Exploring Hershey Park and Its Surrounding Areas
Hershey, Pennsylvania, bills itself as “The Sweetest Place on Earth.” This article is based on my personal experiences, including missteps, during visits to the Hershey area. The visits span from 2002 to 2014.
Hershey is best known for its theme park, Hershey Park. Admission is free for children 2 and under, and for most of the year, there are discount prices for children 8 and under and people 55 and older.[i]
There are many other nearby points of interest. One attraction, Chocolate World, is adjacent to Hershey Park. Chocolate World opens year-round at 9 AM. Closing time depends on the day. The two exceptions are Christmas Day, when it is closed, and Thanksgiving when it opens at 4 PM.[ii] In nearby Lancaster, there is Dutch Wonderland, an amusement park geared toward younger children.
The first time I visited Hershey Park was when a radio station had a promotion. People who entered the park before its normal opening time got in for free. I regretted I hadn’t gone to the park years earlier. At the park’s entrance, there are measuring posts that have bands with the names and logos of different Hershey candy bars. It is a great photo opportunity to measure children to show how tall they were at each park visit.
There are Hershey chocolate characters wandering through the park. There are young children and adult rides. This includes classic and racing style motor cars. The park had a monorail and a skyride. They only have one stop so they can’t be used for transportation. The monorail is a good start point. It’s near the main entrance and will give first-time patrons a good idea of the park’s layout and distances.
Water Park and Zoomerica
Within the park is a water park. Adjacent to the park is Zooamerica. Zoo visits are included in the park’s entry fee. You will need your hand stamp to reenter the park. While the zoo is small it does have a good collection. The collection includes animals native to North America.
The park has animal lectures next to the zoo entrance. During one of these lectures, I learned an owl’s large eyes leave less room for the brain cavity. Despite the owl being a symbol of wisdom, they probably aren’t very intelligent.
They have stages throughout the park. One stage has a large pool and has shows with sea mammals as the stars. Another stage is in a large auditorium. The other stages are outside but under cover. The park has 50 rides, 14 are rollercoasters.
I never had the opportunity to visit the park during the Halloween season. Hershey Park calls its Halloween festivities “Hersheypark In The Dark”.[iii] Hershey Park is only open a few days so it’s a matter of if your schedule meets their schedule.
My last visit to Hershey Park was in December 2014. The park was decorated with seasonal lighting. They had live reindeer at the park. They also had seasonal shows. Unfortunately, I wasn’t dressed for being outside for a sustained period in cold weather, and the park affords few places to get away from the weather.
Hershey's Chocolate World
Hershey’s Chocolate World is open year-round. The hours do vary depending on the season.[iv] Chocolate World is closed on Christmas but open on Thanksgiving.[v] There is no admission. There are attractions that cost money. You can buy tickets to individual attractions or buy one of the package-deal options.
There is a free Hershey’s Chocolate Tour ride. The wait time depends on time and the season. The ride uses revolving carts so the line keeps moving. The queuing area has its walls painted to represent cocoa tree groves. There is an overhead video that explains the process of harvesting cocoa.
Before the escalator leading to the carts, a wall is painted to represent the cocoa on the docks. The cart takes the riders through all the phases of making chocolate bars. When they get to the part of adding the milk there is a trio of singing animatronic cows. A camera takes a picture of each cart so patrons can buy a memory of their experience.
Before the Hershey factory closed down, there was a digital counter that showed how many of each type of bar was made so far that day. At the end of the ride, the staff handed out free candy to the riders.
There is a large food court. It is in the same area where Hershey chocolate is on sale. The chocolate in the gift shop and the food court is all fresh. There are also souvenirs on sale.
Lancaster is about a 45-minute drive from Hershey Park. Lancaster County is known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country because of its large Amish population.[vi] There are numerous area tours. Most are in tour busses but they also have tours in horse-drawn wagons. A misconception, illustrated in the 1985 movie Witness, is that Amish live separate from the non-Amish. Amish farms and houses are often next to non-Amish farms and houses.
There is the Biblical Tabernacle. Outside it has metal figures and tents representing how an Israelite encampment would look when the Israelites were wandering in The Sinai. Inside they have a painting giving a full view of how an encampment would appear. There is a room that depicts the Tabernacle. A staff member explains the details of the Tabernacle and the rituals. It is educational and inspirational.[vii]
One time on an alternate route we drove through Gettysburg. Another time we stopped at Gettysburg on a return trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long. Gettysburg is a sprawling battlefield. We went to the visitor’s center, where they have a cyclorama painting that depicts Pickett’s Charge.[viii] I was fortunate to find my way to the scene of Pickett’s Charge. I was able to listen in on a tour guide who gave a detailed description of Pickett’s Charge.
Hotels and Restaurant
The most memorable restaurant we visited was Good ‘n Plenty.[ix] The restaurant features authentic Pennsylvania Dutch food. It is an all you can eat restaurant. The staff brings food to the table. The seating is long tables. The concept is to have different groups seated at the same table.
We only stayed there for overnight visits. I rent rooms at inexpensive hotels since I can’t see paying a lot just for a place to sleep. Inexpensive hotels are available in the Hershey area. They are what one would expect from a bargain basement hotel.
When visiting Hershey Park in December 2014 I would have missed the hotel if I didn’t have the car’s navigation system. The hotel was off an unlit road. There were no other cars in the parking lot. To me, it seemed like a setting for a horror movie. The parking lot had recently been repaved, so the tar scent was in the air.
The hotel staff was nice. I never had a hotel receptionist know me by name when I entered. He explained after Hershey Park closes for its regular season there is very little tourism.
- [i] Hershey Park, https://www.hersheypark.com/tickets/, last accessed 10/14/19.
- [ii] Hershey.com, https://www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld/en_us/plan-a-visit/hours.html, last accessed 10/22/19.
- [iii] Hershey.com, https://www.hersheypark.com/explore-the-park/halloween.php, last accessed 10/22/19.
- [iv] Hersheys.com, https://www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld/en_us/home.html, last accessed 10/24/19.
- [v] Hersheys.com, https://www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld/en_us/plan-a-visit/hours.html, last accessed 10/24/19.
- [vi] The Amish are of German extraction. “Pennsylvania Dutch” is derived from “Pennsylvania Deutsch”.
- [vii] Mennonite Information Center, https://mennoinfocenter.org/tabernacle/?utm_source=lancasterpa.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Lancasterpa, last accessed, 11/2/19.
- [viii] National Park Services Gettysburg, https://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm, last accessed 10/30/19.
- [ix] Good ‘n Plenty, https://www.goodnplenty.com/, last accessed 10/30/19.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Robert Sacchi