Chocolate! Chocolate! Chooocolaaaaaate!
Shhh, don’t tell that chocolate-loving fish from Spongebob, but this week we’re heading to Hersheypark! Located in Pennsylvania, just outside Harrisburg, and about 95 mi NW of Philly, Hersheypark is an adventure for all of your senses. Taste a variety of chocolates in the Chocolate Tasting Experience. Hear music live in concert at the Hersheypark Stadium. Become engulfed in the sweet scent of chocolate on the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour ride. See your favorite candy bars come to life in the 4D Chocolate Mystery show. Feel the wind blow through your hair as you ride dozens of roller coasters, thrill rides, and amusement rides. Between Hersheypark and Hershey’s Chocolate World there’s over 70 rides and attractions, a zoo, a sweet museum, and a factory tour ride, plus a giant store filled with candy and chocolate galore. You’ll be sucked in like Augustus Gloop, and you won’t want to leave.
Founded in 1906 by Milton S Hershey as a leisure park for Hershey factory employees, the original Hershey Park was opened to the public in the spring of 1907 with an exciting baseball game in which the Hershey factory team won against the Crescent Club of Harrisburg. Sitting on the edge of Spring Creek, the park boasted walking trails, beautiful gardens, tennis courts, a dancing pavilion, the newly founded Hershey Band, and of course, the baseball stadium. At one time or another, Hershey Park offered several swimming pools, boat rides on Spring Creek, several zoos, an amphitheatre, and other entertainment venues.
Amusement Through the Years
Hersheypark as we now know and love was fully transformed into an amusement park in the 1970s, but Hershey Park had a rich history of amusement park rides, the first of which was a used Allen Herschel carousel added in 1908. That was followed by the Miniature Railroad in 1910, it’s first roller coaster in 1923, and bumper cars and two kiddie rides in 1926. The wooden coaster added in ’23, known as The Wild Cat, was a gift for the town of Hershey’s 20th Anniversary. Prior to Hershey building his chocolate factory there, the town had been known as Derry Church. The Wild Cat was replaced in 1946 by a new wooden coaster, Comet, which is still operating today. Prior to the big remodel, the park saw a variety of rides, including a ferris wheel, several dark rides, The Whip, tea cups, and flying swings, among others, and some of which have updated versions operating now.
Much like its winding coasters, Hershey Park experienced many ups and downs over the years, leading to the major remodel in the 70s to become the park we know and love. In 1970 the park was officially transformed and expanded into a full-fledged amusement park, adding new rides, the 300-foot Kissing Tower Observation Deck, and changing the name to Hersheypark. Today’s park features six themed areas, several strolling and stage shows, Zoo America, and the chance to meet-and-greet with some of our favorite candies, like Hershey’s Kiss, Reeses’s Cups, KitKat, Twizzlers, and more! A dozen coasters have been added since the 70s, including SooperDooper Looper in ’77, which was the first modern day looping steel roller coaster on the East Coast; Wildcat in ’96, a wooden coaster in homage to the original The Wild Cat; and the most recent in 2012, Laff Trakk, an indoor coaster. The water park, Boardwalk at Hersheypark, was added in 2007 for the 100th anniversary of the park, and will feature two new rides this season in 2018 – Breakers Edge Water Coaster and Whitecap Racer!
While Hershey has had well over a hundred rides throughout its history, today Hersheypark has over 70 rides and attractions, including 13 roller coasters, 24 amusement and thrill rides, and over a dozen water park rides and attractions. Sprawling over 100 acres, the amusement park is split into Founder’s Way, Midway America, Kissing Tower Hill, Pioneer Frontier, The Hollow, and The Boardwalk, with the coasters evenly spread throughout the park.
Founder’s Way features Cocoa Cruiser coaster, Reese’s Extreme Cup Challenge (similar to the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin shooting game at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom), bumper cars, a Tilt-a-Whirl, and the Merry Derry Dip Fun Slides.
In Midway America you’ll find four coasters, and The Whip, one of my favorite amusement park rides, which runs around an oblong track, picking up speed as it whips your car around every corner, and throwing riders about the cars such as The Scrambler does.
Kissing Tower Hill has one coaster, drop tower rides, Coal Cracker flume ride, and…well, Kissing Tower Observation Deck, of course! The Kissing Tower offers 360º views of Hershey through Hershey Kiss shaped windows!
Pioneer Frontier boasts four coasters, a pirate ship, The Howler, which allows riders to spin their own cars while they fly high off the ground and also swing in and out, and The Claw, a swinging pendulum ride.
The Hollow has tea cups, swings, and three coasters – Comet, Skyrush, and SooperDooper Looper.
The Boardwalk features a lazy river, a wave pool, and various wild tube rides, but watch out for Tidal Force, a boogie board surfing/wave rider attraction, which once got the best of me as it shot me back up the slope the second the ride began – not sure I’ll try this one again myself, but it sure was a thrill!
I haven’t been to the Hersheypark amusement park in almost eight years, but I have been several times, and of the rides open during those trips, I have to say Fahrenheit is hands down my favorite ride there. I actually visited Hersheypark for the first time in 2004, the year that coaster opened, and remember how exciting it was to wait in line for it, even though the line stretched from Hershey to Terre Haut, and we were at the end of it. Similar to the Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, and Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Ohio, this coaster goes from zero to whoa baby in mere seconds.
With so many thrilling rides and coasters, Hersheypark is one of my favorite amusement parks I’ve been to so far. I can’t wait to get back to experience new rides that have been added since my last visit, and to hang with my favorite Hershey candy friends again!
Make sure you plan a detour to Hershey's Chocolate World to buy tons of candy and souvenirs, and to ride the Hershey Factory Tour ride at some point during your day. The other Chocolate World activities are fun if you have an extra day in the area, but if you’re just visiting the park for one day, I would suggest just popping over for shopping and the tour ride. The Hershey Factory Tour ride is free for everyone, as many times as you want, and takes you behind the scenes of the Hershey Factory, along with hilarious singing cows, and a complimentary chocolate bar upon exit. This is one ride you won’t want to miss.
Hersheypark is already open for the 2018 season, and has park hours and events throughout most of the year. In addition to special Halloween Hersheypark in the Dark events, the park is also for limited dates around Christmas time for Hersheypark Christmas Candylane with choreographed light shows and many rides and coasters operating as well. Plus, ZooAmerica is included in the price of your park ticket!
Please check their website for pricing, hours, and a full list of rides and attractions.