Dorney Park holds the distinction of the first park Cedar Fair acquired outside of the 2 parks that are the company’s namesake. With roots back to 1860, Dorney Park is one of numerous examples of the American trolley park, parks developed by trolley companies to help drive weekend traffic. While it has an impressive collection of roller coasters, Dorney is known for being one of Cedar Fairs lesser parks with their newest coaster addition being the relocated Vekoma inverted boomerang Stinger which was removed from Dorney in 2017. However, like most Ohio enthusiasts, me and my friend Pete have Cedar Fair platinum passes, and it seemed a no-brainer to see what this historic Pennsylvania park has to offer.
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We arrived at Dorney Park around 12:30 pm and encountered a slow and confusing line to get parked. Due to the historic nature of the park Dorney has had to find space for parking lots in a more piecemeal way than many of today’s modern regional parks. It took around 25 minutes to be guided into a parking space followed by a 10 minute trek to the park entrance. Like many parks, Dorney Park’s Wildwater Kingdom waterpark is included in the cost of admission. We didn’t have time on this trip to explore this expansive waterpark, but it seems to be the main attraction for many visitors to Dorney Park. After quickly moving through the turnstiles we made our way to the back of the park for our first coaster of the day, Hydra: The Revenge.
Constructed on part of the plot that was once home to Hercules, Hydra is a rare and peculiar example of a terrain B&M. The ride’s station is situated on a hill and it maximizes this elevation difference. Hydra begins with an iconic jojo roll out of the station before ascending its lift hill. This is followed by a drop into a ravine(105 ft off a 95 ft lift), a dive loop, a zero g roll, and then a wide corkscrew that exits down the other side of the station. This terrain corkscrew was a highlight of the ride for me with the sizable drop out of it being really unique in a floorless coaster. This corkscrew is followed by a narrow cobra roll, an airtime hill, another corkscrew, and then a final helix into the brakes. Overall Hydra is an enjoyably unique attraction. While it does suffer from a little bit of the dreaded “B&M Rattle,” it is a rock solid looper and what it lacks in height it makes up for with a unique and thoughtful layout. Unfortunately Hydra would also be where we encountered one of Dorney’s biggest shortcomings, operations. While less crowded than other Cedar Fair Parks Dorney had some of the slowest dispatches I have seen at any US park. Certain coasters fared better than others, but overall operations were sluggish.
After Hydra, we made our way downhill towards the last remaining Intamin first-generation free fall, Demon Drop. Relocated from Cedar Point in 2010, Demon Drop is a special and terrifying experience. It still provides thrills and is a nice contrast to the park’s nearby S&S combo tower, Dominator. Next door to Demon Drop is the park’s unique 1982 log flume Thunder Creek Mountain. The Barr Engineering flume was built to utilize a natural hill and features a gently one of a kind sloping drop embedded in the hill. I found these two attractions to be a highlight of Dorney Park and certainly a reason I would give any theme-park enthusiast to visit. We continued our circle around the park with a ride on the park’s historic woodie Thunderhawk. This 1924 woodie does lack in airtime, but it has some intense lateral moments in its turnaround and is an overall fun ride. This back corner of the park is also home to Dorney Park’s signature coaster, Steel Force.
Steel Force is an impressive Morgan hypercoaster which runs along the entire backside of the park. Like the other Steve Okamoto designed hypercoasters, Steel Force is very much inspired by Magnum XL200 but unfortunately lacks most of the bite of its inspiration. While the airtime is weak throughout the layout, the high speed helix turnaround is definitely a fun moment that helps redeem this coaster. This lower section of the park is also home to the park’s charming 1935 miniature train Zephyr and beautiful Morgan car ride Road Rally. This section is also home to the park’s only launch coaster, the Intamin impulse coaster Possessed. Possessed was relocated from the shuttered Geauga Lake and still runs great, providing a nice launch experience to help round out the park’s line up. We made our way up the hill back to the park’s main midway and to the park’s impressive B&M invert, Talon. I think it’s high time we retired the stereotype that all B&M inverts of the mid-2000s are “boring and mild.” While Talon might not feature the feet-ripping intensity of a Batman clone, its mixture of inverting and non-inverting elements provides plenty of forceful thrills. As someone who grew up with Flight Deck at California’s great America, Talon felt like an expanded version of that layout. The high speed turnaround after the Immelman, the ground hugging turn into the corkscrew, and final low to the ground helix are both highlights that echo the non-inverting brilliance seen in Flight Deck.
With a ride on Talon secured we decided to skip the park’s Mack Wild Mouse and head out. Dorney Park has a solid collection of coasters and other attractions, but the park lacks some additional quality attractions to help round out its line up. It shares the same level of polish and presentation that its “sister” Cedar Fair parks do(especially Cedar Point, Valleyfair, and Word’s of Fun), but the lack of a dark ride and signature new coaster is noticeable. While the park is pleasant to visit, we were also able to ride every coaster in under 2 hours and felt little reason to re ride anything. In my opinion, Taron and Hydra remain the two best coasters of the park and while Steel Force should provide a signature thrill, it just comes up short of being an especially memorable coaster. Despite our short visit at the park we left with an overall positive impression of the park. I hope Cedar Fair decides to invest in a new coaster for this historic park soon.