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What's the Ultimate Summer Roadtrip for Amusement Park Fans?

June 28, 2015, 11:23 AM · If you're a theme park fan looking for an ultimate summer roadtrip, consider a trip through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This is really a fantastic pair considering the amount of parks that can be traversed between these two states. The best thing about this trip is that you can fit it into a week, which is the most common length for any trip.

You can start this trip in Pittsburgh, which is the home to Kennywood. This is a fantastic park for families and thrill-seekers. There are a wide array of different styles of rides, ranging from the tall-and-fast “Phantoms Revenge” coaster, to the meek-and-mild family-style rides that are scattered throughout the park. Not to mention that this park is home to a hand full of classic oldies such as the “Jack Rabbit” coaster, which has been open since 1920. You can even take a ride on “The Whip,” one of the last remaining in the United States. This park is actually located in one of the smaller towns around Pittsburgh called West Mifflin. You will definitely want to have your GPS handy when looking for this park, it can get a little confusing if you go in blind. Although Kennywood does have yellow arrows marking the way, they can still be hard to spot for first time visitors. Bottom line: It is a lot better to have your GPS. As far as hotel accommodations go, there is another town about 8-10 miles out from West Mifflin called Monroeville. There are plenty of restaurants and hotels there. It is also close to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is the best road to take for the next destination.

Hersheypark's Fahrenheit

Taking a three-hour trip east on the turnpike will bring you the the sweetest place on earth, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hersheypark is a must-do for park lovers — there is so much to do here you might want to consider a two-day stay to experience it all. You've got the big-thrill rides such as “Great Bear” and “Fahrenheit,” just to name a couple. The park sports more than a dozen roller coasters, enough to fill any enthusiast with joy. Then you have dozens of family/flat rides to enjoy, for all ages. You also have one of the best water park areas in the country, sporting everything from the giant wave pool to fun kid-oriented splash zones. With the new “Laff Trakk” family coaster just opened, this might be a great incentive to visit Hershey Park in 2015. On top of all that, there are two more attractions close to Hershey Park. Right outside of the entrance gate, there is a place called Chocolate World, a chocolate lovers' paradise. There you can take a simulated tour through the chocolate factory to see how the chocolate is made. Also go through the whole process yourself, and make your very own, customized, chocolate bar. At extra charge, you can watch the 4D show, which is located right at the entrance of Chocolate World. I will also add the Chocolate World has free admission, and you pay for the things you want to do. The simulated factory tour is completely free though. The second attraction I mentioned earlier is Zoo America. This is free to visit with Hersheypark admission. There you can see all sorts of animals, ranging from prairie dogs to buffalo. There is a crossover within Hersheypark, so you do not have to drive to another location. With all this being said, I think you can see why it might be necessary to stay an extra day here. There's a ton of fun for all ages.

Knoebels' Impulse
Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

From the Hershey area, you can drive about one hour and 20 minutes north to Knoebels. I recommend staying in the Hershey area since it is such a small drive. Knoebels is a nice park — it has the classic old-time feel to it. It has free admission and parking. Opting to use the old ticket system, like a fair, you can also purchase all-day wristbands if you would like. It is really not like any other park experience in today's modern theme and amusement park culture. The stars of the show for coaster enthusiasts would be the “Phoenix” and “Twister” roller coasters. Two of the best woodies around, they definitely hold their own. Other than that, the park is filled with a ton of classic “fair style” rides such as the scrambler.

They also have quite a bit of newer rides added on over the years, like the drop ride “Stratosphere” and this year's new "Impulse." This park is located in the town of Elysburg. It is a bit of a drive on highways after getting off the interstate, so as I recommended with Kennywood, make sure to have your GPS handy. It will just make things a bit easier.

Now heading more to the east this time, again recommending to stay in the Hershey area: after about an hour's drive, you get to Allentown, which is home to Dorney Park. This is another park in the family of parks owned by Cedar Fair. Right as soon as you walk in, you will definitely feel the Cedar Fair vibe. Two must-do rides here at Dorney Park, especially for the coaster enthusiast, are “Steel Force” and “Talon.” Steel Force is an excellent hyper coaster, standing at 200 feet tall. It is definitely one of the more thrilling experiences at Dorney Park. Talon is a perfect example of a great inverted coaster. If you like other inverted coasters, you definitely have to check out Talon. There are a range of other rides at Dorney Park, too. From the soaking-wet “Thunder Canyon” white water ride to the wild “Demon Drop” ride, there is a ton to do. Including the great amusement park, you can also visit Wildwater Kingdom. This is a very nice water park. If you are wanting to check out both parks, you should definitely spend a full day. As said before, this is located in Allentown. You can see the park right from the interstate, so a GPS might not be completely necessary. Even so, it is always good to have your GPS while in an unfamiliar area.

El Toro and Kingda Ka

The last place on this trip is located in Jackson, New Jersey — Six Flags Great Adventure, an amusement park similar to Six Flags Magic Mountain. Great Adventure has so much for the coaster enthusiast. It has “Kingda Ka,” launching riders at 128 mph and shooting them 458 feet in the air. Then you have “El Toro,” a monstrous wooden coaster that some even say overshadows Kingda Ka, along with “Nitro,” a B&M hyper coaster that should not be missed. Among all these giants, there is also a lot for smaller kids to do as well. You have a completely Wiggles themed area for the smaller kids to get into, plus smaller coasters such as “The Dark Knight,” an indoor wild mouse coaster, and “Skull Mountain,” also an indoor smaller coaster. This is just a very nice park for people of all ages. This location is about 2-1/2 hours away from Hersheypark, so it might be a better option for some to get hotel accommodations closer to Great Adventure. Also, as stated before, having your GPS for this portion of the trip can really help you navigate through New Jersey.

This trip can work so well, especially for people living in the northeast and Midwest. I really hope some people could utilize this trip. It is just a lot of fun — even if you can only fit one of these attractions in, it can still be a blast.

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Replies (3)

June 29, 2015 at 9:23 AM · ... and if you want to stretch it to ten days, add a loop in Ohio and include Cedar Point and Kings Island. Dare I say, that might be overkill!
June 29, 2015 at 11:25 AM · Good article! As a Pennsylvanian, I sometimes feel that parks in this commonwealth - with the exception of Hershey - are given short shrift, especially Dorney. Dorney is really a delightful park and I happen to be a great fan of Talon. One of the nice features of this park is that there is usually a very short wait or no wait at all to ride any of the coasters. This is also pretty much true of Knoebels, where the only rides for which there was a wait on my recent visit were Flying Turns and Impulse. What a change from Hershey, which I adore but which is almost invariably a mob scene with daunting ride queues. Glad that you threw in Great Adventure despite its being in another state - as I consider that my home park. Back to PA - what about Waldameer? I haven't managed to get there yet but Ravine Flyer II is on my hot list.
July 1, 2015 at 12:44 PM · Thanks Bobbie for the comments :) I didn't throw in Waldameer because I was trying to keep the trip to a week. I thought that might be a little bit of a stretch. Waldameer is a fantastic park too, I just recently went there on my trip back in the beginning of June. Ravine Flyer II is all its cracked up to be. The ride is fantastic, and I actually like it better than Boulderdash. Which might sound like blasphemy, but its just my opinion. So if you get the chance, take a trip up there, it definitely worth it. Plus john, I agree, that would be a great idea if people have the time :)

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