When people think of beautiful theme parks, oftentimes the first thing that comes to mind is Silver Dollar City. It sits in the mountains and has rolling hills that the rides use to their advantage. The next park that comes to mind is Dollywood, for similar reasons. Maybe you think of Busch Gardens Williamsburg for its great theming and beautiful trees. What if I told you that I now have another park that jumps to the front of my mind? What if I told you that park was themed to candy? Well, that is exactly what Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa. is — beautiful.
By Justin S. Landers
Sitting in a beautiful area with trees flowing through, Hersheypark makes great use of its terrain. Sweeping hills and small outlets of water are found at every corner of this chocolate-themed paradise. Massive roller coasters glide over those rivers and valleys. A Ferris wheel and other flat rides litter the hills. In the back of the park, a bridge leads over a busy street, taking you into the zoo that is also owned by Hershey. This park has such an amazing feeling throughout, and a ride collection to boast about.
When you arrive the first thing that you will find that — like at every park before — a temperature check awaits. This park is using handheld contactless thermometers like those I saw at Kings Island on opening day after their thermal scanners went down. Hersheypark also has upgraded their metal detectors so that most guests’ bags will automatically be checked as they pass through. These new-age metal detectors make park entry a breeze.
Masks are required for all guests, and strictly enforced in the park and on rides. They also have hand sanitizer stations throughout the park, and one of the best things about them is the system used to alert staff they need to be refilled — just send a quick text to the number on the hand sanitizer container, with the location of the empty station.
The entrance to the park is all-new this year. They built out a beautiful, wide open entrance and hid a lot of little gems within. There are imprints designed to look like a giant Hershey chocolate bar, little Hershey kisses on medallions in a circle, and the kiss points to what the medallion discusses and information signs through the entrance. A new store stands by the front gate with a beautiful glass front. I had the opportunity to talk to Quinn Bryner, the park’s director of public relations and social strategy, about some of these new additions, as well as some of the new park features, restaurants, and safety measures:
There’s something you will notice before you even get close to that temperature check though. Something standing…..no, towering at the entrance of the park: a brand new B&M Hyper roller coaster standing at 210 feet tall. Candymonium is one of few rides promised for 2020 that is still being opened this year, and it makes a perfect addition to the park.
I took around 10 laps on it between my two-day visit. It quickly became my second-favorite B&M hyper coaster next to Mako at SeaWorld Orlando. What was even better though, was that my last ride on it, about 20 minutes before the park closed on July 17, featured a final turn circling the fountain that had just been turned on for testing. This fountain sits in the middle of a small helix that is right at the entrance of the park, and the water from the fountain is shaped like a Hershey’s Kiss. It makes for an impressive ending.
Just beyond Candymonium and Chocolatetown’s new entrance area, you find yourself in the older sections of the park. Towering high above everything else besides Candymonium sits SkyRush, the first hyper coaster Hersheypark opened. This Intamin ride is intense, extremely intense. Immediately after the first drop of 200 feet, you stay close to the ground for the rest of the ride. Positive G-forces push against your body through every corner, and your harness becomes tighter with each moment. This ride is nicknamed “ThighCrush,” and it is fitting. It’s also one of the best rides in the park. The outside two seats on each row are wing seats with no floor below them, providing a feeling of flying over the ground this coaster passes over.
The park is also home to three, or technically, four wooden coasters. Lightning Racer has two sides and is a dueling, interacting GCI wooden coaster. One side is Thunder, the other is Lightning, and they race through the course while passing each other on multiple points of the track. The other GCI wooden coaster, Wildcat — well, I don’t think anyone would be too hurt if Hersheypark decided to let RMC have a go at making it into a hybrid coaster. It was my least favorite ride in the park, and even so, it was not a terrible ride. The final wooden coaster has been standing since 1946, passes SkyRush multiple times and has surprisingly good airtime through the ride — something I find more and more on older wooden coasters.
Laff Trakk may have been the best themed spinning coaster I’ve ever ridden. Sorry Time Traveler, you are still my favorite spinning coaster, but this one wins. It sits inside a building and has a fun house theme. 3-D and neon paint adorn every ornament and piece of theming in the ride. As riders ascend the lift hill, the ride vehicle passes through a clown mouth. What a fun experience, even as a family coaster that is not overly intense.
A B&M inverted roller coaster where the riders ride under the track sits in the middle of the park, and offers one of the most unique inverted layouts around. Great Bear has a small helix before the first drop. It swoops through the terrain and features a pass over water and close to a few other rides through the park. It is also one of very few inverted roller coasters to feature airtime.
There were plenty of amazing food choices through the park. Chicky and Pete’s, Chick-Fil-A, Moe’s, and Subway were all options. There was also a mini doughnut stand, and on the opposite end of the park a larger-sized doughnut offering. All your normal fair foods were present — funnel cake, cotton candy, ice cream. There’s also their special-edition King Size Shakes that change through the seasons with amazing flavors. This year, they are offering a special edition “Candymonium” King-Sized shake to celebrate the opening of the new ride!
The staff at Hersheypark were beyond friendly and extremely helpful. The park has a welcoming family vibe. I was overwhelmed with how local and small-town the park felt, as I was expecting an overly-corporate feeling based solely on the fact that Hershey owns the park. It was wonderful that “corporate” is not at all what I left feeling!
While most parks are welcoming and a great vacation, it’s a rare thing to leave a park feeling like the park is a “family” that will welcome you home on your next visit. Hersheypark and its staff is one that I certainly feel is family, though, and they’re serving chocolate and sweets for dinner.
29-year-old Justin Landers owns Just Shoot Light Multimedia Productions. He has been involved in the amusement and theme park industry since 2013 as a freelance photographer and videographer. You can follow him on Instagram @Inverted_Therapy and Just Shoot Light on YouTube.