|Hersheypark: We arrived at the “sweetest place on earth”|
My wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary two weeks ago. We made all of the necessary arrangements for a win-win scenario – my mother-in law taking over as caregiver, spending quality time, and entertaining our son for “Grammy-Camp” while my wife and I skipped town for a kid-free jaunt to Seattle. The carrot that we dangled in front of our son was the promise of an entertaining, adventurous family weekend to Hersheypark upon our return. Maybe it was the guilt of leaving our son back home while we lived it up on the West Coast. Either way, it was our goal to loosen the parenting reigns and spoil our son rotten for a weekend. Mission accomplished!
Of course, there’s lots of ways to spoil your children at the “sweetest place on earth,” but here’s five successful ways that worked for us in spoiling our child at Hersheypark. I’m confident these tips would work at any amusement park.
|Enjoying a Hershey Bar after measuring up at 48 inches|
Hersheypark tip No. 1: Let your children plan the agenda
Before our weekend adventure, we went onto the Hersheypark website to download a copy of the park map as well as viewing photos and descriptions of the rides. This gave my son several ideas for plotting out our first days’ agenda. He got his magic markers out and developed an action plan to go on all of the rides that looked most exciting.
Then, once we arrived at the park entrance, we measured up against the different Hershey candy brands (Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, Hershey Bar, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and Hershey’s kiss) to identify what rides my little 48-incher would have access to. He was an emerging Hershey’s Bar (48′ – 54′). Phew, this meant that we would be able to go on most of the rides and attractions together.
We picked up our color coded map as we entered the massive amusement park and were off to the races. As a parent, I often feel like a dictator delegating tasks to my son and telling him what he should and shouldn’t do. It felt good to shift the power over to my six-year old and let him call the shots on which rides he wanted to go on. In fact, he navigated our flow of rides for the entire day including which ones deserved a second or third time. For the record, Comet, Coal Cracker, Sunoco Speedway, Kissing Tower, Intercoastal Waterway (lazy river) and the unbelievable Tidal Force were all worthy of at least three-peats from us.
On the second day, we spent the majority of our time at the “Boardwalk” which is the water park within Hershey. This is a valuable feature as opposed to some other theme parks like Six Flags Great Adventure or Legoland that have their amusement park and water park in separate locations. Again, our son planned out our day’s activities including nearly 90 minutes within the Water-Works confines- an unbelievable sprayground filled with water slides, tunnels, and interactive water toys. It felt good to be in a position of saying “yes” to everything and left little room for conflict.
|All aboard the Comet Roller Coaster|
Hersheypark tip No. 2: Stay at a resort on property
After an action-packed day of adventure, I knew we wouldn’t have the energy to drive three hours back home to New York City. Consequently, we made plans to stay overnight at the family-friendly Hershey Lodge that’s located about three miles from Hersheypark. At Hershey Lodge: every family member received Hershey Bars at check-in, oversized indoor and outdoor pools that were open late, a fire pit to roast s’mores in the evening, an awesome breakfast buffet in the morning, and soap and shampoo that had me smelling like chocolate all day long! The accommodations were luxurious and comfortable that enabled our family to recharge for our second day at the park.
There were a few other perks that we took advantage of because we stayed at one of the Hershey Entertainment Resorts. There was a frequent (and FREE) shuttle bus that brought us back and forth from the Hershey Lodge to HersheyPark which meant that we didn’t have to pay for parking ($12) or park our car a half-mile from the park entrance. The shuttle bus dropped us right near the front gate. Additionally, we were able to enter Hersheypark one hour earlier than the general public on our second day. This paid out huge dividends as we repeated rollercoaster rides that had lengthy lines the previous day.
|My son finishing his ice-cream cone before helping me with an ice cream sundae|
Hersheypark tip No. 3: Forget the bedtime routine
Normally, I’m a stickler for schedules and keep a rigid bedtime routine of bath, books, and bed with lights out by 8pm. It felt good to loosen the reigns as we stayed in the theme park until 8pm before heading into nearby Hershey’s Chocolate World – their version of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory! You could easily spend a whole day in this place, but we only stayed a few hours. We loved getting swooped away on the Great American Chocolate Tour ride which gives you the “101” on how chocolate is made. This was loads of fun and even included a sweet treat at the end of the ride. We didn’t get to sleep until 11pm that night, but we were all in great spirits flying high from the day’s memories…and all of the sugar.
|Posing with our new friends|
Hersheypark tip No. 4: Overdose on sweets, duh!
Observing my son unwrap his Hershey bar and devour it as fast as Charlie (and the Chocolate Factory) searching for the golden ticket during check-in at Hershey Lodge, put a smile on our faces as we knew that we had arrived at a special place for sweets, treats, and all things chocolate.
Over the course of the next two days, we inhaled a steady flow of goodies like the ice-cream Sundae we made in Hershey’s Chocolate World, cotton candy, a variety of chocolate treats, chocolate butter on our pancakes, and our hands-down favorite, Chocolate Chip Cookie S’mores.
|Cotton Candy in hand. Ready for SooperDooperLooper roller coaster|
Hersheypark tip No. 5: Just say YES to even the scary rides
Over the past year, my son and I have visited several amusement parks. We’re pretty adventurous and enjoy trying new experiences. However, one thing was always clear – my son and I were both scared of rollercoasters that loop upside down. Until. Hersheypark.
On our first day, the two of us were mesmerized by the SooperDooperLooper – a swift and thrilling rollercoaster that looped upside down. I dismissed the ride and told my son that he wasn’t tall enough. A LIE because I was nervous for both of us and didn’t wait to wait in line for something we might back out of. On day #2, we arrived at the theme park before the crowds and were drawn to the looping coaster once again – it had a mysterious magnetism that we couldn’t avoid. My son inspected the candy color codes on the sign and discovered that he WAS tall enough for this attraction. Next, my son and I made a pact that we’d swallow our fear together, sit in the middle of the coaster (we deemed this to be the safest spot), and give it the old college try.
Not only did we scream our heads off, love every moment, and repeat the roller coaster several times … but, we also rode in the first car. Then, we sat in the front car of the electrifying Comet Roller Coaster as well. My son said, “this is one of the greatest days of my life.”
That was one of those real dad moments that will be etched in memory for years to come.
Overall, our family loved the Hershey experience and we’re already planning to visit again next summer. Get ready for us, Hotel Hershey! Our adventure has made quite an impression on my son as well. He’s been documenting the trip in his writer’s journal at school and continuously whips out the park map of rides to study it in our home.
|Ready for our flight on Starship America|
|Cruising around in our sports car!|
|Chocolate Chip Cookie S’mores|
**Disclosure: The kind and generous folks at Hershey Entertainment Resorts provided complimentary park passes and hotel accommodations for our family. Even though I still feel hyped up on sugar from our visit, the thoughts and experiences included in this article are my own and have not been influenced from the brand.