The Leperi crew embarks on that quintessential American way-of-life and summer ritual: the Great American Road trip. The only thing that is different this time is that we have planned our travels exclusively within the state of Pennsylvania. With over 6058 square miles of geography in the “Quaker” or “Key” state, we’re not likely to run out of things to do.
Our itinerary is both mouth-watering (Chocolate!) and stomach unsettling (Roller Coasters!) at the same time. While our first destination is that great American chocolate town Hershey, Pennsylvania, our family of three — Mom, Karson (14), and Kosette (13) — intend to sample regional specialties while experiencing the thrills, and gravity-defying feats of Pennsylvania’s legendary roller coasters.
With only four days to accomplish the impossible, we settle on a road itinerary that focuses on three amusement parks: Hershey Park, Knoebels, and Dorney Park.
The year 2006 marked the opening of Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge, the first interactive dark ride to pit car against car. However, everyone is a winner at the end, with sweet treats for all.
This event has been planned as a preamble to gearing up for Hershey's 100th anniversary celebration in 2007, a celebration during which will debut the “Boardwalk.” According to Mindy Bianca, Director of Public Relations, the $20 million attraction will be the largest interactive water playing structure in the world, with rides from mild to wild.
As for roller coasters, Hersheypark has 10, including Storm Runner which tied for #34 in the category of Top 50 Steel Roller Coasters in the World. Wildcat was voted #32 for Top 50 Wooden Roller Coasters. And based on comments heard from kids in the Park (ages 8-12 years old), Great Bear is a definite favorite with many in this age group.
With free admission, free parking, free entertainment, and free picnic facilities, this is a bargain family destination that can’t be beat. The park contains two world-acclaimed roller coasters, authentic bumper cars, a grand carousel with a brass ring pull, and an award-winning haunted mansion which offers options for families of all sizes and ages. Knoebels received Golden Tickets for Best Food, Best Carousel, and Best Souvenirs and was named Best Park for Families.
“Forget what you know about other amusement parks,” says Joe Moscato, Director of Marketing for Knoebels, “because Knoebel’s is a completely different type of experience.”
The Amusement Today publication has bestowed all types of awards on this family-owned, family-friendly park in the mountains, including:
Dorney Park boasts eight roller coasters including world-class Hydra The Revenge, Pennsylvania’s first and only floorless coaster with a zero gravity experience. Unfortunately, several hours of torrential rain and ensuing thunder busters severely limited our ride time at Dorney. Otherwise, Talon – the longest, tallest inverted coaster in the Northeast, would have been rated.
Amusement Today awarded Steel Force a ranking of #14 in the Top 50 Steel Roller Coasters for 2005. However, according to Heather Kramer, Public Relations Manager, the Talon is an easy favorite with many coaster fans, Every year in June, Dorney Park hosts “Coaster Madness” for coaster clubs, giving them exclusive ride time access.
Teen Roller Coaster Ratings
While my teens cavort with coasters, I am busy checking out shows, shopping for souvenirs, and savoring sweets. Some of my favorites include:
in the Park
BEST OF THE BEST COASTERS
To Plan Your Pennsylvania Chocolate and Coasters Road Trip
Amusement Parks and More
Hershey’s Chocolate World
Hershey Trolley Works
Knoebels Amusement Resort & Campground
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
Quality Inn & Suites
Amusement Today Inc.
A Pennsylvania Family Road Trip: All Roads Lead to Chocolate and Coasters is written, photographed, and produced by the Leperi Team: Karin Leperi, travel journalist and photographer (the mother); Karson (the 14-year-old son who is a roller coaster aficionado and audio content specialist), and Kosette Leperi (the 13-year-old daughter who lives for excitement and is the family video expert).