Hersheypark to add new roller coaster, Skyrush for 2012

After months of releasing coded clues and hints via a fictitious engineering website reminiscent of the Dharma Initiative from ABC’s Lost, Hersheypark unveiled its highly anticipated 2012 roller coaster. Dubbed Skyrush, the steel roller coaster will dominate the park’s skyline with a 200-foot tall peak. The ride will begin with an unusually speedy ascent to the top of the lift hill. Then, riders will be treated to a layout indicative of hyper coasters: high speeds, banked turns, and airtime hills. Loved by coaster fans, the airtime hills are designed to provide a weightless sensation at the crests.

Skyrush’s most intriguing feature may be its floorless seats. Each wing-shaped row of four seats will have two floored seats in the middle and two floorless seats on the edges. I’d imagine thrill junkies like myself will be scrambling for those outer seats. Roller coasters with this kind of layout and these stats aren’t rare, but the swift climb up the lift hill and the ride’s first-of-its-kind trains do make Skyrush look interesting.

Here’s an animated video that gives us a preview of what Hersheypark’s Skyrush will look like.

Top ten Halloween theme park events

Theme parks around the United States are getting in on the Halloween fun this week, with special events featuring everything from horror-filled haunted houses to magic shows to trick-or-treating for kids. Here’s a look at our top 10 Halloween theme park events:

1. Halloween Horror Nights: Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, Florida
Universal’s Halloween scarefest, which tops lists of horror attractions year-after-year, is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. But rather than make it solely a look back, Halloween Horror Nights XX blends new with the nostalgia. There are eight haunted houses, six streetside “scare zones” and two shows. Be sure to catch a glimpse of Fear, the towering character Universal says is the creator of all the scares of the past 20 years. Tickets are $74.99, with discounts available for Florida residents.
Scare level: This event is geared toward adults and older teens. Trust me, it’s not for children.

2. Halloween Haunt: Knott’s “Scary” Farm, Buena Park, California

Now in its 38th year, Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt is the granddaddy of all theme park Halloween event. Unlike many theme park events where rides are open, but don’t differ from the rest of the year, Knott’s re-themes 13 of its rides and turns the ride queues into “walk-through mazes.” There are also seven live shows at Knott’s “Scary” Farm and more than 1,000 monsters, mutants and goblins standing in the shadows waiting to jump out and scare. Tickets are $50 in advance, with several discount packages available.
Scare level: This event is for adults and older teens. Knott’s Berry Farm also offers “Snoopy’s Costume Party” during the day for the younger set.

3. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party: Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Mickey, Minnie and all their friends don Halloween costumes for this special event at the Magic Kingdom on select nights each year. Families are allowed to come in costume and there are trick-or-treating stations set up throughout the park. Highlights of Disney’s Halloween party include Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Parade that features a pre-parade appearance by Sleepy Hollow’s Headless Horseman, and the Hallowishes fireworks show. There’s also a live show at Cinderella Castle featuring many of the Disney villains, including (new this year) Dr. Facilier from “The Princess and the Frog.” Tickets are $59.95, with discounts available for passholders.
Scare level: This one’s for just about everyone, though children who fear Disney villains or the Haunted mansion ride could be in for a few mild frights.4. Fright Dome: Circus Circus, Las Vegas, Nevada
Every year, the haunted houses at Las Vegas’s Circus Circus offer some serious scares, and this year, there are three all-new houses including My Bloody Valentine, Flesh Feast and a house that pays homage to the “Saw” horror movies. Fright Dome is also known for its live shows featuring cutting-edge magicians, and for its celebrity visitors – Paris Hilton, Holly Madison, David Copperfield and other frequent Vegas visitors tend to visit Fright Dome each year. Tickets are $34.95.
Scare level: Definitely not for kids or the faint of heart – this is one of the scariest events around.

5. Howl-O-Scream: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa, Florida
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment holds Howl-O-Scream events in Williamsburg, Virginia, San Antonio, Texas, and Tampa, Florida, but we choose the Florida event for this list. The Tampa event typically adopts a back story that adds some edgy fun. This year, the protagonist is Sylvie, the lead singer of a rock band known as My X. Sylvie is out to get revenge on, well, her ex, and just about anyone else that stands in front of her. Besides the eight haunted houses and five scare zones at Howl-O-Scream, you can also see a concert featuring Sylvie and her band. It’s that follow-through with the back story that puts Howl-O-Scream on our list. Tickets are $74.95, with discounts for Florida residents.
Scare level: Teens and adults only for this one.

6. Hersheypark in the Dark: Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Where better to get a sweet Halloween treat than in America’s favorite chocolate town? Hersheypark opens its “rollerghosters” and other rides at night for a Halloween celebration each year. Kids 12 and under can trick-or-treat at eight stops in the park, and there are three family-friendly shows, including one by Halloween band “Bunsen and the Burners.” Hersheypark’s eateries even update their menus for the fall, offering soup in bread bowls, turkey legs and autumn-inspired desserts. Tickets are $38.95, with several discount packages available.
Scare level: This one’s truly for all ages.

7. Halloweekends: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
Cedar Point tries to balance fun and scary during their Halloweekends. While there are plenty of scares in four haunted houses and five scare zones, but much of the rest of the park is filled with pumpkins, sweet treats and family-friendly Halloween fun. All the scary sections are marked so that those not wanting quite the fright can stay away. Cedar Point puts a heavy emphasis on shows – with nine Halloween shows during the event. And for the kids, there are Peanuts shows, a costume contest and the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration Parade. Tickets are $45.99, with discount packages available.
Scare level: There are plenty of frights for horror fans, but just as much fun for small frys.

8. Brick or Treat: Legoland, San Diego, California
Legoland offers Halloween fun for little ones at Brick or Treat, with a costume contest, dance party and fall-themed Lego building activities. New this year at Brick or Treat is a live stage show where kids can find the secret to turning scary monsters sweet, and a new light show, “The Spirits of Halloween.” There’s also plenty of trick-or-treating action at Brick or Treat, with seven-themed trick-or-treating stations along a trail. Tickets are $30.
Scare level: This one is all treats for little ones, with no tricks in sight.

9. Fright Fest: Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois
Six Flags puts an emphasis on shows and music at this year’s edition of Fright Fest, with a new “Full Moon Rocksplosion” show and parade, as well as a new “zombie dance party.” There’s also “scary-oke” (which is what they should call it every time I take the stage), and the classic “Love at First Fright” show is back for a 20th year. Fright Fest also offers four haunted houses, as well as kids activities including trick-or-treating and a Halloween-themed “The Wiggles” show. Tickets are $36.99 online in advance.
Scare level: There’s something at Fright Fest for everyone.

10. Count’s Spooktacular: Sesame Place, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
The preschool set can have a frightfully fun time with Sesame Street characters with one very famous vampire (and no, his name isn’t Edward). The Count von Count hosts a Howl-o-Ween radio show, as well as an “un-haunted” maze at Sesame Place theme park. There are two additional Halloween shows starring Sesame Street favorites such as Elmo and Big Bird, as well as hayrides and trick-or-treating. Tickets are $33 online in advance.
Scare level: Only for the little pumpkins.

Original Hershey Chocolate Factory closing in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Milton Hershey’s chocolate factory, with its iconic double smokestack, is closing soon in downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania.

According to a National Public Radio report, Hershey’s chocolate bars will still be made nearby, in a newer facility outside of town that better accommodates modern manufacturing equipment. The company says global competition is the reason the factory will be shuttered, with 500 jobs lost in the process.

When Hershey built his factory, he followed the lead of British chocolate-maker Cadbury in building housing, community centers and even an amusement park for the chocolate company’s employees.

But in the century since the company was founded, Hershey, Pennsylvania, has become more than a factory town. Its Hersheypark theme park now caters to tourists, and hotels and resorts have sprung up around it.

For decades, visitors to “America’s chocolate center” toured the original factory at the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa avenues along with their visit to Hersheypark.

Today, the factory tours have been replaced by a 10-minute ride at Hershey’s Chocolate World that shows the chocolate-making process in a more visitor-friendly environment. But a monorail ride at Hersheypark still passes the original factory, with a voice-over describing it as “the world’s largest chocolate factory.”

The factory broke ground back in 1903 when the town of Hershey was still called Derry Church. Five years into its operation, the plant gave birth to a candy that Hershey named the Kiss – starting a long tradition of churning out massively popular chocolate products. Hershey now produces over 80 million Kisses every single day.

Before Milton Hershey became the largest maker of chocolate in the world, he made his money with caramel – and was one of the first to use fresh milk in his recipe. The sale of his caramel firm is what financed his chocolate empire. And even though his empire is mostly known for its Kisses and Bars – the various plants around the world churn out almost 200 different candy products, including gum, mints, hard candy and licorice.

One famous product that was made in the town came from the H.B. Reese company – founded by a former dairy worker for Hershey. It wasn’t till 1963 that the Hershey company purchased Reese’s and making the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup a member of the Hershey family.

[Image credit: Flickr user slgckgc]%Poll-53886%

Check out these other Hershey sweet destination articles

Theme park news roundup: New thrills on the way in 2011

Summer season is winding down, and that means it’s the time of year when theme parks start announcing their new attractions for the 2011 season. Here’s a look at the latest news and rumors about new attractions at U.S. theme parks:

Dollywood to open the Barnstormer

Dolly Parton’s theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, will add a $5.5 million ride called the Barnstormer. It’s designed to simulate stunt flying with the use of two pendulum arms. The ride will rise 81 feet in the air. Dollywood is also building a new barnyard-themed children’s play area around the Barnstormer.

The new ride will have a height requirement of 48 inches. It’s expected to open in March 2011.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay launches teaser Web site

Construction of a new attraction has been going on for months at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, but the park has made no official announcements as to what the new ride will be. It is widely believed that the new attraction will be a roller coaster. Park officials have only said that there will be thrils and animal encounters.The Tampa, Florida, theme park has launched a teaser web site, BuschGardens2011.com, with videos of park officials talking about their big secret. The latest video is with design and engineering VP Mark Rose, who does reveal that the 2011 project will have the largest footprint of any attraction at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Cedar Point releases new ride clues on Facebook

Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, is giving fans of its Facebook page clues about a new 2011 attraction. So far, pictures of a windmill and a dinosaur have been posted.

The windmill picture links instructions for a class project on windy weather, and the dino image links to a site on dinosaurs for kids.

The theme park is promising that all will be revealed next week, on Aug. 24.

Hersheypark looking ahead to 2012

Often the first place that news about new theme park attractions emerges is through city and county construction permits that have to be obtained, and hearings that have to be held, when theme parks plan to build anything.

That’s exactly what happened this week in Derry Township, Pennsylvania, where Hersheypark theme park is building a new attraction for 2012.

At a municipal zoning meeting, Hersheypark officials revealed that new “marquee” attraction will be built in the park’s Comet Hollow area, and it will open in 2012. No word on what it will be, but the theme park is seeking permission for the new ride to have a maximum height of more than 212 feet.