Everything to Do at Hersheypark, According to a Skeptical Adult Making Her First Visit in 10+ Years

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hersheypark entrance in hershey, pa
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Despite growing up in Mickey Mouse’s backyard, as a kid, I dreamed of summer vacations to Hersheypark. Sure, the drive from Florida to Hershey, PA, seemed never-ending—particularly in the era before tablets and tech—but as a child who adored Willy Wonka even more than Barbie, the idea of an amusement park redolent with the scent of cocoa (crushed beans were used as fertilizer!) brought out my inner Charlie Bucket. (And OK, maybe my Augustus Gloop.)

It'd been more than a decade since my last visit, so naturally, I wondered: Could this place hold up to my memories? Would it be sad and rundown—or maybe worse, so corporatized that it was simply a moneymaking shell of its quaint, former self?

To be honest, it’s changed….a lot. And thankfully, in good ways—the park has expanded greatly, making it worth a long weekend, just to take in it all. There’s a strong mix of rides for all ages, whether you’re a roller coaster fanatic or more of the gently-floating-along-in-a-skyride type. And some of the best attractions don’t even require park admission. Here’s a full breakdown of the best Hersheypark rides, insider tips and treats to enjoy, so you can make the most of the northeast’s hidden gem.

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hersheypark height requirement markers, as depicted by its candies
GSheldon/Getty Images

How Much Does it Cost to Go to Hersheypark?

Park admission is typically $85 per day for those aged 9 to 61, and $55 for kids 3 to 8 (2 and under get in free). But, right now, the park is running a promotion where adult tickets are just $63, or you can visit after 4 p.m. and pay $37 per person. This includes access to The Boardwalk at Hersheypark, the brand’s water park area, provided that it is open during your visit. (For comparison, a one-day ticket to a Disney theme park ranges from $109 to $189, and Universal Studios tickets start at $109, with an additional $80 per person to experience its water park, Volcano Bay.)

The Best Hershey's Chocolate World Rides

hershey's great candy expedition
Hershey's Chocolate World/AP

Located just before you enter the park, Hershey’s Chocolate World is an over-the-top gift shop with enough of its own rides (priced individually or bundled into passes, which range from $19 to $74) that you could easily spend half a day there. Pro tip: If you’re just going there (and not to Hersheypark itself), let the parking attendant know—you’ll get access to a different lot and your parking is free.

1. Hershey’s Great Candy Expedition

  • Best for: all ages

Hershey’s newest attraction is more than a 4-D train ride; it’s a choose-your-own-adventure-style experience. Sit in theater-style seats as you ride a CGI “train,” and at each fork in the road, hit a button on your armrest to decide which candy-themed land you visit. As a result, every adventure is a little bit different, but the end result is the same: You get to leave with a palm-sized bag of Hershey’s best-sellers: mini Hershey bars, Reese’s cups, Jolly Ranchers and more. (However, the half-hour experience isn’t cheap—expect to spend $20 per person.)

2. Hershey’s Chocolate Tour

  • Best for: all ages

This totally free, 30-minute ride provides a non-snoozy lesson in how chocolate is made, from growing cacao to packaging bars. Head there before Hersheypark opens, when crowds tend to be thinnest, and don’t miss the free mini Hershey bars they hand out after you exit.

The Best Hersheypark Rides

hersheypark rides wildcat revenge

One of the most charming aspects of the park is its height markers, which are denoted by Hershey’s candies. (It also makes it easy to remember what your kids can and can’t ride.) For reference, those height requirements are:

  • Hershey’s Miniatures: < 36” tall
  • Hershey’s Kisses: 36” to 42”
  • Reese’s: 42” to 48”
  • Hershey’s: 48” to 54”
  • Twizzlers: 54” to 60”
  • Jolly Ranchers: 60” and up

3. Reese’s Cupfusion

  • Best for: kids 36” and up (Kisses, Reese’s, Hershey’s, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers)

Lines get looong fast for this ride, which features four-seater cars that whizz along a track. Each rider is equipped with a laser gun, which you can use to protect the Reese’s factory from baddies—and hit targets to rack up the most points possible, with the chance of entering the Reese’s Hall of Fame (cue trumpets and choir of angels singing in reverence here).

4. Balloon Flite

  • Best for: younger kids (Hershey’s Miniatures, Kisses, Reese’s, Hershey’s)

This twist on a carousel lets kids float in a pseudo-hot air balloon. Lines are typically short, and the ride feels exhilarating for toddlers and preschoolers without giving you heart palpitations.

5. The Scrambler

  • Best for: all ages are allowed, but we found preschoolers and older kids tended to prefer this ride, due to its fast spinning motion

It’s a carnival classic, gentler on your stomach than the teacups (which they also have) but still lively enough to keep thrill-seekers entertained.

6. Kissing Tower

  • Best for: all ages

If you want to see the entire park—without doing 60-MPH loops on a roller coaster—head to the tower, which gently elevates you above the rides and provides a bit of the town’s history.

7. Wildcat’s Revenge

  • Best for: riders 48” and up (Hershey’s, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers)

Hersheypark features 15 roller coasters (!), but we’re most excited about its newest creation, a wood-and-steel hybrid that pays homage to the original Wildcat coaster—then takes things to the next level. It’ll loop you upside down four times, take you up a 140-foot hill and make your cheeks jiggle as you race up to 62 miles per hour. (Psst: You can get a sneak peek of what it’s like to ride it here.)

The Best Boardwalk at Hersheypark Rides

hersheypark rides castle cove

If you visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day, bring your bathing suit, because The Boardwalk at Hersheypark is open, and it’s worth devoting a day (or at least the afternoon) to.

8. Breakers Edge Water Coaster

  • Best for: Kids 42” and taller (Reese’s, Hershey’s, Twizzlers, Jolly Ranchers)

A water…roller coaster?! You better believe it. This twisty, stomach-dropping ride lasts nearly a minute and a half, propelling you at 20 feet per second on a canoe-like, four-seater innertube. Get a glimpse of what you’re in for with this 40-second YouTube video.

9. Intercoastal Waterway

  • Best for: all ages

When all the stimulation (and sugar) from the day gets to be too much, hop on an innertube and drift along this 1,360-foot lazy river. It’s a low-key way to get from one area to another at The Boardwalk—and rest your feet for a bit.

10. Sandcastle Cove

  • Best for: little kids (Hershey’s Miniatures, Kisses and Reese’s)

There are a few splash pad options at The Boardwalk, but this one is particularly enchanting, thanks to its massive “sandcastle” fortress. There’s also a wading pool that reaches a depth of 18 inches, making it ideal for preschoolers who want to get wet—but not necessarily their faces.

The Best Foods & Drinks at Hersheypark

best foods hersheypark final
Hersheypark/Chocolatier/Candace Davison

1. Hand-Rolled Pretzels

  • Where to Find It: The Pretzel House at Hersheypark

We weren’t prepared for how pillowy and doughy these Pennsylvania-made soft pretzels are. Hit up The Pretzel House to choose from one of six flavors—including classic salted and cinnamon sugar—as well as a number of dipping sauces, ranging from cheese to vanilla buttercream.

2. Reese’s Stuff Your Cup

  • Where to Find It: Hershey’s Chocolate World

Admittedly, at first, the thought of making your own custom, one-pound Reese’s cup (loaded with your choice of four mix-ins, which could be anything from bacon and potato chips to sprinkles and mini marshmallows) seemed too intense—even for someone like me, who makes a point of seeking out New York’s best half-pound cookies. But the key isn’t trying to eat this by the slice; you crack open the shell and use it as a dipper to scoop up the filling. It’s a fun treat to take home and invite everyone to try.

3. Cocoa Cuban

  • Where to Find it: Chocolatier

Make a reservation in advance to have lunch or dinner at The Chocolatier, near the entrance to Hersheypark. The menu may seem gimmicky at first—everything denoted with a “C” next to it contains chocolate—but the dishes are so elevated they’ll make you look at cocoa in a whole new light. Case in point: The Cocoa Cuban, a riff on the classic that features cocoa-rubbed pork shoulder, thinly shaved ham, bread and butter pickles, mustard and Swiss on Cuban bread.

4. Crabfries

  • Where to Find Them: Chickie’s & Pete’s at Hersheypark

These fries have their own fandom in Pennsylvania, and for good reason: They’re slathered in crab seasoning (salt, paprika and garlic, among other spices) and cheese sauce.

5. Exclusive Chocolates

  • Where to Find It: Hershey’s Chocolate World

Before leaving, swing by the Hershey’s Chocolate World gift shop to snag sweets you can’t find anywhere else. During our stay, you could sample three Hershey bar flavors exclusive to the park—salted caramel, chocolate hazelnut and cotton candy—which made for conversation-sparking souvenirs. (Fair warning: Checkout lines tend to be long at the end of the night, so be prepared to wait.)

Where to Stay in Hershey, PA

Hershey Lodge resort in Hershey, PA
Hershey Lodge

Hershey Lodge is our top pick for families, just because you could spend a whole day on the property itself. Every member of the fam gets a full-size chocolate bar upon check-in, there’s marshmallow roasting at night, and the hotel boasts six eateries, its own water park (Hershey’s Water Works) and a mini golf course on-site. Hershey’s Water Works and the mini golf course are both included with your stay, as well as admission to Hershey Gardens (the 23-acre botanical gardens nearby), The Hershey Story Museum and shuttle service to and from Hersheypark. Prices can be as low as $129 per night, though it varies widely depending on the time of year you visit and what types of rooms or suites are available.

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, kitsch-lover

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...