With summer upon us, we escaped New York City for a family vacation as good as going to Disney — only closer and far more affordable. We packed, loaded the car and less than three hours later arrived at the “Sweetest Place on Earth” — Hershey, Pa.
Hersheypark tip No. 1: Don’t do everything in one day
A family vacation shouldn’t be squeezing in every ride and attraction before you go home. It should be a balance of entertainment, laughter and family bonding. And a Hershey vacation is best enjoyed in two or three days.
We made plans to stay overnight at The Hotel Hershey, located less than a mile from Hersheypark. The Hotel Hershey was the perfect place to recharge our batteries before another action packed day at the theme park. The accommodations were luxurious and service level was beyond all expectations.
It’s easy to unwind and feel immersed in vacation mode when you:
- receive Hershey chocolate bars when you check in.
- frolic around a massive, outdoor pool complex that had a zero grade entry which was perfect for my toddler.
- sip a frozen drink while watching one kid snake through a water slide while the other jumps for joy on the splash pads.
- roast s’mores at a fire pit in the evening.
- enjoy a ridiculous breakfast buffet spread at The Circular Restaurant to fuel up for the day,
- watch your little ones enjoy a host of engaging activities throughout the day like making tie-dye shirts, playing mini-golf, and an arcade.
- experience top-notch service where they pack up your car for you upon check out so we could make a smooth journey home!
Sweet tip No. 2: Take advantage of combined amusement, water parks
Hersheypark tip No. 3: Dabble in treats … lots of treats
There are sweets, treats and chocolatey goodness at every turn — so everything in moderation, people! Over the course of a few days, we devoured a variety of goodies like chocolate chip pancakes topped with a dollop of chocolate butter, Hershey Kisses provided each night at turn down, cookie sandwiches filled with ice cream, milk chocolate covered s’mores, and our hands-down favorite, Chocolate Chip Cookie S’mores. So definitely tickle those taste buds, but watch it! Have only a little here and little there so you can enjoy them all!
Also, hop aboard the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour at Hershey’s Chocolate World. This fascinating and free immersive ride is a feast for the eyes. It provides a brief history lesson in an engaging and sweet-smelling way for the kids. Of course, they give you a free Hershey Chocolate product sample at the end of the tour. This tied us over for about two minutes until we dove into a mouth-watering ice cream sundae at the gift shop.
Sweet tip No. 4: Find your inner child
A Hershey vacation should be just as entertaining, enjoyable and rewarding for parents as it is for the kids. Free your inner child and go on a few rides that you swore to your children you wouldn’t ever do.
My 8-year old son is now tall enough to ride most everything. His understanding is that since he’s tall enough, he HAS to go on every ride despite any fear factor. He pleaded for us to accompany him on Skyrush — tallest and fastest roller coaster at Hersheypark. Even though we declined during our conversations, we caved in when we were standing at the front entrance to the attraction. We have to cast our own fears aside and do it for the kids, right?
I’m so glad my son persuaded me. With terror in my eyes and a knot in my gut, riding Skyrush was the most invigorating experience of our trip and to think I almost didn’t take the risk.
The most anticipated ride for our adventure was the new Hershey Triple Drop Tower. You have three choices based on height and thrill factor — Hershey’s Tower, Reese’s Tower and Hershey’s Kisses Tower. Our family recommends all three! However, start with the smaller Hershey’s Kisses Tower. It’s spectacular and a great foundation to build anticipation to the “wow factor” of the 189-foot-high rocket thrust climax of the Hershey’s Tower.
Don’t forget, hugging the Hershey Candy Bar characters stationed around the theme park and hotel is also allowed for adults like me that want to relive their childhood.
Hersheypark tip No. 5: Let your kids help plan the fun
Before our weekend adventure, we went on the Hersheypark website. This let us analyze the park map as well as viewing photos, descriptions and some videos of the rides. It sparked my children’s excitement and interests as well as providing my 8-year old son with tools and ideas for plotting out our trip agenda.
Once we arrived at the park, we measured up against the different Hershey candy brands to see what rides my growing 55-inch son would have access to. He graduated to Twizzlers (54 – 60 inches). This meant we would be able to go on most of the rides and attractions together. Our two-year old daughter was a Hershey Miniature (0 – 36 inches) which meant that most of her day would be enjoyed on the carousel, Ferris wheel, in the water at The Boardwalk, and a host of other entertaining kiddie rides.
Next, we picked up our color coded map as we entered the amusement park and were off to the races. As a parent, I’m often guilty of being too controlling and telling my children what they should and shouldn’t do. It felt good to shift the power over to my 8-year old and let him call the shots (as long as he factored in his little sister’s enjoyment, too). It felt good to be in a position of saying “yes” to most everything and left little room for conflict.
Lastly, download the new-ish Hersheypark mobile app. It makes navigating the park and your life a lot easier. The free app contains a wealth of useful information including:
- an online park map.
- complete list and description of rides.
- start times of shows.
- the ultimate weapon — Ride Wait Times
My son became obsessed with using the app during our visit to monitor wait times that fell under 15 minutes for our favorite attractions like Comet, Tidal Force, Laff Trakk and new Hershey’s Triple Drop Tower.
Disclosure: The kind and generous folks at Hershey Entertainment Resorts provided complimentary park passes and hotel accommodations for our family. Even though I’m still dreaming about the chocolate cookie s’mores from our visit, each Hersheypark tip as well as the thoughts and opinions included in this story are my own and have not been influenced from the brand.