine-inducer like the MindEraser at SFAmerica (they should tear that thing down and start over).
It was now dark. Encore trips on Looper and Comet. I love riding coasters at night, especially ones with lights, like the Comet. It's a great effect. Second-to-last ride was the Wave Swinger... fun (more great lights-red!), even though it was making a strange, very loud groaning noise as the tower descended. It had been closed when we were near it earlier in the day. Needs some wd-40, perhaps. Encore trip on Monorail (shorter line, fun at night too).
9:30pm... out of the park, into Chocolate World. Tour ride, of course, but no 3D Spectacular. Off to Tram Circle, which sort of reminded me of the DC Metro at rush hour. Just a big mob of people scrambling to get on the last train out of Dodge (maybe they should rename it Cram Circle). Next stop, Tram Dropoff #1!
I plan to return later in the summer.
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