Dorney Park History

Park History Timeline

It's doubtful that Solomon Dorney ever imagined that one of the longest, tallest and fastest roller coasters in the Northeast would be sweeping over his shady picnic groves and trout ponds. However, this resort has become one of the greatest family amusement parks in the country.



Solomon Dorney built a fish hatchery with the initial purpose of purveying fish to markets across the country, and providing local anglers and trout gourmets with a ready supply of their favorite dish. This "Fish Weir and Summer Resort" along Cedar Creek featured eight trout ponds and several shady picnic groves.


Solomon Dorney realized that the best future for his estate would be as an attraction. He added games, playground-style rides, refreshment stands, and even a hotel and restaurant. The resort also included a small zoo, featuring deer, bears, wolves, monkeys, foxes, squirrels, peacocks, swans, ducks, tortoises, and turtles. Soon after, Solomon Dorney had added an unprecedented number of mechanical rides and attractions, including Bowling-on-the-Greens, Quoits, Russian Ten Pins, Archery, Glass Ball Shooting, Safety Swings, gardens and conservatories; all of which provided hours of enjoyment for Guests.


In 1884, the estate was renamed "Dorney's Trout Ponds and Summer Resort" and the rich history of Dorney Park as an amusement park truly began. During the next few years, the Cable Ride, the Scenic Railway, the Old Mill, the Casino with its indoor bowling alleys, billiard tables, the Circle Swing, the Ferris Wheel, the Photo Gallery, the Pony Ride and the swimming pool were all added to the resort's growing list of attractions.


The Allentown-Kutztown Traction Company took interest in Dorney's creation. In 1899, they completed a double-track trolley that extended from Allentown to Kutztown, making a stop at Dorney Park. Roundtrip fare on the trolley cost five cents.


The Traction Company purchased Dorney Park from Solomon Dorney in 1901. That same year, Jacob Plarr, an enterprising caterer and butcher from Philadelphia, came to Dorney Park as a concessionaire. He brought with him a Dentzel Carousel, a ride that revolutionized the Park.


By 1915, a casino, pool hall and roller-skating rink were added to the Park.



The Whip was added to Dorney Park's list of growing attractions in 1920, and still continues to entertain Guests at the Park today. The Whip is currently Dorney Park's oldest ride.



In 1923, The Coaster was built. This wooden roller coaster, made from pressure treated pine, was originally a simple out-and-back ride until it was reconfigured to form a figure eight in 1930. During that same year, the Park incorporated and was renamed "Dorney Park Coaster Company, Inc.," and Robert Plarr, Bill Ruske and Ray Sandt purchased the Park from the Allentown-Kutztown Traction Company. A few years later, Robert Plarr purchased the Park outright from his partners.



The Mill Chute, also known as the Tunnel of Love, and Al-Dorn, an open-air dance pavilion, were built in 1927. In addition, kiddie rides, the pretzel ride and a penny arcade were added to the Park.



About this time, the depression hit, almost causing the Park to close. Robert Plarr realized that the only way to keep the Park running was to add a new attraction. He enlisted the help of Miles Erbor of Wescosville to build a train ride modeled after the first steamline train, the Burlington Zephyr. This attraction, known as the Zephyr, saved Dorney Park from closing and still takes Guests on scenic tours through the Park today.


Despite World War II and the war effort, Dorney Park was able to add some rides throughout the 1940's, including the Flying Scooters in 1941, Water Scooters in 1946, Paratrooper in 1948 and Tilt-a-Whirl in 1949.


In 1954, a double anniversary was recognized--Dorney Park observed 70 years as an amusement attraction, and Robert Plarr celebrated 50 years with the Park. Mr. Plarr had been employed by the Park for many years before he took ownership in the 1920's. In conjunction with Mr. Plarr's golden anniversary with the Park, the Coaster (ThunderHawk) was painted a golden yellow. The original Denzel Carousel was also painted gold and provided free rides to Park Guests throughout the summer.


By 1960, the Park had renamed and re-themed the Old Mill into Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Pirates Cove was added and new midways stretched across the Park.


Robert Plarr died in 1966 and left the Park to his son Stephen, who died one year later. Robert Ott, son-in-law to Robert Plarr, became the new owner.


The 1970's brought many exciting additions to the Park, including the Bucket of Blood, Gold Mine, Whacky Shack, Flying Dutchman and more midways. Alfundo (a combined abbreviation of the words Allentown, Fun, and Dorney) the clown was the park mascot at this time. In 1976, the Dentzel carousel became operational again for the nations bicentenial, and was adorned in red, white, and blue.


Dorney Park Road, once known as the "state highway" to Reading, was closed to traffic traveling through the center of the Park. This led to the enclosure of the Park by fence and the addition an admission fee. The electro-hydraulic swing Sea Dragon was also added during this year.



1982 brought the addition of the popular family classic Thunder Creek Mountain, which was the longest in-ground flume ride in the country at the time.


In 1983, a major fire burned many of Dorney Park's attractions, including Bucket of Blood and the 1916 Philadelphia Toboggan Carousel.


1984 was a very exciting time for Dorney Park, as the park celebrated its 100th anniversary. To commemorate this experience, Dorney added three new rides which are still around today. The Apollo, Musik Express and the Enterprise still thrill people of all ages just as they did over 25 years ago.


In 1985, Wildwater Kingdom opened, offering the Northeast one of the only seasonal water parks in the country. Its exciting collection of water slides, activity pools and the gigantic wave pool created a new experience for people throughout the Northeast. Added to the Park itself was the Wave Swinger. This year also marks the sale of the Park to Harris Weinstein.


1986 was the year the park added the Antique Carousel. Also added to the park was the double loop, all –steel coaster called the Laser. The Laser was retired from the park in 2008.


When Runaway River was added to the park in 1987, it was the largest inner tube ride in the country. Comprised of hydra-swirl whirlpools, waterfalls, mist-filled caves, blow holes, and fountains, the Runaway River was an excellent addition to the park in 1987.


1988 was the year the Joker was introduced to the park. The Joker, a large vertical rotation ride, was removed after the 2004 season. Center Stage was added and has provided a vast array of shows for thousands of people over the years. 


In 1989, Dorney Park broke ground on a new and ambitious project. With an unprecedented 157-foot drop, Hercules was born as the tallest wooden coaster anywhere in the world. The colossal coaster attracted international attention and put Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom on the map as one of the most exciting amusement experiences in the Northeast. The classic wooden "Coaster" was renamed ThunderHawk for this season and continues to dazzle Guests today. The 90-foot-high Ferris Whell was also introduced. Several other rides and attractions were added to the Park under Weinstein's ownership, including Laser, Aquablast, Joker, Balloon Race and Dragon Coaster.


1990 was a great year for Wildwater Kingdom. Wildwater River was introduced and was the first ever tube ride constructed with its own wave machine. Lightening Falls and it’s two 70-foot-tall tube water slides was also introduced.


The record breaking Aquablast was introduced to Wildwater Kingdom in 1991. At the time, Aquablast was the longest elevated water slide in the world as well as the highest elevated family raft ride ever made.


Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom's success did not go unnoticed. In 1992, Cedar Fair L.P. bought the Park and ushered in a new era for the entertainment complex. Today, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company owns and operates ten other amusement parks, including Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH; Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA; Michigan's Adventure in Muskegon, MI; Valleyfair! in Shakopee, MN; Worlds Of Fun in Kansas City, MO; Kings Dominion in Richmond, VA; Carowinds in Charlotte, NC; Kings Island in Mason, OH; Great America in Santa Clara, CA; Canada's Wonderland in Toronto Canada. Cedar Fair also operates Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in Gilroy, CA under a management contract. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company also owns and operates Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom, the Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark Resort in Sandusky, OH and five other water parks in the U.S., including Soak City, adjacent to Cedar Point; Oceans of Fun, adjacent to Worlds of Fun; Soak City, USA, adjacent to Knott's Berry Farm; Soak City, USA, San Diego, CA; and Soak City, USA, Palm Springs, CA.


In 1993, Dorney Park added the tallest, steepest, fastest, wettest waterfall plunge ride in the world. White Water Landing plunges Guests 80 feet down where they become soaked at the end. A second train is added to the park called Cedar Creek Cannonball, which is an old-fashioned replica steam engine that provides a relaxing trip around a section of the park. The Berenstain Bears also make their debut this year, as Papa, Mama, Brother, and Sister walk around the Totspot greeting children.


New to the 1994 season were Road Rally and Thunder Canyon. Road Rally is a calming ride that allows Guests to drive an old style car through two different landscapes. Thunder Canyon on the other hand, is a fast paced river rapids ride that holds up to 8 people and has them plunging through a 1,640 foot path through caves and rapids. The Joker was also brought back after being removed in 1993 for the park expansion. 1994 was the first year that separate tickets for Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom were not offered.


New to the 1994 season were Road Rally and Thunder Canyon. Road Rally is a calming ride that allows Guests to drive an old style car through two different landscapes. Thunder Canyon on the other hand, is a fast paced river rapids ride that holds up to 8 people and has them plunging through a 1,640 foot path through caves and rapids. The Joker was also brought back after being removed in 1993 for the park expansion. 1994 was the first year that separate tickets for Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom were not offered.


The Dentzel carousel turned 75-years-old in 1996. When the carousel first came around there were originally 7,000 operating Dentzels. As of 1996 there were only 28 running. Many renovations were also made this year including a new midway, several rest facilities outside the main entrance, and swan boats at the lower part of the lake.


In 1997, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom made the most significant addition to the Park since the opening of Wildwater Kingdom. Rising 200 feet in the air as the longest, tallest and fastest coaster in the Northeast, Steel Force altered the landscape of Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom and set it apart from all other parks.


New for Dorney Park in 1998 were Hang Time, Thunder Creek Speedway, and the diner Coasters. Hang Time is a 60-foot-tall thrill ride that whirls, twirls, reels and spins Guests repeatedly throughout the ride. Thunder Creek Speedway, which requires and additional fee, allows Guests to drive a race car through 1,200 feet of track. Coasters is a 50’s style diner that includes vinyl booths with chrome edged tables. New to Wildwater Kingdom for 1998 was the Island Water Works, which is a three-story activity area with over 70 water gags. Halloweekends also started for this first time in the fall.



The 1999 season marked the birth of an all-new and exciting marquee attraction. Climbing 20 stories into the sky, Dominator looms over Park Guests with awe-inspiring height and thrilling speed. This rapid vertical ascent and descent ride chills Guests with hair-raising excitement.



Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom celebrated the new century with the addition of Camp Snoopy, a two-acre comic strip playland where kids can meet Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and many more of the world-famous PEANUTS™ characters. Camp Bus, Flying Ace, Little Convoy, Woodstock's Airmail, Woodstock Express and Woodstock's Wagon Wheel still thrill Guests to this day. The completion of a brand new Main Midway and the addition of the Wild Mouse family roller coaster rounded out the new attractions for this season.



Dorney Park introduced Talon, the longest & tallest inverted coaster in the Northeast. This thrill machine brings the Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom roller coaster count to a whopping seven!



A new thrill ride, Meteor, screams across the skies at the Park as it suspends riders face-to-face, looping them forward and backward with nothing between their feet and the sky. Also new this season is a rebuilt Center Stage outdoor theater, a second new outdoor theater, a new Tilt-a-Whirl ride and midway renovations.



With the addition of ten new water slides in 2003, Wildwater Kingdom has one of the largest collections of water attractions in the country. The Wave Pool is refinished and upgraded with a brand new wave making system.  Patriots's Plunge, Wildwater Rapids, and Jumpin' Jack Splash were all added to Wildwater Kingdom to make for some exciting new rides. Also added to Dorney Park was the new PEANUTS™ Characters Show near Camp Snoopy that entertains families.



The 2004 season brings the introduction of Revolution. Riders are suspended with nothing below their feet as this thrill ride swings Guests 65 feet in the air as the ring of seats rotates 120 degrees. 



Hydra The Revenge, the first and only floorless coaster in Pennsylvania, was introduced. Hydra reigns the land where the great Hercules wooden roller coaster once stood. This $13 million monster coaster features seven inversions including the first-of-its-kind JoJo Roll, a pre-lift inversion right out of the station. Hydra The Revenge is roller coaster #8 for Dorney Park. Also for 2005 was the new giant air-launched Screamin' Swing ride and the newly-renovated Game Day Grille restaurant.



Wildwater Kingdom got an upgrade in 2006 with the addition of a second wave pool added by the main entrance gate to the water park. This wave pool, titled Wildwater Cove, is two-thirds the size of existing giant wave pool but offers geysers and wall sprayers in the shallow end. Cabanas were also added to Wildwater Kingdom in 2006. These spacious tents include table and chairs and access to waitered food and beverage services. Plus, the addition of 25 cent cotton candy gave Guests the taste of the old days.



2007 marks the second consecutive year of major capital improvements in Wildwater Kingdom. With the addition of Wildwater Cove and the Capital BlueCross sponsored six lane mat racing water slide Aqua Racer, Wildwater Kingdom claims its place as one of the top waterparks in North America, and the only to have two wave pools and 22 waterslides.



Dorney Park upgrades again with the introduction of Possessed. Originally introduced as Voodoo, Possessed is the first suspended linear induction impulse coaster in the Northeast. Additionally Dorney announced the largest expansion to the Halloween program since the inception of HalloWeekends in 1998. The new Halloween HAUNT at Dorney Park brings three major new attractions Club Blood, CornStalkers, and Terror Square.



With a rich 125 years of history, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom is 200 acres of more than 100 rides, games, restaurants and attractions for the entire family. With two great Parks for the price of one, the value is unprecedented in the Mid-Atlantic region. During this 125th anniversary season, Dorney Park announced the largest investment and expansion in theatrical live entertainment in the 125 year history of the Park, the new Good Time Theater and Snoopy Rocks on Ice show. Dorney also again expanded on the success of last years new Halloween HAUNT concept. This years upgrade will provide Guests with a total of 13 haunted attraction experiences that includes new attractions concepts like ASYLUM, DEATH TRAP, BACK WOODS,, GAUNTLET, PIRATES PASSAGE, and PSYCHO CIRCUS, as well as last years favorites like CLUB BLOOD, CORNSTALKERS, and TERROR SQUARE.



Dorney Park upgraded Camp Snoopy by filling in the lower half of the area with new rides. Since it was going to be such a large addition, it was rebranded to the Planet Snoopy theme with Charlie Brown's Wind-Up, Flying Ace Balloon Race, Kite Eating Tree, Linus Launcher, PEANUTS™ 500, PEANUTS™ Road Rally, Sally's Swing Set, Snoopy's Cloud Climbers, Snoopy's Junction, Snoopy's Moon Bounce, Snoopy's Rocket Express and Woodstock Whirlybirds.



Dinosaurs Alive! opened, featuring over 40 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, which are scientifically accurate based on the latest paleontological knowledge. These fascinating specimens were created by the Canadian-based company, Dinosaurs Unearthed. Launched, in 2005, Dinosaurs Unearthed is an innovative traveling exhibition company that creates dynamic, multi-sensory experiences about the fascinating world of dinosaur discovery. This new attraction offers Guests an educational experience, the ability to control some of the dinosaurs' movement, and the chance to feel like a paleontologist in the dig site.



Dorney offered even more fun at night this year. For a limited time only - on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through August 31st - Dinosaurs Alive! extended its hours to become Dinos After Dark!, offering a whole new experience including s'mores.


Cedar Creek Flyers debuted for the 2015 season! This family ride features eight two-person carriages that sends guests flying 28 feet over the midway. Riders are able to take their flight from mild to wild as they control the level of their trip using a moveable front wing. A new restaurant opened this season - the addition of Smokehouse Barbecue enhanced the dining experience for our guests by offering a full BBQ favorites paired classic sides like homemade mac & cheese, hush puppies and southern-style desserts. That wasn't all for dining enhancements - All Season Dining was introduced for Season Passholders. This affordable program allows guests to redeem lunch and dinner every time they visit throughout the season. 



Dorney Park's most historic roller coaster and second oldest operating ride, Thunderhawk, has been completely refurbished! The current renovations include all new trains with a new color scheme of maroon and gold, and a fresh coat of paint for the coaster. Bright, white lights now outline the classic wooden roller coaster - sure to bring back a bit of nostalgia to Dorney Park! Originally built in 1923, Thunderhawk remains a classic, old-fashioned American wooden roller coaster with thrilling out-of-seat airtime pops. It is the eight oldest roller coaster in the United States, the tenth oldest roller coaster in the world and remains a favorite among Dorney Park guests! Dorney Park continues to enhance the guest experience by expanding the dining services offered within the park with the addition of a new Executive Chef, Malo Jones. Chef Jones has a very strong culinary background having worked in a number of different venues and cuisines, as well as experience in teaching and is a seasoned veteran in contract food services. Since joining Dorney’s Food and Beverage Team in March of 2016, Chef Jones has been busy developing new and unique dining experiences for park guests – be sure to visit the Smokehouse Barbecue to taste some of his delicious new menu offerings.



Back by the popular demand of Dorney Park guests...Bumper Cars!  A second family-friendly ride, Kaleidoscope was also added this year.  A new live show, Cirque Imagine, made its debut leaving guests mesemerized as they witness breathtaking stunts and aerial performances.  The park also expanded its catering and group outing options by construction a brand-new catering facility.  The ammenities of Parkside Pavilion include a Chef's Kitchen with extensive new culinary options and a speciality menu, self-serving lives, digital signage and comfortable accomodates over 2,500 guests. 

Roller Coasters

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