Many years ago, I took a road trip with three friends. We made several stops along the way and Hersheypark was one of them. That road trip was long before I had kids or was even married for that matter, so when the kids saw a commercial for Hersheypark recently and asked to go, I couldn’t say no. I remember loving it when I went all those years ago, so I knew they’d have a great time there.
So, a few weeks ago, we took a road trip to Pennsylvania and Hersheypark was one of our first stops once we got there.
With that being said, we are a Disney family. We go every year and we are very familiar and comfortable in big amusement parks. Hersheypark is smaller and quite a bit different from Disney, so navigating it was a bit different than bigger amusement parks. We spent two days at Hersheypark and we wanted to share our best tips for getting the most out of your day at the park.
Disclaimer: My family received complimentary passes to Hersheypark, but all opinions expressed here are strictly my own and were not influenced in any way.
Before I get started with my tips, I wanted to mention that Hersheypark is really two parks in one: an amusement park and a water park called The Boardwalk. Our entire first day was spent solely at the amusement park part of the park. Day two was split between the water park and the amusement park. Now, here’s pretty much everything you need to know to have a successful trip to Hersheypark with your family.
1. Start your day early! I would suggest getting there before the park opens so that when the gates open, you can enjoy the most popular rides before the crowds arrive. In the summer, most days the park is open from 10-10. We arrived both days at about 9:30 and there was already a line of people waiting to get in.
2. Have a plan. Before you head to the park sit down and have a family meeting to figure out what rides everyone really wants to ride so that you can make sure everyone gets to do everything they want to do. The website will tell you all about the rides, so you can plan out your day ahead of time.
Plus, Hersheypark has a Kiddie Swap program so that if you and your partner would like to ride height-restricted rides but your child is not tall enough to ride, you can just let the attendant know that you would like to take advantage of the Kiddie Swap program. One parent can ride while the other stays with the child. At the conclusion of the initial ride, the parents may “swap” places. Similarly, if one parent has two children who meet the height restriction but must be accompanied by a responsible rider or who wish not to ride alone, the parent may ride with one child while the other child waits in an appropriate area of the ride. At the conclusion of the initial ride, the parent may remain on the ride while the children “swap” places.
3. Get your kids measured BEFORE they ride.
Kids’ access to rides is based on their height. Kids under 36″ are called Miniatures and they move up the ranks of Hershey Kisses, Reese’s, Hershey Bars, Twizzlers all the way up to Jolly Ranchers.
There is a measurement station just in front of the Carousel (near the entrance). They will measure your child ONCE and give them a wristband that corresponds to their height. My little man was just a hair over Reese’s, so he ended up being a Hershey Bar. My oldest was a Twizzler. Each ride at Hersheypark is clearly marked as to who could ride with or without a parent, so the wristbands being done ahead of time made it easy for the kids to show the attendants and get on the rides.
3. Bring a backpack with a change of clothes and towels if you plan on spending time at The Boardwalk. You can rent lockers (small or large), or even rent a cabana if you feel like splurging a little, but we are cheap and preferred to carry our stuff with us.
On our second day at the park, we went to The Boardwalk first. We spent our first half of the day there actually and when we were done, the boys changed into dry clothes and we were off to ride some rides. Remember to pack wet bags for those wet bathing suits & towels and don’t forget the sunblock!
4. There is no outside food allowed inside the park, however we brought in a few bags of Goldfish and they never said a word to us about it when they checked our bags on the way in. When you need a meal, there are a variety of food options available, including well-marked gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and kosher foods. We ended up getting meal tickets and found it to be a good value. Meal tickets are affordable and flexible, plus it allows you to save up to 25% on food at 18 different locations throughout the park! All meals include an entrée, side, and a Souvenir Cup during the 2015 regular season and it’s only $14. You can buy them at Guest Services at the top of the hill just inside the main gate. The souvenir cup is normally $9, so when you buy the meal ticket, you are basically getting the cup for free.
Even if you don’t go with the meal ticket option, I highly suggest getting a refillable cup. When you buy a refillable cup, you get .99 cent refills all day. Also if you have a water bottle you can refill them with water from the soda machines or refill your refillable cup for free with water and ice
You can get free ice water at every eatery in the park, but it’s usually in a small cup without a lid. Getting water in your souvenir cup gives you a nice big drink that will last a lot longer.
5. Download the Hershey Park App from the App Store before you go. It includes a Park map, rides, ride wait times, closed rides, food and beverages, shows, characters, first aid and most importantly – restrooms! The app really helped us maximize our time in the park and honestly, it was a lifesaver for us!
6. There is A TON of walking at Hersheypark, so wear comfortable shoes. You might even want to pack flip flops if you plan on spending time at The Boardwalk, but the park itself is very hilly, so you’re going to get a good workout that day.
7. If you can, plan your visit for midweek. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the least busy days in the park, so if you go on one of those days, you will have considerably shorter lines. Our first day there was a Sunday and our second day was on a Wednesday – there was a noticeable difference.
8. I would suggest skipping the preferred parking. Regular parking will cost you $15 and preferred, which is just a little closer is $25. If you are getting to the park early anyways, you will end up parking close to the entrance and even if you don’t, they have a tram service that makes several stops throughout the parking lot, so you can cut out walking if you want to. Plus, the kids will love it.
9 . ZooAmerica is part of Hersheypark and it is included in your park admission. We were there for two full days and never even had a chance to make it over there, so if you want to see the animals, maybe plan a whole day for that? I have heard great things about it and I am sorry we didn’t have a chance to check it out.
10. Take advantage of the Hersheypark Preview Night! If you arrive the night before your scheduled day at the park, you are able to spend 2 1/2 hours at Hersheypark prior to to the park closing – for FREE! (Meaning, if your tickets are for Saturday, you can enter the park Friday night at 7:30 pm because the regular park closing is 10 pm).
I found that with a little planning ahead, we got more done in the two days we were there than if we had just winged it. If you are planning on visiting Hersheypark, I hope you find these tips helpful.