Looking back at 125 years of family entertainment...


In 1988, Dorney Park announced it was building the world's largest wooden roller coaster. The record-breaking coaster to be named "Hercules" would make good use of the park's sloping topography to create a 157-foot drop sweeping down the hill and over the lake at the east end of the park.

When the ride opened in 1989, Dorney Park found the title of world's largest coaster being challenged by the Texas Giant, a coaster at Six Flags Over Texas. Although Giant was taller than Hercules, it had a shorter drop, and Dorney took Six Flags to court over the claim.

Despite being rated as world class by coaster enthusiasts, Hercules struggled with maintenance problems. Alterations to the ride's structure made the run bone-jarring and bumpy. In 2003, Hercules was closed to make way for a floorless steel coaster named Hydra The Revenge, after one of the monsters Hercules was sent to destroy as one of his 12 labors in Greek mythology.

It seems Dorney's Hercules, unlike its counterpart, was ultimately defeated by the namesake of the mythical Hydra, a nine-headed serpent who was immortal.


Dorney Park first attracted denizens of the silver screen in 1968 when Columbia decided to shoot several scenes of "Where Angels Go Trouble Follows," a comedy about nuns at the park. The arrival of Rosalind Russell and the movie's other stars created a media circus. The film features shots of the the park's clown mascot Alfundo at the old entrance to the park, the Pirate's Cove, Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Scrambler, and the nuns and students take a ride on Thunderhawk.

Director John Waters tapped the park 20 years later to serve as a stand in for Tilted Acres, a fictional Baltimore park owned by character Franklin Von Tussle, played by Sonny Bono. Hundreds of Lehigh Valley hopefuls lined up to be extras for 1988's "Hairspray," which featured the park as a backdrop during a pivotal scene.

More recently the park was the setting for a music video of a Kidz Bop cover of the All-American Rejects "Move Along." The 2006 video by the tween group features singers riding Steel Force and performing around the park.


The park, known for its thrill rides, began as a fish hatchery in 1870. Cetronia entrepreneur Solomon Dorney wanted to raise trout along the Cedar Creek to attract local anglers and to sell to fish markets. His "Fish Weir and Summer Resort" originally featured eight trout ponds and several picnic groves.

After adding a small zoo and some rides in 1884, Dorney renamed the grove "Dorney's Trout Ponds and Summer Resort," which is considered the official beginning of Dorney Park. The trout ponds continued for many years and fresh trout was a specialty at Dorney's Mansion House restaurant. Throughout the years, trout continued to thrive in the creek and became accustomed to being fed by park patrons.

Today, the massive fieldstone fountain built in one of the original trout ponds by Robert Plarr, who bought the park in 1923, still attracts patrons to feed trout.


In 1901, Dorney Park opened what was billed as the largest artificial pool in the world. The pool, which had a sand bottom and beach, was filled with the chilly water from the spring-fed Cedar Creek. The very popular attraction offered free swimming lessons and later was used by the Allentown High School swim team for practice. Changing state regulations doomed the popular attraction, and in 1962, the pool was closed.

The old bathhouse was transformed into enclosures for exotic animals at Dorney's Zoorama. Half the pool became a home for sea lions and the other half housed motorized whale boats.

In 1985, in the midst of national water shortage, Dorney voluntarily closed the 650,000 gallon pool and emptied the water back into the Cedar Creek.