Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
“Terrible chocolate, breathtaking amusement park”
Happy Easter from Hershey. And Easter should be celebrated with chocolate, right? This town in Pennsylvania is well known for Hershey Kisses, Reese’s and other sweet treats. Please don’t expect too much: those famous chocolate bars and Hershey Kisses are rather disgusting. Luckily, the Hershey company makes up for its terrible chocolate by running a huge amusement park with not less than 14 roller coasters. Hersheypark’s skyline is actually so impressive that I suddenly forget the bad chocolate taste in my mouth. Lots of steel and wooden coasters shine bright in the morning sun and I’m ready for this last (but definitely not least) park of our trip along the East Coast.
As mentioned in the introduction, Hersheypark isn’t exactly short on coasters. The lineup includes some quite impressive machines. Storm Runner, for example, became famous thanks to its unusual layout. Ever heard of a cobra loop or a flying snake dive? These elements were largely responsible for the ride’s fame. And despite the fact that this coaster looks rather uncomfortable and short (the ride lasts half a minute), I enjoyed every second of it. Storm Runner is powerful, smooth and the surprising layout is a big plus.
Fahrenheit is another Intamin beauty. This coaster was presented in 2008 and it gets mixed reviews from coaster enthusiasts. Some people say that it’s similar to Gerstlauer Euro-Fighters, that the ride is uncomfortable and that its capacity is rather low. That last criticism is true: Fahrenheit’s capacity is considerably lower than most other top attractions at Hersheypark. That’s why the regular queue took up to 60 minutes during our visit, but we were able to avoid it thanks to Fast Track. And honestly, I really liked the experience. Apart from that horrible vertical lift hill, Fahrenheit is a decent thrill ride. The first drop is amazing, the overall speed is high and it features some intense inversions.
One of the most prominent coasters at Hersheypark is Skyrush. This Intamin machine boasts spectacular figures: the ride is more than one kilometer long, it has a top speed of 120 km/h and the first drop plunges downward at an 85 degree angle. That’s why my expectations were on a high level at the moment I closed my lap bar. But that lap bar actually screwed up the whole experience. Don’t get me wrong: Skyrush could have been a fantastic roller coaster. It features great g-forces, the smoothness is remarkable and I experience some freaking sublime airtime. Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy the very fast lift hill and the incredible first descent, as the pain started right after this point. As soon as our train reached the first curve, the lap bar was forcefully pushed against my waist. From that moment on, every pop of airtime and every curve felt like pure torture.
Attention to all wooden coaster enthusiasts! Hersheypark is your place to be. This park is home to four different woodies, including the fantastic Comet (opened in 1946 and still awesome) and a classic GCI called Wildcat. However, the true star of the wooden coaster department is Lightning Racer. Lightning Racer is actually so damn good that I could ride it all day long. I love Joris en de Draak at Efteling, but this coaster is even taller, faster and more thrilling than its Dutch brother. It’s a very powerful woodie which keeps an incredible speed during its entire course. And although it’s got that typical woodie roughness, Lightning Racer remains enjoyable throughout the whole ride.
The Hollow is the park’s busiest area when it comes to attractions. There are lots of different coasters, a log flume and a cable car, all intertwined with each other. It looks a little chaotic, but in the best possible way. One of the area’s most striking elements is Great Bear. This B&M inverted coaster features several weirdly shaped supports and an unconventional layout, so I guess it wasn’t that easy to design. The result, however, is marvellous. Great Bear is a prominent ride and a true beauty. The actual experience doesn’t disappoint either: it’s a quite intense coaster and the original layout makes it fun to ride. I even liked that unusual helix before the first descent.
Great Bear is intertwined with several attractions, including Schwarzkopf’s classic Sooperdooperooper. Despite its strange name and its age (it has been here for 40 years), this coaster is remarkable. The layout takes advantage of the hilly scenery and it’s smoother than many modern-day roller coasters. That’s why I’m actually quite proud about the fact that Sooperdooperlooper delivered my 500th coaster credit. Yay!
Not every Hershey roller coaster is legendary. The park also offers a standard Wild Mouse, an indoor spinning coaster called Laff Trakk, an old-fashioned mine train, a Vekoma Boomerang and a kiddie coaster. Apart from Laff Trakk, these rides aren’t themed at all, so you should only ride them for credit purposes.
As an amateur photographer, a ride on the so-called Kissing Tower seems inevitable. This panoramic tower offers unbeatable views of Hersheypark and it’s the best way to make some aerial photos. Those photos are mainly filled with coaster tracks and it seems as if Hersheypark doesn’t offer any dark rides. But that’s not true…
Hersheypark has an interactive dark ride, themed to two chocolate brands. Please just skip it if there’s a queue, as it looks very cheap and simple. Luckily, Hershey also offers a high-quality dark ride, but it’s somewhat hidden. You actually have to leave Hersheypark to ride it. Next to the amusement park, you’ll find Hershey’s Chocolate World, some kind of huge souvenir shop with a few interactive attractions. One of these attractions is Hershey’s Chocolate Tour. This is an Omnimover ride which clarifies the production process of chocolate in a cheerful way. The first scene is full of singing cows and I guess that’s a valid reason to adore the Chocolate Tour. But do you know what I like most about this dark ride? The fact that you can visit it for free. You even get a free piece of chocolate at the exit. Terrible Hershey chocolate of course, but hey… it’s free.
The ride count at Hersheypark is remarkable: the park has a ton of attractions for every age group. I’m not only talking about roller coasters, but Hersheypark is also full of kiddie attractions and flat rides. There’s even a zoo, linked directly to the amusement park. In other words… this park is big and there’s a lot to see. Take your time to visit this park and maybe even add a second day during the busier times of the year.
WORTH A VISIT?
Yes! Hersheypark is definitely worth a visit. I really enjoyed this day at the Sweetest Place on Earth and it was the most surprising amusement park of our entire trip. Hersheypark feels very different if you compare it to other American coaster parks. The atmosphere is relaxed, operations are awesome and most staff members seem to enjoy working here. The F&B department deserves to be praised as well. The park offers dozens of stalls with many different specialties. For example: my lunch consisted of a tasty and healthy salad, while I discovered the sugary delight called funnel cake during the afternoon. This is a typical American amusement park snack which contains enough calories for a whole month, but wow… it’s so delicious.
I couldn’t have imagined a better place to conclude our trip. Hersheypark exceeded all expectations and I discovered a few phenomenal roller coasters. I would actually like to take one of the park’s managers back to Belgium. That person could show our Belgian managers how they should run a theme park. In return, Belgians could show that guy how to create a tasty bar of chocolate. That’s what they call a win-win situation, right?
HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD
Do you think that every chocolate brand should open their own theme park? Have you also suffered while riding Skyrush? And do you acknowledge the singing cows’ awesomeness? Share your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of this page.