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Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14

04/28/14 at 02:21pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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Greetings ParkFans!

So, as I stated in other threads, 2014 will be a non-BGW year for me. I'm taking a break and I've decided to see other parks (and apparently BGW has a thing now with Premier Rides). Yesterday, I decided to venture up to Hershey, PA from my DC-area home to take in the sights and sounds of HersheyPark for the first time.

Pre-Game Stats

Military Appreciation Day for Active Duty, Reserve, and Retired military personnel (25 dollar ticket)
Park Hours: 9am to 6pm
Closed Rides: The Claw (flat ride)
Members in my party: 2, no children
Parking Lot capacity: Est. 1/3 full (relatively light day)
My arrival time: 10:15am

I did minimal research on HersheyPark prior to my arrival; I wanted to experience the park with few preconceived notions. I gathered HersheyPark was a decent mix of thrill rides and themed attractions from reading information here and on general theme park sites.

Overall Experience

I'll spare the details on driving into HersheyPark and just say Pennsylvania is a beautiful state in the Spring. It was worth the trip just to see the countryside. HersheyPark parking was easy (and free, however I assume this is not the norm). In the parking lot area resides a football stadium complex, an indoor sporting venue of some sort, and Chocolate World - a Hershey-themed, museum-like mall with free entrance separate from the park. I bypassed Chocolate World and made my way to Ticketing Services, purchased 2 tickets, and made my way to the main entrance.

The park is sprawling and covers a large bit of land, yet the layout feels much smaller than what actually exists - probably because much of the park is hidden from area to area. There are six themed places in the park: Founder's Way, The Hollow, Kissing Tower Hill, Pioneer Frontier, The Boardwalk (water park area - closed until mid-May), and Midway America. All of which is standard fare, thematically speaking. The only area worth noting as an exception was Founder's Way which has a heavy Germanic flavor versus the standard "Main Street America" motif many, many, many parks seem to install at the front of their respective parks. Also, adjacent to the park is ZooAmerica, a small zoo free for admission for those attending HersheyPark.

Upfront, anyone reading this should know I'm more ride-driven than theme enthusiast (sorry, Theme-Gustapo). However, all of the distinct destinations are themed very nicely and well kept with a certain "old school" flavor. Oddly, I found the park reminded me of Six Flags Magic Mountain, prior the the Premier Park days. It's just nice. One gripe: the PA system was cranking Jack Johnson throughout the park. As a Reggae musician, I hate Jack Johnson. He makes Christopher Cross seem like Ted Nugent.

As noted above, the crowd was light so traversing the park was easy. However, there is no one distinct spawn-area of the park; all of the kiddie rides are dispersed throughout the park. I actually like this approach because it allows a general sense of inclusion, but it does also mean strollers were found everywhere. One particular mental giant tried to run me over and bruised the crap out of my ankle. Note, I was quite literally doing nothing. I'll still never understand why people feel it necessary to bring toddlers to theme parks; it's not like a 2 year old can ride any rides. But it's not for me to know.

Speaking about rides, here's my short list.

SkyRush: Could be one of the best rollercoasters of all time - it's completely thrilling! But the lap restraint staples your thighs (causing minor bruising) and provides no support for the upper body. I was whipped around like a kite tail. This is a deal killer. And the line takes far longer than it should to get on a train. However, the PA system was playing The Pixies while I stood in line (Hershey, your stock is rising).
Times visited: 2
Overall rating: B-

Great Bear: An obvious B&M sibling to Alpengeist, and in my opinion, the better ride. Ride queue was quick and the staff was on top of it. As for the ride experience, it is buttery smooth and awe-inducing. However, the ride seems to peter out of excitement toward the end. And the attraction broke down for half the operating day. Still, arguably the best ride at HersheyPark.
Times visted: 2
Overall rating: A-

Trailblazer: A Western-themed kiddie rollercoaster with a full-sized footprint and some fun props littered around the track. Not very thrilling but y'know what? Still fun for what it is. The ride operator even high fives kids and adults as the train departs the station. I recommend it.
Times visited: 1
Overall rating: B-

Sidewinder: Seen one, seen them all. Same ride exists at Knott's Berry Farm under the name 'Boomerang' (and located at a gazillion other parks) and I have no desire to ever ride one again. Plus, the line capacity just blows.
Times visited: 0
No Rating

Storm Runner: YES YES YES YES YES. Fantastic launch and great ride from start to finish. I only wish the ride time lasted a little longer. Ahhhhhh.... so much fun, and comfortable, to boot. The staff on this one moves like a well-oiled machine and the line seems to never stop advancing.
Times visited: 3
Overall rating: A-

Fahrenheit: Solid ride from start to finish with many inversions. Similar in feel to Storm Runner, however lacking the same level of speed. Really a fun ride. However, slow moving line and terrible ride capacity.
Times visited: 2
Overall rating: B+

Wild Mouse: Standard maus-ride. You either love em, or hate em. I love em even though they lack substance. And, I make it a point to scream so loud, everyone within earshot is laughing their ass of.
Times visited: 1
Overall rating: B

Wildcat: A very shaky ride and ridiculously uncomfortable. Not very thrilling, either. No wonder why there was no line. Not as horrible as Psyclone (Rest in many, tiny Pieces) but man, ouch.
Times visited: 1
Overall rating: C

Lightning Racer: WOW, what a dualer! One of the best woodies I've ever been on. Ride capacity is pretty out of this world.
Times visited: 2
Overall rating: A-

The Comet: An obvious older woodie with decades under it's belt, but a worthwhile ride nonetheless. I also particularly like how it juts out into different areas of the park, instead of staying confined to a standard back and forth, elliptical pattern. However, the ride does seem to lose steam during the last third of the ride time.
Times visited: 1
Overall rating: B

Super Dooper Looper: I'm assuming this is a Swartzkopf 70s looping coaster since it feels remarkably like the Revolution at SFMM. Anyhow, a fun and smooth ride but nothing worth really writing home about. Easy to pass up but not a bad choice if there's no ride line.

Times visited: 1
Overall rating: B-

Other Attractions Worth Mentioning

The Kissing Tower has a great amount of Hershey history built into it along with a splendid tower view of Hershey PA. ZooAmerica is a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of park hijinks - every now and again, it's good to feast your eyes on a sleeping rattlesnake. Reese's Extreme Cup Challenge is a standard dark ride/light gun game. It's fun but nothing worth waiting in line for.

Food
I only ate twice at the park. Early on, a small tray of fries and a hot dog. Then later in the day, some BBQ in the Pioneer section. Both were notably good. Not great, but a definite step up from regular theme park offerings. One huge criticism - the park only offers Pepsi products as drinks. Blech.

Chocolate World

Chocolate World is it's own thing. Part mall, part museum, part attraction. Within the huge complex, there is a dark ride giving a virtual tour of the Hershey chocolate making process and history. I highly recommend going on it - it's very informative and kind of fun. Plus, you'll get free chocolate at the end. SCORE.

Also, when planning on buying anything Hershey Chocolate related, Chocolate World is the place you need to be. Everything and anything from specialty flavored Kisses to Hershey apparel to house decor to specialty items and one of a kinds. It's all here. I bought a jar of Reese's Peanut Butter and a shot glass, and I'm extremely satisfied with my purchases. Many free samples can be found here if you're just window shopping.

A chocolate tasting tour and some 4D movie are also available, at a premium charge. I didn't feel the need to splurge. I don't eat that much junk food anymore.

Tips and Tricks

Veterans, always carry your DD-214 with you. Even if you're no longer Active Duty. I keep one in the car with me no matter where I go. It's rarely questioned when I whip it out.

Zoo fans, if you want to see animal activity try going earlier in the day or at twilight. This applies to any zoo you visit.

I'd highly suggest going to Chocolate World on the way out or toward the end of the day. You'll probably end up buying packaged food of some sort that will probably not survive well in a backpack or stored in a car trunk. Definitely ride the free dark ride. The singing cows are the best.

I don't have kids but from my observations, this park fits best with the over 5 or 6 crowd. There's VERY little for younger tots to do.

Closing Thoughts (TL;DR)

This is a very accessible park for all ages of park-goers and is very much a destination park with old-style charm. The ride selection, attraction quality, and thematic elements fits firmly between Kings Dominion and Bush Gardens Williamsburg. No one ride makes the park and the spread of good to great attractions really bolsters the park reputation as one of a kind.

I do have a few complaints. First, as is the case with nearly every Mid-Atlantic theme park I've gone to, I wish there were more dark rides. It would really round out the spread here nicely. Secondly, this park obviously has a relationship with Intamin. It'd be nice if the steel coasters were a bit more mixed.

All that being said, I highly recommend going at least once. I plan on making at least one more trip this year, if not multiple trips if my schedule allows it.

Overall Grade: B+

So ParkFans, in my effort to see other parks, where should I go next?

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04/28/14 at 02:37pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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Have you been to Cedar Point?

Great report, BTW.

"Wit has some truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words." -- Dorothy Parker
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04/28/14 at 02:38pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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The sports arena there is where the Hershey Bears (Capitals AHL affiliate) play.

Sounds like you had an awesome time. Are you based out of the DC area? Maybe give SF:Great Adventure a try? Kingda Ka!

Yes, horror, fright, gore! We need more EVIL!
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04/28/14 at 02:49pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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(04/28/14 02:38pm)pandorazboxx Wrote:  The sports arena there is where the Hershey Bears (Capitals AHL affiliate) play.

Sounds like you had an awesome time. Are you based out of the DC area? Maybe give SF:Great Adventure a try? Kingda Ka!

I've heard so many horrible stories around the office about SFA. I dunno. I think I want to steer clear of it with so many more attractive parks within driving distance. Feel free to try and change my mind though. I'm always open to suggestion.

Also, mods reading this, SFAfans doesn't have a message board system anymore. It might be worth decoupling the rerouted/hard links on here (if that makes sense).

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04/28/14 at 02:52pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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Of course, BGT and Universal/Islands of Adventure are worth the trip to Florida, if you haven't already checked them out.

"Wit has some truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words." -- Dorothy Parker
Thanks given by:  UncleDuncan
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04/28/14 at 02:58pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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^ Totally. But I go to Florida for work often so those have been crossed off the list.

Here's a quick, from-memory list of amusement parks I've been to: Disneyland, Knotts, SFMM, Universal Hollywood, SeaWorld SD, BGW, Kings Dominion, BGT, all 4 standard (?) DisneyWorld parks, SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando, Island of Adventure, and now... HersheyPark Smiling

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04/28/14 at 03:43pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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(04/28/14 02:49pm)ReggaeInMyJeggae Wrote:  I've heard so many horrible stories around the office about SFA. I dunno. I think I want to steer clear of it with so many more attractive parks within driving distance. Feel free to try and change my mind though. I'm always open to suggestion.

Six Flags Great Adventure, not Six Flags America. Just save your visit until after Memorial Day since Zumanjaro will be opening along with Kingda Ka. The staples of the park are Nitro and El Toro, so don't get your hopes up about Kingda Ka being anything earth-shattering.
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04/28/14 at 04:41pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14 (Latest Edit: 04/28/14 at 04:42pm by Zachary.)
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Great trip report and I'm glad to see Hershey has made another fan for itself. It truly is a fantastically charming park.

As for future destinations, Six Flags Great Adventure certainly, but make room for Knoebels as well- just be sure to toss out any and all expectations you hold about what theme or amusement parks should be. You'll love it.

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04/28/14 at 04:51pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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I haven't been, but Dollywood seems to have a good reputation for mixing good rides with atmosphere.

Where? Behind the rabbit?
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04/28/14 at 05:16pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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And if you are in Hershey again, the Hershey Story is a great place to visit as well! Try the Chocolate Flight in the Cafe.
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04/28/14 at 05:21pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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(04/28/14 03:43pm)b.mac Wrote:  Six Flags Great Adventure, not Six Flags America. Just save your visit until after Memorial Day since Zumanjaro will be opening along with Kingda Ka. The staples of the park are Nitro and El Toro, so don't get your hopes up about Kingda Ka being anything earth-shattering.

El Toro alone is worth the drive up from the 757.
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04/28/14 at 06:43pm in Park Review/Trip Report 4/27/14
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Haha. Yea there's a reason I said great adventure. Haha

Yes, horror, fright, gore! We need more EVIL!
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