One of the more interesting things we uncovered while planning for this trip is that Herhsy offers a free preview plan. I.E. arrive after a designated time (7:30pm) in our case, and be admitted free with the purchase of a one day admission ticket, good ANY other day of the season.
We planned our driving distances pretty well, and arrived at Hershey aaround 7:00. We took the route Jim Serio reccomends and went through town rather than Hersheypark drive. We laughed at first since the drive is a lot shorter but having knowledge of this route would later help us a lot.
Anyway since we took the back way in, we got a preivew of a few rides, then saw a "Hersheypark Parking" sign pointing away from the park. Huh? We followed the sign and pulled into a tiny lot behind the Chocolate World tour. A security guard assured us that it really is close in parking (There is no close in parking at Hershey) and collected our $6. We would unknowingly take the long walk to the park (aqround the Chocolatre World building, rather than walking and taking the bridge. Oh well. We had time to kill, right?
So we get to the Chocolate World Tour building, use the facilities and realize that we can't enter the park for another 20 minutes, so decide on the Chocolate Tour ride. the Chocolate Tour ride is a free ride, located in the hospitality center. It is an EPCOT quality dark ride that takes you through a simulated chocolate factory, for a multimedia presentation on how chocolate is manufactured. After all its a "Herhsey Choc-O-Late, Herhsey Choc-O-Late, Hershey Chocolate world!" And at the ride exit you get a free Hershey bar, and I note they placed trashcans at about the point it takes you to unwrap your chocolate bar. Okay, the ride took just enough time, and after making our way through the gift shop, we find the doors labeled "To Hersheypark" We exit Chocolate World, and walk down by the tram circle, see the bridge we will use tonight to get back to our car. And start to enter the park. We see a restaurant, coffee bar and a couple shops, but aren't we supposed to pay an admission fee somewhere? Oh here itis halfway down the shopping village, just before you come to the first ride a castle like gate has been set up accross the path. We find an open lane, and proceed to purchase tommorow's tickets, which qualify us for free admission tonight. No ticket taken tonight, just a stamp on our Friday ticket that we used our preview. Ok the clock is running we have 2.5 hours of free preiew, and we don't believe in using park maps on a first visit. We proceed with tickets in hand until we realize there is no turnstile, the ticket booth is for all intents and purposes the front gate. We proceed down the remainde of the shopping village, looking for the first rollercoaster we smell.
There it is Comet. Comet would be our first ride. We proceeded to walk right onto Comet, and note the lack of seatbelts, and the traditional lapbars. Comet is a weird layout You go up the lift, drop, then turnaround and do the return leg, but then you do another (braked) turnaround, then you veer off to the right, some more hills a turnaround, then you come back and turn right into the the station brakes. While Comet isn't a top tier ride, it is a fun ride, a very fun ride, much better than a ride of the same name in NY. Oh I like the chocolate brown trimwork...... And it still uses skid brakes, and all, a very well preserved piece of coaster history, I beleive the operator was using 1946 in his spiel?
We then not missing a beat, went down to SooperDooperLooper. This would be my first Schwarzkopf that isn't a portable model. We wind through the queues, up the stairrs, and take a back row seat. Still lapbars only, we head up the lift at an odd angle, and all the while in Comet Hollow we can't ignore the dominance of Great Bear and now I see the Coal Cracker wants to get into the act. Ya gotta love intertwined rides. Anyway up the lift, turnaround and wasting no time the loop is the first element, and in true Anton fashion is hit head on, high G's, then you turn and thead the loop, then go through a tunnel, then meaner back alongside the creek and do some turnaround manuevers back by comet, Wow, I think I like it, we noted what sounds like an airhorn blast when you clear the first set of ready brakes on your way into the station. 2 up 2 down. Now up the hill to hunt bear, Great Bear that is. Another walk on we took row 7. We place our loose articles in the designated cubicle, and appreicate how the ops slide a big sliding door over the boxes to discourgae theft.
B&M, the masters of a new era. Who called this a family ride? From the lift going iover Coal Crackers drop, from the helix to get the ride started to the breathatking intense set of inversions, especially the ones out in Comet Hollow this is another B&M masterpiece. So good that even though we were on a limited time schdule, we rerode, back seat. I did a back left seat. I am now christening the back left on B&M Inverted to be "THE hot seat" Wow! A fast furious an intense ride, that is fun at the same time, and rerideable. Great Bear also has on ride photos with a unique feature you can comprose your photo with ANY 4 riders on the rtrain no matter where they sat. I'm sure thats a selling point. It was also on Great Bear that I decided that the exit gates Herhshey uses on a lot of their rides are a safety hazard. See Hershey, like a lot of parks, have installed spring loaded gates at the bottoms of their exit ramps, that sorta serve the purpose of the one-way paths in RCT. I have no problems with these as long as they are diesigned to only swing out, but when they can swing either way like a shutter, they may cause a threat when they fly back towards you and you aren't paying attention.
Anyway two Great Bear rides, again B&M masterpiece, and it was time to continue on, we headed around and came upon Trailblazer. Trailblazer iis an Arrow mine ride, still with arrow skid brakes, and the smaller "cross your ankles" cars. Its not that bad its just that it isn't good either. Lift, drop, helix, return to station that's about it. (David checks and it isn't his 100th coaster either (i think its 138 or something like that) :)
Okay further along we come to Sidewinder. a Vekoma boomerang, rode socred the credit, noticed this one was also running smooth and appeared to have a newstyle Vekoma train. Ah now we can spend the rest of the day in Midway America. We headed around and I noted the chilled water fountain by Tidal Force (and Lightning Racer), and soon were in Midway America sort of a combination old fashioned theme park, state fair concept. We first rode the Wild Mouse. I love how they operate this. In brief the train makes NO stop in the station. The car comes in, bars pop open, rides jump out, new riders jump in (flush loading, no queue gates), and as long as you have the lapbars lowered by the time you reach the end of the station, no stop at all. Then this ride prooves that a modern era Wild Mouse can perform. Minimal braking despite runnning what 7 cars, fast furious turns, good drops. Our favoirte mouse of the trip. We then head over to Wildcat, the first GCI. Making our way up the ling entrance ramp, we barely have time to notice the seat belt demonsttrators alongisde the queue line, before finding the backseat. :) We sit down notice RED ratcheting lapbars, and the same style seatbelt buckle Comair uses. We dispatch and after a short peppy trip to the lift hill, we start on a coaster ride where "Straight track" is not acceptable. I mean there is no straight trrack in the whole design. Wow talk about lateral city. I love it and its classic style station. We then exit down the excessively long exit ramp excessive so you walk around the photo stand, and exit back onto the midway. time to head down further, werer we realize we have time to take in the Whip. Our third Whip of the week, this is a new Rideworks model.. Interesting the building makes it look huge, too bad much of it is queue line. The cars are big and roomy and have ratcheting lapbars. The ride itself is not half bad, and they have some historic photos along the sides. The one thing this ride could use is an automatic lapbar relase. (If you can't wire one, how bout some radio control device?)
We then passed by a Music Express and headed to Lightnng Racer.
Again the station is a classic, and one line feeds both tracks. We opted for Thunder (Green train) for our first ride, in the back. Yep another walk on except for that front seat. I noticed that Tunder wins a lot more than Lightning does. But lets ride, I love how GCI always has an interesting lift approach, up the lift, down and about airtime and laterals, comfy trains (that sitting on a sofa thing again), and the first part is pure racer, than opposing turnaround curves to go through the waterfall tunnel (you get more of a mist than a soaking) This is also where the photography strobes hit. I said witht he waterfall and stobes they have tried to create a 'lightning storm' effect, Eric says I am reaching on that one. Then the ride turns into a dueler with several headons, much more effective than with Gwazi, and finally you hit the double up into the final brakes.finsih line, where you get brought back into the station,
We have a winner folks, I love it. It trackes so smooth, yet it gives an exciting ride, what else can we ask for. Oh and the trains are simply beautfiful, even if the park did apply a lightning bolt motif to the sides. The seats feature ratcheting lapbars, and yes the highest ratchet point is significantly lower than on a PTC,, but I did not find these bars nearly as offensive as other have stated. Enogh about that time to experience Exit Through Retail gone mad, (yep you already read about it in another post, but sumarized the exit path has been extended beyond what is neccesary (especially Lightning) to make you walk past the photo stand, then further fencing makes you go through the gift shop. After negotiating this it was time for a backseat on Lightning. Another great ride, I can't decide which half is better, but they both work so well together. We then rode a seat 2 on Lightning, and noticed the park purposely slowing disptach time. Before they train would be out right as the other one came in. now the incoming riders were sitting on the back brake while the other train sat waiting to be disptached. The queue also started extending beyond the station and down the ramp. Then on Lightning they started only filling every other train. Now tell me you can't make dispatch when you are sending an emty train! The queue extended furtherdown the ramp. Nice ride, but we'd wait until tommorw for more rides, and headed back for another Wild Mouse ride. Yep still awesome, then another Wildcat ride. I love this lateral filled GCI. Then we checked our watches 9:47. Can we make it back to Great Bear. Well we gave it our best shot but unfamiliarity of the park, the fact that everyhill seemed to be uphill, and all we didn't quite make it. but that all worked out for by the time we slowly meandered our way back to the park exit, most of the crowd had gone. We looked in a gift shop, then exited the park, and headed accross that bridge, quickly claimed our car from the small lot, and drove to our hotel again using the back exit. We also learned that the nise hotels on Eisenhower Drive are a pain in the butt to reach. But we did, and relaized we hadn't had dinner. A 24 hour diner took care of that.
Not bad for a free preivew, 15 rides, all the parks coasters?
We go to bed, and awake the next morning, and head back to Herhsheypark. This time using the much faster parkway entrnce. We locate the parking lot entrnace despite the parking signs pointing towards a barricade. And wonder why they are parking us in the far lot and the park isntt even open yet. We catch a tram to the park and learn that tonight there is a US Women's Soccer game inthe stadium, starting at 8pm. Okay that explains the parking. We head down that first open part of the park, and realize that the main gate checkpoint does not open until exactly 10AM. We noted that those who had tickets were directed to one side, those needing tickets to the other. The line to buy tikcets was already getting long, but we looked through some shops, and had some cookies and milk, and were back in the 'already have tickets' line at 9:50 right at 10 the gates open, and with no turnstiles they quickly take tickets and a fast entrance to the park is made. We decide to start the day on Great Bear, and head straightback towards it. We would later learn that the rides do not open until 10:30, but may open early. No matter we waited and they opened Great Bear under single train operation. No matter the crowd did not warrant the second train unless you wanted that pesky front seat. We fested on Great Bear until we were Great Beared out. Same great ride it was last night, Then we saw SooperDooperLoper open and turned our fest to SDL. Great fest like conditons, how wonderful. we then noted that Comet had a full queue, and despite the climb decided to walk rather than ride up the hill.
We decided then to take our side trip to Williams Grove, besides maybe the park will be up to capacity then. So we exit the park, get our hands stamped, notice the nice touch of a piano player in the tram circle, and head out to our car.
Heading towards William's Grove, but thats the subkect of a different TR.
< A few hours later>
We return to HP using the parkway, and find that yes our parking ticket is good for free reentry to the parking lot. Here Eric notices I am tired, but as you may know I hate to admit I'm tired. Eric assures me it is okat ot be tired. "In fact I'm so tired I don't care if I have to wait an hour for the parking tram to come pick us up" - Eric. Well we dind't have to wait loing and the desired parking shuttle took us back to the tram circle, where we decided on dinner at Pippin's A rather nice full service restaurant. Good steak sandwhiches, great service, and being Hershey some nice Kisses to send us on our way into the park. We then showed our handstamps and were readmitted to the park. Time for some more mellow rides, first we do the Giant Foods Giant Wheel, an Intamin Double Wheel, with spinning cages. Noted how the loading area was desinged so they could operate both sides without additonal crew members. A nice scenic phototaking journey. (hmm now how come ther's still works, and PKI tool theirs out a long time ago). I also noted how they have the walk of fame right by the Carousel, and the nice touch of not having a kiddieland, instead mixing the kids rides in throughout the park. This way no parent gets stuck all day in kiddieland, and the kiddies have new surprised in store around every corner. We next headed for the Skyview and had some great photo ops and views of Great Bear/SDL/Comet area. Then it was time to head down to Midway America. Time to fest on Lightnng Racer, Wild Mouse, and Wildcat. Again walk on conditions previailed. Except for the front seat of Lightning Racer) we also noted that next to Wildcat are to carnival style slides bearing in huge light up letters "FUN SLIDE" Eric commented "Yeah, like I really want to ride the "NOT SO FUN SLIDE" Anyway the fun slides still have their portable fencing racked on the trailer. After taking some fine front seat Wildcat rides, and looking in the Emporium and having a general great time, we walked around and noticed the new demented part of the parks Rapids Ride. Three count em three waterfalls right in a row, and in case that doens't do it they have waterfalls from the sides. Shame this new area is towards the end of the ride, and the riders looked fairly dry till that point. Not after that point. We also noted they have added the waterproof loose article contaner to the center of the rafts. We then wathched the Trash Band (you know the one right by Lightning Racer) and headed out towards the other end of the park. We decide not to ride Sidewinder, but we do stop at the BBQ place and Eric has a BBQ and I have some corn. Reasonable prices too! We then feel recharged, well that and those 33 ounce bottled waters we had.. Time to get back on the riding circuit. With Trailblazer, we rode in seat 3 and I overheard some other enthusiasts talking "Now you've got to expeirence Trailblaer, the most pathetic coaster" I wouldn't say it was that bad, and the helix is kinda growing on me.
We then head for the Flying Falcon a HUSS Condor, and finally one that runs an interesting program. The normal condor ride us, then it slows, then it goes into hyperdrive, then it starts to lower. Then we do the Kissing tower. A space spiral whth Hershey Kiss shaped windows. A nice relaxing ride, and we note how the park thinks outside the box, and instead of having a sepearte unloaded man the back door, they merely use the unused double queue line and turned one side into a new exit. Then we did some more Great Bear festing, some more SooperDooperLooper festing (I noted how the train still on the transfer track on SDL has a "Train is Ready" sign on it. Walk ons at Hersheypark, with a full parking lot, I thought this was supposed to be as crowded as Cedar Point! Man did we score it lucky. We then decided to ride UP the hill by using the Comet. Somehow I remember getting more Comet rides I just don't remember when. Then we pull a GP moment and head to the front gate to ditch cameras, get about halfway there and remember there were closer lockers by the water rides. Duh! Anyway loose articled ditched it was time for an extended length all the way to park close fest on Wildcat, Wild Mouse and Lightning Racer. We met a reaql nice fellow enthusast int he gift shop for LR. (He told us his pet name of Hercules - Suckules) and got a lot of great GCI rides, and finally we dicided we just had to wait for the front seat of a LR. Enduring an annoying reptetice recording we finaly got to experience the fron seat of these open front trains. A breathtaking experience. We rode coasters in Midway America until park close. Then bought some gifts at the Emporium, and headed out and realized when this park closes it closes, all rides, food, games, and shops. Gives you no reason to linger. We could also see the Soccer fans leaving the stadium and realized what traffic mess was in store. Now come on Hershey, if you schedule an event in the arena or stadium, would it be too much to ask to keep the park open an hour late, so that the stadium traffic can clear the area, THEN the park goers can try to get out? Anyway we joined the throngs heading toward the exit where my favoirte bottleneck occured, that is they have the wide front gate blocked off, and askng everyone to exit through the small exit area. We were prepared for this and kept to the right isde of the shopping village and easily breezed through the turnstiles, to head up and join the mass of people at the parking tram stop. The parking trams, there is no sense oforder here, no gates, no lines, no seat queues nothing but an anxous mob on a street curb wanting to get on a tram. We really did not expect to get on the first tram, but instead used it to learn the procedure. We were a bit surpised when we were jostled and otherwise blocked from getting on tram 2 in a mad dash to score seats. It was a while before a thrid traim came and when it came I (and Eric) were ready in full offenive posture. As soon aas the guard turned his back we were over the yellow line, byt he time the tram started to pull up, we were off the curb, and as soon as it slowed to a reasanablke speed we were up and into the train, and seated before the tram came to a full stop. See we knew we weren;t getting out anytime soon, but a nice reclining cushioned seat, with the radio on enjoying a cool breeze, is better than standing in a mob waiting for a parking tram. We headed out to the car, and procceded to recline and chill until the lot was almost empty which took quite some time, then we drove around the lot looking for alternative exits, but realized there is only one exit, so got in the line of traffic, and instead of using the parkway which was jammed we deicded to use the back exit. (Thanks Jim!) Sure there was traffic and there seemed to be a time when turning onto 422 it took forever, and sure we were dismayed when an hour after park close, we could still see the Great Bear station, but all in all we hit a break and got back to our hotel.
Hersheypark is sure to become a favorite in the larger park category for me.
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