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.
No offense to those who enjoy the rampant saminess of pretty much every B&M built in the last 10 years but I have zero doubt that SkyRush will, despite the bad restraints, continue to be the vastly superior coaster of the two. I'll take the innovation and uniqueness of Intamin over the been-there-done-that of recent history B&M ANY day
Give me the airtime, smoothness and reliability of a B&M hyper any day. Just thinking back to a time that seems so far off in the distance now, my rides on Mako
Nitro & Apollo melt my heart. The str8 banked airtime hill does look like a nice addition. Thanks for the review, it'll hold me over until my trip in two weeks.
Interestingly, I've been hearing from more well-traveled enthusiasts that Candymonium is on the weaker end of the spectrum for B&M hypers. That said, even a below average ride of this type would be top three in any park out there, and at Hersheypark it's definitely got a shot at the top spot. My plans to ride this one this summer fell through, but virus pending I'm definitely planning to get back out to Pennsylvania next summer and check it out then.
Woaahhhhhh.... I'm scared of that. but it looks awesome!!
Not sure what to say... because just, naked coasters do not interest me at all :-)
Good, comprehensive review. This looks interesting although being somewhat jaded when it comes to B&M hypers, I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to ride it except at a media event. (Love their gigas; on a typical visit to Canada's Wonderland I ride Leviathan a dozen times & Behemoth only once and the same applies to Fury 325 & Intimidator at Carowinds.) That being said, Candymonium is a breath of fresh air (pun intended) for Hersheypark. While it undoubtedly lacks the intensity of Skyrush, it's almost certainly far more user friendly and provides a totally different ride experience. As for Skyrush, I do think that it would be a world class coaster were it not for the lamentable restraints, as the layout is truly ingenious with angles which are totally insane. After 8 years, however, the park is not going to enlist Intamin to fix the problem. So during my next visit to Hershey I will ride Candymonium and most likely skip Skyrush, which beat the heck out of me on my last visit. NO PAIN, NO GAIN does not apply to roller coasters!
I'm totally with you Bobby. I do really like Skyrush's layout and intensity, but when combined with those thigh-crushing lap bars, it's far too painful to recommend. It had actually been nearly 5 years since I last rode it before I took a couple spins on it yesterday, and I had completely forgotten how intense the twisting layout is. I stupidly careened down the first drop sitting in the back row far left seat with my hands straight up, like I would on Intimidator 305, and Newton's First Law of Motion tried to separate my upper body from my lower body giving me an unnecessary chiropractic adjustment. My 10-year old son, who just crossed the 54" barrier this spring and was riding all of Hershey's coasters for the first time, was giggling for most of the ride from his position on the far right seat of the back row. That was until we got near the end of the ride when he started saying "Ow!" because of the restraint ratcheting down on his legs, quickly understanding why the coaster has picked up the moniker of "Thigh Crush". He did say that he liked the coaster, but said he would never ride it multiple times in a row, and when ranking all of the coasters at Hersheypark (all of which he was riding for the very first time), he had Skyrush below Candymonium and Fahrenheit (and probably would have had it below Storm Runner too had the launching coaster been operating - it reportedly has an engine problem that will likely see it closed for the entirety of the 2020 season).
As far as the B&M hypers versus gigas, I try to treat them as two different coaster styles, because while they do appear similar with similar trains and a few shared maneuvers, B&M hypers have always been about maximizing airtime, while the gigas have been about emphasizing speed. I do think Nitro and Apollo's Chariot try to do both, which is why they're among my favorites of the style, but those were designed and built before B&M crossed the 300-foot barrier. That's why I think Orion might not be that great, because Kings Island's new giga doesn't appear to take advantage of the speed generated from its 300+ foot hill, and looks more like an over-sized hypercoaster.
The first half of this I thought... "Did they make a Mako clone??" Then it changed up a little. Looks slightly less fun than Mako but still looks like a lot of fun and like you get a lot of floater airtime.
@Russell. You nailed it. Going down the 1st drop on Skyrush hands in the air - I've done this - is not to be recommended, and the final hill is an absolute killer. Yet people continue to ride it, although on my last visit to Hershey the wait time was zero minutes. I actually survived 11 rides on Skyrush during a photo shoot for Travel Channel (wrote a piece about it for TPI) and don't know how I managed it; couldn't do it now. In any case, I look forward to riding Candymonium at such time as I'm sufficiently recovered from my hip fracture. As to B&M hypers vs. gigas, I enjoy both the height and the blazing speed of gigas plus the fact that the ones I've ridden operate without a mid course brake run.
Guess i'm lucky i've never experienced the "thigh crush" sensation on Skyrush, maybe i'm the perfect height to not have that issue. The only issue I have with that ride is the station and load/unload process.
Anyway despite having probably the worst name for a coaster ever this looks like a great addition. I can understand they wanted a "marquee" kind of coaster to have at the front of the park like Gatekeeper and having a smooth, high capacity, and photogenic B&M seems to fit the bill quite well.
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Definite similarities to Mako at SWO and Candymonium here. Nice additions for Hershey Park!