Dorney Park Trip Report – June 3, 2016

After two Six Flags parks in two states in two days, (Day One: Six Flags America, Day Two: Six Flags Great Adventure) it was time for a change of pace and scenery. Day Three of my road trip took me to Dorney Park, a Cedar Fair park located in Allentown, PA.

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In the 1870’s, park founder and namesake Solomon Dorney converted his estate near Allentown to a public attraction that featured games, playground-style rides, refreshment stands, picnic groves, a hotel, and a restaurant. By 1884, several mechanical rides, along with a zoo and gardens had been added, officially branding Dorney Park as an amusement park. It is one of the oldest parks that is still operating in the United States today.

Despite a 132 year history, Dorney Park has only been owned by a handful of individuals/entities.  Solomon Dorney (1884-1901), the Allentown-Kutztown Traction Company  (1901-1923), The Plarr Family — Robert Plarr, and later his son Stephen (1923-1967), Robert Ott (1967-1985), Harris Weinstein (1985-1992) and Cedar Fair (1992-Present). It was the first park acquired by Cedar Fair after Cedar Point purchased Valleyfair in 1978 and formed Cedar Fair in 1987.

Though I didn’t actually visit the Dorney Park until Friday, my park experience began Thursday night. I was staying at the Holiday Inn Express across from the park, and had a great night time view of Talon, the park’s B&M invert, as well as several slides in Wildwater Kingdom, Dorney Park’s in-park water park.

After the previous two days’ park commutes of at least an hour, staying across the street was a welcome change. I arrived at the park about 15 minutes before Dorney Park opened, and with an “iffy at best” weather forecast, there were only two middle school field trip groups and a handful of other assorted park guests waiting to get in the park before gates opened.

Dorney Park definitely has a “classic park” feeling that I’ve never really experienced before. While Talon holds quite a large presence on the right side of the park entrance, the centerpiece of the park’s entrance plaza is a classic carousel. Turning left out of the park gate takes you past several flat rides, including an Enterprise and classic Whip.

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I headed in the direction of Steel Force, Dorney Park’s hyper coaster. One of only nine coasters built by the Morgan Company, and the first one I’d ever ridden, I had no idea what to expect. With virtually no wait, I grabbed a ride in the front row. In a word, Steel Force was awesome. Much better than what I was expecting it to be. The coaster’s simple out and back design provided a very smooth ride, and some great moments of airtime, especially on the camelback hills to finish the ride. The day was off to a great start!

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Adjacent to Steel Force was Dorney Park’s lone wooden coaster, Thunderhawk. An original Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters design, Thunderhawk has been in operating since 1924, making it the longest continuously operating PTC coaster in existence. It received a fresh coat of paint this past offseason along with all new PTC trains. Standing only 80 feet tall with a track length of nearly 2,800 feet, Thunderhawk appears relatively tame, but in reality, provides several very exciting moments and lateral forces.

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Walking along the back edge of the park, I came to Demon Drop, which was formerly located at Cedar Point. I had never ridden one of these Intamin drop rides, where riders go from vertical to horizontal on a track. The anticipation for the drop and the actual drop itself were both fairly entertaining. Not a terribly high fall, but a good thrill!

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Continuing my clockwise loop around the park, it was time for Dorney Park’s B&M Floorless Coaster, Hydra: The Revenge. One of the more unique coaster elements I’ve ever experienced was the slow zero-G roll out of the station prior to the lift hill, known as a “Jojo roll.” It was the first of seven inversions on Hydra, which provided quite the forceful ride experience.

After the dizzying inversions of Hydra, I needed a break for lunch. Unfortunately, Smokehouse, which came highly recommended from our friends at CPFoodBlog, was closed for the day. Enter Dorney Park’s GM Mike Fehnel, who suggested that I dine at Chickie & Petes, which was right around the corner from Hydra: The Revenge. Chickie & Petes is a Philadelphia-based chain sports bar with several locations at Cedar Fair parks as well.

I ordered the Boneless Wings with Chickie & Pete’s famous dry-rub as well as the Onion Ring Tower. (I was hungry, and wanted to rest for a while. Don’t judge me.) The wings had a great flavor, and were a huge serving. The onion rings had a great flavor as well. As a sports fan who appreciates theme parks, I wish that more parks would have full service sports bars inside the park gates. It was great to sit down, watch some ESPN, and recharge both my phone as well as my own batteries.

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Boneless wings digesting, I got in line for Talon, Dorney Park’s B&M Invert. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Talon’s ride experience was both smooth and well-paced. When I talked to Mike, he told me that he thought Talon was one of the more underrated B&M inverts out there, and I tend to agree with him. It’s four inversions were more than enough for me at that point, and I decided to walk around for a bit and take a break from riding coasters.

The next ride I rode wasn’t a coaster, but had some great thrills nonetheless. Originally opened in 1920, The Whip at Dorney Park is one of the oldest rides of its kind anywhere in the world. I had never visited a park with a classic Whip attraction, and was pleasantly surprised with how fun the ride actually was, being whipped around the corners. The one thing I would change about the ride would be a slightly longer ride time.

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From The Whip, I walked over to the Intamin Impulse Coaster, “Possessed.” The only other impulse coaster I’ve ever seen/tried to get on (unsuccessfully) was the nearly identical Wicked Twister at Cedar Point. Due to the restraint system, which utilizes a side belt compared to the centered belt found on many other over-the-shoudler-restraints on other inverted coasters, I was unable to fit on Possessed. However, since I remembered trying to ride Wicked Twister and failing, I tried the test seat out front this time, which meant I didn’t have to wait in line only to find out that I didn’t fit.

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I rode my first Vekoma Inverted Boomerang last year at Kings Island on Invertigo, and enjoyed it much more than a typical sit-down boomerang coaster. Dorney Park’s version, Stinger, opened at the park in 2012 after being relocated from California’s Great America, another Cedar Fair park. This makes it Dorney Park’s newest coaster. I grabbed a seat in the front row, facing forward. It was a pretty standard boomerang experience. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to prepare myself for the “front-flip” feeling that comes with taking a loop in reverse.

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Located in a corner of the park near Stinger were Dorney Park’s Flying Scooters, the Cedar Creek Flyers. Despite seeing these in several parks around the country in the past several years, I’ve never actually ridden on a Flying Scooters attraction. With no line for the Cedar Creek Flyers, I knew it was time for my first ride. It actually took two rides, but I figured out the direction the wind was blowing, combined with the rotation of the ride and maneuvering of the “fin” on the scooter, which resulted in quite the wild ride. I think I can say that Flying Scooters are now my favorite type of flat ride.

While at the park, I was able to catch up for a few minutes with Mike Fehnel, who returned to Dorney Park as General Manager this past offseason after a brief time in the same role at Carowinds. We talked about a number of different topics, from the parks I had visited on my current trip and my opinions on the Joker and Kingda Ka, to his thoughts on Valravn, to how his son finally hit the 48” mark and could get on El Toro and Millennium Force for the first time. In talking to Mike, his passion for not only Dorney Park, but the amusement industry as a whole really was evident. I miss having him at Carowinds, and Dorney Park is very lucky to have him.

I had a long drive south ahead of me, but I caught the park’s Wild Mouse finally running after being down most of the day. Got a quick ride on the Wild Mouse, and left Dorney Park around 5:00pm.

A park like Dorney was a new experience to me, because rather than abandon its classic roots in favor of more modern rides, Dorney Park has embraced those roots and found the delicate balance between classic and modern amusement park. If you’re ever in the Allentown area, I highly recommend taking a stop at Dorney Park.

Dorney Park Coasters, Ranked

  1. Steel Phantom
  2. Talon
  3. Thunderhawk
  4. Hydra: The Revenge
  5. Stinger
  6. Wild Mouse

NR: Possessed

NR: Woodstock Express

For more information on Dorney Park, be sure to visit the park’s website. http://www.dorneypark.com 

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