A Night at Hershey Park

Keeping our fingers crossed for no rain, we drove an hour and a half northwestward to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for discounted evening tickets to the theme park. After 5 p.m. patrons can buy “sunset tickets” (i.e., half price) and still have a good five hours of roller coaster riding. There ended up being little bits of rain, but nothing that made us pack up and leave.

Milton Hershey Hershey World of Chocolate Jackson and Reeses

The first thing we did was go into Hershey’s World of Chocolate, and the second thing we did was leave Hershey’s World of Chocolate. Expensive, overpriced activities and long lines weren’t worth it. Yes, we forewent spending $22 to “Make your own chocolate bar.” I considered very briefly that I’d pay for both boys to make their own chocolate bar, but when I was told that I couldn’t accompany them in the assembly line (for picture-taking, for keeping an eye on my children) without paying my own $22, even if I didn’t make a chocolate bar, I said, “Nope!” and off we went to the rides.

The rest of the experience was worthwhile. The lines weren’t long, the brief bit of rain cooled everyone off, and both boys were stoked to ride everything they could. In the photo below, Jeremy and Jackson are in the front seats and Chuck is in the second. Arms up!

First two rows

Chuck is done with roller coasters

Mom and I took it easy on the ferris wheel and other slower-paced rides that allowed us to take an obscene amount of photos from above.

Me and Mom at Hershey Park

Ferris Wheel from below On the swings

This is Chuck making fun of our picture-taking. Sheesh! Tourists.

Chuck making fun

Hershey Park is a unique combination of theme park and water park. We didn’t do the water park bit since it closes at 8 p.m., but that’s the part that makes sense for being there all day. Ride a few things, go to the water park area, go back to the coasters, etc. Paying $60+ for full day tickets seem worth it for two-parks-in-one.

Over Hershey Park

Okay, let’s take a moment to observe Fahrenheit, a ride that starts with a significant vertical drop. Jeremy and Chuck rode it first, then Chuck dropped out of that nonsense and Jackson joined in. The boys rode it several times like crazy people.


Fahrenheit from above

Yeah, I didn’t ride that one, but I loved seeing the boys’ enthusiasm for roller coasters. More so, I loved that they rode them together.

The only roller coasters I enjoy are the old-school up-and-down wooden rails, none of this upside-down, curly-fry stuff. Which is why there was no way I was going to ride Storm Runner. It had an insane take-off. They are in the fourth row:

For a stellar point of view of this ride (from someone else), here it is in full:

The best photos I took at Hershey Park are of Jeremy and Jackson on Wildcat. I snuck in the queue (which was empty) and positioned myself to see them on a downturn. They are in the front row. Priceless.

Boys in the front seat

Best photo on the roller coaster

Before the park closed at 10 p.m. we enjoyed deep-fried funnel cake smothered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup, Reese’s cups, and God knows what else. I ate two fried Oreos entirely on my own. At the end of the night we were exhausted with sore feet and stiff backs, but the sunset tickets were absolutely worth it.

Swings at night

Roller Coaster Rider

Before Saturday morning, the only roller coaster I had ever been on was the piddly one at Lake Winnie in North Georgia. Most enthusiasts would hardly call it a coaster, but to me, it was more thrill than I could handle and that was well more than a decade ago.

When we purchased Dollywood season passes this spring, I never intended to ride the roller coasters. I mean, why would I? They were above my risk level, the boys couldn’t ride them anyway, and I like keeping my food down. (Also, I bungee jumped 10 years ago and wound up with the worst migraine I’ve ever had.) Resigned to my “Safety First” mentality, the first time we visited the park, the boys and I sat out while Chuck rode a few on his own. It didn’t bother me one bit to watch with both feet on the ground.

However, Chuck and I had Saturday morning to ourselves, and as season pass holders, we could get into the park an hour early. With my game face on, we woke up with the sun and got to Dollywood at 8:30 a.m. with the explicit purpose of putting these old bones on a roller coaster.

Or three.

Nervous knots do not even begin to explain the physical state I was in. I warned Chuck about potentially explosive diarrhea, or maybe I’d only make it through one ride and decide to sit out the rest. There were no promises. My stomach churned with anxiety. Upon seeing the parking lots signs for Dollywood, my arms and legs trembled. I began a series of nervous yawns and my teeth chattered.  Good Lord, why did I agree to this? 

Chuck made sure to point out all the little happy children running to the roller coasters with such enthusiasm, and here was I being so silly. Yes, well lots of people run to their eminent death when they are totally and utterly clueless. 

The first ride was the Mystery Mine. I climbed the staircase at a snail’s pace, but it was to no avail – there was no line, no one waiting before us. We sat in front, I was strapped in, I lowered my head, closed my eyes, and quietly weeped inside. This is nuts. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… 

The Mystery Mine spins you every which way in all directions, including upside down with two vertical drops. The first time was miserable, I won’t lie. I saw nothing and made no sound. Sweat poured from my hands as I gripped the metal harness for dear life. For some insane reason, I was talked into riding it again. The second time I peeped an eye open twice and squealed. The third time I kept my eyes open about a quarter of the time and screamed throughout most of the ride. The fourth time I kept my eyes open about 75 percent of the time – including when we went upside down. I screamed until I couldn’t scream anymore.

The Thunderhead wasn’t nearly as scary (despite the 100-foot drop), but I also kept my eyes closed through the entire first ride on the off-chance the coaster rolled off its track or the wooden beams broke at the bend. (You never know!) By the fourth time on the Thunderhead, I was wide-eyed and screaming with excitement. Again, there were no lines and virtually no waiting, so we’d have a turn and run back to the gate to go again.

After eight runs, we rode once on the Tennessee Tornado, which is a looping, spinning, 70 mph thrill that left both of us wanting to hurl. It was a 30-second ride with five loops or something ridiculous like that. When it ended, we wobbled down the stairs and agreed we were finished.

I give myself three stars – one for guts, one for determination, and one for not having explosive diarrhea. Thank you, Chuck, for making me go. Sorry for digging my fingernails into your bones.