Fun for all ages
By Christina Barron
May 14, 2010
Like the chocolate Kiss that bears its name, Hersheypark is a classic that has managed to reflect today's tastes. The park, built in 1907 by candy magnate Milton Hershey, has old-fashioned rides -- a wooden roller coaster and a carousel both dating from the 1940s -- along with 21st-century favorites -- a new water park and smooth, super-fast coasters that twist, turn and take you upside down. The park's layout is especially suited to families trying to entertain teenagers and young children. Each of the six themed sections of the park has rides for all ages, which means no standing around (and possibly melting down) while big sister lines up for another coaster.
For tykes: The park has two areas, Founder's Circle and Music Box Way, with a cluster of kiddie rides. Some are scaled-down versions of bigger rides, including the Swing Thing and Mini Pirate. But small visitors, who are dubbed either Kisses or Miniatures, also can join the rest of the family for the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Scrambler and several other rides scattered throughout the park.
For coaster lovers: The bravest souls should head for the Fahrenheit. In the first few seconds, you are pulled straight up 121 feet and then plunged down a 97-degree drop into a series of corkscrews. The park has 10 other coasters, including the wooden Wildcat, the speedy, dueling Lightning Racer and the inverted Great Bear. For a throwback experience, try the Comet, an old-time coaster that even young children can enjoy.
For bench-warmers: Hop on the carousel, try the Ferris wheel and mini-train ride. Entertainment at Music Box Theatre begins May 29. The Boardwalk water park area, which opened in 2007, includes a wave pool and a lazy river in addition to water slides, a surfing area and a giant sand castle. The Kissing Tower is a rotating needlelike structure that provides panoramic views of the area.
Insider tips: Head to the back of the park first. You can avoid lines of more than an hour for the Fahrenheit, Wildcat and some other coasters if you hit them soon after the park opens. The Comet and Great Bear, close to the entrance, are better later in the day. When throngs head for the water rides of the Boardwalk during the midday heat, head for the air-conditioned Music Box Theatre, which features a new show called "Tap."
Food: No food can be taken into the park. One sealed water bottle per person is allowed. There are chain restaurants: Subway, Nathan's hot dogs, Shakey's drive-in. Skip the bland and expensive Sooper Dooper Sandwich Stop. Panini Grill has variety and some healthful choices. And, yes, there is chocolate.
If you have more time: ZooAmerica, which turns 100 this year, is next to Hersheypark, and entry is included with park admission. Allow about one hour to see all 200 animals. At Chocolate World, just across from the park entrance, visitors can learn how cocoa beans become chocolate and then create their own Hershey bar.
Need to know: Hersheypark is in Hershey, Pa., about 261/27 hours north of Washington via Interstate 270 and Route 15. The park is open Friday-Sunday, Wednesday-Thursday and opens daily for the season May 21. Water rides open May 29-Sept. 6. Admission is $52.95 for ages 9-54; $31.95 for ages 3-8 and 55-69; $20.95 for age 70 and older; and free for age 2 and younger. Tickets can be purchased online and printed at home. Parking is an additional $10 per vehicle.