Dorney Park Initial Reactions from Two First-Timers
Two members of the Coaster101 team recently met up at Dorney Park — the first time either of them had visited the park.
They spent a day riding (almost all of) the park’s seven coasters and some of its most popular attractions.
Kyle (front) and John (back) on Woodstock Express
Keep reading for our initial reflections on the day.
What are your quick thoughts on these Dorney Park coasters?
John: I followed Hydra’s construction closely from when its predecessor (Hercules) closed all the way through opening day. Its unconventional layout always intrigued me. From the “jojo roll” inversion immediately after the station, to the airtime hills, to the quirky cobra roll — nothing about this floorless coaster is typical. And thankfully, the ride was just incredible.
It was smooth and fast-paced. Although the layout was so unique, these elements weren’t thrown in just to be “different.” I could tell this was a masterfully designed B&M coaster. Every twist, turn and element seemed intentional. And it worked so well.
Kyle: Like John, Hydra has always been one of those coasters I’d seen photos of and really wanted to ride. Sometimes when you build a coaster up it can let you down once you finally get on it. Hydra did not disappoint. I loved the irregular layout and how the ride used the park’s terrain to add to the experience. Oh, and the jojo roll start to the ride is just pure fun!
John: Steel Force was my first Morgan hyper coaster, and I really enjoyed it. It may not be a groundbreaking coaster, and it won’t rank among my favorites — but I enjoyed it from start to finish.
The airtime was plentiful, and the helix turnaround element was surprisingly intense. It was smooth, well-paced and offered a spectacular view of the park.
Also, I love the coaster’s logo, even though it was originally meant for Mantis (now Rougarou) at Cedar Point when the coaster was initially planned to be named Banshee.
Kyle: I had an odd fascination with DH Morgan Manufacturing when I was a kid (I think because I remember recording a Discovery Channel documentary on them onto VHS and watching it dozens of times). So to finally get on one of their original roller coasters was a bucket list check for me.
I really didn’t know what to expect going in; I thought the ride may be similar to Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Steel Force is super smooth and the abundant airtime wasn’t painful. The drop is great, the huge helix in the middle of the ride is intense, and the bunny hops back to the station were shear coaster perfection. Tip: front row had the best airtime.
John: Talon was my favorite coaster at Dorney Park. The layout may not have been the most unique, but it was smooth, fast-paced and packed four surprisingly intense inversions.
Like Kyle, I think it has one of the best color schemes I’ve ever seen in person.
Kyle: B&M inverts are among some of my favorite coasters and Talon ranks up there in the top five for sure. Like the other major coasters at Dorney, it was glass smooth.
The layout felt very similar to Afterburn at Carowinds, but with more of a low-to-the-ground section at the end which sets it apart. It also has one of the best color schemes out there!
John: Thunderhawk was an unexpected hit of the trip. For a coaster that will celebrate its 100th birthday next year, it has one of the most bizarre, unusual layouts for a wooden coaster.
Dare I say it featured elements that I might compare to something Rocky Mountain Construction would have designed in its early days? That might be a stretch, but I found myself saying “what was that” throughout the coaster’s unusual layout.
Kyle: Even though I absolutely love old wooden coasters, Thunderhawk wasn’t really on my radar going into our visit. I didn’t realize how old it actually was (will turn 100 next year)! The park has done an immaculate job of keeping this woodie in tip-top condition and it pleasantly surprised me. The layout is different than anything else of a similar style—it’s almost half “out and back” and half “twister.” The transitions were great and had a good amount of airtime!
How would you rank the park’s four biggest coasters that we rode?
Note: Possessed was closed all day, Wild Mouse didn’t open until after Kyle left and Woodstock Express is, well, a kid’s coaster.
- Steel Force
- Steel Force
Even though we didn’t rank it, we both took a shameless ride on the Woodstock Express coaster.
We had to get the credit!
What were your initial impressions when you entered the park?
John: The park was similar to that of other Cedar Fair parks I’ve visited. It was colorful with your standard slew of gift shops and restaurants. I loved that Talon was towering overhead, enticing me like candy in a candy store. Everything was well-kept from the landscape to the paint on the buildings.
Kyle: Like John mentioned, the park was very well kept and brightly colored. I really liked the small park feel even though we were at a Cedar Fair park. When you walk in, you can see the back of the park at the end of the midway and the whole thing isn’t too intimidating to take on in a few hours.
What was the surprise hit of the trip?
John: I purposely visited the park without doing a ton of research beforehand. I was most excited to ride Hydra as I followed its construction so closely. But Talon ended up being my favorite coaster at the park.
While it wasn’t a roller coaster, I had no idea the park had a miniature Zephyr-inspired train ride.
It took a very scenic ride along the park’s creek.
Kyle: I’m going to go back and reiterate my love of Steel Force. Again I really didn’t know what to expect from it; I thought it may end up being a dud with slow elements and a boring turnaround section. It was the exact opposite!
What was your least favorite ride of the trip?
John: Unsurprisingly, the first-generation Intamin drop tower, Demon Drop, was my least favorite — and I wasn’t surprised.
However, I was glad I could ride one of the last of its kind. While the concept was exciting (I very much enjoyed the ascent to the top of the tower), everything after the drop was pretty jarring.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of the park’s Wild Mouse coaster, but I’m not a fan of the model in general. It’s still a nice option for families.
Kyle: I second what John said. While the novelty of getting on one of these drop towers was worth it in itself, the actual ride was very awkward. The transition from laying on your back to right-side-up at the end of the ride is quite rough.
What is Dorney Park missing?
John: More than anything else, I think Dorney Park needs a modern wooden coaster. Whether it’s a Great Coasters International (GCI) twister or a family-friendly Gravity Group coaster, I think the park would benefit from having a new wooden coaster to complement the historic Thunderhawk. The park could also use a dark ride. While our day was mostly overcast with comfortable temps, I’m sure a dark ride would offer a welcome reprieve on hot summer days.
Kyle: I’m always a fan of a Mystic Timbers type coaster going in or a dark ride, but I also think a small RMC raptor would fit really well and round out their coaster lineup!
How does Dorney Park compare to other Cedar Fair parks?
John: I haven’t been to any of the other “smaller” Cedar Fair parks (Worlds of Fun, Valleyfair or Michigan’s Adventure), so I don’t think comparing it to Kings Island, Kings Dominion or Cedar Point would be a fair comparison. Having not received a “new” coaster since Hydra in 2005, I think the park is very deserving of something new and unique to the park. This area of the country offers a number of larger parks within a few hours’ drive, I’m surprised that Cedar Fair hasn’t invested more in the park. Perhaps it’s time in the spotlight is coming.
Kyle: I think Dorney park fits in right between Michigan’s Adventure and Kings Island. While it isn’t as large as Kings Island, the coasters are overall better than its sister park in Michigan. With a few small additions, Dorney really could be a destination park.
Any parting thoughts on Dorney Park?
John: I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the park. The iffy weather forecast kept crowds low, which allowed for walk-ons on just about all of the major attractions, especially later in the day.
I do wish Possessed had been open as I really enjoy Intamin impulse coasters, but I was thankful that just about all of the other major attractions were in operation.
At least we could still enjoy its very intimidating logo.
In general, employees were friendly and operations were efficient. I don’t think I’ll go rushing back anytime soon, but a new coaster might change that.
Kyle: Whenever you visit a new-to-you park there’s always a chance that it won’t measure up to your expectations or that a ride will be too rough and unmaintained. Dorney park didn’t disappoint.
All of their major coasters were very well taken care of and if the weather would have cooperated I would have had multiple re-rides all day long.
Hear more of John and Kyle’s thoughts on Dorney Park in this episode of the Coaster101 Podcast.
Have you visited Dorney Park? Share your thoughts about the park in the comments section below.