For us enthusiasts living in areas affected by seasons the spring is always an exciting time to look forward to. This year I launched the coaster season with a whirlwind trip to Pennsylvania to check out some of the worlds best coasters. Accompanied by my patient boyfriend Andrew and our friend Pete we embarked on a two day, one night trip from Columbus, Ohio to Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania and Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Make sure to check out part 1 of my trip report which looked at Knoebels.
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After a quick coffee stop we arrived at Hersheypark around 30 minutes before the gates opened. Hersheypark’s new Chocolatetown entrance is a lovely addition to the park. The integration of the theme park to Hershey’s Chocolate World (which includes the Chocolate Tour dark ride) works very well. The entire area is clean, bright, well organized and maintains the factory theme while being inviting. I never experienced Hershey’s former Tudor-style entrance but Chocolatetown seems a very worthy replacement. Alongside ticketing Chocolatetown features dining and shopping including the large scale Hersheypark Supply Co. Hersheypark Supply Co. also acts as the park exit, taking exiting through the gift shop to another level. Since we only had one day at the park we had already bought Hersheypark’s Fast Track system. We went to a window to get our wristbands before lining up to enter the park. A note about Fast Track: While some paid line-skipping systems put you right into the station, Hersheypark’s simply bypasses the majority of the line. While it could be very useful on a busier day it meant it didn’t save us too much time on the drizzly Sunday we went to the park. It did allow us to ride some rides we otherwise might have chosen to skip but you should be aware of it’s limitations before purchasing. After a quick run into Hersheypark Supply Co. for some glasses straps, the park was open and we were quickly on our way through the turnstiles and towards Skyrush.
We knew Storm Runner, the park’s temperamental Intamin Accelerator coaster, was going to be down for the day so Skyrush was on the top of our coaster list. This blindingly intense Intamin hyper coaster polarizes both guests and coaster enthusiasts. Do the restraints tighten during the ride? Yes. Are the airtime and lateral transitions so rapid that they strain your body? Yes. Does Skyrush remain a world class thrill coaster? Absolutely. The rapid cable lift hurls you over the 200ft/61m lift hill into one of the best first drops in the world. What follows is followed by a unrelenting series of airtime hills and over banked turns. The entire ride lasts a little under a minute from station to brakes but I left the coaster with the feeling that this was the perfect length for a ride of this level of intensity. I went onto Skyrush skeptical that I would enjoy it. I find the trains on Steel Vengeance painful but also have no problem with an Arrow over-the-shoulder restraint. While Skyrush lap bars do tighten I think there biggest flaw is their relatively small surface area. Unlike the B&M clam shell restraints, it is a relatively small piece of the lap bar that rests against your legs. The discomfort was not noticeable enough to detract from the ride experience for me as the duration of the ride is such that it cannot become a major problem. We came in with high expectations but the entire group left our first two rides blown away by Skyrush. It certainly remains one of the best coasters in the United States and entire world.
One of the best parts of Skyrush, and Hershey as a whole is how many of the coasters interact with each-other. Skyrush spends much of its layout over a preexisting pond but also interacts, and was built to accommodate, the parks 1946 Philadelphia Toboggan Company woodie Comet. This classic coaster is an underrated part of the park’s coaster lineup and features some great airtime and a unique L-shaped double -out-and-back layout. After Comet we took a spin on the park’s classic Schwarzkopf Sooperdooperlooper. Often described as the little brother of Magic Mountain’s Revloution, Sooperdooperlooper retains it’s west coast sibling’s intense loop and swooping terrain style layout in a smaller package. Like most other Schwarzkopf’s, Sooperdooperlooper feels as polished as it did in 1977 when it premiered as the first coaster on the east coast with a vertical loop. Clean 70s inspired branding and new 2012 Gerstlauer trains keep this classic feeling fresh and relevant next to the many adjacent coasters and attractions.
The ridge where SooperDooperLooper is situated is also where the park’s ride integration is at its most impressive. SooperdooperLooper was built to interact with the park’s 1973 Arrow hyrdroflume Coal Cracker (sadly not yet open for the season) and 1975 Arrow vintage cars Twin Turnpike. In 1998 the park decided to install the B&M inverted coaster Great Bear over all three. To reach Great Bear‘s station you have to climb up the ridge to “Kissing Tower Hill” home to the park’s S&S Triple Tower and famous Kissing Tower observation tower. Great Bear’s station is adjacent to that of the Twin Turpike and runs parallel to Coal Cracker‘s splashdown. Great Bear is an invert in the classic B&M style with enough quirkiness to make it feel special. The fast paced helix before the initial drop and multiple inversions alongside a creek that runs through the park are especially memorable. Great Bear definitely surprised and I would compare it to Carrowinds’s Afterburn as one of the stronger B&M inverts. After Great Bear we made our way to the “Pioneer Frontier” section where we caught a ride on the park’s straightforward, but fun Arrow mine train Trailblazer. Up next was the park’s often overlooked Intimin looper, Fahrenheit.
Fahrenheit is a strange creation. Intamin loopers are not all that common to begin with, but an Intamin looper with a vertical chain lift, 97 degree drop, and the same trains as the Intamin blitz and accelerator coasters is one of a kind. Unfortunately the cumbersome trains do hinder the ride from being a standout attraction. Andrew and I opted out of a re-ride but Pete chose to do it again and said it improved upon getting used to the restraints. The compact layout is a lot of fun and features six solid inversions. The whole experience is just a little more odd than thrilling. After Fahrenheit we made our way to the park’s “Midway America” section. The first coaster you encounter is the original GCI Wildcat. This coaster is often derided by enthusiasts but we found it an enjoyable, if not a little forceless compared to GCI’s newer creations. It might have been the drizzly weather but it was far from the unbearably rough coaster we had heard about.
The next coaster in “Midway America” was the enclosed Mauer spinner Laff Trakk. While aimed towards families this is still a pretty thrilling large scale spinning coaster. The fun house theme really elevates the ride and an enclosed coaster at a regional park is always a special treat. The marquee attraction in the area remains the GCI dueling Lightning Racer. The dueling element really elevates this pair of GCI twisters. Credit has to be given to the Hersheypark team for ensuring this coaster is dueling even on a less busy day. After taking rides on both the Lightning and Thunder sides of Lightning Racer we made our way back to the front of the park to get a ride on the parks new for 2020 B&M hyper Candymonium. Both Candymonium and Skyrush were down due to the rain so we grabbed a quick ride on the park’s Sally Corporation shooting dark ride Reeses Cupfusion before a quick lunch at Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor. This counter service ice cream parlor and restaurant, attached to the Hersheypark Supply Co. store, is a very attractive addition to the front of the park. Candymonium and Skyrush both remained closed so we headed back into the park and got in line for Sooperdooperlooper.
While waiting in the station for Sooperdooperlooper we saw Skyrush cycling and immediately headed over. We got two more rides solidifying Skyrush as the best coaster of the trip. It’s definitely a coaster that warms up through the day. We headed back towards the front of the park and Candymonium had reopened making it the perfect last coaster of the trip. The graceful parabolic hills of Candymonium are a pleasant contrast from the unrelenting intensity of it’s Intamin neighbor. While it’s hard to dislike any B&M hyper coaster Candymonium does not stand out much from its peers. Towards the end of the ride there are a few turns with off-axis airtime, but when it’s in the same park as Skyrush these moments pale in comparison. Unlike most of the parks other coasters Candymonium stands alone in a largely empty plot of land so it does not benefit from interaction with other coasters or landscape. The turn around the Hershey’s Kiss fountain is charming but looks better in concept art than reality.
With a ride on Candymonium secured we headed back to the car and prepared for the long drive back to Ohio. Hersheypark certainly deserves its reputation as one of the top regional parks in the country. Even without Storm Runner the park has an impressive collection of world class thrill coasters. We didn’t have nearly enough time to do everything that the park offers and we can’t wait to revisit the park in the future.