Earlier this summer, we took a family trip to Hershey Park. This is our third year going to Hershey, simply because we love going to Hershey Park! If you are traveling to Hershey Park this summer, read my six tips for a fun family trip to the Chocolate Capital of the World!
1. If you can swing it, rent a Waterfront Cabana on the Boardwalk . A Hershey Park Cabana is part of their VIP experience, and costs $250 per day on top of the park tickets, but it makes your stay so much happier. You get your own 12×12 cabana that has a small refrigerator filled with 12 bottles of water, a ceiling fan, table and chairs and a couple of chaise lounges. You get a locker for your belongings, a bag filled with towels, sunscreen and other goodies. And the best part, you don’t have to wait in line for the Lazy River, so anytime anyone needs to cool off, you just hop right into river! It’s great for families with children because you have a place to set your belongings and it provides a “home base”. There’s an exclusive walk-up grill you can go to for all of your food, plus unlimited soda. Tip: If you are not staying in one of the Hershey hotels, you can only book a cabana one week in advance, but you MUST call as soon as they open. Last year we got a cabana, but this year I called too late and all the cabanas were booked. Believe me, I was BUMMED. Pros: All of the above. Cons: It’s $250.00.
2. Save money and stay at a non-Hershey Park hotel. This year, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Harrisburg, PA, a 15-20 minute drive outside Hershey Park. I received a press-rate but even without the rate, any family could save $100 to $300 per night compared to hotels on the Hershey Park resort. The Holiday Inn Express was a decent hotel with a good size room and all the amenities. We like staying at hotels that have free breakfasts because our girls get up early and need to eat right away, and this Holiday Inn Express had both hot and cold breakfasts options like eggs and sausage, and cereals, yogurt and fruit. Pros: You get to save money on your hotel during your trip which means you can splurge on a Cabana! There’s also an outdoor pool which my girls took advantage of. Cons: There is only one elevator, which can get clogged. If you are staying on the lower floors, take the stairs. Popular breakfast times can get crowded and food can run low, but they’ll happily refill (or just ask the manager or the waiter on duty).
3. Take advantage of the Hershey Park Preview Night! If you arrive the night before your scheduled day at the park, you are able to spend 2 1/2 hours at the park starting at 7:30 p.m. – for FREE! (Meaning, if your tickets are for Saturday, you can enter the park Friday night at 7:30 p.m.) Tip: Use this time to hit the big rides with the big lines. That way you won’t be spending your “real” day waiting in lines. Keep your parking ticket from Preview Night so you won’t have to pay on your scheduled day. Pros: It’s usually not that hot, the crowds are thinning and most of the popular lines for the popular rides are quick or non-existent. Cons: This means a really late night for the kids, so be ready for some melt-downs.
4. If you have about 2 hours to spare, check out Chocolate World, the building right next to the entrance to the park. It’s free (except for the activities like making a chocolate bar, watching a 4D movie – which is what we did, a chocolate tasting), but it’s not too expensive. Tip: Take the free “factory” tour. Even though we’ve done this three years in a row, it still brings a smile to my girls’ face, especially the free mini chocolate bar at the end! Pros: The activities aren’t too expensive, unless you do a bunch of them. Make sure you check out the logistics for each activity because some take longer than others and some are better for certain ages. Cons: You can end up buying a ton of stuff here because of the activities and the huge gift shop. Give your kids a set budget before entering the building. And we told them that they were only allowed to choose one activity.
5. Find a home base so that your whole party will know where to go and meet in between rides. This year, since we didn’t have a cabana, we had to figure out a place to sit and set out stuff down — where it wasn’t too crowded, which is not an easy feat. We settled on a place in the water park area that is close to the little kids water rides and areas, specifically by the “Spray Ground” (shown in above collage, top right picture). There were more than enough chairs under some shade and we were right next to the water so if we needed to cool off, we could. We felt somewhat safe leaving our stuff there unattended for a bit, if we had to go to the bathroom or get something to eat. Pros: When we went, there were plenty of chairs and it was right next to water features so we could cool off when we wanted. Cons: It’s not the Cabana area, so you can’t leave your belongings for hours.
6. Do yourself a favor and rent a stroller for your kids especially if they are 5 years old and under. It’s $12.00 for a single stroller for the day, and if you don’t rent a cabana, this becomes your SUV homebase. It provides some shade and rest for a tired child and can hold all of your belongings like bags and towels. You’ll thank me later. Pros: You’ll never hear your kid whining, “I’m TIIIIIIIIIIRRRRED…” Cons: You’ll have to push around a stroller the entire day. You gotta pick your battles.
I’ve heard great things about going to Hershey Park in the early Spring and the Fall time frames and would love to visit Hershey when it is cooler, since these three times have always been in the summer. Have you gone to Hershey? What are your tips for having a fun family trip to an amusement park?
Read about my summer road trip essentials.