So we were down in South Carolina for Christmas to visit Brit's family (where we checked out Winterfest at Carowinds)
and we made the long drive back home yesterday. Generally when we do that we take the opportunity to pop into a Christmas event on the way home and depending on the year that can either be Six Flags America, Kings Dominion or (if we take 81), Hershey.
While the other two were tempting because we had a pass, Hershey only charges $25 for their event which is almost a wash when you consider the insane amount of tolls on 95 and the inevitable misery and frustration that driving through Washington DC the day after Christmas was bound to cause. In addition, we hit Six Flags America's event the last two years and Cedar Fair's Winterfest ride lineups are atrocious so we weren't all that interested in Kings Dominion. All things considered, Hershey was the obvious choice.
Traffic was somehow not awful so we ended up making it to the exit right around 6:00. We knew they had a temperature cutoff and we weren't sure what it was but with temperatures in the high 30's and dropping fast we made sure to check it one last time before pulling the trigger. As we approached the Hershey exit, Brit refreshed the app and SooperDooperLooper was still... well... looping (which we thought was pretty Sooper), so we got off the exit and made our way to the park.
As we planned to stay less than 3 hours we took advantage of the free parking at Chocolate World. We found a great spot and after throwing a few layers on we made our way over to the ticket windows through the festive light tunnels and under the decked out trees. While this entrance is obviously impractical, it's undoubtedly really charming and in a way I'll sort of miss it.
We walked over to the ticket windows and refreshed the app one more time. Of course, (almost like some kind of cruel joke), Looper updated as closed.
We hung back for a second weighing our options... we could leave since we didn't pay to park, we could check out Chocolate World or we could go in anyway knowing that we could at least ride Laff Trakk, see the lights and check out the reindeer. There was also the slim chance that Looper was just down mechanical but with 37 degree temps that wasn't likely.
That said, at that point we were committed so we happily walked up to the ticket window where we encountered an employee who was practically bursting with holiday cheer . "How we doin?'" "Great! How are you?" "Tired and cold and ready to go home"
..."oh, sorry. Well... 2 adults please".
We walked through the gates and refreshed the app again. While SooperDooperLooper was still down (obviously this was the ride we were really hoping to get on), the other coasters were running so I considered heading back to Wildcat to try to get on it before the inevitable closure. At the last second though, I opted to head down to the hollow just to make absolutely sure that SooperDooperLooper was down for weather and not something mechanical. Initially I was sure that we were screwed, but as kept walking the loop illuminated and a train full of screaming riders barreled through it. Awesome!
I was still expecting to find the ride closed and simply running out the line but instead we found the queue open and a wait down to the bottom of the steps. Holy sh*t! We definitely didn't expect that!
A few short minutes into our wait the phone near the operator panel started flashing and it turned out that was the call we had been expecting. A quick refresh of the app saw SooperDooperLooper, Wildcat, Wild Mouse and Sidewinder drop off the list leaving only Laff Trakk and Cocoa Cruiser standing against the elements. Thankfully that didn't matter for us as there were a decent amount of people behind us in the queue and we knew we would easily score a front seat ride.
Our Chariot awaits...
What's there to say? We love this ride. While not overly thrilling, it's an absolute blast and there's no wonder it's one of the most beloved coasters in Hershey's lineup. The ride would have been awesome no matter what, but it was made even more awesome by the fact that we knew we made it on with only 5 minutes to spare.
With no coasters to distract us our next stop was a no-brainer as Brit was absolutely determined to go see the reindeer. We took our time getting over there, admiring the lights in the process and snapping a few photos. While I prefer the lights at Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks, Hershey does a really nice job also and they offer something a little different with trees that change from white to colored every minute or so. The Hollow definitely seems to be their signature Christmas light area with tons of lights and a coordinated music show.
After backtracking a bit and watching some of the show, we made our way over to the reindeer barn. I hadn't actually confirmed that they still had the reindeer, so I was a bit nervous as we walked up near Farenheit since Brit was hyped beyond belief and I didn't want to see her let down but we saw a few people headed down the path so it was looking pretty good. Sure enough, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a reindeer barn... and they have beer.
It should be noted that the bartneder's response to the customary "Great, how are you?" was a miserable "Unfortunately not dead yet" which left me wondering how it was even possible for an event with a happy, festive name like "Christmas Candylane" to find such genuinely miserable people to work there. Seriously it's not like we just flew in from Disney World, we're used to Six Flags Great Adventure so our standards aren't even all that high. I've never seen such miserable people at any park ever. Thankfully the woman standing near the reindeer was really fun and informative and after standing there for awhile while she talked to us about reindeer and the origin of the Santa and the reindeer story (she knew her stuff and she was genuinely happy to drop some serious knowledge on anyone who cared to listen), it sort of made us forget about the rest of the miserable employees.
After saying goodbye to Comet and the reindeer lady, we made our way over to the train. We had never been on Hershey's train ride but it was all decked out for Christmas and it had a sizeable line so it seemed to be the thing to do.
If that's not festive I don't know what is...
The train was really well done. They managed to decorate every inch of it including a really cute moment where they decorated some Trailblazer track with a few light-up elves *banging on it* with light up mallets. The train is probably the one *can't miss* ride of Christmas Candylane.
As we parked at Chocolate World we needed to be out of the lot in a little over an hour but because of either blind optimism, pure stupidity or some combination of those two things we figured we might as well walk back to Laff Trakk and see what the situation was. The park seemed to have cleared out, how bad could it be?
We've only been on Laff Trakk once but not for lack of effort. It's undoubtedly a good ride but it routinely has the most laughably ridiculous wait time / ride quality ratio of any ride in America that doesn't feature a fairy and a weird flying dude in a green suit from a movie that (let's be honest) nobody really likes all that much anyway.
On the plus side, the walk back there gave us the opportunity to check out some more great lights. Unfortunately when we got back there we (in one motion) pretty much walked up to the building, saw the queue flooding the outdoor area, made a 180 and let out a collective "Well, f*ck that".
We're not exactly batting .1000 on our attempts to ride Laff Trakk over the years, but it was nice to walk by the "12 Days of Christmas" theming and on the way back to the rest of the park we picked up a solid consolation prize.
By the time we ditched our gloves to feast on the Old Bay-drenched deliciousness we could no longer feel our fingers, so we figured we would go for broke and end the day with a bang by grabbing a freezing metal disk and trying to kill ourselves.
I'm not sure what these rides are actually called but they're a blast and (of course) we had it spinning so ludicrously fast that we legitimately thought we were about to die. The Christmas lights around the ride actually served to make it feel like even more of a colorful death spiral and by the time the ride ended our fingers were numb, we could barely walk off the thing without falling over and we were laughing uncontrollably. It was the perfect way to end the night. Laff Trakk wishes it could spin like that.
Unfortunately we still had 3 more hours left of our 12 hour drive back from South Carolina and we needed to get back on the road, but our laugh filled Howler ride was a great way to end our time at Hershey and we had an absolute blast. If you're in the area I highly recommend checking out Christmas Candylane. While most of the big coasters are closed, the lights and Christmas activities are a lot of fun and you can ride SooperDooperLooper (and who doesn't love SooperDooperLooper?).