It has been a long, strange year, one that for me has seen a five-month quarantine from an activity I hold dear - visiting theme parks. It’s an activity that might never be the same as it once was, and certainly will continue to be a very different experience for the foreseeable future. Even the theme park industry itself might be forever changed by a microscopic contagion that all the knowledge and tenacity of mankind cannot tame.
However, amidst the changing landscape, Hersheypark is debuting a world-class roller coaster and a spacious and sparkling new entrance for guests beginning on July 3, 2020. I was invited to visit the park as part of their season passholder preview days on behalf of Theme Park Insider, and the opinions presented below are my own.
I doubt Hersheypark could have predicted the impact of the coronavirus when they announced their 2020 park additions last year, but the reconfiguration of the park entrance could not have been more prescient.
The open and spacious promenade is precisely what was needed to allow park operations to establish multiple perimeters for temperature checks, security, and ticketing. While the park is still putting some finishing touches on the entry plaza, it’s clearly a dramatic improvement over the narrow, tight, and winding entryway that existed previously. The trees and charm may be replaced with a more corporatized entryway reminiscent of recently remodeled Cedar Fair parks, but I highly doubt Hersheypark could have even opened to guests today without this renovation.
After guests clear the gate, they are greeted by the impetus for the entry’s renovation, Candymonium. Yeah, the name is still dorky and corny, but that’s kind of the style of Hersheypark. However, there’s nothing dorky or corny about this 210-foot tall, 4,636-foot long hypercoaster from Bolliger and Mabillard. The chocolate brown track with silver foil-colored supports aren’t the only thing Candymonium has in common with Hershey’s flagship product. The coaster’s three trains (Orange for Reese’s, Blue for Kisses, and Red for Twizzlers) ride over seven airtime hills featuring B&M’s trademarked smoothness, with sweet transitions between elements for an overall sumptuous experience.
The trains feature 4-across seating in 7 rows, instead of the staggered seating found on some B&M hypercoasters like Intimidator at Carowinds and Diamondback at Kings Island. This is the same configuration as Mako, which is the closest comparable coaster to Candymonium.
However, B&M and Hersheypark found a way to improve Mako’s few flaws in their latest creation. The biggest improvement is to maximize airtime across the entire ride. Instead of making a 90-degree left turn at the top of the second hill like Mako, Candymonium has a mammoth straight camelback hill that generates over four seconds of out-of-your-seat euphoria before making its 123-degree banked hammerhead curve that brings the train back towards the station. On the return trip, riders are greeted with two more airtime hills that induce both ejector and floating air.
The train then negotiates a 270-degree upward twisting helix before coming to what I think is the most unique element, a straight-banked airtime hill. Normally, coasters use banking in turns to keep the positive G-forces perpendicular to the apex of the turn. However, this element is banked on a piece of track that is straight, which confuses your body into anticipating a turn, only to reach the apex of a hill, creating a strange enhanced sensation of airtime on what would normally be a benign bunny hill.
The course finishes with a full helix before a final turn into the station. That final helix will eventually be around what will be a new icon for the park, the Kisses Fountain, but unfortunately, work is not quite complete on this new element.
Now, Candymonium is not without some flaws. There is a very strong magnetic trim brake that slows the train just before the first hill after the hammerhead. The scrubbing of speed also probably contributes to the lack of positive G’s on the upward twisting helix and the final helix around the Kisses Fountain. However, those are fairly minor quibbles for a coaster layout that has so much going for it. Another minor concern is the current layout of the queue, which is primarily housed beneath the station. This enclosed space has a number of switchbacks before guests walk up two flights of stairs to the load platform, and some guests might not feel comfortable being enclosed given the current virus concerns. I never spent any time in this space during the media event, so I cannot comment on the airflow or overall atmosphere in this area when filled with guests waiting to ride. I’m sure when Candymonium was designed, the idea was to give guests a cool and comfortable place to wait before riding, but given the dangers of the coronavirus, I would personally feel safer waiting in an outdoor queue.
Those minor drawbacks aside, Candymonium might finally be the first truly world-class coaster for Hersheypark. I’ve always felt that the Pennsylvania park had a solid selection of varying coaster styles, but not a single one of the park’s 13 (now 14) roller coasters is among the best of its type or singularly worth a trip to experience. However, Candymonium is definitely among the best hypercoasters I’ve ever ridden.
Maybe it’s my five-month layoff from experiencing a roller coaster, but Candymonium was pure exhilaration that energized me to the core. Even if you think Mako, Apollo’s Chariot, or Nitro are better, you’ll agree that Candymonium is a top-shelf coaster that should rise quickly to the top of many coaster fan ratings and certainly will be a sweet way to start and end your day at Hersheypark.
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