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5 Park Chicago -> NJ Trip Early July 2020


defhermit
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Hey there all!

 

I'm new to the forums, but it seemed like this was an appropriate place for a 'help me plan my trip' post!

Please scold me if it is not.

 

I live in Seattle now but my Philadelphia family is making their yearly pilgrimage to Ocean City, NJ again in July. I've avoided joining them for years but they've guilted me into it this time. They are there from July 11th to the 18th.

 

In order to satisfy my need for my vacations to be something more than basking on a beach all day I've decided to incorporate a long road trip into the thing. After some dreaming, I've come up with a pretty sweet plan that is probably overdoing it but I don't care.

 

My plan is to fly to Chicago, stay in a hotel and then go to Six Flags Great America. (7/3, 7/4)

Then, rent a car and drive to Sandusky Ohio and stay in a hotel. Next day go to Cedar Point. (7/5, 7/6)

Then, drive to Washington DC and stay in a hotel. Next day go to Six Flags America. (7/7, 7/8)

Then, drive to Hershey PA and stay in a hotel. Next day go to Hersheypark. (7/9, 7/10)

Then, drive to Philadelphia and stay with friends. Next day go to Six Flags Great Adventure. (7/11, 7/12)

Then, drop the rental car off in Philadelphia and take the train to Ocean City and spend a couple of days with my family. There are plenty of small amusement park rides on the boardwalk there to finish off the journey!

 

I recognize I have 2 days of long driving there in the beginning, but I'm ready for it. I've driven across country before several times although it has been a long time since I have done it. Every park day is another hotel stay wherever I stayed the night before, with the possible exception of Hershey and Great Adventure since I have Philadelphia locations I can stay in.

 

Some questions:

1. I'll be going to 3 different Six Flags, so I presume it would be cheaper for me to buy some sort of annual pass. I'm going to research this a lot before I pull the trigger, but it seems like there would be an expert here to point me in the right direction!

 

2. I'll be booking at least 3 2-night stays at hotels in heavily-trafficked metropolitan areas (Chicago, Sandusky and DC) along with possibly 2 other 1 night stays. I'm more than willing to drive another 20 minutes during each leg of this trip to reach a chain establishment. Are there any package deals with hotel chains that I should look into? I'm not fancy but I'm not trying to stay at THE cheapest option.

 

3. Any thoughts on my itinerary? Too much? Something I should tack on? I'm considering Dorney Park or Sesame Place (nostalgia).

 

Thanks for any and all feedback!

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not any of the Alveys, but I'll opine that NO you should not tack on Dorney (or Sesame Place, unless you don't mind TONS of little kiddos).

 

I'd totally skip Six Flags America too. . if you're going to be near/in Washington DC? Go to King's Dominion instead of SFA.

 

and if you're not getting into Hershey early enough on the day before your full day there? you're missing out greatly on the preview night deal (you get in ~3 hours early with the next day's ticket). Well worth your time, especially as you're traveling right around the holiday, and those extra hours can really allow you to hit the hugely popular coasters/rides with very little crowds.

 

I'd also try to find some way to spend some time at Knoebel's, if you're gonna be in Middle Pennsylvania anyways.. that place is *magical* and worth a visit.

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Unless you really want to experience DC, I'd recommend cutting SFA, and driving straight from Ohio to Knoebels. Spend at least a full day there (though a day and a half or longer is recommended). Then continue the trip from Hersheypark onward.

 

Regarding taking the train to the shore, I'd note that it only goes to Atlantic City which has just a handful of rides. Most of the good stuff (i.e. Morey's Piers, Playland's Castaway Cove) is far further south in Wildwood. I believe there is a bus connecting the Atlantic City train station to Wildwood but idk what its schedule is.

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not any of the Alveys, but I'll opine that NO you should not tack on Dorney (or Sesame Place, unless you don't mind TONS of little kiddos).

 

I'd totally skip Six Flags America too. . if you're going to be near/in Washington DC? Go to King's Dominion instead of SFA.

 

and if you're not getting into Hershey early enough on the day before your full day there? you're missing out greatly on the preview night deal (you get in ~3 hours early with the next day's ticket). Well worth your time, especially as you're traveling right around the holiday, and those extra hours can really allow you to hit the hugely popular coasters/rides with very little crowds.

 

I'd also try to find some way to spend some time at Knoebel's, if you're gonna be in Middle Pennsylvania anyways.. that place is *magical* and worth a visit.

 

Thanks for the reply! Dorney and Sesame Place are more for nostalgia. I might actually just drive by Sesame Place to take a look at it from the parking lot because I have a lot of fond memories of that place from childhood.

 

I'm definitely open to going to King's Dominion instead of Six Flags America in the DC area. I sort of just noticed there was another Six Flags somewhat between the other parks I was planning on going to. I want to go to the best parks so if King's Dominion is generally regarded as superior to Six Flags America I'd go there no question. Now the question is whether or not I should even go down to the DC area.

 

I'm not sure what you mean with the Hershey deal? I should get into Hershey plenty early, especially if I change my DC plans. Are you saying that with a 2-day pass I get like extra morning hours the second day? I really hadn't planned on spending more than one day at any parks. I'm rolling solo and my experience so far with amusement parks as an adult is that I can get quite a lot of rides in in a day because I treat it like a challenge. I recently went to Disney World and spent 1 day in each of the 4 Disney parks and rode everything I wanted to with no problem. Is there really 2 days worth of activities for me in Hershey?

 

I'm willing to pay for all FastPass-type options at each park.

 

Honestly, I've seen a couple videos about Knoebels and I guess its cool but I never went there as a kid so I hold no nostalgia for it. I went to Hershey and Great Adventure every year as a kid but haven't been for at least 15 years so they were a no-brainer for the trip, especially because I want to end up in NJ. Cedar Point has been on my list of places I want to go forever so that was added on, then Six Flags Great America because Chicago is sufficiently far enough away to start there and have an 'epic' road trip. Then I sort of just needed something between Cedar Point and Hershey and just landed on Six Flags America in DC. It's always cool to visit DC.

 

I could definitely be convinced to instead just head from Cedar Point to central PA and spend 3 nights in the same hotel maybe hitting up Knoebels...

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Unless you really want to experience DC, I'd recommend cutting SFA, and driving straight from Ohio to Knoebels. Spend at least a full day there (though a day and a half or longer is recommended). Then continue the trip from Hersheypark onward.

 

Regarding taking the train to the shore, I'd note that it only goes to Atlantic City which has just a handful of rides. Most of the good stuff (i.e. Morey's Piers, Playland's Castaway Cove) is far further south in Wildwood. I believe there is a bus connecting the Atlantic City train station to Wildwood but idk what its schedule is.

 

Wow, the second reply is another vote for Knoebels! I guess I should watch some more videos. I'm from PA and never went there, although we went to Hershey and Great Adventure all the time. It's really worth it, huh? Keep in mind I am a (youthful) 43 year old dude travelling solo.

 

Thanks for the reply!

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not any of the Alveys, but I'll opine that NO you should not tack on Dorney (or Sesame Place, unless you don't mind TONS of little kiddos).

 

I'd totally skip Six Flags America too. . if you're going to be near/in Washington DC? Go to King's Dominion instead of SFA.

 

and if you're not getting into Hershey early enough on the day before your full day there? you're missing out greatly on the preview night deal (you get in ~3 hours early with the next day's ticket). Well worth your time, especially as you're traveling right around the holiday, and those extra hours can really allow you to hit the hugely popular coasters/rides with very little crowds.

 

I'd also try to find some way to spend some time at Knoebel's, if you're gonna be in Middle Pennsylvania anyways.. that place is *magical* and worth a visit.

 

Thanks for the reply! Dorney and Sesame Place are more for nostalgia. I might actually just drive by Sesame Place to take a look at it from the parking lot because I have a lot of fond memories of that place from childhood.

 

I'm definitely open to going to King's Dominion instead of Six Flags America in the DC area. I sort of just noticed there was another Six Flags somewhat between the other parks I was planning on going to. I want to go to the best parks so if King's Dominion is generally regarded as superior to Six Flags America I'd go there no question. Now the question is whether or not I should even go down to the DC area.

 

I'm not sure what you mean with the Hershey deal? I should get into Hershey plenty early, especially if I change my DC plans. Are you saying that with a 2-day pass I get like extra morning hours the second day? I really hadn't planned on spending more than one day at any parks. I'm rolling solo and my experience so far with amusement parks as an adult is that I can get quite a lot of rides in in a day because I treat it like a challenge. I recently went to Disney World and spent 1 day in each of the 4 Disney parks and rode everything I wanted to with no problem. Is there really 2 days worth of activities for me in Hershey?

 

I'm willing to pay for all FastPass-type options at each park.

 

Honestly, I've seen a couple videos about Knoebels and I guess its cool but I never went there as a kid so I hold no nostalgia for it. I went to Hershey and Great Adventure every year as a kid but haven't been for at least 15 years so they were a no-brainer for the trip, especially because I want to end up in NJ. Cedar Point has been on my list of places I want to go forever so that was added on, then Six Flags Great America because Chicago is sufficiently far enough away to start there and have an 'epic' road trip. Then I sort of just needed something between Cedar Point and Hershey and just landed on Six Flags America in DC. It's always cool to visit DC.

 

I could definitely be convinced to instead just head from Cedar Point to central PA and spend 3 nights in the same hotel maybe hitting up Knoebels...

 

 

King's Dominion is vastly superior to SFA (and has not only Twisted Timbers, but the amazing Intimidator 305 coasters (as well as Dominator, and a really good coaster/flats lineup).

 

But KD is inferior to Busch Gardens Williamsburg (less than an hour from KD) -- that park is AMAZING. But you really need a full day at minimum to enjoy that amazing park.

So around the Holidays with a tight schedule? Save BGW for a specific trip where you can take your time on multiple days to experience what is simply one of the most beautiful parks in the Country (with a great coaster lineup there as well: Loch Ness Monster, Griffon, Invadr, Alpengeist, Verbolten, Apollo's Chariot, as well as others - and the new one opening this year).

 

 

as to HersheyPark - I'm not talking about a 2 day ticket. A 1 day ticket allows you admission the evening before your full day at the park. So if you are going on Saturday (for example), you can get into the park on Friday ~2-3 hours before the park closes. If you purchase parking during the Preview Night, it's also good for the next day too (so you're only paying to park once). Those 2-3 hours at the end of the day? will allow you access to many of the most popular coasters/rides with very minimal wait. . and then you can spend the full day hitting other rides, or re-riding things you liked.

 

if you're planning on going to Hersheypark? You should plan on arriving the evening before, early enough before the park closes to take advantage of the Preview Plan.

 

 

and as to Knoebel's? I noted above, the place is Magical, and is worth a stop just for Phoenix. . but you'll want to ride Twister, Impulse, Flying Turns, and a bunch of the flats (which run some of the best programs in the world - in particular the Flyers, the Paratrooper, the Bumper Cars (which I don't ride, but that's due to back issues, and those are basically tanks that give a lot of bump) and the flume, but all the flats are great). . . . oh, and parking and admission are free (and it's in a beautiful area). . . so you just pay for what you wanna ride.

 

make sure you play a few rounds of Fascination (be warned, it's addictive) and check out the museums & Eagles on site as well.

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I will just echo that KD is far superior to SFA. I realize you'd basically get into SFA for free if you already bought a membership, so it is certainly a consideration. But SFA really has very little in the way of quality coasters. Wild One is good fun and so is Superman, but that's about it. KD is cleaner and overall much better.

 

If you go to Hershey and don't bake in time to go to Knoebels, you are doing it wrong. It isn't something that can be captured via videos. Certainly you could read reports here on TPR. But at the same time, part of the fun would be going there a bit less educated (beyond what flats and rides not to miss) and just having a ball. POP wristbands are not available on weekends, but the individual ride tickets are good fun to use IMO and can be purchased for 20% off (ie- $20 in tickets for $16). For just one person, if you plan to ride a ton, you could do 3 $20 ticket books and be in solid shape. This works out to be about the same price as a wristband, so if you go during the week when the wristbands are offered, certainly go that route, so you can ride Phoenix over and over.

 

It will be the best park food you eat the whole trip and that is an experience unto itself. Don't miss Pierogies, potato pancakes, sweet tea slushes, fresh roasted peanuts (they're still warm), waffle ice cream sandwiches, the breakfast at the international food court (while not insanely good is still a fun and unique way to experience the park before rides open), and Cesari's Pizza (pretty solid stuff). Really, you can't go wrong. Just poke around and don't just eat hot dogs and burgers and you'll be just fine.

 

If there are two things TPR is very fond of, it is Knoebels and Japan. You'll never hear anyone knock the park and it's warranted. The rides run efficiently, the staff is friendly, the food is great, the flats are great, Phoenix is omfg, and the charm is undeniable. It is like entering a park from yesteryear.

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As others have said, Six Flags America isn't the best park. However, if you have a membership, I've never seen that place have any sort of queues so it is possible you could make a quick stop for the coasters if you drive right past it. The park's atmosphere may not be the best, but they do have some decent coasters.

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Thanks for all the feedback, people!

 

I'm taking everything into consideration and have replanned. Won't bother going into ALL the specifics, but I'm thinking of cutting out Chicago which was basically a whim in favor of starting in Detroit/Sandusky,OH area for Cedar Point to be the beginning.

 

With this extra time I could either stick to the previous plan, but instead go to both DC AND either King's Dominion OR Busch Gardens...

 

OR I could instead keep it local and do a string of smaller parks in PA between Cedar Point and Hershey. These being Kennywood, Idlewild and Lakemont Park. This would also allow me to hit Knoebels for most of a day and then hit Hershey for late-night hours before attending a full day the next day.

 

I leaning toward the second option. It'll be a little cheaper and with shorter drives between stops it makes it more feasible to maybe arrive at and attend parks in the same day. This option also makes it seem more feasible to actually camp at some of these locales instead of getting a hotel.

 

I'm still planning all this, but expect to make a decision and start making reservations by the end of the week. Full disclosure: it is bonus time at work and they come in this Friday. So I'm trying to make this call by Friday so I can pull the trigger and set it in stone.

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So the second option is cheaper and you get to go to Knoebels? Tough call. I suggest paying more to go to worse parks.

 

PS: If you find yourself walking around Knoebels thinking "f*ck Hershey's preview plan, I don't want to leave and I don't care about Hershey because this park is much better anyway" just know that this feeling is normal. The parks are only an hour and 15 minutes apart so stay until close. Life is too short to leave Knoebels early and do the Hershey preview sh*t. If you like camping (for some reason, lol) just camp at Knoebels and drive to Hershey in the morning.

Edited by coasterbill
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  • 2 weeks later...

So... When I started this thread I was totally ready to start making reservations and buying plane tickets. I was just waiting for my bonus to come through! It since has, but also a global pandemic has basically shut down the entire entertainment industry. Whether or not any amusement parks will even be open this summer is a real question. So I guess this trip plan is on hold until further notice. Maybe I should actually pay off my student loans?

Hope everyone is staying sane!

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