Well, it finally happened. Eleven parks into my road trip, and I am finally advising skipping a park. Most of the parks I’ve been to — from Lagoon to Hersheypark — have been great. Every other Cedar Fair park I’ve visited, they all felt safe. Dorney Park, however, managed to crush my expectations and destroy my opinion that all Cedar Fair parks were handling this well, because, honestly, they aren’t,
By Justin S. Landers
Dorney Park is already considered to be one of the more neglected Cedar Fair parks, so my expectations were fairly low from the start. I expected to have an experience similar to my trip to Worlds of Fun — empty parks, no lines, great mask enforcement.
What I got instead? Long lines, rude guests, and not a single comment about masks from an employee all day. As I walked into the gates, entry was almost typical. The thermal cameras were not working, but the handhelds were quick enough. However, once I got into the park, I realized this was the busiest Cedar Fair park I’ve been to.
There were a lot of people there, and a majority of them were not wearing masks. I have become used to seeing guests trying to side-step the mask rules by pulling them down beyond their nose, but at Dorney Park, guests didn’t even have masks visible. I didn’t hear a single employee tell someone to put a mask on during my entire visit.
Food lines were long, at 30+ minutes for food and drink stands. Most of the food stands were open, but guests were not social distancing in lines as well as not wearing masks. The food was typical Cedar Fair food. The stand-alone drink stands were not readily available, with any stand that was just for drinks being closed. This means getting a drink would require waiting in the regular food lines. So much for the drink plan being a good value if your home park is Dorney.
Rides and attractions were mostly open, except one of their key coasters: Possessed, an Intamin impulse launch coaster. I was informed it would be down for the season. Steel Force, their Morgan Hyper coaster, was a decent ride, but nothing standout. Talon was an average B&M inverted roller coaster. Hydra is a decent but small B&M floorless coaster.
If Possessed had been open, this park would have a decent, yet slightly dated collection of thrill rides. Certainly not a great collection. Thunderhawk, their wooden 95-year-old coaster, is now an American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) landmark. I found it to be extremely rough and not nearly as well-maintained as some of the other older wooden coasters I have ridden on this trip. There is also a rumor that in 2021 (2022 now, maybe?), they will be getting a new coaster — but those are just rumors for now.
As I stood in line for the coasters, I also noticed that operations were slow. Sometimes it would take 5+ minutes to dispatch a train, even with them running multiple trains on every ride. Could this be because of cleaning?
No, I did not see a single train being cleaned the entire day. Every other Cedar Fair park has made it a policy to clean trains every 30 minutes. I purposely went on multiple rides right at the 30-minute mark to try to see if they were cleaning, and they weren’t. I sat on each brake run in the park for a good bit of time before the newly-loaded trains dispatched, allowing us to unload. In line for rides, just like with food, guests were not social distancing and not wearing masks.
I found myself questioning if this was actually a Cedar Fair park multiple times throughout my day, and regretting my decision to visit as I became frustrated trying to remain distant from complete strangers who had a lack of respect for personal space, and no regard for the safety of those around them. I found myself thinking that another day at Hersheypark would have been a better use of my time.
In fact, if you are in the area and considering going to a theme park, I would say Hersheypark is certainly the better choice. This was a beyond disappointing experience in a sea of great experiences at parks all across the country. This was the first time I did not really feel “safe” visiting the parks during these challenging times.
There was one silver lining at Dorney Park: Demon Drop. This “coaster” is actually a first-generation Intamin drop tower, which used to operate at Cedar Point. I rode it when I was younger, and it was moved to Dorney eventually to spruce up their lineup. At Cedar Point, the ride operated sporadically and not very effectively, with lots of down time. Dorney Park seems to have found smooth operations with this last-of-its-kind in the United States; these drop towers are rare.
During a normal year, Dorney Park might be worth a visit. The ride collection is not stand out by any means, but if you are passing through the area and want to burn a few hours of your day, it would be a decent stop.
The park is normally a half-day park at best, but right now? I would not go anywhere near Dorney Park again with the information I have. The disregard for safety was astounding; no mask enforcement, no train cleanings, no social distancing, even though the markers were there. Dorney Park is a pass for now.
29-year-old Justin Landers owns Just Shoot Light Multimedia Productions. He has been involved in the amusement and theme park industry since 2013 as a freelance photographer and videographer. You can follow him on Instagram @Inverted_Therapy and Just Shoot Light on YouTube.