Here’s a quick video dedicated to my favorite roller coaster: The Voyage at Holiday World. Enjoy!
Let’s head to the sweetest little place on earth. Hershey, Pennsylvania!
Yes, the original home of Hershey chocolate is also home to a fantastic amusement park known as Hershey Park, a classic amusement park with lots of modern flare. This place has all sorts of nostalgic rides and attractions mixed in with some great innovative thrills. There’s lots of great food (and candy of course) and a small waterpark included with admission. The park isn’t that large, but it does have just a little bit of everything.
Just next door to Hershey Park is Hershey’s Chocolate World, a unique tourist attraction just for the chocolate lovers (which includes me!). Inside, you can take a tour through a mock version of Hershey’s chocolate factory and learn about how they make the goods! Recently, they added a “create-your-own-candy-bar” attraction where you can, in fact, create your own delicious candy masterpiece, albeit for the rather hefty price of around $15. Nonetheless, it’s still a pretty cool place. A word of advice, though. It’s probably not the best idea to eat a bunch of fresh chocolate then ride all the rides…
Hershey Park currently has 11 roller coasters. Let’s take a look at three of them.
The Comet opened in 1946 and stands tall and proud as the park’s classic wooden coaster. It may not look like much by today’s standards, but it delivers a great ride that is very family-friendly while still providing some nice thrills.
The ride’s layout is rather unique. It starts out with a standard double out-and-back formula. Midway through the course, the track veers to the right and goes through a series of airtime hills, turns around and heads back. If you looked at the Comet from above, it would look like a giant T.
I’m a sucker for classics like the Comet. There’s just something about old school designs that no new ride could replicate. That makes them a pretty special part of any park’s coaster collection.
Since my visit in 2010, Hershey Park added Skyrush, a 200 foot tall speedster that delivers some extreme airtime. Skyrush sits right on top of the Comet, so while Comet is feeling a little overshadowed, it’s still a great ride to check out.
Look up in the night sky and you may catch a glimpse of the constellation Ursa Major or “The Great Bear”. If you’re in Hershey Park and you look up, you’ll see an inverted steel coaster named after the famous collection of stars!
Opening in 1998, this one ups the ante in the thrill department by including four inversions and having a unique helix straight off the lift hill before diving down the first drop. Being an inverted coaster, this helps increase the feeling of height as there is nothing below your feet.
I have to say, though. Out of all the inverted coasters I’ve ridden, this one is probably the least thrilling. That’s not to say it’s not a great ride. Roller coasters don’t have to always be super forceful, they just have to toy with your mind. The Great Bear definitely toys with your mind at least a little bit. 😉
In 2004, Hershey Park built what I consider their first really intense thrill machine. Storm Runner is one of the craziest roller coasters I have ever ridden, and it’s only 50 seconds long!
The ride starts off sitting idle on a stretch of straight track. Riders can see there is no lift hill. After a voice worthy of a video game intro warns “Now get ready. Here we GO!”, the train launches from 0 to 72 mph in two seconds. From there you are sent skyward 90 degrees on an element called a top hat, in which the train goes up, twists 90 degrees, crests a hill and heads back down again completely vertical.
The train then rockets through an inversion (pictured on the right) known as a cobra loop. Following that, it heads through the craziest element on the whole ride known as the flying snake dive (who comes up with these names? Seriously!). Riders rise and level out into a full 360 degree twist then a 180 degree twist that dives down and rolls out at ground level.
Confused? Here’s a picture of that last element. When you’re riding this thing, everything around you becomes a complete blur, and the flying snake dive is by far the weirdest and most disorienting inversion ever crafted. I don’t recommend riding this if you get dizzy easily haha.
Hershey Park is a great park. The best way I can describe it is this: lots of rides, lots of candy and lots of fun! Come on up to Hershey, Penn. and check this place out. It’s pretty sweet (rimshot!).
Remember when I said in my first post that as soon as you step through the gates of a park, you are 5 years old again? This is especially true at this week’s featured park. We’re back at Walt Disney World in what is perhaps their most treasured park, Magic Kingdom. Just like Disney says, this place is truly magical.
You know what I’m talking about here. You park your car. You get your ticket. You board either a monorail or a ferryboat that transports you to the front gate. With each step closer, you can just about feel your mental age dropping and your imagination skyrocket. You step through that gate and see this…
That amazing castle stands tall and proud at the end of Main Street USA. You’re no longer in Florida. You are in a dream that has come true (to borrow Disney’s famous moniker). Gee, this must be why Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park in the world. It’s like the fountain of youth of theme parks!
Stepping out of the park for a second (I promise we’ll get back in soon!), let me tell you some interesting history about this park (really the whole Disney World project). It is of course modeled after Walt Disney’s original park, Disneyland, which opened in 1955. Walt did not like how Disneyland was smack dab in the middle of Anaheim, Calif., surrounded by city streets and buildings. He believed that guests weren’t really taken to a magical place outside of normal life. Before long, he started scouting. He came across just under 30,000 acres of swampland and abandoned cow pastures in what is now Lake Buena Vista, Fla. He was able to buy the land for a very cheap price because he kept his identity hidden from public eyes. Disney announced this next big project in 1965, and unfortunately, he died just a year later during the planning stage. That didn’t defer the imagineers, though. Construction began, and soon, the Magic Kingdom was ready to open in 1971, far away from the hustle and bustle of any major cities.
One cool fact about the Magic Kingdom is that it is a full 14 feet above sea-level. Underneath the park is a network of tunnels that allow Disney cast members (park employees for all you non-Disney geeks) to travel from one part of the park to another quickly and efficiently while unseen from guests’ eyes.
Alright, time to come back in. Walking out of Main Street USA, we find Tomorrowland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square and Fantasyland (which recently went under a major renovation and is now twice its original size!). Within these lands we find several classic attractions like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and of course, the Dumbo ride. Who can’t forget the Dumbo ride??
Anyways, I love just about all the attractions here at Magic Kingdom, but there are a couple of rides that just barely stick out as my personal favorites. Here they are.
There are haunted houses that focus on scaring you out of your pants every five seconds. Others simply focus on being creepy and mysterious. Being that Disney is a family destination, it makes sense that imagineers chose the latter approach. They even managed to throw in some humorous elements just for fun!
The Haunted Mansion opened with the park in 1971, and to this day, it is one of the best dark rides in the world. There are so many classic moments: the stretching gallery, the empty corridor with the floating candles, the ghosts dancing in the ballroom, the graveyard with the singing stone heads and don’t forget those tricky hitchhiking ghosts!
The ride manages to be pretty spooky and really fun at the same time. If you have never ridden this, please come and join the fun with the grim grinning ghosts!
Here we are at my favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain is truly a classic and one awesomely fun ride!
Opening in 1975, Space Mountain was the first roller coaster ridden completely in the dark. Almost 40 years later (and after a recent renovation), it still feels like you are really flying through outer space.
What’s amazing is how the ride’s layout never approaches speeds above 28 mph, but because the track is so tight and compact (and the fact that it’s DARK), it feels like you’re going at least 50 mph through the whole thing.
Out of all the roller coasters I have ridden, this one somehow manages to be arguably the most fun out of all of them, not the most intense, not the most amazing but the most FUN. Seriously. No other roller coaster makes me laugh or yell at the top of my lungs like Space Mountain does. I’m not really sure what it is. It could be a Disney bias, or it could be the fact that the layout is so long and random that it is nearly impossible to memorize it, which means it surprises me every time I ride. I think I’ll go with the second choice. 😉
I could say I feel sad for everyone out there that never experienced this park as a young child, but I can’t. Why? Because everyone, no matter what age, becomes a kid at this park. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. No one does it like Disney. If you haven’t done so already, get your butt down to Florida and go to Disney World! You’re missing out!
Show me some love for this park in the comments below!!
As a roller coaster enthusiast, the question I get asked most often is “Have you been to Cedar Point!?”
Of course I have! How have I not been to the number one amusement park in the world by this point in my life?
Found in Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is the flagship park of one of the largest park chains in the world, Cedar Fair. It opened in 1870, which makes it one of the oldest amusement parks in the country. Over the past 143 years, Cedar Point has established itself as the roller coaster capital of the world, boasting some of the most innovative roller coasters ever built.
While that may be the reason for much of the park’s fame, I believe the real reason this park is so great is its massive ride selection in general! Along with all the roller coasters (16 by the way), Cedar Point has just about every other kind of ride imaginable: antique cars, bumper cars, spinning rides, water rides, swing rides, a train and more! This is where you come if you want rides and nothing BUT rides. =)
One of the other great parts of Cedar Point is its location. The park is located on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie, and the only way to get there is to drive across a causeway built just for the park back in the 50s. This road gives one of the best views of any park anywhere. Check this out…
It’s like the New York City skyline of skyscrapers, except it’s all rides. To this day, I get as giddy as a 5 year old when I see this view. Pictures don’t do it justice. It is truly a spectacular sight, and it earned Cedar Point their current slogan: “America’s Roller Coast!” It can’t get any better than that!
Alright, let’s get to the coaster section of the post. Here we go!
This 2003 roller coaster is one that EVERYONE seems to know about. Hmm, why would that be? Let’s look at the stats.
A height of 420 feet. Yeah, pretty high.
A launch from 0 to 120 mph in four seconds. Dang, that’s pretty fast.
Riding 90 degrees straight up and straight down (with a 270 degree twist thrown in for good measure). Pretty impressive.
Ride time: 17 seconds. Really? That’s it??
Yep, but let me tell you. That is 17 seconds of pure adrenaline rush. The launch plasters you into your seat. The 120 mph wind makes your cheeks flap and your tears run. The 420 foot height gives a stunning view, albeit one you only see for half a second. It’s an incredible ride from start to finish. After my first ride, I couldn’t talk for a few minutes afterwards, because I was literally struck speechless. That has only happened a handful of times.
You launch, you go up, you come back down and that’s it. I don’t know how such a short ride can be so breathtaking, but this one is. Did I mention that this was also the first coaster to break the 400 foot barrier? Only Cedar Point would build such a daring ride.
This is the OTHER coaster at Cedar Point that everyone seems to know about, mainly because it’s been voted the number one steel coaster in the world numerous times since it opened in 2000.
Millennium Force, unlike Top Thrill Dragster, is a nice, long roller coaster that concentrates on sustained speed and height. The ride tops out at 310 feet and maxes out at a speed of 93 mph. No other roller coaster had even come close to that kind of size and speed back then.
Despite the impressive numbers, Millennium Force is actually a rather gentle ride in terms of forces. All of the elements are really large and drawn out to enhance the feeling of speed, but that comes at the expense of a quick-paced, force-heavy layout. Honestly, I don’t really see that as a bad thing. In my opinion, that is one of the reasons it is so popular. The “lack” of intensity means that more people can ride it without getting sick or dizzy. The thrill is in the height and speed. It’s rather relaxing actually.
However, as fun as Millennium Force is, I prefer my roller coasters to have a bit more spunk in them, which brings me to my favorite coaster at Cedar Point…
This little beauty came to the park in 2007. It may be on the smaller side, but looks can be very deceiving. 😉
In the planning process for this ride, the park decided to focus on quick pace and tight changes in direction. To cap it off, designers gave the first drop a 95 degree pitch. Yes, 5 degrees OVER vertical. You can bet your tush you are launched out of your seat!
What I love about this ride is that it doesn’t rely on gimmicks to give a great ride. It just flies through a bunch of crazy twisting elements that are guaranteed to disorient you. It’s really intense!
One of my favorite parts of the ride is after the first half. The train speeds into a tunnel and slows down, giving the illusion the ride is over. Then, without warning, the ride launches out of the tunnel at 70 mph and continues through the rest of the course. It always surprises people, which gives a great laugh!
So yeah, Cedar Point is pretty awesome. It is certainly my favorite RIDE park, though not quite my favorite park overall. I definitely recommend visiting if you haven’t been before. While you’re here, you can stay at one of the on-site resort hotels and make it a full week of riding coasters! There’s lots of other stuff to do, too. Cedar Point has a beach on the north side of the park where you can take a dip in the lake. You can also rent jet skis, go parasailing, dock your boat at the Marina or visit Cedar Point’s water park, Soak City!
I still find it ironic that this park, one of the best in the world, is located in one of the most boring states in the country haha.
Tell me what you think about Cedar Point below!
Zoos are fun places to go. Theme parks are fun, too. Why not combine the two?
Moving south of the theme park powerhouse that is Orlando (Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld ALL in one city??), we find Busch Gardens Tampa, one of the first parks to integrate theme park rides with animals. This park belongs to the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment chain which includes SeaWorld Orlando.
While Disney may be the top dog when it comes to creating an immersive experience, Busch Gardens is definitely a viable competitor. Africa inspires most of the attractions here. You can take a train ride on the Serengeti Railway where you can look at giraffes, lions, rhinos and other fun animals. You can venture into primate-filled Myombe Reserve exhibit. You can even race across the African plains like a cheetah on the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster! Themed areas include the Congo, Nairobi, Timbuktu, Morocco and Egypt. If you love animals and African culture, you will really love this place.
What’s really great about this park is its coaster collection. Busch Gardens Tampa has three of the best steel roller coasters in the world. Let’s check them out.
Want to drop 200 feet straight down with nothing below your feet? You can do that on this coaster and more!
Sheikra opened in 2005 and is what’s known as a Dive Machine coaster. If you look at the first photo I posted above, you can see the coaster in the background. Notice the first drop. Once the ride reaches its height of 200 feet, it turns a corner and freezes right at the perch of the drop. The train hangs at the top of the drop for a few seconds before being released and plunging down at 90 degrees. Once the drop bottoms out, the ride rises into a HUGE immelman loop (half-loop with a twisting roll-out, pictured on the right), turns around and rises for a second 90-degree diving drop into a mist-filled tunnel. Coming out of the tunnel, the ride swoops around and splashes down in a large pool, soaking spectators as the train passes.
Sheikra is specifically designed to test your fear of heights. Hanging there at the top of the first drop is pretty harrowing. The trains are floorless, so there is nothing below your feet, enhancing the feeling of speed and vulnerability.
Montu is a little smaller than Sheikra, but it rides equally as good if not better. This is an inverted coaster, meaning riders hang below the track with their feet dangling. Think the ski lift from hell. 😉
This opened in 1996 and is one powerful roller coaster. It flips you upside-down seven times, and each of those inversions really throws your mind for a loop (Bad pun, I know. I couldn’t resist). The layout takes advantage of your unique position and not only takes you up high to feel like you’re flying, but it also dives down into several trenches to make you feel like your feet are going to be chopped off!
The ride pulls around 4 Gs of force at times. It is one of the more intense inverted roller coasters out there. It’s really awesome stuff, but the next roller coaster is really special.
In 1993, Busch Gardens set out to build the next big mega-looper coaster, and they set a new standard with Kumba.
Kumba was one of the first steel coasters to use computer-aided design technology, resulting in a smoother ride experience than most steel coasters of the time. Kumba was also the first roller coaster (to my knowledge) that incorporated large-scale inversions. Check out that loop in the background of the picture. It’s 114 feet tall!
So yeah, this ride is a small highlight of coaster history, but does it ride well? You bet it does! Kumba is a coaster filled with non-stop action! The ride’s seven inversions are all taken at lightning speed. The designers made sure that something exciting was happening at every second of the ride.
The best way that I can describe this ride is in this statement: everything just works. There is no big standout element on the ride, but the way all the elements are strung together just makes for an incredible coaster that tells a story from beginning to end. That is rare in the coaster world these days. Kumba is one of my personal favorites because of that.
Busch Gardens Tampa is a great park with something for everyone. If you’re not into riding rides all day, you can go check out the animal exhibits. If those exhibits leave you bored, you can ride rides all day! The next time you go to Florida, come here and get a little taste of Africa.
Please tell me what you think about the park in the comments below!
Yep, we’re headed to Florida!
In the world of theme parks, no one does it like Disney. The sheer amount of thought, work and detail that go into Disney attractions is astounding. Every time I talk to people about theme parks, Walt Disney World is almost always the first place mentioned in the conversation. For me it’s impossible not to like the famous theme park resort.
Despite the fact that this amazing resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., exists, I have only been there a handful of times. It may be the most popular theme park destination in the world, but it is also very expensive, and I don’t always have the money to go. Thankfully, I was able to spend a whole week at Disney World in Spring of 2011. During the week, we visited all four theme parks in the resort (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom). Of those four, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of the coolest.
This park is all about the magic of movies and television. Guests get to walk pathways themed to Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard, take a backstage tour of a movie set and jump right into some classic movie scenes with The Great Movie Ride. Other great attractions worth noting are Star Tours, Muppet Vision 3-D, The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Toy Story Mania! There is a plethora of stuff to do here. If you love tv and film at all, this park is definitely my top recommendation for you at Disney World.
You might think I left out a couple of attractions here at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On the contrary, I saved them for last! Here are my two favorite rides at this park. It just so happens they are located right next to each other!
1. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Starring Aerosmith)
In 1999, Disney shredded Sunset Boulevard with rock ‘n’ roll.
It’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite attractions here. Of all the roller coasters at Walt Disney World, this one is by far the most intense. The super-stretch limo train launches from 0 to 57 mph in 2.8 seconds and heads straight into a spaghetti bowl of twisted track, all in the dark.
I am particularly fond of the theming of this coaster, too. Seeing that giant Fender Stratocaster at the entrance of the ride always brings out my inner rock star. Rock is my music genre of choice, and I play drums and guitar, so I can’t stop myself from being really giddy every time I ride this ride. You just can’t go wrong speeding through darkness while “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith is blasting in your ears. It’s a win win for me as a roller coaster enthusiast and musician. =)
“This, as you may recognize, is a maintenance service elevator still in operation waiting for you. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard, because in tonight’s episode, you are the star, as this elevator travels directly to…The Twilight Zone.” -Rod Serling
That looming tower at the back of Sunset Boulevard awaits you. Its presence starts to suck you in the closer you get. Walking into the hotel’s lobby, the staff guides you to the boiler room where you board a service elevator that takes you to… you know the rest. 😉
I LOVE this ride. I love the creepy abandoned hotel. I love the Twilight Zone story. I love the expertly designed build-up that leads to the free-fall drops. Everything about this ride is just amazing. On my last visit, I rode this ride five times, because it was so addicting. I could probably spend all day riding this thing.
One of the newest and best features of Tower of Terror is that every ride is different. Once the vehicle is loaded into the drop shaft, the drop sequence is completely random, making each ride a surprise.
Another great thing about this ride is that it falls in that sweet spot of thrill. It’s just scary enough to keep you on edge, but its not so scary that it leaves you exhausted. This is another quality of the ride that keeps people coming back.
Yes, this is my favorite attraction at the whole Disney World resort. It would take something truly spectacular to top it.
This particular visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios was my first visit in about 15 years. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster wasn’t built yet, and Tower of Terror was way too scary for me to ride (I was about 4 or 5). In that sense it was like visiting the park for the first time. Almost everything I rode was a brand new experience. That made the visit twice as fun. Disney may primarily be a destination for families, but like my headline says, they can do thrill rides too, and really darn good ones at that.
What’s your favorite Disney park?
Traveling northeast to Pennsylvania, we see several well-known parks like Kennywood, Hershey Park and Dorney Park, but hidden deep within Pennsylvania’s central valleys in a town named Elysburg is a little gem known as Knoebels.
Much like Holiday World, Knoebels is not too well known among the general public outside of the state. However, ask any true theme park or roller coaster enthusiast about it, and he or she will go off on how amazing of a park it really is. I had heard about this park practically all my life, and in 2010 I finally got the chance to visit.
First off, Knoebels is a traditional park in every sense of the word. The parking lot and pathways are all gravel, and admission is free, which means every attraction is pay-per-ride. It also means that you can come to the park, not spend any money on rides and just hang out. This is a great park to do that, because it is secluded in a heavily wooded forest with lots of shade. There is some really great food to be had, too. It’s essentially a giant campground with rides everywhere you go, and yes, you can camp here!
Speaking of rides, Knoebels’ ride selection is really awesome! Because this is a privately-owned park, the safety standards are not quite as strict, and boy do they take advantage of that! There are a ton of “old-school” rides that aren’t normally found in amusement parks today. Rides like the Roto-Whip, The Satellite, The Paratrooper and Wipeout give thrills in the sense that they are all going to fall apart at any second. It’s scary, yet really awesome for thrill seekers like me. This park also has the best bumper cars in the world (every collision feels like a real car crash) as well as the best classic haunted house ever (try being spooked out of your seat every five seconds).
But of course, the most popular attractions at Knoebels are the roller coasters! Let’s check them out!
This mountainous wooden coaster opened in 1999 and was built entirely in-house by Knoebels’ design and construction team. They obtained the blueprints from a defunct coaster called Mr. Twister that was built in 1964 and modeled their own design after that ride.
Twister is a wild ride that has the whole package of big drops, twists and turns. Its signature element is a giant double helix that pushes you against the side of your seat with such force that it feels like you’re going to be thrown out of the car!
Be warned, though. It’s not exactly the smoothest ride in the world. It’s pretty rough, but that in no way takes away from the ride. If fact, I would argue that it adds to the thrill. It is a wooden coaster after all. Wooden coasters are supposed to shake you around a bit. 😉
This wooden coaster opened at the park in 1985, but the coaster itself is actually a lot older than that. Phoenix originally ran at Playland Park in San Antonio, Texas, as The Rocket built in 1948. When the park closed in 1980, Knoebels took interest in The Rocket and decided to relocate the coaster.
Thank goodness this coaster was saved, because it consistently ranks as one of the top five wooden roller coasters in the world today. Why does such an average-looking coaster rank so high among the enthusiasts?
One word. Airtime.
There’s that magical word again. The feeling of weightlessness is VERY prominent in Phoenix. The biggest reason why is that the restraint is a single-position lap-bar that gives you a good 3 to 5 inches of space between the restraint and your lap. The result is that every time you hit a hill, you pretty much fly out of your seat for real. I have never experienced airtime quite like that on any other roller coaster. I like to call it “stand-up” airtime, since that’s pretty much what happens. It scared the living daylights out of me the first time I rode it.
My favorite part about Knoebels is that it intentionally gives a classic nostalgia feel. The park wants guests to feel like they’ve gone back in time to experience a park from the decades of the past. This is why Knoebels is so amazing. I really recommend visiting this park at least once in your life.
Feel free to comment on the park and let me know what you think!