The third park of my trip was Hersheypark; perhaps the park that I had the highest expectations of, and the one that my girlfriend considers her 'home park'. Not an overly designed park like Busch Gardens, not stripped down to the core of steel and concrete like King's Dominion, but somewhere inbetween. Relatively straightforward, but with character, and a rich coaster line-up. That was what I expected, and that's what I got.
As usual, we first headed to the ride that could otherwise give us a long queue later during the day. Thus Fahrenheit, the rather unique Intamin looper from 2007, was our first coaster of the day!#112: Fahrenheit
- I remember the track being orange, but it's more yellow nowadays. Either way, it's a pretty quirky one-of-a-kind ride; it does not feature any unique features, but the combination of elements such as the 97 degree drop, the short trains and the weird inversions do make it unique. They could've done without the vertical lift - that wasn't too comfortable - but the rest of the ride was a very enjoyable mix of inversions, turns and hills, all taken smoothly. It doesn't win any awards but it's a fine coaster to start the day with.
Since we were almost at the back of the park, and we saw that the park was being flooded by families with little children, we decided to do the rest of this area of the park, consisting of almost exclusively family-friendly rides. The first coaster we encountered here was Wild Mouse. Unsurprisingly, a wild mouse ride.#113: Wild Mouse
- Can't go wrong with these.
Across from the Wild Mouse was Wildcat. The connection between the two seems obvious but I did not connect the dots until it was there. Hersheypark interestingly has three GCIs, and Wildcat is the oldest of the bunch, having been installed in 1996.#114: Wildcat
- Luckily I did some research before visiting the park, and I knew I should not expect the typical good GCI experience from Wildcat, despite the typical GCI layout and pretty looks. As we walked through the queue, we saw an Amish family exiting the ride. They looked happy enough, so it can't be a disaster, right? It wasn't a disaster but one ride was definitely enough for me. Wildcat is disposable, sadly. Unless they manage to get rid of the roughness.
Next to Wildcat was Laff Trakk - an indoor spinning wild mouse. We already saw quite a queue and decided to skip it. Over the course of the day, the queue stayed around the same length (or longer) and after informing one of the staff members there it turned out to be a 40 minute and over queue. We did not do Laff Trakk. I doubt we missed much.
Passing over Laff Trakk, in the remotest part of the park, are the other two GCI's, collectively known as Lightning Racer. As the name implies, it's a racing coaster: thunder against lightning. We did Thunder first, and then Lightning. They were obviously very similar.#115 & #116: Lightning Racer
- Finally some GCI worthy action! As the name implies, this coaster consists of two track that race each other. Rather than running side by side the whole time, the two halves have a different layout. The lifthill and first elements are nicely offset, the trains split up every now and then to meet again later going in opposite directions. It's a wild ride and great fun, unlike Wildcat this is a coaster you would want to ride multiple times in a row.
We found it quite absurd that they're advertising good dental care in a theme park with a candy theme. The fact that they're advertising dental care in a theme park at all is absurd enough. So much advertising in general.
Except for the ferris wheel, we did all the coasters in this end of the park, so we started moving back towards the entrance half of the park. The first coaster we encountered was one of the main rides of the park.#117: Stormrunner
- This coaster has a good reputation, but it's also well known to look kinda ugly. I didn't know what to expect, and I guess that really benefitted the experience because it was awesome. The launch was very powerful, possibly the greatest launch I've ever experienced. The two elements that follow are nice I guess, and mostly offer a nice view of the park. Then things get really interesting again as the coaster heads into the ugly looking part. It feels like two simple barrel rolls, except that in the second barrel roll the train suddenly accelerates and you get pulled down with great force. It's brilliant.#118: Sidewinder
- The last time I did a boomerang was probably... 2004? I know that I wasn't too impressed by it back then, but I couldn't recall what the sensation was like either. I didn't know what to expect from Sidewinder. I didn't like it. Shaky inversions, headache inducing forces, and not much positive to make up for that.
Under Storm Runner, there's a quite cozy, hilly green area with a western theme, home to the kid-friendly mine train Trailblazer. We skipped it for now.
Stormrunner was the first great coaster of the day and we wanted more. And we found more.#119: Great Bear
- An inverted coaster with a curious design. Whereas most roller coasters end with a helix, Great Bear starts with a helix, high up in the air. It's more forceful than it looks, so great unique start there. What follows is a drop that's also more impressive than expected, and a good sequence of the usual elements (along with a weird straight section inbetween). The second half of the ride is curious again. The hydrophobe coasters designers were anxious to not let the coaster or its supports touch the river anywhere, while the coaster has to run over and along the river to get back to the station, resulting in a weirdly stretched out layout with its supports being awkwardly wrapped around the river. It's like they built half the coaster without a plan for the second half, and then MacGyvered the rest. It does not take away from the ride experience though, in fact the weird supports make for some nice leg choppers. Great Bear is loads of fun. I love it.
Across the 'river' from Great Bear is the area that Hersheypark likes to call 'The Hollow'; a an area that is very atmospheric purely through being walled in by numerous carefully tangled and stacked rides. The area offers a great view of Great Bear that sits on a hill, with its inversions in the foreground. Buried underneath are a log flume and a classic Schwarzkopf coaster. On the other side of the area sits the old wooden coaster Comet, built in 1946. Comet is dwarved by Skyrush, the 2012 coaster that is built on top. Coasters to the left, to the right, behind and in front of you. Chairlift over your head. The hollow is lovely.#120: Sooperdooperlooper
- One of the oldest coasters in the park, a Schwarzkopf from 1977 with one of the oldest loopings you will find in the world. It's an honour to ride such a classic ride, and it's also a pleasure, for the ride still holds up. Maybe not on the level of Storm Runner and Great Bear, but it's definitely fun and I hope Hersheypark will preserve this one. Name included.#121: Skyrush
- Kin to Intimidator 325, the insane coaster that became my personal #2 after 12 years of no change in my list of favourites, Skyrush was the coaster I had been looking forward to most. It's not as tall as Intimidator, sitting at 'only' 61 metres, reaching a speed of 'only' 121 km/h. The colours are beautiful: light yellow track on soft blue supports. They're not trying to scare you with promises of blood, violence, agressive animals and intimidation as other American theme parks like to do so much, trying to make coasters seem 'badass'. This goes for all the coasters in Hershey Park actually; they pick their names with class. Anyway, if any coaster deserves an agressive name it might be this one. The ride, which is very fast and shaky, causes the lap bar (more like a thigh bar, it's that low) to become tighter and tigher until you can feel the bloodflow stop. 'Tourniquet' could be a fitting ride name. I rode the coaster backseat for the first time and the ride did not offer enough good stuff to compensate the rather uncomfortable restraints. Later I did the coaster in the front and oh god what a difference! This coaster went from 'disappointingly not in my top 10' to 'one of my all time favourites' simply by having a better seat. It's not even about the view, it just feels different here. Intimidator was mostly about tight turns and height, Skyrush is more about the airtime which is fucking insane. I didn't care about these fucking restraints any more after being catapulted into orbit twenty times in a row. If the ride was a smooth as it should've been (it was built in 2012, not 1912) it would've beat Intimidator for sure, and who knows what else... New restraints would also be welcome. Anyway, Skyrush is amazing. A flawed masterpiece.
Our first ride on Skyrush left us battered, bruised and hungry. We took a break, and since we were in the entrance area of the park we decided to check out the chocolate factory experience that lies outside the park boundaries, featuring a dark ride.
We hit one of the larger queues of the day here (about 25 minutes?), but the queue consists of different rooms, and everywhere there is a lot of history and trivia to read, and they also take your picture. It's a nice queue. The ride itself shows you how Hershey's chocolate is made, from the cocoa bean harvest to the packaging. There's a screen in your vehicle with an annoying woman with an annoying overly enthusiastic voice telling you what's going on - although the Hershey mascots who are features in some of the scenes will take over that role every now and then. It's not a very high quality dark ride but it's a very high quality factory experience, and at the end we knew more about chocolate than before. At the exit we also received a small Hershey bar for free. I heard American chocolate tastes lake vomit, which is not a metaphor because they actually share some chemical. I was eager to try it and sadly I had to confirm that at least Hershey's chocolate leaves the taste of vomit in your mouth. I get sick even thinking back about it. I had to throw the bar out, I did not enjoy it. Sorry Hershey, cultural differences.
Back to where we left off... The Hollow.#122: Comet
- Built in 1946, this coaster is a true classic. It looks pretty in a classical sense. It rides like a classic. Not too spectacular, not too smooth, but smooth enough to be enjoyable. One ride suffices but there's nothing wrong with Comet!#123: Cocoa Cruiser
- I'm enough of a credit whore to ride this miniature coaster.#124: Trailblazer
- It's a kiddie coaster that is easily large enough to not be embarassing to ride. I imagine this slow and low coaster is a great stepping stone to more mature coasters for small children.
Now that we had done all the major rides we wanted to do, we went around the park again, this time focusing more on taking pictures as I hadn't done that much up until now. One of the reasons why we did the Ferris Wheel near Lightning Racer (also enjoying the coaster once more).
A lot of American Parks have water parks. Hershey's water park interestingly lies in the middle of the park.
And it doesn't look too appealing.
I really like the look of Lightning Racer's off-set lifthills.
These three towers were the park's new addition for 2017. It's quite unusual to build three like this, but it looks alright and fitting.
In another corner of the park, we also did the Kissing Tower - an observation tower with filthy windows and an annoying voice-over telling you things about the history of Hershey Park. The view from the Kissing Towers was better despite the filthy windows. It was also nice to see more of the park surroundings, as there was much more Hershey stuff to see. For more information, ride the Kissing Tower and listen.
The rest of the day, we did some more Great Bear, Stormrunner and Skyrush. I started to enjoy Skyrush more and more with each ride. My girlfriend was done with Skyrush though, waiting while I had my final ride of the day. I totally rode it a few times, sneaking past her at the exit. No regrets!
It was hard to capture on camera with all the roofs and ugly buildings in front, but Great Bear looked majestic in the warm evening light. The Hollow is the most atmospheric part of the park and I recommend spending the evening there over the other areas in the park.
Finally, let's take a look at my top ten roller coasters again. Skyrush, Great Bear and Storm Runner all had the potential to enter the top ten, but after a deep thinking session only the former two make the cut, at the expense of Dominator whose time at the top did not last longer than a few days, and the Madrilenian Superman who on the other hand enjoyed a top ten spot for almost a decade.Top 10 Steel
2. Intimidator 305 (NEW)
5. Apollo's Chariot (NEW)
6. Skyrush (NEW)
7. Griffon (NEW)
8. Black Mamba
9. Speed Monster
10. Great Bear (NEW)
(Notable exclusions: Dominator (#11) Volcano (#12), Stormrunner (#14), Verbolten (#15), Alpengeist (#16))
My top ten wood is finally starting to look like a proper top ten, as all the dead wood (no pun intended!) is finally being shipped off. Yet I decided to list dueling coasters as single coasters from now on, otherwise the list would be a bit boring. There still are some questionable coasters at the bottom as a result, but it's getting there.Top 10 Wood
2. Rutschebanen (Bakken)
3. Joris en de Draak (Water > Vuur)4. Lightning Racer (Thunder > Lightning) (NEW)
5. Thundercoaster6. InvadR (NEW)
7. Comet (NEW)
8. Coaster Express9. Rebel Yell (Blue > Red) (NEW)
10. Wildcat (NEW)