It is Spring Break! For roller coaster enthusiasts, it means the smell of coaster season is in the air! But at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, there will be another enticing smell in the air as well. From the moment that you walk down the beautiful chocolate village-themed entry way, you will notice that the sweet smell of chocolate surrounds you. You simply cannot escape it, for it follows you from queue to queue as you travel the 121-acre theme park. Originally built in 1905, Hershey park has grown significantly since its original humble roots. Up until 1923, Hersheypark did not have any roller coasters – the first one to be installed was named the Wildcat. The park is now home to 13 roller coasters (twelve currently operating – the Vekoma Boomerang, “Sidewinder,” is closed for the spring season), the Hershey Chocolate World tour, some fun and unique flat rides, and the Hershey Triple Tower, which is new for the 2017 operating season. In addition to the fantastic collection of rides, Hersheypark offers a full water park (which was closed when I visited this spring), a few families focused shows, and some really great food options that makes this an ideal trip for both roller coaster enthusiasts and families alike!
New for 2017: Hershey Triple Tower!
This year, Hersheypark opened its unique take on the class drop ride. While a drop ride is usually a common staple in most amusement parks across the country, Hershey decided to take a new approach. Most parks have 1 tower with two sides; an option to be shot up and then back down or the classic slow climb to the top and a sudden drop down. The problem is that most drop towers can be very intimidating, especially to the younger audience. But, if you install a smaller drop tower, the park risks not providing enough thrills for the more mature crowd. Hersheypark has eliminated this potential dilemma by building the Triple Tower which features 3 towers of various heights and speeds. The Kisses Tower, which is a perfect beginner tower, only stands 80 feet tall; the Reese’s Tower, which adds 50 feet and more thrills, stands 131 feet tall; and the tallest Hershey Tower, which can be seen throughout the entire park, stands an exciting 189 feet and shoots you to the top at a top speed of 45mph! Unfortunately, during my visit, the Kisses Tower was not operating, but I did experience both the Reese’s Tower and Hershey Tower. Overall, Hershey’s Triple Tower makes for an excellent addition to the park. While the line for the Hershey Tower was significantly longer, both towers were generating plenty of interest from park goers. While it may seem self-explanatory, it should be mentioned that the Hershey Tower will likely be option selected and most fitting for the experienced theme park goers. The Hershey Tower does provide that butterfly in your stomach feeling on both the launch up and the quick fall down. While not as thrilling in some aspects, the Reese’s Tower makes for a great compromise ride in my opinion. If you are attending the park with someone who is too nervous to ride the giant Hershey Tower, the Reese’s Tower makes for a fun ride that may be more welcoming to the non-thrill seekers in your group. Overall, the Triple Towers not only fills a necessary void in the park but also provides an equal opportunity option to all types of guests, making for a really fantastic addition to an already fun park.
Hersheyparks’ Roller Coasters
For many, the ultimate question that needs to be answered before planning a trip to a new amusement park is, “Yeah, the park looks really pretty, but how are the roller coasters?” Well, I can safely answer that with a resounding, “They’re simply amazing!” Hersheypark currently offers 12 operating roller coasters in the park. The “Sidewinder” [a Vekoma Sit-Down Boomerang] is closed for the season and has been removed from the official park website; otherwise, the coaster count at Hersheypark currently stands at 13 (this also includes the kid coaster, Cocoa Cruiser, that adults can ride). Similar to Cedar Point, the park offers a unique collection of rides, but it is the 3 Intamin coasters that truly stand out amongst the rest. These include the launching Storm Runner; the Vertical lift hill Fahrenheit; and the jewel of the park, The Intamin Hyper, Skyrush. Coming into my visit to Hersheypark, I had Maverick from Cedar Point firmly as my #1 steel coaster. But, Skyrush stole the crown before the pulse pounding ride finished its complete cycle. Standing at exactly 200 ft tall, Skyrush is actually a prototype coaster with a very unique feature to the cars. The outside seats on Skyrush are actually wing styled seats that are outside of the track creating an even more intense experience! After speeding down the first drop, you hit speeds of 75 mph while twisting and turning your way through several airtime hills. Each and every roller coaster fan needs to make the trip to Hersheypark to experience this one-of-a-kind Hyper Coaster for himself!
The rest of the coaster collection truly has something for everyone! Two awesome GCI wooden coasters are named Wildcat (which was my pleasant surprise of the trip) and Lightning Racer (the park’s dueling Woodie), which provides classic thrills on an incredibly smooth wooden track. The new-for-2016 indoor spinning coaster named Laff Trakk provides an exciting experience for all ages as you spin and twist your way through a tight compact track inside of a black lit funhouse. Advice for anyone trying to fit all the rides into a one-day trip, I recommend going straight to Laff Trakk when the park opens because the line for Laff Trakk will reach over an hour VERY quickly due its lower capacity. Rounding out the coaster collection is the super smooth B&M inverted coaster named “The Great Bear” that offers a fun layout with unique inversions, the classic “Comet” wooden coaster located in the middle of the park, an Arrow Mine Train coaster named “Trailblazer” that is perfect for beginners, and the Mack Wild Mouse which may be the most intense Wild Mouse style coaster I have ever ridden. Overall, the coaster collection is complete, thrilling, and accommodating to all different levels of thrill seekers. While the 3 Intamin coasters are worth the trip alone, the rest of the coasters make Hersheypark an enthusiast’s dream come true. I would go as far to say that Hersheypark may be comparable to a Pennsylvania version of Cedar Point in terms of overall collection and variety.
While the roller coaster may be the granddaddy of all theme park rides, a park is not complete without other fun experiences to fill out the rest of your day. Hersheypark is no exception with a nice variety of flat rides and family experiences to complement its fantastic coaster lineup. The star of the non-roller coaster show is actually found outside of the front gates located in the adjacent Hershey’s Chocolate World experience. Located inside is the famous Hershey Chocolate tour that was recently renovated and updated to feature new animatronics and update other aging sections of the tour. The Chocolate tour is similar to a lower-tiered Disney-style ride where you travel along a track from scene to scene with different animatronics that tell the story of how Hershey’s chocolate is made. After making your way through the Hershey factory replica, you are given your own mini Hershey Chocolate bar and are released inside the gigantic chocolate store where you can find everything from king-sized candy bars or variety bags with all your favorites included to a “make your own” chocolate bar experience (this is an up-charge attraction but is an interesting idea you may want to include with your experience). Inside the park, you will find several classical flat rides such as a wave swinger, Ferris Wheel, and classic carrousel. Some of the more unique rides include a dark shooter ride called Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge where you compete with your friends to earn the highest score, the Howler spinning ride, and a very scenic sky ride that cuts you through the heart of the park, allowing some fantastic views of how the park has weaved coasters through each other to maximize space for other attractions.
Final Thoughts about Hersheypark
Hersheypark was a fantastic experience; every amusement park fan really needs to plan a visit. The park has a one-of-a-kind roller coaster lineup that arguably features one of the best roller coasters in the world, Skyrush. The park also includes an awesome variety of games, food, and flat rides that the entire family will be able to enjoy. Add in the Hershey Chocolate World experience and the new Triple Tower, and you have yourself a family vacation that is just begging to be planned. The park employees were fast, efficient, and [most importantly] very friendly to all guests. Several employees stand in different sections of the park simply waiting for people to ask questions. While probably not considered on the level of Disney or Busch Gardens, the theming of the park is fantastic – the park is so beautiful and one that guests should take the time to walk through; Hersheypark really makes you feel you have entered a world of chocolate and fun. Hershey likes to say it is “The sweetest place on Earth!” While I do not know if that is true or not, I can safely say it is one of the most “fun places on Earth.”
[Photo by Coaster Addict Jarrod.]