Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Destination: Hershey Park
For the last three years we have met my husband's parents in Pennsylvania for Memorial Day weekend. We celebrate Kyle's birthday, camp, and do some sight seeing. This year we met in Hershey and went to Hershey Park. With Amanda being 8 1/2 and Kyle just turning 3, it was perfect (actually, really perfect because we went the day before his third birthday, so he was still free!). The crowds were not overwhelming, and the park had a lot to offer for younger kids as well as older kids and teens.
Tickets: You can purchase discount tickets at Pennsylvania Giant and at many other places around the area (we bought them at our campground). We ended up buying two-day tickets, which were significantly cheaper (I think it ended up around $28 a day). The other discount that they have if you are not sure if you want to return for a second day is a two day consecutive ticket. If you show your ticket stub from the day before, you get a discount on that day's ticket. Another appealing discount option is the preview option. You can enter the park three hours before closing and buy a ticket for the next day, while enjoying the evening at the park for free. Whether you buy the tickets at your hotel, at the Giant supermarket near the park, or online, buy your tickets before you get to the park and you will save yourself a nice long wait in the ticket line outside.
Rides: You can search on their website for the rides by height so that you can see which rides that your children will be able to enjoy. The map that you get when you enter the park is also clearly marked by the candy brands eligible. As you walk into the park, take a moment to stop at the measuring station. Not only will you know what height category your child falls into (which are cleverly named after Hershey's candies), but your child will get their first sample of chocolate as well! Most rides are open to Reese's on up (42 inches), and all but two are open to Hershey's (48 inches).
While there are plenty of rides for older kids (and non-rollercoaster-fearing adults) to enjoy, it really is a wonderful place for young kids. Kyle had a ball. I will also say that going with your children's grandparents is a great way to experience a theme park. They were perfectly content to stay with Kyle while Terry and I rode a big coaster or took Amanda to do one that she wanted to try.
We went on the most thrilling ride ever! The Storm Runner is one that you must try. It is scary, and very fast, but it's smooth. Amanda wasn't willing to try it, although since she is 54 inches tall (just barely), she could have. It looks daunting and if my husband had not really wanted to ride it, I would not have volunteered, but I would ride it again. In fact, I think that she would have liked it if she had tried it.
We finally convinced her to ride the Sooperdooperlooper, which she wanted to avoid because it goes upside down, and she loved it. Because it's an older ride, there was no line at all. Another old classic that we had trouble finding was the log ride (it's called the Coal Cracker). Kyle and Amanda enjoyed it so much that they rode it a second time immediately. The longest line that we encountered was The Comet, which is the first coaster that you come to upon entering the park. I would recommend passing it by, and perhaps riding it later in the day on the way out. It is a typical wooden coaster, but there are two others at the back of the park that didn't have long lines when we rode them. A great starter coaster is the Trailblazer. It will give wary children a taste of the excitement and perhaps a willingness to try some others.
There is an entrance to ZooAmerica at the back of the park and if you enter through those doors, admission is included in your park. This was a nice shady walk and a good break from the park the second day.
New this year is the Boardwalk, a water park within Hershey Park. In addition to the typical sprayers and water slides, there are some extreme slides and an inventive water coaster. We did not go this year, but it could easily fill one of your days, and I think that the older kids enjoy spending their time there after they ride the two or three big coasters.
We had a great time, and I'm sure we'll be back. If you've never been to the area, you could easily spend a week by adding on visits to coal mines and the Amish country, all within an hour of Hershey.