It was my first visit to Hersheypark since 1984, and I will say this- it will definitely NOT be another 20 years before I visit again. It was a day full of (mostly) pleasant surprises and it's always a blast hanging out with my friend Uncle Coaster.
After leaving Cleveland at 4:00 am, I arrived at Hersheypark a little before 10:00. Traffic coming into the park seemed endless, so I knew it was going to be a crazy day. I met up with Uncle Coaster just outside the Chocolate World building and discovered we still had to wait a good 15 minutes just to get in through the gates! The lines were huge at the main gate.
Once inside, we noticed that big lines were already forming at the Giant Wheel, Monorail and Carousel (which is placed beautifully in the park), so Uncle Coaster recommended that we take the walk back to Midway America.
Our first stop in Midway America would be the Wild Mouse since Uncle Coaster said the lines would just be crazy by later on. I had only been on one other Mack Wild Mouse to this point (BGW's Wilde Maus, now Cheetah Chase at BGT), so I had rather low expectations going in. There was no line, so we walked right on... literally! The cars do not stop as they roll slowly through the station. You hop in while the car is moving and you hop out the same way. It definitely keeps the cars moving through the course though! The car climbed the lift where I got my first aerial shot of the park. I must say that Hershey is without question a visually stunning park. Coaster track is everywhere, blended in with lush foliage, old buildings, and of course the Hershey Chocolate Factory. The steady stream of cars still pouring in kind of ruined this visual, but nonetheless, I was very impressed with this park's appearance. As we reached the top, our car began weaving its way through the elevated hairpin turns. NONE of the trims were used on this portion of the ride, which makes a huge difference in the "fun factor" of this ride. BGW's had its brakes on rather hard when I visited there in 1998, so this was definitely another pleasant surprise. Coaster #139 for me was loads of fun, with nasty turns, sudden drops with some perilously close headchoppers, and an unreal amount of cars on the course. Everytime I'd look over at this ride, it seemed there was at least 6 cars running at a time. It was a thing of beauty, really! Wild Mouse was a great way to start the day.
Uncle Coaster had laid out a plan of action to start the morning off and we stuck to it and it worked wonderfully. He recommended that we go hit Wildcat next since the lines move rather slow despite a two-train operation, and with the surge of people coming in, this would be our best chance at a minimal wait. As usual, he was correct. We pretty much walked right on my very first GCI coaster. I have heard mixed reviews about Wildcat. Some have said it was a good ride, some have said it's "just ok", and still others have said rather nasty things about it. So, how did Wildcat fare? In my opinion, Wildcat was just an incredible ride that immediately got a re-ride after my first go around. We rode in seat 1.2 both times, and to be completely honest, I can't quite remember the exact layout of this ride. All I remember was the first drop was a killer, there was one point on a banked turn where it felt like we were being tipped up and out of our seats, a moment of brutally slamming airtime (which I still have a bruise from on my arm), and more vicious, lateral-filled turns. The train NEVER let up from the minute it left the lift hill and just tossed us around like a couple of ragdolls. My second ride was every bit as good.
As beautiful as Wildcat was, Lightning Racer is even more stunning to see in person. The first thing that I had to notice though was the rides enormous and just unbelievable-looking station. Hersheypark obviously put a LOT of time and effort into this and it really makes for a nice first impression. Lightning Racer would also be my first encounter with the highly-acclaimed GCI "Millennium Flyer" trains. We decided to ride the "Thunder" side of Lightning Racer and boarded the second seat of the unusual green train. These seats are extremely comfortable and well-padded. The lap bar, which seems to be weighted so that it will only keep pushing down on you, isn't obtrusive and still allows for some movement in the seat. The ride op said "Dispatch" and we were off. Looking off to the right and seeing the entire ride layout, I thought it is truly mind-blowing what GCI created here. Like Wildcat, I have no idea what happened. All I remember was a bunch of severely banked turns, some nice little bunny hops, a tunnel, two turns where the trains pass each other in opposite directions (the "dueling" aspect of the ride I guess), and near the end, the trains were crossing over each other before hitting the finish line. Our train won, which got a nice round of applause from everyone on board. My initial thoughts of Lightning Racer, aside from being the single most amazing looking wood coaster I have ever seen, was that it was a very fun ride. The Millennium Flyer trains are also a big plus as they track beautifully and the ride is incredibly smooth. But overall, I have to say that I enjoyed Wildcat better. Wildcat had that out of control feeling that I like so much and while it may not be the popular decision, Wildcat ranks higher on my list than Lightning Racer. LR was still a great ride, and it's one that Hersheypark should be proud to have in their lineup.
Unfortunately, as we made our way over to Pioneer Frontier, I noticed Sidewinder was down, so I wouldn't be able to add another fine Vekoma Boomerang to my list. ;)
For anyone that said prior to Storm Runner's opening that a hydraulic launch coaster wouldn't fit in at Hershey, I think I'd have to say that statement was erroneous. Judging from the massive line, people are eating this ride up. New for 2004, Storm Runner is (for now) one of three Intamin Rocket Coasters and the first one to feature inversions. The ride towers above everything else in the area and really looks intimidating. Now, being an Ohioan, I couldn't help but compare the appearance of this ride to Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster. Comparing Storm Runner's tophat element to TTD's is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. But at Hersheypark, Storm Runner is king and with its twisted course built high above everything else, you can't help but get a small bit of trepidation about boarding. This being an Intamin Rocket Coaster and all, we kept wondering how often the ride would break down. As we constantly moved through the line, trains were continuously launching... definitely a good sign.
After a 75-minute wait (which I didn't think was bad at all considering the size of the line), we were climbing into one of the two trains (seat 5.1) in the split loading station. After a quick restraint check, our train rolled out of the station, a "clink" could be heard, the train rolled ever-so-slightly backward, a recorded voice came on and says "Get Ready, because Here... We... Go!" And on "Go", the train is shot out of the launch position like a bat out of hell. Zero to 72 miles per hour in 2 seconds may not sound as impressive as Zero to 120 mph in 4 seconds, but the effect is every bit as good. In no time at all, the train twisted 90 degrees to clear the top hat and then the surprises began. Having not been familiar with the Storm Runner layout may have been the best thing to happen to me all day when it came to riding. As the train came down the other side of the tophat, I guess I was expecting the train to twist 90 degrees again and straighten out. Imagine my shock when the train just decided to plunge 180 feet (or so) STRAIGHT DOWN! That element really caught me off guard, but Storm Runner wasn't finished yet. The train entered the most unusual-shaped loop I have ever seen. It was like Intamin took a standard vertical loop and just randomly stretched and banked sections of the track into some new shape that's all their own. The hang time at the top of this element was outstanding. But again... Storm Runner was not finished. In what has to be THE greatest inversion element of all time, the train performs a full barrel roll then begins a second barrel roll. As the train inverts, the bottom is just yanked out from beneath the train and we are sent plummeting down another severe drop. Add in the fact that it looks like your head is about to be lopped off by the monorail track and you've got one heck of a scary element. As the train flies back up, you catch a quick moment of airtime and then hit the downhill brakes and smoothly return to the station. 30 seconds of total ride time... 30 seconds of pure adrenaline. Storm Runner blew me away in every way possible. A second ride later in the day found us in seat 1.2 and the ride was even better. The airtime as we crested the tophat was just sick and the hill following the "snake roll" (or whatever they call it) launched my rear end off the seat pretty severely. In case you couldn't tell, I LOVED this ride. In my opinion, Storm Runner is a FAR superior ride than TTD. Sure it's not the world's tallest and fastest ride, but Storm Runner's unique elements are far and away more entertaining and definitely more thrilling. Plus, SR ran consistently all day from what I could tell and we didn't have to guard our faces from flying shrapnel. Storm Runner was coaster #142 for me and is my new #2 coaster. Intamin must do something right since both my #1 and #2 rides are their creations.
After lunch at Freeman's Texas BBQ, we headed over to Comet Hollow, trying to push our way through overflowing queue lines and the throngs of guests and were greeted by a full queue at Great Bear. After an hour wait, I finally got my chance to try out this new-to-me B&M inverted. Like the Batman inverts, Great Bear starts by taking guests immediately up the lift hill. Seeing the other park rides sprawled out below is a pretty cool visual. When we finally reached the top, the fun began as we picked up a tremendous amount of speed through the helix. This is a great element that I'm surprised B&M hasn't used on other coasters. Our train then flew down the first drop, rose into a large vertical loop, hit a straight section of track that is rather low to the ground, then we soared through an Immelman. The train then proceeded to send us through a rather vicious inline twist before diving down over the paddleboat river and alongside the park's sooperdooper Looper roller coaster, where the visual of your feet about to be torn off by another ride is pretty terrifying! A corkscrew ends the inversion sequence and soon we hit the brakes. In all, Great Bear was fun, smooth, had some nice intensity in parts (despite hearing otherwise from past TR's), and has some killer footchoppers throughout.
With my mission of riding the 5 new-to-me coasters accomplished, I decided I wanted to give the sooperdooperLooper a spin. Even here, there was a 40-minute wait for the Anton Schwarzkopf classic. This would be the only ride from my 1984 visit that I had decided to re-ride as I opted to pass on TrailBlazer (which broke down) and I will probably take some heat for this, but I also opted to pass on the Comet. Comet didn't do much for me 20 years ago... and with the line as long as it was, I decided I'd rather leave it for a future visit. sooperdooperLooper is a rather strange little ride. Riding in classic Anton trains with only a lap bar to hold you in, we climbed the lift, plunged down the first drop, whirled through the rather forceful loop, then whipped through a tunnel (which I didn't remember from my first trip... was this always there?) and concluding with a powerful helix. sooperdooperLooper is another "fun" Hershey ride and while it seems to be dwarfed by Great Bear these days, it still packs quite a punch.
A ride on The Claw (Chance/Morgan Revolution) would be our next stop. With only one KMG AfterBurner to my credit, I had to take a ride on this 32-seat park model. The queue was overflowing onto the midway, so we stood in line for nearly 50 minutes to ride a flat ride. While The Claw doesn't offer a very long cycle (and with these crowds, I can see why), it definitely provides a few nice "airtime" moments at the top of the swing, and of course, the spinning can really mess you up! The Claw only swung into the "overswing" position once in each direction...something I wish there was more of! One thing humorous about The Claw was that at the conclusion to the ride cycle and when the floor had returned, the restraints were popping open while the wheel was still rotating. Granted, it wasn't rotating very fast, but it was funny watching riders dodge the moving seats trying to get to the exit!
We took a little time out of our day to catch Tony Orlando perform at the Amphitheatre in Comet Hollow. It was a very fun and entertaining show.
With the crowds not diminishing much, we took our second Storm Runner ride (as mentioned earlier), then headed back to Lightning Racer. I had to try the "Lightning" side, just to make sure I got a complete coaster credit and not just half. Or is it two coaster credits and not one? ;) I'm sticking with Lightning Racer as being one. The Lightning side was just as much fun as the Thunder side was, and at night, the ride looks even more stunning with its thousands of chaser lights. As a matter of fact, the entire Midway America area looks even more amazing by night. The Chance Giant Wheel with the Hersheypark logo is truly awesome to behold with its light package on.
It was now nearing 9:00 and we were ready to call it a day. But, Chocolate World was still open... and how can you turn down a free Hershey Bar? We took a trip on Hershey's Chocolate Ride and enjoyed the trip through a "simulated chocolate factory" . It is a cute ride, just don't go in expecting any Disney-style animation. The Chocolate World shops were so crowded you could barely move.
In all, Hersheypark ranks VERY highly on my list of favorite parks now. It has atmosphere galore, beautiful landscaping, INCREDIBLE coasters, friendly employees, and cool mascots. Sure I missed Comet, Trail Blazer, the Flying Falcon, Giant Wheel, and even the Frontier Flyers (which looked pretty tame by Flyer standards), but riding Storm Runner twice in one day more than made up for that. Heck, I haven't even been able to ride TTD twice in one day... and CP is one of my home parks! One suggestion I do have for the park though is to please add some more shade to some of the queues. Storm Runner's overflow queue could benefit from a temporary shade and The Claw could definitely use it considering how slow the queue moves. Other than that, I don't have much to complain about at Hersheypark.
Hershey is my home park, and I have the say the park is just too crowded anymore. They are definately breaking attendance records this year.
Wednesday I'd get off work, and head over to get a lap or 2 on Storm Runner, and a few other rides before heading home. Now I don't even bother. Even on Wednesday the park is just too crowded. I can't wait for the kiddies to go back to school. ;)
Look at my signature. If the park wasn't so crowded I'd have a lot more laps on Storm Runner than I do.
I was going to stop in at Hersheypark on Sunday evening... but decided to pass when I saw how crowded it was. I was second guessing my decision until I saw the above comment. 40 minutes for the looper? I have never found that to be much more of a walk on in recent years. Wow.
A few weeks ago there was a story on local radio with a spokesperson from Hersheypark (I forget the name) discussing parks and their "low-queue", "Q-Bot", "Express" etc systems... and stating that Hersheypark does not offer such a system and really has no plans to at the present time, however they may reevaluate in the future.
What sparked that "story?" Is it being discussed? I don't know. If attendance is as it is... then perhaps that reevaluation may come sooner than later.
I will be at Hersheypark for the first time ever a week from today, and am very much looking forward to it. Your TR has only excited me more... for the most part.
I am a little concerned about the crowds, as I was hoping by going next week after most schools start back up would make it not so bad. Could anybody familiar with the park on a regular basis comment on what type of crowds you generally expect for a weekday after school starts back up? Will there be much drop off?
I'm still really looking forward to my visit, and just hope the crowds aren't too bad. It sounds like an awesome place! :)
What's funny is that I was there that same day! I stole my boyfriend away for a suprise day trip to ZooAmerica and Chocolate World. He's not much into amusement parks, but he did show unquestionable curiosity about Hershey Park.
I'm going to send him the link to this trip report, because Hershey is a really sweet place to go and your trip report is very informative. Sunday the 22nd was one of the most beautiful days we've had in this area - no clouds, and no rain. A perfect day at the park.
Lastly, I agree with you on Wildcat. Last time I went on it - maybe 6 years ago - it was just too bangy for me, and I was sitting in the front row. When I was a kid I could dig the rickety rag-doll wooden coasters, but now that I'm in my twenties, having my head and body shaken roughly isn't my idea of a good time.
Also, does anyone know when the Kissng Tower vehicle stopped rotating? It was just going straight up and down and the car was not moving to give the view of everything that it used to. That's a shame.
Not sure how official this is... it was just what I remember reading in another post (I even forget who posted it).
I normally only go to HP on Saturdays and Sundays and I have to say that it was definitely the most crowded the park has ever been on a Sunday in my experience.
LR which normally has a 3-4 train wait at most, the line was actually out into the overflow queue area. In all my days at HP, that overflow area has not been used.
We only rode LR on Sunday..We strolled around the park for a couple of hours just taking in the scenery (which at HP is a great experience in itself). We were going to stay for Tony Orlando, but decided to pass and went home a little earlier than anticipated. Was the amphitheater full??
I think part of why it was so crowded was that the summer is winding down, schools will be starting back up soon (yeah!!) and a lot of folks have been putting off going to the park because of the rainy season (and when it wasn't raining, the heat/humidity was awful) that we have had around here. Even on days where it didn't rain, there was almost always a chance for thunderstorms predicted. Sunday was one of the nicest days in a long time.
I am glad to hear that you had a great time in spite of the crowds (which is a credit to both you and HP).
Very nice TR, ProgRay. I've been visiting Hershey since 1979, and the park is still just as beautiful and well-managed as it was then.
Yup, tunnel's always been there.
then whipped through a tunnel (which I didn't remember from my first trip... was this always there?)
I agree that the late season last minute visits may be filling up the park.
In June I visited on a Tuesday evening and rode every coaster at least once with multiple rides on Lightning Racer, Great Bear, Wildcat, Looper and Comet. Got in a lot of rides in a few hours. Walk ons for all except for the front seat of Great Bear... and that was only a 4 or 5 train wait.
During a visit on a Sunday evening in July, I managed to get on every coaster I wanted to (Great Bear was closed, and skipped Trail Blazer) but had short waits for everything else... except for Comet which was a good 15 minute wait. Not long, but longer than in June.
Now it appears that the park is packed since the days on its operating schedule are dwindling down to a only a few.
As far as the lines go, SLFAKE mentioned sdl never having a line and freakylick mentioned never seeing the overflow queue being used before. Its odd, because I was telling Ray those same things while we were there and was shocked to see the line for sdl almost reach back to the entrance. I can't remember the last time I even waited on the stairs for that ride. When we went back to LR, the line was only half way down the ramps, so that wasn't too bad. I can't imagine my reaction if I had actually seen the line in the queues. :)
The first Tony Orlando show was filled and guests were turned away. We didn't walk back there during the 8:00 show so I'm not sure how crowded that one was. For what its worth, the show was great. The thing I miss most about living near Hershey is the Sunday evening concert series.
When I drove past on Sunday I was wondering about the filled parking lot around GIANT Center. I wasn't sure if there was something going on there or not. That was park parking too? *** Edited 8/24/2004 6:17:00 PM UTC by SLFAKE***
- Jeff (a bonafide Tony Orlando mark)
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