Thursday, June 7, 2012

What About Those Other Two Parks????

Since I've returned to blogging, all my posts have mainly been "HersheyHersheyHersheyHershey" with a dash of "Knoebels" thrown in. It doesn't help that I had two Hersheypark trips in May, and am planning another major, multi-day trip for the end of June. But this blog is supposed to be about Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom and Camelbeach Waterpark, as well! Before we get back to comparing and contrasting these parks (which is really the main point of this blog), I thought I should give you an update on Dorney and Camelbeach...what have they been up to for the last couple years?

Camelbeach--2 New Slides!

Since I was pregnant, I didn't go to Camelbeach last summer. That means that I missed the debut year of the park's two newest attractions--water slides called Dune Runner and Sandstorm. I plan on jaunting to Camelbeach in August (when my daughter is hopefully big enough to sit up and splash in the kiddie pool) and will give a full review of the rides then. But here's an overview on what I should expect.

Sandstorm is a slide that has two funnels along its route. I have only ever seen slides that have only one funnel, and you usually just go down a big drop, go up either side of the funnel and then splash down into the pool at the bottom. Sandstorm looks like it incorporates the funnels within a longer slide, and should be a new, fun experience. It looks to have tubes that can fit up to to 4 people, so the whole family can ride together.

Dune Runner is another family tube ride, but this is an open-air slide. It slides straight down, with several humps that probably have some great air time. I've ridden a similar ride at Dorney's Wildwater Kingdom (Cascade), and the ride is a lot more intense than it looks and goes very fast. Dune Runner seems bigger than Cascade, so it should be a thrilling ride!

And Speaking of Dorney...

I have a confession to make about Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom. I used to be a Dorney regular--we went every year with my dad for awhile when I was a kid, and my 24 year-old sister and I continued the tradition for several years as my dad lost interest. Four years ago, in 2008, my husband, my two sisters and I took a major trip to Dorney.

But I haven't been back since.

It's nothing against Dorney--nothing bad happened, and I wasn't offended by the park in any way. It's just that for some reason, a trip to the park hasn't happened in the past four years. This is mostly because we always seem to have some sort of financial crisis in the summer, and I need to pick and choose which amusement parks to hit or miss. I will admit I have a very soft spot for Hersheypark, so that park is usually my priority. Dorney is also a tad more expensive than any of the other parks, so when picking and choosing on a budget, it doesn't always make the cut.

This isn't to say I haven't WANTED to go to Dorney in four years! The park has added a ton of rides and attractions since I last visited. In 2010, Demon Drop, a scary-looking drop tower/coaster, was imported to Dorney from its sister, the famous Cedar Point. In 2011, a giant kids area named Planet Snoopy opened. And this year, a new coaster was introduced--Stinger, an inverted variation on the classic boomerang coaster (which is another import, from California's Great America park). Also opening this year--Dinosaurs Alive!, which adds animatronic dinosaurs throughout the park.

Even though I haven't been to Dorney recently, I used to go very, very often, and I will still include it in any compare/contrast article I can. I won't review any ride I haven't yet ridden, however.

So! I think we're now up to date on what's been going on at all four parks. Coming up next...we'll finally get back to comparing and contrasting!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rushing the Sky in Hershey

Here is a recap of my trip to Hersheypark on Monday, May 28 (aka Memorial Day).

My sister (age 12 and in the Jolly Rancher height category for the first time) and I arrived at Hersheypark at 9:00 AM after an uneventful drive (and a stop at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast). I had bought my season pass and my sister's one-day admission ticket online before leaving. One interesting note about the one-day admission purchase--I used the standard $14-off coupon found at Dunkin Donuts and Burger King. While checking out, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade my ticket to a 2 or 3-day flex ticket for a discounted price. Discounts for 2 and 3 day tickets are rare, and this one is definitely not advertised by Hershey, but it looks intriguing. For my June trip, when we will need to get a 2-day ticket for my husband, I am going to try buying a 1-day ticket first and then "upgrading" for the cheaper price. We'll see!

Anyway, I flashed my season pass voucher at the parking attendant to get free parking. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my season pass also lets me park in the preferred parking lot (when available), which is MUCH closer to the park. We were right next to the Hersheypark Arena and Tram Circle, and I've never parked so close before! My parking spot was also close to the season pass office, where I needed to go first to get my picture taken and official pass made up.

After I had my official pass, my sister and I waited in line for the gates to open. There was quite a crowd gathered, but we were pretty close to the front of the line. We hit a minor snag when our bags were checked--you are allowed to bring one water bottle per person into the park, but apparently, you're not allowed to bring FULL bottles of water. This seems pretty ridiculous to me--my sister and I had two generic bottles filled with water, not brand-names like Aquafina or Dasani. Plus, it's not like Hershey makes any money when we fill our bottles at a water fountain. We were told to dump our water before entering the park. I didn't.  

At 10:00, the gates opened, and just about everyone (my sister and I included) headed to The Hollow via a new path near the stroller rental building in Rhineland. This is the quickest way to get to Skyrush. But halfway down the path, we were stopped--Skyrush apparently wasn't open yet, and the queue outside the ride entrance was backing up. We waited for about twenty minutes, but by this time, any advantage we'd tried to gain by hitting Skyrush early was gone. With no idea when the new coaster would be opening for the day, I made an executive decision--to head to the Boardwalk for some water rides and come back to Skyrush later. It was a risky move--if the ride opened soon after we left, we could be facing a LONG wait later in the day. But I didn't want to stand around and do nothing, either, so we headed off.

On our way to the Boardwalk, I noticed Storm Runner (the 0 to 75 mph in 2 seconds coaster) was running fairly empty trains. My sister and I decided to take advantage of the short line and hop on Storm Runner. The ride was practically walk-on, and I got to ride in the front seat on this coaster for the first time EVER. It was absolutely thrilling!

We next passed Fahrenheit, the 98-degree drop coaster, and noticed the line wasn't substantial for this, either--not walk-on, but certainly much shorter than usual. We queued up and rode Fahrenheit within twenty minutes. This time, we sat in the very back row for the first time ever, and it definitely added intensity to the already-thrilling ride!

It was finally Boardwalk time. To save money, my sister and I chose not to purchase a locker. I put all my money and valuables in a waterproof pouch around my neck. We used bag drops for all the water rides and coasters throughout the day, and ran into no big problems. Lockers are definitely preferable, but when you care about saving money, Hershey does make it easy to lug a bag around all day. (Not sure how easy it is on your back and shoulders, but that's a different issue.)

In the Boardwalk, we only rode four rides, even though the area was refreshingly not crowded and lines were minimal. We first rode the Whirlwind, a big funnel that is part of the four-slide Coastline Plunge complex. We next headed to the Roller Soaker, the interactive water coaster, but it was down for maintenance. My sister and I instead hit the next-door Intercoastal Waterway lazy river. We floated around three times, keeping an eye on the Roller Soaker each time. After our third trip, we saw the ride was open, so we disembarked and headed to the water coaster.

We hit the shortest line I have ever waited in for the Roller Soaker, which was wonderful, since this line can be very slow-moving. After the Roller Soaker, we headed over to the splash-down ride Tidal Force, which we got on quickly with another record-short line.

It was now time to abandon the water rides--my sister and I were both hungry, and still had Skyrush on our minds. We changed in the rooms near the Ferris Wheel and had lunch at our favorite Midway Munchies. Since they were right there, we then rode the two wooden coasters Lightning Racer and Wildcat with minimal waits (Wildcat was walk-on).

We decided to check on Skyrush's progress. I kept trying to see what was going on using the Hersheypark app I had downloaded onto my Android phone. However, the app never seemed to work right. I couldn't access closed rides or wait times, which is pretty much the whole point of the app for someone who already has a map of the park in their head. We therefore had to hoof it all the way across the park to see if Skyrush was open, but it was worth the walk--the ride was running! Not only that, but the queue was manageable--definitely the longest wait of the day, but I think we only waited about a half hour. For a brand new coaster on its third day of public operation, that wait is NOTHING. I think my sister and I would have waited longer if we hung out in the original line backup at the beginning of the day!

So, how was Skyrush? It was like nothing I have ridden before! I got more air-time on this ride than I have ever gotten on a classic wooden coaster. The lap bars are just that, in your lap instead of over the shoulder, which I have heard some complaints about. However, to me, they were perfect--they held you in comfortably but still made me feel like I'd be thrown from the ride at any second! The ride is also silent--it makes no noise as it zips through the track, which is one reason I had trouble knowing whether it was running or not. Standing in line, I couldn't tell when the train was on the lift hill unless I was looking for it!

I was very impressed with Skyrush. It is definitely the craziest, most thrilling coaster I have ever ridden. The wing seat (which I ride in) definitely made the ride even more exciting. The coaster is a great addition to Hersheypark!

After Skyrush, my sister and I rode the SooperDooperLooper, complete with the new trains and brakes. The new trains are very spiffy, and update a ride that is a classic without taking away any of its charm. The new braking system was impressive, really smoothing out some of the old, awkward brake spots, and made the ride more enjoyable.

After the Looper, my sister and I rode the Coal Cracker flume, then got an Icee at the next door Coal Cracker Pretzel stand. We took a break from the almost-90 degree heat and took our Icees to the nearby Minetown Restaurant, which was air conditioned. While in the restaurant, I noticed the Coal Cracker and Great Bear had closed. Since Great Bear was to be our next ride (and my favorite coaster of all time, by the way ), we were disappointed. It turns out that these rides, plus the Looper, Skyrush and Comet, were all closed because a circus train had come in, and the circus was worried the coasters would scare the departing animals. That made sense and was fine, but I wish Hershey had let us know ahead of time when the ride closures would be occuring.

Luckily, the rides were due to re-open later in the day, so my sister and I instead headed back to Pioneer Frontier, where we rode the pendulum Claw ride and the boomerang Sidewinder coaster. The Sidewinder has new restraints--not sure if this was a new addition this year or last, but they were very comfortable and made that ride more enjoyable, as well. My sister and I also rode the Kissing Tower, where we got to see some elephants getting off the circus train.

The coasters still weren't open yet, and I wasn't sure how much longer to wait--it was about 5:30, and I wanted to leave between 6 and 7. My sister and I went back to The Hollow and rode the Wave Swinger. While riding  the swings, the Hollow coasters all re-opened, and we quickly rode the classic wooden Comet. Great Bear trains finally started running while in line for the Comet, so of  course we next rushed back to Minetown to ride the great inverted coaster. It was our last ride before we headed back to our car.

The trip to Hersheypark on Memorial Day was one of my best ever. It was an unhurried, relaxed trip with almost no line waiting and minimal crowds. I might make Memorial Day a Hershey tradition--the crowds will probably be even thinner in a year where Hershey doesn't introduce a new coaster. I had a great time, but I can't wait until next month, when my family has a three-day Hershey extravaganza and I introduce my baby daughter to Hersheypark!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Fact Mill

I was re-reading my posts from 2010, and two stood out to me: "The Rumor Mill: Hershey's New Coaster " and "Knoebels' Coaster Future." They stood out to me because they were both based on conjecture about what was going to happen in the roller coaster future of these two parks. I thought I would write a "Fact Mill" post updating on the rumors that were surfacing a couple years ago. Some good rumors have proved to be true, some bad rumors have proved to be false, and some things...have stayed exactly the same.

Update on "The Rumor Mill: Hershey's New Coaster"

Two years ago I wrote about some interesting construction markings in Comet Hollow that looked to be markers for a new coaster. I also heard that Hersheypark had gotten a permit to build "something" over 200 feet. Now, Skyrush, Hersheypark's newest, biggest (and maybe baddest) coaster is about to make its debut this Memorial Day weekend!

Skyrush is Hersheypark's twelfth roller coaster, and it's a doozy. It's a hyper coaster, meaning that it has a 200 foot drop, which is bigger than any of Hershey's other coasters. It will go 75 mph (or Hershey's web site), and has an 85-degree drop, meaning that it's almost vertical. I got a good look at Skyrush when I visited Hershey on my chaperone trip, and it is beautiful--a yellow behemoth that towers over the neighboring Comet.

 It's also impressive in that Hershey had VERY limited space to fit in any new coaster, and they managed to easily squeeze a 200-foot drop and almost 3,600 feet of track into an area that, frankly, the ride should not have fit. To compensate for what could have made Comet Hollow a tight squeeze, Hershey completely revamped the area. It is now called just "The Hollow," and Hershey has remodeled it so that the Skyrush track, queue and station look like they have been there for years. The old, outdated queue for the Comet has a completely fresh look now, and game and food stalls have been updated and moved around. The SooperDooperLooper, the classic first looping coaster on the East Coast, has sharp new trains and a new brake system that will debut this weekend. Considering this area was completely underwater after a big flood last September, Hershey's work on The Hollow is extraordinary--to say the least! (It is also good to see that Hersheypark is embracing their old coasters rather than getting rid of them, which was a horrible rumor from two years ago!)

On my chaperoning trip, I also got the extreme pleasure of seeing Skyrush make a couple of test runs with empty trains. Let me tell you that this looks like the smoothest coaster I have ever seen. It was made by Intamin--these are the people that brought us Storm Runner and Fahrenheit; and beyond Hershey, Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, and Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure--three of the top roller coasters in the world.

Most exciting about Skyrush is their one-of-a-kind trains--they sit four seats across, and the two outer seats are "winged" seats. This means that they sit off the track. No other coaster has this is in the world! It is an experience that I am greatly looking forward to having this Monday, Memorial Day, when my sister and I travel back to Hershey to ride Skyrush on opening weekend. (I tried to go on Saturday, opening day, but I couldn't get a sitter. Ah, adult life!)

Update on "Knoebels' Coaster Future"

Two years ago, I wrote about Knoebels' two new coasters that were on the horizon--the Black Diamond, a hybrid Wild Mouse/mine train/dark ride coaster; and Flying Turns, a wooden bobsled coaster. I'm happy to report that the Black Diamond opened last summer--not quite on schedule (it opened in October for Knoebels' Halloween event), but apparently, it was worth the wait! All the reviews I've read have praised the ride. Of course, it's not exactly original, coming from Morey's Piers as the old Golden Nugget ride, but Knoebels seems to have once again completed a great relocation project, much like they did with their heralded Phoenix coaster. I have not ridden the ride yet myself (being pregnant last summer), but I plan on going to Knoebels in August, and Black Diamond is first on my "must ride" list!

Then we have Flying Turns.

I don't want to re-hash the whole Flying Turns fiasco, but briefly--Knoebels tried to bring back antiquated, unsafe coaster technology; Knoebels failed. The ride, which construction began on in 2006, is STILL NOT RUNNING. Hopes were high last summer when the park released a point-of-view video of the ride--but today, the ride is still not running. I realized last week that I hadn't heard a peep about Flying Turns in awhile, so I did some research. Knoebels' Wikipedia page says the ride is projected to open in 2012. But I'm not sure where they got their information, because I searched Knoebels' web site high and low, and found no mention of the ride there. Checked their Facebook page--no mention of the ride there, either. The thing is, both the web site and Facebook page used to mention progress on the ride--now there's nothing? I downloaded a PDF of Knoebels' current map, and Flying Turns is still listed on it, but I'm sure that's just because people walking through the park can't miss a giant, un-operating roller coaster. So, what gives, Knoebels? Is this ride ever going to open? I still predict--NO.

So, for the most part, we've had some nice progress proving some of the rumors from 2010 true and false. True--Hersheypark's new coaster and the Black Diamond are in operation! False--the looper and Comet were goners. Who knows what to say about the Flying Turns fiasco? I guess, for now, we should still treat that as a work in progress!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Last week, on Thursday, May 17, I went to Hersheypark. This was the first visit in my 23rd consecutive year of visiting the park, but it was a completely new experience for me. You may ask, "How can someone who has been to Hersheypark at least fifty times (or probably more) have any type of new experience without a new attraction?" (And no, Hershey's soon-to-be 12th coaster Skyrush isn't open yet--more on that in my next post). No, my new Hershey experience happened when I became a chaperone for the first time, chaperoning my 12 year-old sister's class trip to the park to experience Science Day. Here is a recap of how it went:

My sister and I arrived at her middle school at 6:45 AM and met up with our group--which, it turned out, consisted of only one other person (who I will refer to as M). M was my sister's friend, and it turned out she had very little amusement park experience. Therefore, she was wary about riding big coasters. My sister and I both inwardly groaned, as we are both coaster warriors, but my mind immediately raced, thinking of how we could build our day around a non-coaster rider.

The sixth grade boarded charter buses, and by 7:00 AM, we were on the road. The trip down was uneventful, and we arrived at Hersheypark by 9:00. After a quick chaperone meeting, I grabbed my sister and M and we hit the park. Before we could go on any rides, though, my sister and M had to do some Science Day activities. The first thing we did (after a quick bathroom break--no one is a fan of those bus bathrooms) was sit on a bench and fill out some Hershey-related math and science activities in a packet the girls' teachers had given them. They had to work on this for at least 45 minutes.

When they had done all they could stand with Hersheypark alive around them, we decided to finally hit some rides. We decided to first head to the Pioneer Frontier section of the park to go on the Trailblazer, Hershey's mildest coaster--apparently, M had ridden it before and liked it. After a fun ride (and barely any line--the longest line we waited in all day was only about 15 minutes), we headed up the hill past Storm Runner (Hershey's 0 to 75 mph coaster), and over to the Dry Gulch Railroad, which the girls had seen from the Trailblazer and wanted to ride next. Unfortunately, it wasn't open to the public yet. We instead convinced a slightly-nervous M to ride the next-door Pirate ship pendulum ride (sitting near the middle instead of the back as to not go so high--a compromise my sister generously made for her friend).

At this point, it was after 11:00 AM. We were required to go to one of the Franklin Institutes's Science Day shows in the Amphitheater, and my sister and M decided they wanted to go to the first one, at 11:30. So we headed over to Minetown, where the Amphitheater is located. We had a little time to kill, so we all rode in our own sports cars on the Sunoco Speedway first (which is only a hop, skip and jump away from the Amphitheater).

We attended the 11:30 Franklin Institute show, and to be honest, it was a pretty lame event. Two "science athletes" were competing to win the audience's favor for their own experiments while a "referee" commented on the action. Now, a disclaimer--science isn't something I'm very interested in. However, I've found in my life that if a show (or movie, or book) is well-done, it really doesn't matter what the topic is--it will draw you in no matter what. This show was about a half hour long, and had us checking our watches the entire time. The show's main premise was the referee "randomly" picking science topics out of a hat, the science athletes performing experiments (that mainly consisted of blowing things up), and the science athletes and referee taunting each other.  The three actors onstage kept talking over each other throughout the whole performance, so it was hard to get anything out of the program--it seemed very laid-back and unrehearsed. My sister, M and I were all very glad when the show was over.

It was time for lunch then, so we headed back up to the Storm Runner food court, which had a lot of food choices. We all ended up eating at the Whistle Stop Restaurant--my sister and I got burgers while M tried the chicken strips. All the food tasted very good (although, of course, it was pricey).

After lunch, it was about 12:30, and we headed to Midway America at the back of the park and rode (in very quick succession), the Wild Mouse (which we were happy M decided to try), the Whip, Music Express, the Ferris Wheel and the Merry Derry Dip Fun Slides. All of these were walk-on except for the Wild Mouse, which had about a five minute wait.

We headed back to Pioneer Frontier to see if the Dry Gulch Railroad was open yet, and it was! We had a fun time on the train, and met a Hershey's Chocolate Syrup character afterward. M then made a very brave decision--to try and ride the Comet, Hershey's classic old wooden coaster. We eagerly headed down to Comet Hollow (which is actually just The Hollow now--Hershey has completely remodeled the area for Skyrush. Again, more on that in my next post). Unfortunately, the Comet wasn't running! But people were still in line, and the ride was running empty trains, so we took a quick detour to the Wave Swinger ride, which is right across from the Comet, and rode that first. By the time we got off the Wave Swinger, the Comet was back in operation!

We waited in our longest line of the day (which was only 15 minutes) and rode the Comet. M loved the ride, and I think she was sad we didn't ride it earlier in the day. Maybe if she had, she could have worked up the nerve to ride one of Hershey's wilder coasters.

After the Comet, we headed back to Music Box Way, where we rode the Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge and Fender Bender bumper car ride. We then walked to Founder's Circle at the front of the park, riding the Carousel, the Scrambler and the Tilt-a-Whirl.

At this point, it was about 3:45. Amazingly, we had ridden thirteen rides in three hours! Not riding any crazy coasters (which generally have the longest wait times) and no long lines for the rides we did ride certainly helped with that, but I'd like to think prior knowledge of the park had a hand in it, as well. :)

The girls wanted to do some shopping, so we shopped in a couple stores on the way out. My sister then suggested, since we still had a half hour before the buses were to leave, that we stop off at Chocolate World (Hershey's visitors center) on the way out. The building, located right outside the park gates, was near where the buses were parked, so it was easy to go to Chocolate World, ride the factory tour ride, and do some additional shopping.

We were back on the bus and on our way home by 4:30, arriving at the middle school at 6:45. I consider the trip very successful--we got almost every flat and family ride in the park ridden in about four total hours. My sister, who has never shown fear at the wildest of coasters, was very courteous to her friend, not pressuring her to ride anything she was uncomfortable with. And I had a great time chaperoning my first trip--not just to Hersheypark, but anywhere. It's a good prep for when my daughter (now four months old) goes on her first field trip someday!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Crunching the Numbers

I was in my first trimester of pregnancy last summer, which meant that most days, I was too ill to want get out of bed. I was miserable thinking about my favorite season slipping away, and all the wonderful amusement park days that were being wasted. Now, after delivering a healthy baby girl this past January, I know those days were worth it--but the amusement park aficionado inside me is MORE than raring to go!

I have started to plan my summer amusement park schedule--trips to Camelbeach and Knoebels Amusement Resort are definitely on deck for later in the year, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom is always on the horizon, but over the next two months, I am planning on going to Hersheypark several times. Why Hershey? Well, tomorrow I embark as a chaperon on my 12 year-old sister's school field trip to Hersheypark. This will be a first for me, and I am VERY excited. (Expect to see a post on that soon!) Me and my sister will also be jaunting back to Hershey on Memorial Day (weather permitting) to try out their new coaster Skyrush (which won't be open yet tomorrow). Finally, at the end of June, my husband and I plan on taking our then-5 month old daughter to Hershey for a couple days to introduce her to the park that I have been going to since I was four years old.

With all these trips to Hersheypark on the horizon, I started to think about cost. The field trip is already paid for with a group rate, so I didn't need to worry about admission for that. But the Memorial Day and June trips will be three park days for me overall. That adds up to:

Three days of admission: Now, I could buy my admission tickets the amateur way, with a single-day ticket for Memorial Day (current cost--$56.95, minus $14 from a coupon you can get at Dunkin Donuts and probably other fast food restaurants), and a two-day ticket for June ($75, no discount available). That adds up to $131.95 - $14 = $117.95. Ouch! A smarter thing for me to do is to buy one three-day ticket at $105. But still...ouch.

Three days of parking: $12 a day, even on consecutive days. That's $36...ouch.

Three days of food. For Hersheypark, you should really budget about $10 per meal, per person. You can save money by eating a meal (like dinner) outside the park. But say you eat at least lunch and dinner at Hershey for three days? That's around $60...for one person. This could be more if you count in extras like ice cream. Ouch.

Three days of merchandise: Okay, so obviously I won't be buying oodles of merchandise every time I go to Hersheypark. But let's be honest...I know I'm going to need a Skyrush t-shirt in its inaugural year. (More on Skyrush in a future post.) If my husband decides to ride Skyrush or one of the other coasters he's been thinking about trying (like Storm Runner or Great Bear), he will probably want a shirt to commemorate the event. And you think I'm not going to buy that new baby some Hershey souvenirs? Realistically, let's budget $60 for merchandise. Ouch.

With the three-day ticket option, that comes out to $261. And that's not counting admission and food for my sister and husband (my daughter gets in free until she is 3). That's also not counting gas or hotel (for the June trip). In the grand scheme of vacations, no, it's not the most expensive trip imaginable. But for an amusement-obsessed new mom and her family, it doesn't come cheap.

I started thinking of ways to cut costs. Eating dinner outside the park is a great one, and of course, merchandise is always negotiable. But then, a great possibility came over me...could I save money with a season pass for myself? Let's crunch the numbers if I (and only I) have a season pass for all these trips.

Three days of admission: Your basic season pass for Hershey is $145. Ouch. But you pay it once, and then you feel like you're walking into Hersheypark for free (every day of the season if you want). This also covers admission for Hersheypark in the Dark (their Halloween event), Christmas Candylane and Springtime in the Park. I usually go to at least one of these events every year, so that $145 could actually end up being much cheaper than paying admission each time in the long run.

Three days of parking: With the season pass? $0. Parking is FREE. That's a big band-aid on the season pass initial cost!

Three days of food and merchandise: Season pass holders get a 15% discount off food and merchandise (not counting free-standing vendors, but the bulk of Hershey's food and souvenirs are in buildings). If I budget $60 for my own food and $60 for souvenirs, the total cost ($120) comes down to $102. That's $18, folks, which is nothing to sneeze at. And even though the season pass is only mine, I can still use it to get discounts for my husband and sister's food and merchandise.

So, even with the initial more-expensive purchase of the season pass, the total comes to $247. Is it a vastly less-expensive amount? No, of course not. But is IS cheaper, and may prove to show it's worth even more as the summer goes on. I know with a season pass, you also receive a booklet of coupons and discounts. The last time I got a season pass (in 2004), less-than half-price admission ticket coupons were included in that booklet, which could prove beneficial for my sister and husband. And the real kicker? FREE PARKING. I can't say this enough. FREE PARKING. (Let's face it...$12 to park my car? Ridiculous.)

So, while the initial cost of the season pass may turn some people off, in the long run, it can actually save you money I am pretty sure this is the route I am going to take when it comes to my own admission for these Hershey trips. Will it prove to be worth the risk, or will I regret my decision? We'll see at the end of the summer!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I'm Back, Baby!

What's that??? THE BLOG IS BACK!!!!!

So what happened? Mainly, I had a baby, and my amusement park attendance rate dropped quite a bit last summer. But I intend on making that up drastically this summer! Not sure how regularly I'll be able to write with an almost 4 month old to keep an eye on, but I will do my best to write as often as possible.

But what brought me back? An intriguing topic that crossed my mind as I planned my summer amusement schedule--season passes vs. multi-day tickets. I hope to post a full article about this within the next couple days. In the meantime, check out!/pages/NEPA-musement/128983117138149, read some older posts, and prepare for a summer full of fun!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Water Park Mania

Without a doubt, water attractions are usually some of the most popular types of rides at any amusement park. America has over a thousand water parks, more than in any other country, and Hershey, Knoebels and Dorney all have big areas set aside for water rides and attractions that remain some of the busiest and most popular sections of the parks. But NEPA has several other water parks that are pretty popular, as well. Today, a new park will be entering the compare/contrast mix, a water park that is considered one of NEPA's most popular water-only parks. It is called Camelbeach, and is located in Tannersville, Pa at the Camelback Mountain Ski Resort. Camelbeach will enter the blogs when it has a comparable water ride to our three main amusement parks. But out of the four water parks, which one reigns supreme?

Hersheypark: The Boardwalk

Hersheypark opened its water park The Boardwalk in 2007 as a celebration of the park's 100th birthday. Before the Boardwalk, Hershey had several water rides: Canyon River Rapids, a fun rapids ride; the Roller Soaker, a unique interactive water coaster; Tidal Force, a huge splash down ride; and the Western Chute Out, a group of water slides. 2007 separated these water rides into an actual water park and added several new ones, as well. The biggest additions were Coastline Plunge, a more modern group of water slides; and East Coast Waterworks, the biggest water playground on the East Coast. The outdated and rarely-ridden Western Chute Out was dismantled after the 2007 season to make way for the Fahrenheit roller coaster, and a year later Canyon River Rapids was taken down to create "The Seaquel," an expansion to the Boardwalk that included The Shore, a wave pool, and the InterCoastal Waterway, a lazy river. The Boardwalk has been a big success for Hersheypark, and is always, ALWAYS crowded. The fact that Hershey squeezed the Boardwalk into a small area does not help the crowd situation, as it can become unbearable around midday, with waits for even the water playground and wave pool. The Boardwalk is popular, but some (like myself) miss the old, simple days when the four separate water rides were the way to cool off.

Knoebels: Crystal Pool

Knoebels' Crystal Pool was opened in 1926, and although the area has been greatly expanded and changed since then, the pool is still in its original spot (which is pretty cool, if I do say so myself). Going along with Knoebels' "pay as you go" idea, it costs $6 to enter the pool area, with different combo plans available regarding water slides and night swimming. The pool itself is beautiful, and it's huge, with several slides and diving boards of different heights and sizes scattered throughout. Knoebels has been expanding their pool area over the last ten years or so, adding a couple of fun water slides independent of the pool and a kiddie area called Kozmo's Play Pool. While the Crystal Pool area doesn't have the giant water attractions of the other three parks, it makes up for it with a great ambiance and great crowd control. Consider adding a dip in the Crystal Pool to your day at Knoebels.

Dorney Park: Wildwater Kingdom

Wildwater Kingdom is considered one of the biggest water parks located inside a theme park in the USA. It opened in 1985 and originally had a separate admission from Dorney Park. This changed ten years later, when Dorney's "two parks for the price of one" campaign was introduced. As water parks go, Wildwater Kingdom is top-notch. It has 22 water slides that are all different from each other, and each pack a thrilling ride. It also has two lazy rivers, two wave pools and three separate kiddie areas, which means that the park never feels overly crowded, even on the hottest Saturday in July. Finally, Wildwater Kingdom offers easy access to the two water rides that are actually located "across the border" in Dorney Park, Thunder Canyon (a thrilling rapids ride) and White Water Landing (their big splash-down ride). Wildwater Kingdom is a great water park, and a wonderful addition to Dorney Park.

Introducing: Camelbeach!

Camelbeach Waterpark is only 12 years old, but with over 30 water slides, it's hard to believe the park is that young. Camelbeach is the way that the Camelback Ski Resort in Tannersville, PA makes money in the summertime, and its location in the picturesque Pocono Mountains is a different type of feel than other, "beachier" water parks. The park features some great rides, including the Titan, a family giant tube slide; Triple Venom, extremely intense body slides; two "toilet bowl" slides called Vortex and Spin Cycle; and Pharaoh's Phortress, a big water playground that is Camebeach's newest addition. The park features a nice-sized wave pool, lazy river and kiddie area, as well, and is well spaced-out, so the crowds don't become overbearing. I have visited Camelbeach several times and am excited to add it to the NEPA-musement blog. Any time we have a blog focusing on some sort of water ride, you can bet that Camelbeach will be in the mix!

The Verdict

1. Dorney Park
2. Camelbeach
3. Knoebels
4. Hersheypark

Every one of these four water parks are very popular, but the top two--Dorney's Wildwater Kingdom and Camelbeach--are heads and shoulders above the other two. Both parks have tons of water rides that can keep a family busy all day, but they are both located in big areas that never feel overcrowded or unbearable. I gave Dorney a slight edge just because it is slightly bigger and has more overall to do, but Camelbeach is growing rapidly, and if we address this topic again in five years, that park may get the advantage.
Knoebels' Crystal Pool came in third due to its lack of rides and attractions compared to the other parks. However, its ambiance and crowd control are what set it above the chaos that is Hersheypark's The Boardwalk. Simply put, Hershey crammed an entire water park into a very small area, which has created extreme overcrowding and a general uncomfortableness to what should be a fun, relaxing environment. On top of that, NONE of the newest water rides have amounted to anything special--their best water rides are the two old ones that are left, Tidal Force and the Roller Soaker. Hershey may have more attractions than Knoebels when it comes to the water, but Knoebels sets the bar higher when it comes to quality.

So, spending a hot day in NEPA? Feel free to cool off at one of these water parks!