Monday, August 11, 2014

My 10 Favorite Hersheypark Attractions

The WWoB Staff
A few weeks ago I took my boys to Hersheypark in nearby Hershey, PA. We spent the whole day there, arriving just as the gates opened at 10:00am and returning to the parking lot after the park closed at 10:30pm. There's a lot of great stuff at Hersheypark, even though the majority of the rides are typical carnival style rides you can find at dozens of other parks - Hersheypark does have plenty of charms that are all their own. I'm a fan of old school and more traditional theme park attractions as well as goofy things in parks too. Here's my list of 10 favorite attractions at The Sweetest Place on Earth!

Capital BlueCross Monorail First of all, the fact that Hersheypark has sold the naming rights to a handful of their rides is just a delight. Second, I love monorails. From Disney's world class transportation system down to ever the shuttle at an airport - monorails are good times in my book. Hershey's monorail serves strictly as entertainment purposes, with open air cars that travel not just around the treetops of the amusement park but also beyond the park fence and into the city of Hershey itself. The monorail makes a loop outside the park, offering riders a view of the town's famed Hershey Kiss street lights and the former Hershey Chocolate factory that Milton Hershey built over 100 years ago. Another highlight for an amusement park nerd (such as myself) is the ride past the mysterious unused Monorail station that sits outside of Hersheypark about half way through the ride. The station is almost a carbon copy of the one used inside the park - I assume at one time the monorail was used as a preview of Hersheypark for those not yet inside the park. Who knows!? (Nearby Dutch Wonderland once employed the same method with their monorail.) The monorail also glides over ZooAmerica, Hersheypark's separate but connected North American Zoo. The entire trip is accompanied by a delightful recording that not only tells the history of Hersheypark and the surrounding area, but also extols the virtues of Capital BlueCross health insurance.

Carrousel Hersheypark's carrousel is the real deal - a beautiful antique merry machine made up of all wooden hand carved horses and chariots. The ride was installed in 1944, it was bought used and actually dates back to 1919! The music is provided by a 1926 Wurlitzer Band Organ, which is a real treat. As someone who pays attention to such things - most parks not use prerecorded carrousel music, but there is nothing like the sound of one of these actual machines in action. The carrousel is not only beautiful but large and fast. It's a great ride, and the first one you'll encounter when entering Hersheypark!

Chevrolet Music Box Theatre  Hersheypark puts on some top notch live entertainment in their huge indoor theater. This season they offer two different shows; during the day is a rock oriented song and dance revue and in the evening hours three pianist duel it out. In addition to seeing a good show, it's also a nice opportunity to take a load off your feet in the air conditioning.

Comet  The Comet is Hersheypark's oldest roller coaster. Commissioned by Mr. Hershey himself, the classic out-and-back style coaster was built in 1946. It's amazing that a ride built that long ago can still hold up against any ride built today, but it does! The first drop and it's subsequent climbs and dips provide just as many thrills as any of the parks other coasters. This old timer won't make you sick or leave you hanging on for dear life, but it will make you scream and it will put a smile on your face. The layout of the track provides a nice long ride. This is a great coaster!

Dry Gulch Railroad  Bob Howdy, I do enjoy me some amusement park trains. Hershey's is a cute little miniature railroad which doesn't circle the park, like most theme park trains, but instead travels over it's own terrain. There's a miniature recreation of a classic train bridge and a little western town which you travel through. The town even has a few gags and animations that are still performing after all these years. You also get to ride past the engine yard where the train is stored and cared for. This is an above average amusement park train experience.

Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour  Perhaps the most unique ride at Hersheypark, isn't actually inside Hersheypark. This elaborate and massive ride through of a simulated Hershey Chocolate factory is technically inside Chocolate World, just outside of Hersheypark's admission gates. Chocolate World is the largest corporate welcome center in the county, consisting of shops, eateries, shows and this great ride. The ride takes you on an Omni-mover tour of the chocolate making process from cocoa bean to the wrapped and ready to eat delicious final product. After the tour, everyone gets a free piece of chocolate! Any ride that gives you free candy is just begging to be put on a Top 10 List. Chocolate World is an attraction unto itself and is open year 'round, but you'll also pass it on your way in and out of Hersheypark. (It's usually open an hour later than the theme park so you can visit on your way out.)

Kissing Tower   Named for it's windows in the shape of the famous Hershey candy, and not for randy teenagers making out high above the park - this observation tower/ride takes visitors to the top of the 250 ft. tower for a rotating panoramic view of Hersheypark, ZooAmerica and downtown Hershey, PA. The view is spectacular and the height is just enough to be considered a mild thrill ride. There used to be a recording that played during the trip that featured the classic "Hersheypark Happy" theme song but sadly it was not in use on our recent visit.

Lightning Racer  Here's a fantastic roller coaster, built in 2000 that features two identical tracks with trains racing to a finish line. What stands between the station and the finish line is a 90 ft. drop and over 3,000 ft of twisting and turning roller coaster track. The ride seems like it's never going to end as the track cross over itself and back and forth several times before speeding through a tunnel and lining right up with the opposing train before crossing the finish line. This fantastic wooden roller coaster is a blast and has been ranked in or near the top 10 wooden coasters in the country every year since it's opening.

Reeses' Xtreme Cup Challenge Currently the only dark ride inside Hersheypark, Xtreme Cup Challenge has riders using backwards laser guns to zap various targets as you ride through scenes of extreme sports.  What's great about this ride is that it makes very little sense. Sure, you're just ridding through a shooting gallery but why are we shooting at defenseless, innocent extreme athletes? And why are there so many different types of Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups all over the sporting arenas? Most of the characters in the ride are flat two dimensional drawings except for two creepy sports anchors who are complete audio animatronics. They look like department store dummies who were brought to life by an evil curse. I don't know, this ride is a mess of things going on but in the end it's fun and completely different than anything else offered in the park.

Twin Turnpike - Sunoco Classic Cars - Twin Turnpike gives you the option of driving a classic Model T style car or a fancy little sports car. Whenever given the option, I always go for the classic car mostly because the sports car always means tiny and uncomfortable. The Twin Turnpike tracks follow the same pattern around a cute little area landscaped and decorated with faux highway signs. Fake highway signs make or break an amusement park drive-your-own car ride.
If you've been the Hersheypark, comment with your favorite ride, show or attraction...

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