I had decided that we needed to start making family memories, doing those things that families do: going to Disneyworld, Great Adventure, Coney Island. I had decided that Disneyworld was too far and too expensive, Great Adventure was probably too old for our girls and Coney Island was too close (I wanted to make a weekend out of it). So our first stop in the family amusement park arena would be to Hershey Park. In my very own memory bank, I remember my parents taking me to Hershey, PA and going on this 5 minute rinky-dinky ride that was a bit more like “It’s a Small World” in Disneyland. I remember thinking, “THIS is Hershey Park?! There has to be more than this stupid ride!” I had to make my memory better – and start creating ones for our kids.
- Hotel: Hotels can be hard to come by near Hershey Park. We actually stayed about 25 minutes away in Harrisburg, PA at the Staybridge Suites in Harrisburg. Great hotel, about a year old, with regular rooms as well as suites. They have a free hot breakfast buffet’s, a heated indoor pool and free do-it-yourself laundry services! We actually got a two-bedroom suite with a kitchen so that we had enough room and our little one had a separate room to sleep in.
- Tickets: Tickets are about $54 for adults, $33 for 3-8 y ear olds, free for the under 2 set. If you get a 1 day pass, you are entitled to visit the park the night before, 2.5 hours before closing. This is called the “Preview Night”. This is a GREAT deal because you get to see the lay of the land, go on all the popular rides with little-to-no lines (for one of the rollercoasters, we just stayed on because there was no line behind u s!) and there are hardly any crowds.
- Parking: If you go for the Preview Night, you pay the $10 parking fee, keep the ticket stub and when you go on your official day, you show them the ticket stub and you don’t have to pay a second time around.
- When to go: We went in July, so we were expecting crowds, but we actually went on the weekend when it actually rained – and guess what? No crowds, the weather was nice and cool and lines weren’t long! So good tip: Go during the Spring and the Fall. The weather will be nicer and it won’t be super crowded.
- If you go when it is hot: A friend of ours had suggested renting a Hershey Park cabana which is situated near the water park. It’s on the expensive side, but we booked during the crazy heatwave earlier this summer with two young kids, I wasn’t going to take chances. You can cancel without penalty as long as it is before 72 hours of your reservation, otherwise you get charged. We watched the weather every day and once we saw it was going to rain, we cancelled.
- Food: Hershey Park does have meal tickets, which helps you save 25% when you pay ahead of time, but it does limit your food options. I would suggest not doing the meal ticket and just wing it. They have a ton of options there anyway. Also, believe it or not, there really isn’t a lot of chocolate for sale in the park. The only place I did see it was in the entrance to the park where they had a chocolate shop. The rest of the food is pretty standard fare.
- Park Cleanliness: What they say is true. Hershey Park is clean. It’s one of the cleaner parks that I have been to. And they do have Purell hand sanitizers around the park. Some of them were empty, but they do get an A for trying.
- Rides: Hershey Park has a great system. Before you enter the park, you can “rate” yourself based on your height. You can either be a Hershey’s Miniature, Hershey’s Kiss, Reese’s Pieces, Twizzler etc. Once you figure out what you are, you look for your candy on each ride, so its easy to spot, and your kids will know exactly which ride they can go on. Also having a 7 year old and 2.5 year old – I thought that they had a good breadth of rides that the girls could go on. Some had strange height restrictions, but all in all 85% of the rides I agreed with their ratings.
- Chocolate World: Definitely visit Chocolate World, but don’t make Chocolate World the reason for your visit to Hershey, PA. You must go to the Park as well! See my Chocolate World agenda below.
- Maximize Your Visit to Hershey Park: Read the Maximize Your Visit link on the Hershey Park website. Lots of good tips (besides mine!).
Our Sample Itinerary:
- 3:00 p.m. Check-in to your hotel, quickly freshen up and unpack.
- 4:30 p.m. Drive to Chocolate World, which is right near Hershey Park. Do the free Chocolate Tour Ride which takes 15 minutes (including waiting in line), get your free piece of chocolate and do 1 Chocolate World Activity. Tell your kids ahead of time that they can choose only 1 activity (the activities can be free to $15, so if you limit the activity to one you can save a bundle).
- 5:30 p.m. Head over to family-friendly place for dinner. We went to the Red Robin restaurant right near the park which was fine fine for what it was. They have a kiddie menu and crayons so what more can you ask for?!?
- 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Park opens for Preview Night!
- 10:30 p.m. Drag kids out of the car – they are going to be exhausted!!
- 8:30 a.m. Grab the free breakfast at the hotel and be on the road by…9:15 a.m.
- 10:00 a.m. Hershey Park time!!
- 4:00 p.m. We actually left by this time because our kids were exhausted.
- 5:00 p.m. Dinner at the Macaroni Grill in Harrisburg. Again, not bad for a place in…Harrisburg, PA. And yes, they have a kiddie menu and crayons.
- 6:00 p.m. Dip in the indoor heated pool in the hotel
- 8:00 p.m. Sleep time – both girls were OUT.
- 9:00 a.m. Grag the free breakfast at the hotel
- 10:30 a.m. Last dip in the pool
- 12:00 p.m. On the road back home!
If you have older kids, you definitely could stay out longer at the park and probably do another day. We only were able to visit only half the park even though we had 1+ days. I would absolutely go back to Hershey Park next year to do more exploring – perhaps during the off-season. Plus, the girls will have grown up a little more and it’ll be fun for them to go on rides that they weren’t able to go on this year. Bottom Line: Hershey Park is a good, local way to start creating those family memories!