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.
1860: 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.
1870: 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.
1884: 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.
1899: 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.
1901: 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.
1901 - The Dentzel Carousel
1915: By 1915, a casino, pool hall and roller-skating rink were added to the Park.
1920: The Whip was added to Dorney Park's list of growing attractions in 1920, and still continues to entertain guests at the Park today.
1923: 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 1927. 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 - 1927
1927: 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.
1935: 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.
Rides - 1940s
1940's: 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.
1954: 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.
1960: 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.
1966: 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.
Alfundo the Clown - 1970s
1970's: 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.
1980: 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.
1983: In 1983, a major fire burned many of Dorney Park's attractions, including Bucket of Blood and the 1916 Philadelphia Toboggan Carousel.
1985: In 1985, Wildwater Kingdom was 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. This year also marks the sale of the Park to Harris Weinstein.
1989: 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. Several other rides and attractions were added to the Park under Weinstein's ownership, including Laser, Aquablast, Joker, Balloon Race and Dragon Coaster.
1992: 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 twelve 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; Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora, OH; Kings Dominion in Richmond, VA; Carowinds in Charlotte, NC; Kings Island in Mason Mills, OH; Great America in Santa Clara, CA; Canada's Wonderland in Toronto, Canada; and Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in Gilroy, CA. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company also owns and operates the Castaway Bay Indoor Waterpark Resort in Sandusky, OH and five 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.
1997: 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.
1999: 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.
2000: 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. 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.
2001: 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!
2002: 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.
2003: 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. And the new PEANUTS™ Characters Show near Camp Snoopy entertains families.
2005: 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.
2007: 2007 marks the second consecutive year of major capital improvements in Wildwater Kingdom. With the addition of Wildwater Cove, a second giant wave pool in 2006 and the Capital BlueCross sponsored AquaRacer six lane mat racing water slide in 2007, 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.
Today:Today, 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. This year, Dorney Park upgrades again with VOODOO the first suspended linear induction impulse coaster in the Northeast and with the largest expansion to the Halloween program since the inception of HalloWeekends in 1997. The new Halloween HAUNT at Dorney Park brings three new attractions Club Blood, CornStalkers, and Terror Square. Guest will also find numerous upgrades to other Halloween attractions.