A weeked trip to Dorney Park and Six Flags Great Adventure
Written by Russell Meyer
Since I was not able to make it to the press events for two of the more high-profile additions at parks in the mid-Atlantic region, I made a trip this weekend to see what the buzz is all about. My wife, sister-in-law, and her husband made a weekend trip to Dorney Park on Saturday, and Six Flags Great Adventure on Sunday.Tweet
It has actually been a couple of years since I’ve been to this park located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a little over an hour north of Philadelphia. This park is owned by Cedar Fair LP, and I think they’ve done a great job with this “smaller” theme park. The park has a great mix of the old and the new, and aside from needing some more shows, the park has a lot of diversity in its attractions. 2005 brought the addition of another coaster to the already solid lineup. Hydra: The Revenge is a floorless roller coaster designed by B&M. It takes the place of Hercules, a wooden roller coaster that just never found its niche, except with chiropractors who probably gained a lot of work from riders of the extremely rough coaster. Hydra is being marketed as a “Monster Coaster,” but the 105-foot drop and 53 MPH top speed place it among the smallest floorless roller coasters in the world. However, Hydra does contain one of the most unique layouts, sure to keep riders twisting and turning all the way through its 3198 feet of track. The most unique part of the ride comes right out of the station. The “JoJo” roll, which was named for one of the long-time maintenance workers at the park who suggested the element, is a slow rolling inversion that will leave riders dangling upside down for a brief moment as the train slowly negotiates the inversion. The roll is so slow that I think Dorney Park will make more money from this one inversion than the nearby Screaming Swing up-charge attraction, as the area directly below the inversion has become a catch basin for loose change.
After the JoJo roll, the train makes a quick right turn, and goes up the short lift. The rest of the course is very interesting, and very different from just about every other B&M roller coaster, but the lack of size and speed means that most of the elements are not taken really fast, and certain sections of the ride are almost boring. After the first drop, the train goes through an inclined loop (imagine a standard vertical loop that is tilted about 30 degrees to the right), an element that is pretty exciting on a stand-up roller coaster like Mantis or Riddler’s Revenge, but is rather pedestrian on a floorless coaster. This part of the coaster would have been better served with a dive loop or Immelman. The next inversion is a pretty good zero-g roll that is best experienced in one of the center seats on the train. The next inversion is a big spiral that sets the train up for the double-inverting cobra roll.
Since Hydra is not the fastest floorless coaster, this cobra roll is noticeably smaller than most other floorless cobra rolls. After the cobra roll, the train goes up into a little “bunny hop” and a drop where riders get a decent pop of airtime before going through the last inversion, another spiraling corkscrew. The train then goes through a small helix, and back into the station. For its size, Hydra does give a really unique ride, but is it the best floorless coaster in the world? Hardly. I rode the coaster three times over the course of the day, once in the front and twice in the back, and I never got the same euphoria that I get from riding Kraken, the unofficial king of floorless roller coasters, or even Medusa/Scream. Aside from the JoJo roll, the good zero-g roll, and the small pop of airtime before the last inversion, the layout does not really have anything that will wow you. Perhaps it’s the speed, or perhaps it’s the lack of sound. Hydra’s track is filled with foam, and the supports are filled with sand to dampen sound in order to comply with sound restrictions. The backstory of the coaster, with a monster that has gained revenge over its slayer, Hercules, is interesting, and the layout seemed interesting since it is so completely different from any other coaster in the world. However, the coaster just doesn’t deliver what I had hoped. I’m not saying the coaster is not worth trying, but even though it’s the newest coaster at Dorney Park, it’s probably only the third best (Steel Force and Talon are both better). And could someone please teach Cedar Fair how to color coordinate. Hydra has two-tone green track and aqua supports, but the station supports are purple with red and blue lights inside the station, and the restraints are hot pink. I’m not sure if they just wanted to see how many different colors they could pile into one coaster, but it doesn’t work for me. The newest B&M creation may be one-of-a-kind, but just did not deliver the thrill I expected.
Six Flags Great Adventure
While I had an opportunity to experience Dorney Park’s newest roller coaster three times, I was not nearly as fortunate with Six Flags Great Adventure’s newest coaster, Kingda Ka. I’m not going to bash Six Flags or Intamin, because I was well aware that the likelihood of getting on the record-breaking coaster ranged from none to not a chance this weekend. However, it did stand and taunt us throughout our visit.
Six Flags was very clear that the attraction would not be open today with signs at the entrance to the parking lot, and even more signs near the ticket booths. I was a little disappointed that the entire area around the roller coaster was gated off, and could not even get close to the tallest roller coaster on Earth.
We weren’t able to experience the cornerstone of Six Flags Great Adventure’s newest land, The Golden Kingdom, but we were able to take a stroll through the new area. The Golden Kingdom is very reminiscent of parts of Disney’s Animal Kingdom with lush vegetation and subtle thematic touches throughout the area. That’s right, I said Six Flags used “subtle thematic touches.”
In fact, the Golden Kingdom looks more like a Disney or Busch creation than something that you would expect from Six Flags. All of the pathways are well themed, and the new tiger exhibit is very guest friendly with a number of glass viewing areas and numerous other places to view the activities of the tigers. The Golden Kingdom also contains a new kids area that replaces the Looney Toons area that used to exist in the space now occupied by the Golden Kingdom. Balin’s Jungleland is an area for everything kiddie related. There is a water play area, a massive treehouse with lots of places for kids to mimic their favorite jungle creatures, and a number of kiddie-sized flat rides, including one that will look incredibly familiar to those who have been to a Disney park.
While I was impressed with the overall look and quality of the Golden Kingdom, its size was very underwhelming. The pathways are very narrow, and the overall size was not what I was expecting. Balin’s Jungleland, in particular, is very tight, and while it was not very busy today, there was very little room around the kids’ attractions to move around. The space that Kingda Ka takes up is about twice the size of the rest of the Golden Kingdom. While Six Flags did a very nice job creating a very nicely themed area, they could have made the Golden Kingdom a little larger and more spread out. Hopefully, I will be able to report later this year on Kingda Ka. However, despite the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster being out of commission, the Golden Kingdom is still a great addition to a park that was in desperate need of a nicely themed area to draw more families to the park, and a little piece of Disney in New Jersey.
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