Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hershey Park Beach

Hershey Park Beach
Seashore By Your Door

Sandcastle Cove
Since it is the middle of the winter and we are often consumed by thoughts of the coming spring and summer at this time, I thought I would post my episode from this past summer of our visit to Hershey Park's water attractions to tease you...  My daughter Katelyn and her friend Melissa make an annual pilgrimage together to the Sweetest Place on Earth and I happen to be their ride.  I don't mind tagging along, but you can only walk through the Zoo America attraction to watch the playful prairie dogs so many times before it gets a little redundant.  I enjoy walking the park and reminiscing about the times when I visited as a kid.  Some of the old favorite rides from the past are making a comeback like the classic Ferris wheel in the Midway America section of the park.  Some classics like the Scrambler and the Carousel have never left.  It is fun just to walk the paths and watch the action around you.  However, I have never been a big ride guy, avoiding roller coasters like the plague.  Any ride that requires a harness safety restraint system to prevent you from being thrown off the ride to a horrific painful death below is something I try to avoid.  

East Coast Waterworks
Years ago I was bullied into riding the Great Bear with a friend on a field trip to Hershey Park.  We waited in line for about a half hour until we finally made it to the ride pavilion and took our places on the ride.  The harness on my restraint system would not attach and lock in place.  One attendant came over and tried unsuccessfully to force the belt into locking position by rising up and pushing down on the buckle with his full body weight.  I was looking for the exit ramp but he called another attendant over named Vinny, who joined him in trying to force me into the harness belt.  I felt like the last suitcase being forced into the car trunk before an extended family vacation.  The worst part was being on display in front of a hundred onlookers, as the ride attendants saw this as a life-challenge event. Suddenly, the belt clicked into place, Vinny gave the thumbs up, and the ride began to climb upward. 

Look Out Below Bucket Dump
Soon my feet were dangling and I was looking down at a shrinking section of very hard pavement below.  I was sure the belt was going to come lose and I would be a tragic statistic on the evening news all along the east coast.  I began to wonder if Vinny and friend were watching me, wagering a dollar bet on whether or not the restraint system would hold and I would survive the Great Bear.  Amazingly, the ride was very fun and I somehow reentered the station still attached to the ride but it was a swan-song event for me...  I'm now retired from high-speed, try and cheat death forms of entertainment.  Last summer my son Tyler joined me on our annual trip to Hershey Park and we went to check out the new Boardwalk area.  We wound up staying the whole day, taking in the beach and boardwalk experience.  It was the most fun I have had at Hershey Park since I was a kid and we created a great father and son memory together that I will never forget.    

Katelyn and Tyler at Duke's Lagoon
Tyler and I started out with the gigantic East Coast Waterworks, that mimics a nuclear powered water sprinkler on steroids.  Our first experience with amusement park water themed fun was Dukes Lagoon at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster County when the kids were still little.  The next year Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Corporation purchased Dutch Wonderland from the original family owners and brought the water park concept to their big park the following year in 2007.  And did they ever!  Hershey Park describes the East Coast Waterworks area as featuring 7 slides, 2 crawl tunnels, nearly 600 interactive water toys, and more than 54,000 gallons of wet, refreshing fun for all ages.  Wow!  Tyler and I scaled the gigantic jungle gym of leaking, squirting, spouting, spraying, and splashdown of fun water attraction.  It was awesome!   We planted ourselves under the gigantic bucket whenever possible to have it empty 300 gallons of water down on top of us.  The water hit a slatted slide canopy, that spread the deluge of water safely over the awaiting people below.  Adults and kids alike cheered with each dumping event... including the two of us! 

Nathan's World Famous
The Boardwalk Area encompasses nine large water themed attractions and gives you the almost real feel of being at the shore.  Back in the day, park founder Milton Hershey called his enormous swimming pool the Seashore by your Door.  The original swimming pool is long gone but many of his implied characteristics are partially present in Hershey Park's modern version of the Jersey Shore.  Sounds from the beach are piped in, including ship horns, ringing buoy bells, squawking sea gulls, and fun festive music.  Jimmy Buffet crooning his classic songs from Key West was the perfect compliment to the sounds of the beach in concert around us.  The boardwalk was actually stamped concrete instead of wood but no need to be concerned about splinters in bare feet on this walkway!  Natural sand dunes and accompanying plantings filled spaces between activity spots and around borders of the site's perimeter.  The most amazing adaptation was the salty water used in the attractions, which gave you the taste and smell of the actual ocean.  The aroma of 50 different kinds of suntan lotion in the air was a bonus!         

Wave Pool Experience
On your way to the shore area, you can get something to eat where Coney Island meets the Jersey Shore.  Nathan's World Famous Hot Dogs, Famous Famiglia Pizza, Decades Burgers, The Shoreline Grill, and the Turkey Hill Ice-cream Parlor can satisfy your taste buds along the Boardwalk.  The Shore is a 23,000 square foot wave pool that tapers off on one end to a flat mock beach.  The pool contains over 378,000 gallons of water and transforms from a wave pool to a calm normal pool in ten minute increments.  A large clock above the six foot deep end of the pool counts down the time to the start of the wave pool segment.  A buzzer sounds causing the crowd in the pool to cheer as the waves began to rise higher and higher, later rolling to an end on the beach.  The whole thing was amazing.  Tyler and I rode the waves, bouncing up and down at the deep end of the pool with the rhythm of the constant wave pattern.  It was better than the real thing!  No risk of getting your butt kicked by a rouge wave that ambushed you from from your blind side, spinning you into confusion, and ending with a belly full of gulped seaweed.  The Shore seemed to give you the best of the beach without some of the annoying negatives!

Waves Break on the Beach
The people seemed happier here than any other section of the park, especially little kids.  It is the only part of the park where there were few lines to wait and once you entered an attraction, you could stay in play as long as you wanted.  Instant gratification was key!  Sandcastle Cove and Bayside Pier are smaller versions of the East Coast Waterworks and the Shore, just right for younger visitors.  Everyone can enjoy a trip around the Lazy River Inter Coastal Waterway that encircles the Shore area wave pool.  The Lazy River ride is 24,000 square feet of fun and just 2.5 feet deep, accommodating over 550 visitors at a time riding inner-tubes along a gentle current.  How many other attractions in the park can match those stats?  As with all the other large water ride areas, you can stay on the Lazy River as long as you wanted.  A short distant away, you did have to wait in line for the water slides that were grouped in one area.  There were five different slides to choose from and the lines seemed to move efficiently with the abundant life guards who monitored the guests and politely encouraged people to keep moving to make way for the next scheduled descent. 

Inner Coastal Waterway
Tyler and I took several laps around the river before heading back to the wave pool for a few more rounds.  Seagulls were perched on top of buildings, piers, and dock pilings throughout the area but were just decoys.  One year my kids at Ocean City, New Jersey had just bought a large bucket of french fries but were soon attacked by a flock of hungry seagulls.  The kids were terrified and the gulls were able to knock over the bucket and spill its contents all over the boardwalk.  A feeding frenzy of feathered friends ensued, consuming the french fries smorgasbord style.  We were hopeless bystanders to the scene, paralyzed by fear!  However, on this day... we got our revenge!  Tyler and I shared a large fry from Nathan's within sight of several seagull decoys.  This time at Hershey Park, they seemed to be the ones who were paralyzed with fear.  I even flaunted a fry in the direction of one plastic gull who just sat there and stared from his perch.  We finished the fries without incident and confidently headed back to the beach area... like men!      

Cabana Beach Club
After hearing about the fun Tyler and I experienced at the Boardwalk, Katelyn and her friend Melissa decided to devote the hot late afternoon hours of their day to the water.  Many tourists begin to vacate the area around 5:00 to return to their hotels or go out for dinner, making it a great time to arrive at the beach.  There are several well-positioned places to change into your swimwear and ample available seating in lounge chairs around the area.  There is even an additional private beach area with blue cabanas that can accommodate up seven guests that can be rented daily.  The cost to rent a cabana ranges between $200-$300 depending on the number of guests.  They have 27 cabana sites to rent out and I have never been at Hershey Park where one was still open and available.  Guests of Hershey Resorts get first dibs on rental opportunities but it is way too rich for my blood!  Katelyn and Melissa had a blast.  Since Tyler was unable to come with me this year, I spent the entire day in a lounge chair reading a good book, taking occasional breaks to get wet.  It was a fun way to spend a day at the beach without actually spending a day at the beach!     

Tidal Force Splash Down
Along the boardwalk area you will also find a water themed roller coaster called the Roller Soaker,  which gives the ride's occupants the ability to drop water down on unsuspecting guests in designated splash zones.  There is also the Tidal Force river ride that plows a wave of water into the air that later crashes down on the riders bounced via a rope netting.  Each of three boats holds 20 riders at a time, climbs to a height of 100 feet, and reaches a speed of 53 mph as it hits the water.  The boat rockets the spray an amazing distance and width, soaking anyone within the splash zone.  I've been an unsuspecting victim more than once, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It was a fun time for all and a great way to spend all or just part of your Hershey Park Happy experience!   So next time you feel like the beach, head to Hershey instead and absorb some rays of the summer sun and ingest some chocolate treats!  It is worth the price of admission in itself!

Please See My Additional Photos of Hersheypark at...

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