Last weekend presented itself with the opportunity to tag along on a little trip up to the sweetest place on earth, joining my fiancee, her sister, her sisters husband, and their 2 year old son, where they were all planning to meet up with their cousins and their daughters (10 and 13 yrs old) who drove in from Pittsburgh and have season passes, making multiple trips a year (side note: they also regularly visit Kennywood, and to my surprise had a lot of negative things to say about the place, though they are big fans of Waldameer).
If you've been paying attention, you've likely seen me post here that Hersheypark is my favorite park. Other parks are my favorite for specific reasons (Cedar Point - best coaster lineup, BGW - most beautiful park, etc) but Hersheypark just has it all. Its a gorgeous little park that blows me away anytime I'm in it. The way they have built coasters over coasters over log flumes over flatrides over pathways over pathways over bodies of water, etc, etc Aesthetically its just breathtaking, like this sort-of themepark metropolis the way everything is built on top of everything, only at the same time you mostly feel like you're in a quaint little forest filled with awesome rides. When people mention anything related to Hershey not having room for additions I just chuckle to myself. I mean, just look at the place!
Anyways, leading up to the trip I knew deep down that I would not be able to go hard - one, because I was going with a bunch of family and their family, and that's kinda wack to go running off on my own. Two, they were planning their visit on a Saturday, and obviously I had little say as I was tagging along. Three years ago I made my first visit to HP
, during their "Hersheypark in the Dark" event, on a chilly Friday night, running around an empty park, marathoning the crap out of the Intamins, Great Bear, some of the woodies, and ran out of time before I could delve any deeper. I don't even think I made it around the entire park that night. Last year, we visited again during HPITD
, but this time on a Sunday from open to close, and again enjoyed a relatively quiet park, riding a ridiculous amount of rides and getting into a ton of fun.
With this recent trip happening on a Saturday, and the weather lining up to be basically perfect - in the low 70s, and mostly sunny - it was glaringly clear to me that the park would be busy. I had not yet experienced HP when it is busy. And knowing how much of a joke their fast pass system is, I was not looking forward to significant waits. So I went into the day deciding to just take it easy, and go with the flow, hoping to at least maybe get back on the Intamins and Great Bear, Lightning Racer and SooperDooperLooper. Bonus points if I managed a ride on the towers. But my expectations were uber-low for rides. I hoped the experience wouldn't taint my extraordinarily favorable opinion of the place.
We were up and out of Philly bright and early and pulled up to the park just at 10am opening, dipping into Chocolate World to hit the bathroom on the way in. My first time in Chocolate World, but the Pittsburgh crew was already in the park and waiting for us so just a pop in to pee, and to the park we went. But goddamn if CW didn't smell absolutely delectable.
The parking lot was filling up quickly and the main gate was busy, so once the entire crew met up in front of the carousel, we started walking through the park, with everyone asking me where we should go first ("well, you're the coaster guy!
The missus and I agreed we should do Fahrenheit so we headed there and were greeted with a 5 minute wait. There was 5 of us of riding, so the missus and I took row 2 with everyone hopping in behind us. As I've only ridden Fahrenheit once on each of my previous two visits, this was only my third lap on it.
The last two were in the back row and gave great air down the drop, but I honestly enjoyed riding toward the front of the train even more this time around. This ride is criminally underrated, and understandably so considering the other two stellar Intamins it shares the park with. We had a fantastic ride on it, I absolutely adore that little bunny hop at the end of the ride. It rode very smoothly except for a brief yet very noticeable rattle during the exit from the cobra roll, just the same as my last two rides. Not sure why it only does it there, but otherwise Fahrenheit is a great little ride to start the day with.
The kids wanted to check out the "Trick or Treat" trail so we all headed in. Kids under 12 get a bag to fill up candy and walk through a "trail" built into the picnic/catering area directly beneath Fahrenheit so of course I took advantage of that fact and got a ton of photos of the thing.
Even if you find the ride dull or whatever, you have to admit its a very cool looking coaster. I should have taken more photos of the trail, and kinda wish we had done it at night as I'm sure it looks a hell of a lot better.
The tweens were hoping to ride Wildcat but the missus and I said we'd rather ride Lightning Racer so we all headed that way, stopping so the tweens could hit the Music Express. Pretty lame that they don't run it backwards. At this point, only an hour or so after park opening, Laff Trakk already had a 60 minute wait.
Luckily Lightning Racer was only about 10 minutes (15 if you include the swapping we had to do a few times to line it up where we could be on opposing trains) but just as we were about to board they decided to add the other two trains, giving us a total of a 20 minute wait. As always the ride was fabulous. My favorite racing coaster and one of my favorite woodies overall. Very happy to get a ride in. The missus loves this one as well. We agreed it felt faster and more out of control than the previous rides we've gotten during past visits.
We headed back down out of Midway America, where you could certainly feel the crowds descending en masse. I reminded myself to pack my patience and just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Someone suggested a ride on the train, which I had not done on either of my previous visits, and since it was a ride everyone could do, and it would likely offer me some nice photo ops, I happily agreed.
We had about a 25 minute wait for it. Checking the app, all the major coasters had 30-60 minute waits. The train ride was great, and affirmed my appreciation for how they have designed the park and all its interweaving intricacies.
At this point, according to the app Storm Runner had a 60 minute wait. Major sad face. The tweens suggested Sidewinder, which was only sporting 15 minutes. I had not yet ridden it on previous visits, and while a new credit would be nice, I was also curious to try a boomerang with the vest restraints.
Also interesting was the quiet magnetic brakes. Very cool. Sat back row and other than a jolt into the cobra roll while going forwards, it was a very enjoyable and smooth boomerang. Probably my favorite after Moreys. Also, cha-ching.
Another check of the app showed that now out of all the major coasters, Skyrush was sporting the shortest wait at 30 minutes. That crazy device is worth that wait imo. So short side-note: Unlike my other bro-in-law Tom (who you might remember from my Cedar Point trip report from a few years ago) this bro-in-law of mine is not a huge coaster rider (he had done every coaster so far, but was wobbly coming off all of them, especially Sidewinder) so of course my goal of the day was to get him on Skyrush.
I knew the missus wouldn't go near it, her sister wouldn't go near it (she had only ridden Lightning Racer so far and that 'was wild' as far as she was concerned) and the older of the tweens expressed interest (she had been too afraid in the past) so I dragged the two of them with me, attempting to calm their fears by explaining how its the scariest coaster I've ever ridden.
The line was through two of the switchbacks, with a grouper at the bottom of the stairs holding people back, and another grouper up top directing people into rows. I have to say it was very efficient and that "30 minute" line was only about 10. When we got to the top of the steps the grouper directed us toward the back and we just went for it - think it was row 5. I took the left wing seat with the two of them in the middle seats. Mother of god how is this thing even legal.
No matter how many times I ride Skyrush I get a tiny tinge of butterflies as we get strapped in, waiting for that inevitable, unbelievable yank up the lift. Even though they do slow you down at the crest you still feel like you are being flung over and into Spring Creek as you slam into the lapbar, suddenly feeling the powerful rush of G's as you are pulled through that first turn and into that first incredible rip of air as you go over the first camelback. I still say that the 2nd camelback is the most powerful moment of air on the ride. Normally I just hang on for dear life on Skyrush but for some reason I was feelin' it, and threw my hands up on that second hill. Glorious! I managed to keep them up through the stengel dive and around the turn into the twisted hill following it, where I instinctively grabbed back on. On the final hop over the pathway my hands reached for the sky again as my body was launched into that lapbar. Oh my lord.
One lap on Skyrush made the entire trip worth it. I walked off the ride with the biggest sh*t eating grin you can imagine, legs all wobbly, adrenaline through the roof. I want to move to Hershey, PA.
While we rode the rest of the group took the young kids over to the Sweet Swing. After the group agreed it was time for some food. I suggested the Overlook Food Court since we ate there last year, the food was half decent from what recalled, and they have like 5 different places so everyone would be able to find something they wanted. Of course my ulterior motive was that its the only place in the park that sells beer.
Last year this place was a little unorganized but overall it was fine. On a busy day like today it was a madhouse. Possibly even a bad idea, but on the way over, every other food place had significant lines, so we just sucked it up. Attempting to find an actual line to get in is near impossible as all the 5 or so food places just blend into one another. There is absolutely no organization at all. I wound up kinda accidentally jumping people in line not realizing where I needed to be standing, which luckily made my wait shorter, but left me feeling guilty for jumping.
Over at the beer stand in the food court they had a Leinenkugel Pumpkin Shandy that was absolutely delicious. While eating I had checked wait times on the app and nearby Trailblazer was 60 minutes (the tweens wanted to ride, I did not) Great Bear was 45 and Storm Runner was 75 minutes!!! We actually wound up having a beer, eating (we just split some chicken tender and cheese fries - not terrible, but also nothing to write home about) and then got more beers and sat and chilled out for a while. Heading out I checked the app again and Storm Runner was now down!
This was my chance. I bee-lined it over (with our group following, most of them going to wait it out for Trailblazer) in hopes that whatever issue they were having had caused the line to clear out and I was right! The had the entrance closed off and people were exiting the line. A small line started to form behind us and the greeter kept repeating she didn't know when it was going to reopen but we were welcome to wait, so we did. We gave it about 20 minutes when we noticed maintenance guys setting up shop on the launch. Eventually the greeter wandered past us, still informing everyone she had no idea how long it would be, when we started chatting with her. She told us it rolled back multiple times in a row, and the ride had reset itself and that's why maintenance were there. We gave it another 15 or so, and gave up. F8ckin Intamin. How I hate to love you sometimes. I just knew we'd walk away and it would start running again, but to be honest I didn't see it run again until much later in the evening, right as we were leaving. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad, I suppose.
The group reconvened and agreed Great Bear was in order, in spite of the app listing a 60 minute wait. All but 2-3 rows of the lower switchbacks near the entrance were full, and it did wind up being just under an hour, but I have to give it to the crew, that line literally never stopped moving. 60 minutes is way over my threshold for waiting for rides, but it definitely did not feel that long as we never stood in the same place for more than a few seconds. They were absolutely cranking through trains. Having a few beers a little while before this definitely helped matters.
Great Bear is another criminally underrated ride. Other than the last couple hundred feet of track after the final flatspin, what's not to like? I freaking love that helix before the drop, and the following three inversions are some of the most forceful moments on any of the B&M inverts I've ridden. The zero-G is damn near perfect. I absolutely love this coaster.
With the gang all back together it was suggested we do the Kissing Tower and since we didn't do it last year, and with the great photo opportunities it presents, up we went. Little bit of a wait, maybe 15 minutes. Nice long cycle, I was again surprised by how long you actually stay up there.
Another ride we could all do, and I had yet to ever do, was the monorail, so down the hills we headed to check out the wait. It was about a half hour but worth the wait. Another very scenic ride and a reminder of how tightly packed every space in this park is. My phone died when we were on the Kissing Tower so unfortunately did not get any more pics from the monorail. It was dark by now and my phone takes terrible photos at night so its probably better this way.
All leading up to this trip, and all day long, the missus and I had discussed how we wanted to make sure to get one of the parks ridiculous giant milkshakes and the kiddos of the group were now starting to conk out. After the monorail, while others in the group went off to find funnel cake, I told them to meet me over at Simply Chocolate, apparently the only stand in the park that makes these particular milkshakes. I arrived to a line of about 20 people, and took note of the fact that there were two employees behind the counter - one on the register, the other making the shakes. Oh no! I waited for a few minutes to see how quickly the line might move, but within 15 minutes we hadn't moved an inch. I gave up, completely disappointed.
It was time to head out, but not before checking the scene at the few souvenir shops at the front of the park. I was after some magnets to add to the ever growing collection on my fridge and actually found quite a few I liked. I also grabbed a bunch of chocolate to take home, because I'm a junkie. Major regrets of the day are not getting any action with Storm Runner, and Sooper Dooper Looper. And that damned milkshake. Would have liked to have hit the Triple Towers but the lines were pretty outrageous for an S&S tower. I still haven't ridden Laff Trakk. Lesson learned, I'll only go back on Sunday next year. But even as little as I got to ride, I still had a fantastic day because Hersheypark is just that special of a place to me.
Dry Gulch Railroad