Hershey, Pennsylvania bills itself as the “sweetest place on Earth” and I have to agree because Hershey and its primary tourist attraction, Hersheypark, hold a very sweet spot in my heart.
Growing up in nearby Lebanon County, going to Hersheypark with my family was an annual summer event. I still remember the anticipation I felt going through the entrance gates and walking up the steep path to the carrousel with the feeling that the whole park and day were full of possibilities.
During college, I spent two years working in the park’s Guest Services, located just outside the main entrance. I helped give directions to lost guests, surveyed restaurant diners, helped care for lost children and my favorite, led trolley tours of the town of Hershey (“over on your right you will see….).
I returned with my own three young children when visiting my parents. Hersheypark, with its famous wooden rollercoaster, the Comet, was one of my mother’s favorite places. To this day, I feel that every ride I take on the Comet is a tribute to her and her love of life. The Comet brings me back to my youth. I have ridden it as a child, teenager, young parent and older parent and I will feel young at heart every time I ride that clackety track up that first steep hill.
This year’s experience was an extended family trip that gave me the chance to see my young nieces and nephews enjoying the park. The Coal Cracker
water flume and the iconic SuperDooperLooper (they still sell t-shirts proclaiming “I survived the SooperDooperLooper) were big hits with the newer crowd. My local family members enjoy annual season passes so they are experienced riders on all of Hersheypark’s newer attractions, including the exhilarating Skyrush coaster, the indoor Laff Trakk spinning glow-in-the-dark coaster and the Triple Tower.
Hersheypark made a major addition to the park with the opening of The Boardwalk in 2007, the 100th anniversary of the park’s opening. The Boardwalk is a water park complete with a wave pool, lazy river, several tube slides and the East Coast Waterworks, a climbing structure with slides, water cannons, fountains, and an enormous bucket of water that splashes down at intervals. It is a huge area and visitors could easily spend an entire day playing in the water. For families that aren’t sure if they will want to get wet or not, I suggest bringing in your swimsuits (swimwear is required) and placing them in a locker for the day ($15 for a small locker and $20 for a family locker). You will get a bracelet to wear that can be scanned to reopen your locker. Trust me, the parking lot is far away and you will not want to return to your car if you now decide to enjoy The Boardwalk. Hersheypark also offers private cabanas with many amenities included which must be reserved online prior to your trip and this year have an advertised starting cost of $265.
Speaking of parking, we took advantage of Hersheypark’s preview pricing which gives visitors a sneak preview of the park the night before with one of the perks being that the parking ($15) on your preview night waives your parking fee the next day. Holders of full-day admission tickets are admitted to the park the evening before which enables you to get the lay of the land, especially with the use of the Hersheypark App, and enjoy much shorter ride lines as the night goes on. We were admitted at 7:30pm sharp on a Saturday night with an 11:00pm closing. That gave us 3.5 hours to enjoy relatively short lines on the Comet, Skyrush, SooperDooperLooper and other attractions. Nights in the park are magical. There is nothing better than being at the top of a rollercoaster with the twinkling lights of the entire park below.
We didn’t want to waste valuable time at our preview eating so we saved our appetites for a late dinnner at the nearby Red Robin, with its always hot and delicious french fries. For food in the park the next day, we enjoyed chicken tenders and a large bucket of seasoned crab fries at Chickie & Pete’s at Pioneer Frontier and our season pass holders said no trip to Hersheypark is complete without the park’s best ice cream at the Comet Creamery in the Hollow. Sweet, indeed.