10.25.2014

Road Trip to Hershey Park In the Dark! October 24th, 2014


I've lived about 2 hours from Hershey Park all of my life, and like Dorney Park, I have *almost* visited more than a few times, but plans have always fallen through. My fiance and I just bought and are now rehabbing our first home, which means long di$tance trips were out of the question for me in 2014. So, just like other regional parks Dorney and Six Flags America I made it a point to get to this park before the end of the season. After so many, many visits to Six Flags Great Adventure, it was nice to change it up for these three trips. Since my camera basically sucks at night, and I was busy riding during a short time frame, I didn't take too many photos. But I absolutely loved this park. So clean, quaint, wooded (trees and coasters!), and what a great line up of coasters it is.  


Joining me was my fiance (who is 50/50 on coasters: sometimes she's in the mood, sometimes she's not), and my aunt, who is moving back to the West Coast soon and is enthused with my enthusiasm for coasters, so she offered to drive up. 


 Hershey is more or less a straight shot up the PA Turnpike from Philly

 And what a great time of year for a road trip


Our original plan was to drive up from Philly around noon, through Lancaster, maybe stop for lunch somewhere, and head to the park. We got off to a late start, and while we drove through Lancaster, we didn't stop due to lack of time. 


 
Lots of fields and farms along the way 

Makes for some gorgeous photos 

 
We did, however, stop and eat at a place called The Mill once we got to Hershey, about 5 minutes away from the park. Though the food was excellent, the place itself was a little stuffy (the other customers and staff, not the air quality). 


 One of the first houses in Hershey we saw all done up for Halloween

 When you know you're not in the city anymore

The Hershey Empire

After dinner we made our way toward the Hershey "complex" that felt a little like driving into a casino or stadium complex, it's like a little chocolate/amusement empire. The massive building in the photo above sits across from the theme park and is apparently the old high school but it had a Willy Wonka meets The Shining vibe.

I see you Skyrush!

I'd heard that Hershey is less "Fright Fest" and more of a family, kid friendly, trick-or-treat feel with a cool light show. I expected a bit more 'wow' in that department, but the park felt cute, cozy and it was nice to not have a wait at the main gate. 


By the time we got through the main gate it was just about 6pm. A bit of a time crunch since the park closed at 10, but we kinda just took it easy and wandered around the park, with me hitting up coasters as we came upon them. Based on recommendations, we quickly cut down a small path to our right that wanders underneath Skyrush, an Intamin hypercoaster, the parks newest "big" coaster, which sits near the very top of my bucket list. 

 *cue heavenly choirs*

Here we were able to watch a few cycles while we snapped some photos. What a beautiful coaster and lovely setting on the pond. It looks great in pictures but actually standing under it as its running is an experience all in itself. You can almost reach out and high five one of the riders. In addition to how close you can get to it, the coaster itself is truly a modern marvel: it features an elevator lift that rockets riders up at speeds of 17mph to a 212 foot peak before dropping them down at a 85 degree angle (that's almost straight down) before pulling into a turn where riders feel in excess of 5G's at speeds up to 75 mph.

 Skyrush's first drop of 212 feet (measured to the creek floor)

Skyrush hits 2.5 negative G's on the 2nd airtime hill

While I normally like to "jump right in the pool" when at Great Adventure with first rides on El Toro, here I felt I might need a warm up so I headed for parks oldest coaster, a woodie in the front of the park called Comet, but seeing as how most of the guests tonight were families with small children, the line for this modest, classic looking coaster was looooong. I headed back towards Skyrush for my first ride instead, from the looks of it the line was about 10-15 people deep but once I up the stairs the line split for the front row/all other rows, I was able to walk right on to the third row and I sat in a center left seat. Time to jump in the pool!

Skyrush Off-Ride and On-Ride footage provided by Front Seat Coasters

On my first ride, it was great, but didn't blow me away like I expected. I'd heard about the back left being very intense, so since there was no line I quickly walked around and sat there for a second ride (there was a grouper sending people to certain rows but I just asked nicely for the back and she said OK). 

Airtime machine!

HOLY CRAP! The back left side wing seat is OUT OF CONTROL. I loved it though!!! It would be my #1 coaster, as El Toro is the only coaster I've ridden with this kind of ejector air, but I don't have to fight El Toro to stay in my seat in an upright position. The airtime on the drop, the first two airtime hills, and the last airtime hill before the turn into the brakes are all INSANE. There is no way I could have rode hands up, but not for lack of trying. The seats on this train are 4 across, all bucket seats, with the outer two set as "wings" hanging off the sides of the train. With only a small lap bar across your waist to hold you in, your entire upper body is free to be throw around like a rag doll on the multiple extreme ejector airtime moments. Not lightly-floating-out-of-your-seat airtime, but violent pops where you feel like you could be thrown hundreds of feet across the park.

 Take a look and see what I mean on this back seat POV, provided by Front Seat Coasters
Note how the small kid in the row ahead on the right side gets tossed around

The ejector airtime is so intense I had to ride with my legs tucked under the seat and hands on the grab bars holding on for dear life. I would try to go hands up and immediately get tossed around and grab back on. It's literally a work out! I absolutely loved it though. The drop is completely nuts in the back seat, and the setting over the lake is amazing. Coaster enthusiasts have dubbed the ride "Thigh Crush" because of how violently you are tossed into your lap restraint, and my legs were certainly wobbly after my rides on this, but I didn't think it was un-rerideable (is that a word?). I would have rode this amazing creation all night if I didn't have 11 other coasters to get to. Praise be to Intamin!

I would never get on Comet due to lines but its one of many reasons to go back

I was so blown away after my 2nd ride on Skyrush I barely noticed little old Sooper Dooper Looper right next door, the parks' almost 40 year old, classic Schwarzkopf looper. What a great little ride! It was a one cycle wait for the back row, and I was pleasantly surprised at how this rode. 

On-ride Sooper Dooper Looper POV by Front Seat Coasters

Even though it does have newer trains, for being so old this ride was so incredibly smooth, and I loved that I was riding during sunset and all through the woods along that hill. I tried really hard to get the missus on this, even offering to ride it again, but she wasn't ready. Good tunnel on this one too!

The missus loves pirate ship rides (as do I) and when we entered the Pioneer Frontier section of the park, she spotted Pirate and was ready to ride, so we did. What a force-less, dull installation. We even sat on the end for maximum airtime, but this was lame town. 

 
  The missus and I, back right

We are spoiled by the newer installation called Riptide in Wildwood we rode over the summer, which is excellent. It seems on each of my trips this year there is the one big dud of the day and this was it. 

 Futile attempts at non-existent airtime

 
One of the things that impressed me most about the park is 
how they crammed so many rides into one small space

After the Pirate, we spotted the Frontier Flyers, a flying scooter ride. I'd only just done the French Quarter Flyers @ Six Flags America last month and have been raving about them ever since so I convinced the missus to join me for these, as she'd never done them before. Lucky for her we sat in separate seats and I was able to really get my flyer moving.

 Frontier Flyers Off-Ride footage by Theme Park Tube
  
On these flyer rides, you have a rudder in the front of car, and depending on the wind speed, and your ability to anticipate it, you are able to essentially "snap" the cables by directing your flyer to swing very high and low, creating a slack on the cables, which creates a loud snapping sound and basically causes your entire car to go completely airborne. It's a little scary but I love these rides! Upon exiting the ride, she told me she was scared for her life, with a smile on her face so I have a feeling she liked it.

Storm Runner's 130 foot top hat 

 From here we headed further into Pioneer Frontier toward the parks' Intamin hydraulic launch coaster Storm Runner. This was another bucket list coaster so I was ready to hop right on. they were only running one train so the wait was almost 15 minutes and that was just standing in the station. I sat third row from last, left side.


BOOM! This was probably my favorite after Skyrush. This place is an Intamin paradise! The trains & restraints reminded me of Kingda Ka and the launch (0-72mph in 2 seconds) was not too intense but just awesome enough. You are launched up into a 130 foot top hat that drops down 180 feet into a ravine. Insane airtime over the top hat and down, up and around a series of inversions. 

Storm Runner "Complete Ride Experience" courtesy of Front Seat Coasters

What really took me by surprise was the sudden bit of airtime as we went into the corkscrews, one of those "oh shit" moments. The twisty section into the brakes is positively wild. I would like to have gotten more rides on this, and when it was light out. I love night rides but I also like to be able to see, which is hard for me in the dark. Take a look through my eyes with this "night time" POV below.

Storm Runner POV "At Night"

After getting off, we headed toward the parks third and final amazing Intamin masterpiece, Fahrenheit. Another bucket list coaster. This had a longer wait than most of the others but I was warned about that. Once I finally got on went for the back seat. This coaster has 6 inversions and a completely vertical lift you go up on your back and then a 121 foot, 97 degree drop, (that's steeper than straight down!)! This was my first vertical lift and what a strange sensation. All of my weight slid back onto the lapbar and shoulder harness. 

Fahrenheit "Complete Ride Experience" by Front Seat Coasters

Pretty weird, but what a great (steep!) drop, and an interesting course all around. I found it very smooth save for a rattle when exiting the cobra roll. And then an awesome airtime pop! Didn't expect that and loved it. The missus *almost* did this one, but said no at the last second. Another great coaster, another I wanted to get some more rides on!

Take a 'night ride' like I did with this awesome POV by Front Seat Coasters

At this point it was well after dark and we made our way back toward the Midway America section where two of the parks GCI woodies are located. 

 
 The centerpiece of Midway America is the parks giant Ferris Wheel

I love that they have these carnival type slides for a little ones!

 
The park has a lot of great lighting packages, notably their Music Express


First up back here was Lightning Racer. As we approached I explained to the missus I'd heard of the three woodies here this was the best of the bunch. She goes love a good wooden coaster so she finally said yes. 

 Lightning Racer's entrance portal 

Lightning Racer is a dueling/racing coaster so there are two separate tracks, racing each other, but separating and taking different courses at times, only to meet back up with the other at later points, which makes for an exciting ride. Both tracks are covered in running lights, which look amazing at night. Contrary to what I'd heard, the line for this was almost down the ramp from the station into the switchbacks. Since we were already there, we waited and I'm glad we did. We sat in the middle of the train on the 'Thunder' side, which we had picked at random.

Take a night ride on Lightning Racer with Front Seat Coasters

What a great ride!!! It was well past dark by this point, and going up the lift and just looking down to the right at the coaster with all of its twisting running lights was a highlight of the night and gave me chills! We both loved this ride. Lots of twistiness with a very good amount of airtime thrown in as well. And our train won the "race", which made it an even better ride. This was also our first ride on Millenium Flyer trains and how awesome are they! So comfy, like a little loveseat! While I'd heard this was good it delivered head and shoulders above what I expected. If the line was not long (they were only running one train on each side) I would have run around to try the 'Lightning' side but now I have a reason to go back next year.

The park was filled mostly with families with young kids
 leading to short waits for most of the "big" coasters

On the way out of this area, we happened by Wild Cat, the parks other, older, non-racing GCI woodie, and the one I'd been warned would rough me up. This wasn't high on my list of to-do's and I barely noticed it as we strolled past but my fiance pointed it out, and decided to sit this one out. This was a total walk on, and I jumped on somewhere in the middle/back with hands up the whole time, it had some nice laterals and a few nice pops of air. Upon exiting the coaster the first thing I said was "coaster enthusiasts are pussies". 

Wild Cat "At Night" provided by Front Seat Coasters

It was a little rough but in the way a good woodie should be. Not the greatest coaster, but I'd definitely rank it way higher than Roar @ Six Flags America, the other late-90s GCI I tried recently. I guess it helped to go into it with very low expectations. This also had running lights all along the tracks, and looked fantastic in the dark!  

At this point it was after 9pm, and with just an hour til closing, I still had one more "must do" on my list - the parks sole B&M, an inverted coaster called Great Bear. In order to get to the coaster we had to double back towards the front of the park and head up a very steep hill to the Kissing Tower Hill section of the park.
Great Bear tearing through an inversion

Once we found the entrance I hopped on, only having to wait a few minutes for the back row on this. I love B&M inverts and while I didn't like this as much as Talon @ Dorney last month (so smooth and love the low-to-the-ground maneuvers) I liked it better than the similar Batman @ Great Adventure

Excellent Great Bear POV by Front Seat Coasters

I found the pre-drop helix much more forceful than expected, the first drop was great, and I loved that most of the ride took place over and very close to the creek. Overall it was a smooth ride, with no headbanging and very snappy transitions. I can see what people mean about how it just sort of meanders around during the last few seconds but it still impressed me enough in the first half for me to really appreciate it overall. I definitely need to get back and ride this one again.

Directly across from Great Bear is the parks' rotating observational tower, The Kissing Tower. All three of us rode this as its not a thrill ride, the ride vehicle turns very slowly and offers amazing views of the park and surrounding neighborhoods. This is great attraction! Since the park is obviously in dire need of a drop ride, its nice that they have a way to see the park from so far up. The only thing that sucked was that we rode it with a bunch of screeching, pre-teen animals that obviously had too much chocolate... or something. 

When we got off the Kissing Tower it was 15 minutes til closing so I asked my aunt and fiance to meet me in front of Skyrush, so I could make a mad dash downhill to get one last lap on it before leaving, which turned into two since it was a walk-on once again. I attempted 3 final laps but they had closed the line off by that point. 

Skyrush "At Night" POV by Front Seat Coasters

What an insane ride, especially at night. I sat back left again on both of these rides and loved them just as much as my back seat ride earlier in the day. What an intense experience. I just LOVE this coaster. A great way to end our trip and an entire season of riding. 

Truly a marvel of modern engineering

Overall my biggest regret is that I didn't make it an entire day trip. There is so so much to do and see at this park, and their coaster line-up is top notch with most of them being very re-rideable. My biggest complaint is that the park is very confusing for a first time visitor and their map sucks. More than once we wound up in a different area than we meant, going based off the park map we picked up at the gate. We wasted a good bit of time just trying to find certain rides. 


It is a really cute, cozy, and clean little park. It is so wooded, many of the paths are very small, and there are lots of elevation changes with lots of hills, some very steep. All of these things make it feel like you are in an actual "park", which I loved. Employees were generally friendly, though they certainly seemed short staffed, as if all their full time summer employees are long gone. 

I wish I could have got on Trailblazer (couldn't find it!), Comet and the other side of Lightning Run, and would even have ridden the parks boomerang coaster Sidewinder had we had more time, but again, all reasons to come back. In fact, I think I'm going to make it a point to stay in Hershey at one of their hotels and do the park and other attractions (we didn't do Chocolate World, Zoo America, etc), over the course of a few days sometime in 2015. Honestly, I can't wait! 

Ride Count:
Skyrush 4x
Storm Runner 1x

Sooper Dooper Looper 1x
Great Bear 1x
Fahrenheit 1x
Lightning Racer (Thunder side) 1x
Wild Cat 1x

Frontier Flyers 1x
Pirate 1x
The Kissing Tower x1

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