Hersheypark can be the Sweetest Place On Earth, but not if you don’t plan well. Check out these top tips for visiting Hersheypark with Kids!
It’s called the Sweetest Place On Earth.. and it totally is. I remember visiting Hersheypark in the 80’s (yes, the 1980’s) but I don’t remember it being anything like it is now.
Hersheypark isn’t just a day trip, it’s a destination. It can easily become one of your kids favorite destinations, making memories you will all cherish. But I am not gonna sugar coat this part– Hersheypark is a lot bigger than you think it will be. If you don’t plan well you could become overwhelmed, overtired, and honestly– that could ruin your sweet experience faster than a melting soft serve ice cream cone.
Here are some tips we have discovered (some are happy accidents, some are accidental disasters) that can help you plan the best trip ever to the Sweetest Place On Earth!
Hersheypark Sweet Sneak Peek
This. Right here. This is probably the biggest reason you don’t want to drive up to Hersheypark the day of your visit. Hersheypark’s Preview Plan, dubbed the ‘Sweet Sneak Peek,’ is included in your ticket price but you have to arrive the night before your big park day to take advantage of it! Basically, with your admission ticket you can arrive 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours before closing the night before.
We LOVED this perk for a variety of reasons. First of all, you arrive fresh to the park at like 7/730pm and see the hordes of park goers.. going the other way. Granted, the park isn’t empty… but it isn’t slammed.
That means you can ride on quite a few rides that typically have longer lines during the day.
Plus, it’s cooler. Oh wait, you aren’t a fan of waiting in line for a roller coaster when its 90+ degrees and humid out? Check out the Sweet Sneak Peek!
Another reason it’s great to check out the park the night before is, honestly, the park is lovely at night. Many of the rides are lit up and there is a very festive, county fair-esque, feel to the park.
And don’t worry about parking. At 7pm at night you will be able to get pretty close parking, and your parking is validated for the next day so you don’t have to pay to park twice. Sweet!
We used our Preview hours quite well. We rode Comet– twice (woo hoo!), Reese’s Cupfusion (there was, inexplicably, a very short line), the SkyLiner, and Bumper Cars. The evening ended with delicious chocolate milkshakes and walked out of the park with huge grins on our faces.
Pay for Premium Parking
Parking at Hersheypark will set you back $20-$25. For an extra $15 most days (that’s it.. $15) you can park in premium parking that is ridiculously near the front gate. Sign me up! You might not think you want this little perk.. until 10pm when you and your kids are staggering back to the car loaded up with t-shirts and the world’s largest Hershey bar.
Trust me on this one.. pay the $15.
If you decide not to pay for premium parking though, there is a tram (Hallelujah!) that will save your tired feet at the end of the day.
The first thing to do, even before you enter the park, is figure out which height category your kids are in. There is everything from a Hershey Miniature on up to a Jolly Rancher (pretty sure that category is reserved for basketball players).
When my daughter was 5 she was a Reese’s and a few years later she was a Hershey Bar. That meant that she could ride at least half of the roller coasters. Goodness.
Even Reese’s can ride a bunch of rides, including some of the super popular roller coasters like Comet and sooperdooperLooper, which goes upside down! Such a thrill for a 5-year old.
Note: If your kids are on the edge of a height category, they may not qualify for a few of the water slides on the Boardwalk, because the height for those rides are taken with shoes off. Just be prepared.
Plan More Than One Day
Ok, I am going to give it to you straight… you cannot possibly do Hersheypark in 1 day. You just can’t. Even if you had the park to yourself, I cannot see a way to go on all the rides AND have enough time to splash in the water at the Boardwalk.
I highly recommend you plan for at least 3 days in Hershey, PA, just so you can see the major attractions. However, you could easily spend 4 or 5 days (you know, make a proper vacation out of it).
If you only have one day:
Drive up the night before and go to Preview Hours. Then the next day pick either the Amusement Park or Boardwalk and just have a blast with one park. After dinner head to Hershey’s Chocolate World for more sweet fun and shopping.
If you have 2 days:
Drive up the night before your first full day and go to Preview Hours. Spend one full day at the Amusement Park. The next day spend your day at Boardwalk, but plan to leave around 2pm (tell you why in a minute). Head to Hershey’s Chocolate World by late afternoon and wrap up your fun there by dinner time.
If you have 3 days:
Drive up the morning before your first full day and go to Hershey’s Chocolate World during the afternoon. Enjoy the park at night for Preview Hours. Then spend one full day each at the Amusement Park and Boardwalk. On the day you go to the Boardwalk, leave the park around 5pm and head into town for dinner or head over to ZooAmerica.
You seriously will want to spend all, or almost all, of one full day in Hersheypark’s water park. It is ginormous! This is a great place for the entire family too because there is something for everyone, from babies to preschooler, grade-school age, teens, and adults!
The downside to this amazing park is that it is super amazing.. and at some point EVERYONE in Hersheypark will be at the water park (or so it seems). Here are some tips for maximizing your time:
- On your water park day wear your swim suits to the park.
- As soon as you get through the ticket line (because you arrived at opening, right?), head straight for the Boardwalk. Grab a locker (you can keep it all day) and claim a few beach chairs where you think you will need them. I will repeat.. grab your locker first thing in the morning. The lockers get snatched up very quickly and this location (right next to the changing rooms and bathrooms) is uber convenient.
- This is where planning comes in handy. No one will mess with your towel if you claim a lounge chair. But there are a lot of water park areas, so pick your chairs wisely. If you have preschoolers or grade-school age children, I would snag a few chairs in front of East Coast Waterworks.
- Unless you don’t care about crowds, plan to leave Boardwalk around 2pm. Why? Because after about 1 or 2pm on a hot day the park will get incredibly chaotic as everyone goes to the Boardwalk to cool off.
This leads me to the next, very important tip—
Safety on the Boardwalk
Come up with a meeting point and check-in times for older kids. For kids age 9 or 10 and under, do yourself a favor and plan a little more, especially if you plan to go to East Coast Waterworks (which you will.. because it is awesome).
What do I mean by this? At 1030am, Boardwalk was a ghost town. We had the park to ourselves. It was sleepy. There was no line for any water slides… or Tidal Force. None.
By 1pm though the waterpark was slammed. Wall to wall people. East Coast Waterworks was utter chaos. It is way too easy to lose your child inside this massive water play area (ask me how I know). If your kids are under 10 you either need two sets of adult eyes on OR tell your kids to come and check in with you after every time they go down one of the water slides.
We did not do this and for about 10 minutes of sheer terror I could not find my daughter. It all worked out because we had a meeting spot. But still… between the water spray and tons and tons of people, planning a little extra goes a long way.
Timing is everything– have a plan
Yes, you need to buy your tickets online before you get to the park.
Yes, you should consider coming to the park during the week.
And lastly, yes, you should arrive at the park before it opens.
Ok, those are the obvious tips but they are so important. You will have to wait with a few hundred other people to get through the gate at opening. But the line goes fast and this is the only way to really maximize your time in the park.
When we visited (during the week), the parking attendant indicated that even during the week the park will get super crazy busy if it is sunny and hot out. Going during the week just takes the edge off. Tip: Some days of the week are better than others. For instance, Friday is likely pretty busy. Same for Monday (but not as busy as Friday). Tuesday-Thursday would be the sweet spot for crowds.
Note: I just checked reviews on TripAdvisor and that confirmed what I am about to tell you: Avoid planning a Hersheypark trip on a summer weekend day if you can avoid it. As in, you will likely not have a super sweet time. You will be waiting in horrible lines for everything.. and you will be stink pot hot. This is great advice for any amusement park. But for Hersheypark it seems especially true.
Another option is to go to Hersheypark before school lets out for the summer or right after it goes back. If either of these options are between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Boardwalk is also open. If you don’t care about the water park, the amusement park is open almost continuously on weekends from April through the end of the year.
Regardless, on the day you go, walk to the back of the park and enjoy the rides at Midway America first. This also has the added benefit of getting your long walk out of the way before everyone is exhausted.
Get the App
For planning purposes and honestly, for sanity saving purposes, download the FREE Hersheypark app on your phone. There are so many awesome features on this app. Here are some of our favorites:
- Ride Wait Times. You can even set up alerts for ride wait times.
- Ride height restrictions
- Leaderboards (reset daily) for Reese’s Cupfusion and Whitecap Racer (so you can see how you do against everyone else in the park that day!)
- Food and beverage locations– including which restaurants have gluten free items and which ones are on the dining plan.
- An interactive park map– which includes restroom locations.
- Times and locations for character meet-n-greets.
Save Room For Dessert
Does this even need to be a tip? Ha! I mean, Hersheypark is the sweetest place on earth! Of course they will have mouthwatering treats! There are tons of options too from Dippin’ Dots to an Italian Ice Flight at Rita’s. Of course, Hershey’s milkshakes are amazing. Check out some of these photos of the delicious treats you can taste at Hersheypark.
Gourmet-Over the top hot cocoa at Christmas!
And ice cream from Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor on your way out of the park!
Don’t be like me. I did not stay hydrated and I almost got really sick because of it.
The heat and humidity at Hersheypark are no joke during the summer. Plus, you never know when a 20 minute wait could turn into 90 minutes in line for your favorite coaster.
For $16.75 you can purchase an all-day drink deal in a souvenir cup. I would highly recommend this because you get FREE refills on fountain drinks and ICEE all day long!
Consult The Map
You can look at the map on the app and you will receive a map when you go through the ticket line. I have included a screenshot of it below.
It is worth a few minutes to get oriented. Hersheypark is way bigger than some other area parks. That can be intimidating and you can feel like you are walking around in circles unless you have a vague idea of where you are going.
Make Your Park Plan Before You Arrive
This goes with all of the other tips about planning. Proper planning is essential. If you have kids or teens, you need to manage expectations and set limits before you enter the park. For instance, are you ok with waiting 90 minutes for a water ride that lasts 90 seconds? If the answer is yes.. knock yourself out (just stay hydrated). If the answer is no, agree to that beforehand and have a back up plan.
Same with eating and potty breaks. Make sure your kids know that when it is time to eat, it’s time to eat. Why do I bring this up? Because without a plan you will be tempted to keep riding rides until your are about to pass out from low blood sugar or dehydration. Planning is your key to fun!
Hersheypark has some amazing roller coasters! Actually, they have 15 coasters (including the water coasters) and there is a coaster for pretty much everyone in your family.
There are coasters that will give you a heart attack.
Coasters for young kids.
Plenty of water coasters.
There is even a coaster where two coasters go at the same time and race to the finish line! (Lightening Racer)
There are plenty of kiddie and family rides too!
Unlike some other parks like King’s Dominion and Dorney Park, the kiddie rides are not all co-located. This has the advantage of allowing families to somewhat stay together. Younger kids can ride age appropriate rides while older kids can ride coasters and thrill rides in the same area.
Of course, that means they are also not all centrally located. That’s ok though.. because there are over 25 kiddie rides (including the water park), which translates into a very fun-filled day for toddlers and preschoolers.
Once your kid is about 5 or 6, they will likely be tall enough to try their first roller coasters too!
Go Up For Great photos!
Some of the best photos of the park can be had if you go up high.
The two best rides for this are either the Hershey Kissing Tower (a ride to the top of the tallest tower in Hersheypark). Or, you can opt for the iconic Ferris Wheel, located at Midway America. I especially love riding the Ferris Wheel in the late afternoon or early evening when the glow of the setting sun illuminates Hersheypark in the most beautiful way!
Grab a bite to eat!
There are really quite a few restaurants inside Hersheypark. Most of the food is standard amusement park fare. If you want one of the decadent milkshakes or hot cocoa confections, head to Simply Chocolate.
Our favorite thing to do though is make time for lunch at the new restaurant, The Chocolatier, located right outside the front gate. you need to make a reservation, but the food is really fantastic!
Check out All the New Attractions and Areas
If you haven’t been to Hersheypark in a few years, they have added a TON of new rides and attractions. Hershey’s Chocolatetown is home to The Chocolatier, the new location of the Carousel, and the amazing new rollercoaster (it’s not new now, but it’s still awesome), Candymonium.
If you are leaving at night, don’t forget to stop by the new Hershey Kiss Fountain. The fountain changes colors and oftentimes the water is synchronized to music!
And on your way out, you will walk through the new (and very large) gift store. This is the same building that has Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor and Le Chocolatier. This gift store isn’t as massive as the one across the street at Hershey World. But it’s pretty close. You will definitely want to shop here!
Other new attractions that have debuted or will debut this summer include:
- Wildcat’s Revenge- a hybrid coaster opening Summer 2023
- Jolly Rancher Remix- a good rollercoaster for kids who want a thrill. Minimum height is 48″
- Mix’d Flavored By Jolly Rancher- a family ride
Don’t forget About The Rest Of Hershey!
So, you have been on Comet, gone down a few water slides. You drank a decadent milkshake and probably designed your own candy bar. But there is so much more to see in Hershey, PA and the surrounding area. If you decide to stay and play in Hershey, PA longer than a day.. or if you want more options for another trip to the area, check out these suggestions:
- Hershey Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Atrium
- The Hershey Story
- Indian Echo Caverns
- Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
- Turkey Hill Experience
You can do Hersheypark in one day but it all depends on when you go and what you want to do. If you are on a low traffic day– yes, you can ride all the rides in one day. If you pick a weekend day during the summer– absolutely not. Also, one day assumes you are not spending much time (if any) at The Boardwalk water park.
Admission tickets and Season Passes are valid for Ages 3+. Children 2 & younger are free! Full price of $84.95 for 1-day tickets and $120 for 2-day tickets available for purchase at Hersheypark ticketing services.
The best days to visit Hersheypark are Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by Monday and Thursday.
Guests can bring in one sealed bottle of water per person. Outside food is not permitted.
Actually, Hersheypark is cashless.
$25 at the gate and $20 if you pre-pay online. Preferred parking is between $35-$55, depending on when you plan to visit.