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Trip Advice - top parks in the Penn/Va area to visit

Making a trip to Penn/Va this summer and I am going to hit 4 parks, but I do not know which 4 to hit. Advice?

From Brad Jackson
Posted January 23, 2011 at 7:10 PM
I am making a large amusement park trip this summer and I am trying to figure out which parks I should visit. The good news is that the area of my trip has already been determined so I am somewhat limited on what locations I can go to.

I am visiting the Penn/Va area this summer for a week and I will have time to hit 4 parks, but I cannot decide which 4. I have been to KD and BGW in the early/mid 90's but I have not been there since(so I know a lot has changed). I will also have a friend with me that has never been to any of these parks. While we are both coaster junkies, I do enjoy a good clean and enjoyable park as well.

We are looking at these 4 parks:
1. HersheyPark
2. Dorney Park
3. KD
4. BGW

However, I am thinking about swapping out DP with SFGA due to the list of coasters there. Can I get anyone's opinion on this and what about SFA? I know BGW does not have the ride list of soem other parks but it is a top notch park for other reasons which is why it is a must visit.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From James Rao
Posted January 23, 2011 at 8:09 PM
There's no doubt SFGA has some awesome coasters, but you're getting plenty of coasters in HP, KD, and BGW. I'd skip Dorney and SFGA and go to Knoebels... support the little guy.

From Carrie Hood
Posted January 23, 2011 at 11:35 PM
Since you seem to be staying on the Philadelphia side of the state I'd say hit Knoebels! It's a small park that has some simply AMAZING classic rides, it's also the same park that's rebuilding a classic 'Flying Turns' coaster.

SFGA is great for coaster rides just be aware that something is always broken over there. So you may want to call ahead and see what's on break down that day. Also be aware of the outrageous parking fees, Someplace between $10-15. It could be more now, it's been a few years since I've gone up there.

Hershey park is also a lot of fun, depending on when you go keep your eyes open for the after 5pm deal. If you go in after 5pm you can get the next day for free. They ran it last year and the year before so I'm fairly sure it'll return again this year.

I haven't been out to Dorney Park since they took out Hercules (Hurt-me-please) so I can't really give much input there but it was a lot of fun even back then.

If you come more out towards Pittsburgh I'd also suggest Idlewild and Kennywood park.

From Colton McLaughlin
Posted January 24, 2011 at 8:33 AM
Skip Kings Dominion. I went there once and the lines were three hours per ride, most of the rides weren't running until about three in the afternoon and one ride broke down while going up the lift hill and the ride was closed for the rest of the day, with the people still on the ride for about an hour. It's an all right park if it isn't crowded; the coasters are pretty good when running, but it is nothing compared BGW or Hershey.

SFGA is a great park too; El Toro is my favorite roller coaster and it is better than DP, but the rides at DP aren't that bad either. I'd go to SFGA over Dorney Park any day.

I agree; Knoebels is definitely worth a trip. They have great food, great rides, and a phenomenal haunted house. Also, there will be one (if we're lucky, two) new ride(s)that definitely seem worth a visit.

From Tom Rigg
Posted January 25, 2011 at 4:05 AM
I don't know if you want to go all the way out to Altoona, PA, but Lakemont Park has the world's oldest, still operating, roller coaster. Also, KD has gotten a lot better since Cedar Fair took it over. The Rebel Yell is the coaster that the American Coaster Enthusiast group was thought up on. Its a classic out and back. However, BGW is my absolute favorite non Disney Park. The theming and atmosphere are phenomenal and the coasters are great. Loch Ness monster is the first and only still existing interlocking loop coaster. Alpengheist made several top 10 coaster lists the several years after it opened. And I have yet to find a coaster that equals the excietment of Apollo's Chariot.

From M Prell
Posted January 25, 2011 at 6:56 AM
Hershey is fantastic...don't miss that. I went to KD last summer, and all of the coasters were working all day. Volcano blast is worth the price of admission and worth the wait! KD is still not as good as Hershey or BGW, but it has gotten much better in the past few years. Skip SFA. Worse park I've ever been to. The "good" coasters are rough and tend to induce pain. Believe me, I'm a coaster addict, and it's hard to get me to "hate" a coaster. There seems to be a lack of upkeep on those SFA coasters, and the park itself is run-down and filthy.

From Martha Moyers
Posted January 25, 2011 at 7:59 AM
I would definitely go to Dorney Park rather than SFGA. I wanted to go to SFGA because of the great coasters and a friend went and said the park was dirty and the employees were surly and unhelpful; park was overrun with ghetto thug kids from DC. They jump lines and push people around and no one on the staff does anything. She was kind of scared the whole time she was there! KD has great coasters and even though it's not as nice as BGW and Hershey, it is a great park especially if you go on a weekday when it's not as crowded. Haven't ridden Dominator and Intimidator there but my daughter said they were awesome, if you sit in the back on Intimidator, you sort of black out!! If you go in the summer, you get the waterpark inside KD for the same admission price. My favorite park is Busch Gardens. Not as many rides but the ones they have are great and the park is clean, well maintained with helpful staff. They should have the new 300 foot drop tower ready in May or June!

From Anthony Murphy
Posted January 25, 2011 at 9:10 AM
Hershey Park is a must due to the chocolate! Its a pretty cool place!

As for SFGA, I believe it is considered the best SF park in the chain.

From Tom Rigg
Posted January 25, 2011 at 10:12 AM
SFGA may be what SF regards as its best park, but it is not in my eyes, and of the parks in the PA/VA area, it is the worst, well both the NJ and MD SF parks are not very good. BTW the SF park that I have found to be the best, granted I haven't been to all of them, was Six Flags Fiesta Texas, just outside of San Antonio

From Mark Migliaccio
Posted January 25, 2011 at 10:53 AM
Martha, you might be getting SFGA confused with SFA. SFA is right outside DC in Maryland and fits your description better.

BGW is my home park, and I love it. KD is really good now that Cedar Fair is in charge. The new Intimidator ride is good. They're changing some of the track this year too. I think BGW, KD, and Hershey should definitely be in your must visit for this area.

From Martha Moyers
Posted January 25, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Yeah, I think you're right I guess SFA is the one in New Jersey and I haven't been there but hear it is pretty good. I don't think I've ever heard anything good about SFGA. I think SFA would be worth going to but not SFGA. Sorry I had them confused!

From Jeff Elliott
Posted January 25, 2011 at 2:19 PM
Of the parks that you listed, they are all good parks and you will have a great time at all of them (including Kings Dominion, was there last summer and had one of the best days at a park ever). From your original list, the only one that I would be willing to give up is BGW in order to get SFGAdv on to the list, but it depends on what type of rides you want and the atmosphere of the park...that and BGW is really expensive for a park with so few roller coasters.

But...

You are overlooking a couple of really good parks in the area.

- Waldameer (Erie, Pennsylvania USA)
- Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort (Elysburg, Pennsylvania USA)
- Kennywood (West Mifflin, Pennsylvania USA)

From Tony Duda
Posted January 25, 2011 at 2:39 PM
Remember, at Great Adventure, you get Wild Safari drive-through included with park admission. It is a great wild animal attraction. Just get there at Safari opening time so that you save most of the day for Great Adventure.

From Will Chilcote
Posted January 25, 2011 at 4:10 PM
I would add Kennywood and SFGA. I would agree with others that kings Dominion is overrated.

From Market Research
Posted January 26, 2011 at 4:09 AM
As a matter of fact, I just visited all of these parks last October. I enjoyed every one, so you can't go too wrong. Here are some of my reactions, with particular attention paid to the unique attractions at each park.

BGW is the most atmospheric and beautiful park. Curse of Darkastle and Griffon are the only rides of their type in that part of the country. Alpengeist is one of the best inverted roller coasters around. Apollo's Chariot has been oft-imitated now, but it's still lots of fun. Loch Ness Monster is a little older and not as thrilling, but the interlocking loops are cool. Escape from Pompeii wasn't running when I visited, but I've heard it's a cut above the usual water rides. Europe in the Air wasn't one of the best motion simulator rides I've seen, but still worth a flight. They had a good range of shows, highlighted by Monster Stomp, which I presume will be replaced by a less horrorific version now.

Hersheypark is a notch below BGW in terms of theming, but it's still a lovely place and just a parking lot away from free chocolate samples. Storm Runner, Fahrenheit, and Lightning Racer are all distinctive roller coasters well worth the trip. Even their second tier coasters are pretty solid. As I recall, I saw one dolphin show, and one "Pop Music Through the Years" kind of show, both fun. The park also includes admission to a small zoo which was a nice change of pace.

Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey is not well themed overall, but they do have the nice wild animals area, and some of the best roller coasters in the country. El Toro is one of the wooden roller coasters they have in heaven. Kingda Ka is the fastest roller coaster in the U.S., and my flapping cheeks agreed. Nitro is another roller coaster like Apollo's Chariot, but just a little better in my opinion. Plus, there's more traditional stuff like Bizarro and Batman, but those are still solid rides.

Kings Dominion is another fairly ordinary park theme-wise, but it has a number of memorable rides. Intimidator 305 is a beast, but quite thrilling if you're up for it. The Volcano coaster is probably the only inverted roller coaster more distinctive than Alpengeist. I'd recommend a dark ride through Flight of Fear, especially if you haven't ridden its brother at Kings Island. As with SFGAdv, there are a host of more ordinary roller coasters, some still well worth a ride. During Halloween this place was actually a blast just to walk through, but I don't know what it's like normally.

Dorney Park and Six Flags America are not at the level of the above parks. Both have good moments, but no "can't miss" attractions (although the comically low speed barrel roll on Hydra at DP and a night-time ride on Superman: Ride of Steel at SFA both brought a smile to my face).

Knoebels, Kennywood, and Waldameer Park are not big corporate parks. In fact, they feel more like actual parks, the kind of place you'd go for a picnic. I enjoyed them all, but I ended up only spending two or three hours at each.

Knoebels has a couple nice wooden roller coasters (especially Phoenix which has no seatbelts!), and apparently more are coming. The haunted house and carousel were fun, but don't expect Disneyland. You can also ride a lift up the side of the hills or take a little train ride for a scenic trip through the trees. For me, Knoebels was a nice stop on my drive through Pennsylvania because I could walk in for free and just ride the rides I was interested in, but not being a fan of carnival-type rides, this wasn't a top favorite for me.

You can also just walk right into Waldameer Park, but that one is so small I can't imagine it would be worth it for you to drive all that way. That said, riding Ravine Flyer II at night under a full moon with a pumped-up crowd was possibly my favorite roller coaster experience ever.

Kennywood has more roller coasters than the above two, but it's still a relatively modest sized park. My favorite is undoubtedly Phantom's Revenge, but Sky Rocket's not bad for such a small coaster. And though Wild Mouse style rides aren't my favoride, Exterminator was probably the best one I've seen. Those plus classic old woodies and oddball rides like Noah's Ark make the park worth the full admission (look for discounts online), but still, it's probably too much of a drive all the way to Pittsburgh.

That was probably more info than you wanted, but when else am I going to share all this knowledge that I spent weeks acquiring?

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