We visited Hersheypark two years ago during Christmas in Hershey (see review) and were excited to see what the park had to offer during the summer. Our plan was to visit the park on a Tuesday evening to take advantage of twilight ticket prices, stay overnight and then spend all of Wednesday exploring the waterpark and anything we missed the night before. It worked out well for us, so we suggest you check out the amusement park at night and save the waterpark for the day.
Three generations enjoyed our most recent visit, and came away happy and tired. By far the two biggest things we noticed about Hersheypark were the cleanliness of the park itself and the friendliness of the staff. It seems as though customer service is lacking in many businesses, but Hersheypark takes it seriously, so this was a breath of fresh air.
Tip: if you have a smartphone, download the Hersheypark app. The app will help you navigate the park and provides you the full map of the park, times for the shows, alerts of any rides that might be closed, hours and a few other nuggets of information.
The Amusement Park
There is a lot to do at Hersheypark, so we recommend taking a look at the online map before your trip, or if you don’t have time then take a few minutes to orient yourself after you enter the gates and before the adventure begins.
At the park entrance, there are posts that kids (and adults) can measure themselves to determine whether they are an “Assorted Miniature”, “Hershey Kiss”, “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup”, “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate”, “Twizzler” or “Jolly Rancher”. Each candy brand marks a height so that everyone will know what rides they are eligible for.
We like Hersheypark because it offers lots of options for different ages and excitement thresholds. First we checked out the kiddie rides, conveniently located near the park entrance. (yes, my 11 and 9 year olds still love the kiddie rides, even though they are now routinely denied entry because of height restrictions.). Highlights were the carousel (a landmark more than 100 years old), bumper cars, the speedway and plane ride.
To get a good sense of the park’s layout and offerings, take a ride on the Capital Bluecross monorail, which circles the perimeter of the park and the Kissing Tower, which takes you up 250 feet in a glass-enclosed ride and gently spins around where you’ll have a view of all of Hershey.
The park’s signature attractions are its 11 roller coasters. Sadly, the OK interns are not thrill seekers, so we didn’t ride any of them, but rest assured any roller coaster lover will be a happy camper here with lots of choices. Lines were not long and those that had lines seemed to be moving quickly, but I would imagine that wait times on the weekends can be quite long. FYI: Coming in 2012 is the newest coaster, Skyrush.
When you need a break, check out one of the many shows that are ongoing during the day and evening. Even with an evening and day in the park, we only saw one of the shows, the Milkmen, who belted out some great harmonic tunes.
The Boardwalk (aka waterpark)
When we woke up on Wednesday to cloudy skies and a threat of storms, we were worried, but the weather turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The cloudy, drizzly day kept the crowds away and we had virtually no waits on any of the rides.
The waterpark is a bit of a walk from the front entrance of the main park. Once there, you can rent lockers on a first-come, first-served basis. There are two options — medium for $10 and large for $15.
We shoved all of our stuff into a large locker and wandered off in search of some water fun. Near each water attraction there are cubbies where you can leave your shoes, so keep them on when your store your gear. There is room enough in those cubbies for a towel or two as well. Just know that the park takes no responsibility for loss of goods.
We started with the K12 Wave Rider where kids get on boogie boards and ride on the wave. For “Hershey’s” and above, this is a high thrill ride. We suggest you watch the ride first if you’ve never done it before, and wear a one piece suit. If you fall off the ride (which most kids do), the force of the water can move relocate bikinis to places they shouldn’t be.
Next up, the Intercoastal Waterway (aka Lazy River), a nice relaxing ride where you get to lay in a tube and gently float around the river. Grandparents beware – your children and grandchildren will try to trick you and float you under the various fountains and sprays! From there you can head to The Shore, where you’ll find a 378,000 gallon wave pool. We were really impressed with the lifeguards throughout the park, but nowhere more than at The Shore. They were attentive and I felt very safe with my kids playing in the waves.
For some more high thrill excitement we ventured over to the Roller Soaker. I had never seen a roller coaster where you get wet and this was a fun treat. There was barely a 15 minute wait and we were off for the ride. For “Reese’s” and above, this ride is an aggressive thrill ride and has a bit of an incline and some jerks here and there, but I thought on a whole it was rather tame. You’ll get wet, which makes it all that more fun.
Be sure to check out the East Coast Waterworks, a huge maze of waterslides, tunnels and interactive water toys that kept us playing on for a long time. There is something for everyone here. The Tidal Force is an awesome splash down ride that is “high thrill” and high on getting soaked! You also can’t miss the Coastal Plunge area, which features four different types of waterslides, most of which allow for single or double riders.
For the youngest water lovers, Hersheypark offers Sandcastle Cove, which has waterslides, jets and more, and Bayside Pier, home to a zero-depth entry wave pool. Little ones can go into this pool as long as they are accompanied by a responsible chaperone, and there are lifejackets available.
Our Kids recommends that you store your clothing in one of the lockers that are available to rent. Wear a comfy bathing suit, flip flops and a cover-up. Cabana rentals are available with Hershey Resort Guests getting first dibs. They are pricey (ranging from $280 and up) for the day, but it may be just the ticket if you plan on spending all day at the waterpark and want a quiet place to retreat.
Your Hersheypark admission ticket includes admission to ZooAmerica and we highly recommend a visit to this educational attraction. It was a sweet surprise for all in our party. Not too big and not too little, the zoo is an 11-acre walk-through facility and highlights animals from five different regions of north America – over 200 animals of 60 species in their natural habitats.
One favorite display was in the Great Southwest area, were you go inside a building to see the “desert in the night.” A cool pair of swift foxes entertained us, and rattlesnakes and boas terrified me us. Kids will love seeing American Bison roam “freely” throughout the “Big Sky Country” — keep a lookout for bunnies too.
We also enjoyed seeing the park’s owls – the Barn Owl, the Snowy Owl and the Great Horned Owl to name a few. No visit would be complete without checking out the Black Bear, Mountain Lion, Bald Eagle and the Gray Wolf. All exhibits are wheelchair and stroller accessible. ZooAmerica is open the entire year, and even offers a cool program called “Creatures of the Night.” Using a flashlight, Visitors get a glimpse of the animals in the dark. Food is also available in the ZooAmerica park.
After a full day at the park, the OK interns begged to visit Chocolate World before our drive home. Located directly across from Hersheypark, Chocolate World is part entertainment, part educational and part gift shop. The kids love the short ride that explains how chocolate is made, not to mention the enormous gift shop where we picked up many chocolate goodies. You can read our full review here.
Admission and Hours
- Hersheypark has a variety of admission plans, but the bottom line is that admission to Hersheypark is pricey. One day admission for ages 9 and up is $54.95; $33.95 for ages 3 to 8 and 55 to 69; $21.95 for ages 70+, but you do get alot for your money. Add in the cleanliness of the park and friendliness of the staff, we feel this is splurge money worth spending. Hersheypark also offers two-day and three-day flex plans if you’re making this longer than a day trip.
- Also worth noting is the Preview Plan option where if you purchase a regular full-day admission ticket, 2 1/2 hours prior to closing the night before, you can visit the park for free. Check online for the full details.
- Discounts are available at local Giant stores and other brick-and-mortar locations. Military discount programs are also available.
- The Boardwalk is open until September 5, 2011 from 10am to 6pm.
- Hersheypark is open daily until September 5, 2011 and then weekends to September 25, 2011. Hours vary based on day of the week, check online for the details.
- You’ll also be able to visit the park during some of their exciting seasonal events. During October, check out Hersheypark in the Dark and then from November 18 to December 31, 2011 you can visit Hersheypark Christmas Candylane and Hershey Sweet Lights.
- If you are not staying at a Hershey property and don’t take the shuttle to the park, parking is $10 per day.
- Stroller rentals are available.
- No outside food is allowed. Consider packing a picnic and go back out to your car for a tailgate, or purchase food from one of the many venues within the park. Prices were reasonable and options are plentiful. We ate at the Gourmet Grille on Tuesday evening spending about $30 for a large veggie burrito (yum!), tacos, mozzarella sticks, jello and drinks. On Wednesday, we had lunch in The Boardwalk at Nathan’s and at Famous Famigilia Pizza (2 pizza deals for the rest of us). For dinner we opted for fairly healthy entrees in the Courtyard Cafe in Chocolate World. Prices are generally $4.50 and up for various food items.
- Don’t want to lug your wallet around? Consider using the Hersheypark Easy Pay system. You basically load money onto a wristband so you can use it at various retail and food locations throughout the park.
- Well-maintained bathrooms and changing rooms (in The Boardwalk) are available throughout the amusement park with infant changing tables and water fountains.
- If you have more time, there are so many other attractions in and around Hershey worth visiting — Hershey Gardens and the Hershey Story come to mind. You might also consider visiting nearby Lancaster, PA or Gettysburg, PA.
On our Christmas in Hershey visit we stayed at the Hershey Lodge, one of several properties operated by the Hershey Company. This time we opted for a hotel not owned by Hershey and stayed at the Country Inn & Suites, about a 2 minute drive from the park. The hotel offered a nice complimentary breakfast and a spacious room for a little over $200/night.
Our Kids recommends you check all your options. Hershey properties are nice and convenient, but there are many other hotels nearby that offer cheaper rates.
As we noted in our first Hershey review, travelers from Washington should plan for a trip of 2-3 hours through some mostly nice scenery. From DC you can approach from the West (from the Beltway to 270 to US 15 to Harrisburg) or the East (from the Baltimore Beltway to I-83 north to York PA) and then following the signs to Hershey. Either way, plan on being confused by I-83, which changes direction to become part of Harrisburg’s Capital Beltway (yes) and is also dual signed as US 322, which happens to be the road you actually want. Regardless of what tourists say about DC’s roads, or signs, or whatever, the road network around Harrisburg is very confusing. Look at the map before you go, because the highway numbers change arbitrarily and with enthusiasm.