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America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks: No. 8 Hersheypark

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Hersheypark opened in 1906! 1906 you guys! Can you imagine! It started as a park for employees but over the years has turned into one of the most popular theme parks in the country.

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

Photo via Hersheypark

The Park History

In 1903, Milton S. Hershey, founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, surveyed the town that would become Hershey, Pennsylvania. Included in his plans was a site along Spring Creek that would be suitable for a leisure park for Hershey employees.

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

In 1905, a bridge was built over Spring Creek, and a pavilion was built on the hill that overlooked it. While the bridge was able to be constructed, the land on the banks of Spring Creek, from Derry Church to Union Deposit, and areas further north of the creek (including the area currently occupied by Hersheypark Arena and Stadium) was then owned by J.H. Nissley.

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

Photo via Hershey Historical Archives

In February 1906, Hershey purchased all but two tracts of land, near Union Deposit, from Nissley. In early spring, the Hershey baseball club staked out an area for a baseball field; a baseball diamond, a track surrounding the field, and grandstands were built. The first game was played on May 5, which was a 4-0 loss to Felton Athletic Club. This is also noted as the first open-air event in Hershey.

On Wednesday, May 30, 1906, Hershey’s Park was opened to employees and formally called Hershey Park. The festivities included a baseball game, in which Hershey defeated the Crescent Club of Harrisburg by a score of 13-1.

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

Photo via Hershey Historical Archives

Music was performed by the recently formed Hershey Band and other events were held on park grounds.

The park officially opened in 1907.

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

Photo via Hershey Company

Throughout the years, the park had been called various unofficial names, including “West-end” Park and Hershey’s Park.

The first ride was added to the park in 1908 – a “Merry-Go-Round.” This was followed in 1910 with the addition of the Miniature Railroad, which remained in operation until the end of the 1971 season. The park has operated a bumper car ride since 1926, a variety of boat rides on Spring Creek, and six dark rides, three of which were funhouses. The park added its first two kiddie rides in 1926, The Prowler and The Regurgitator, and since has added well over 40 attractions.

Photo via Hershey Historical Archives

In 1970, after more than 60 years of operation, park management decided to redevelop the park into a theme park. The name was changed to Hersheypark in 1971, and it has operated under that name ever since.

The Addition of Roller Coasters

The park added its first roller coaster in 1923, the Wild Cat, which operated until 1945. It was replaced by the park’s second wooden roller coaster, Comet, in 1946. Between then and 1996, the park added six roller coasters, including SooperdooperLooper, the first complete-circuit, modern-day looping steel roller coaster on the East Coast, which opened in 1977.

Photo via Hershey Historical Archives

In 1996, Hersheypark added its third wooden roller coaster. Between then and 2015, the park added nine roller coasters.

Of the coasters that the park has had, only four are no longer in the park. One, a twin roller coaster called Toboggan (it was also called Twin Towers Toboggan or Twin Toboggans) which had been located in Carousel Circle, a water coaster called Roller Soaker which had been in Midway America and later The Boardwalk, a kiddie coaster with an oval track called Mini-Comet, and the Original Wild Cat. 

The Addition of Pools

The park has had several pools, the first located next to Spring Creek.  The first pool operated from 1908 until 1911, which included a toboggan-slide ride called Shoot-the-Chutes. This pool was replaced by a cement pool which opened in 1912 and remained in use through the 1928 season.

That pool was replaced by a new pool complex which included a large bathhouse, one large pool and a smaller pool, as well as a beach-like area and a lighthouse. It operated until 1971, when it was closed at the start of the Hersheypark themepark conversion renovation.

Photo via Hersheypark

Hersheypark did not add another pool until 2007 when The Boardwalk at Hersheypark opened. It is a small wave pool for children, called Bayside Pier. That was followed by the addition of a much larger wave pool, called The Shore, which opened in 2009.

Themed Areas

Hersheypark developed a number of themed areas, the first being Carousel Circle, Der Deitch Platz, and Animal Garden in 1972, followed by Tower Plaza in 1975, Pioneer Frontier in 1985, Midway America in 1996, as well as The Boardwalk at Hersheypark in 2007.

In 2014, Hersheypark merged several theme areas – Tudor Square, Rhineland, Founder’s Circle and Music Box Way into Founder’s Way. The coal mining region themed area Minetown was re-themed as Kissing Tower Hill.

Today, there are six themed areas, starting with Founder’s Way, an area which spans from outside the main gate, to a junction where three sections – Kissing Tower Hill, The Hollow and Pioneer Frontier – meet and make up the central and southern end of the park, while two sections, Midway America and The Boardwalk, make up the northern end of the park.

Each of the themed areas had featured different music such as polka-style songs being played in Der Deitch Platz and Carousel Circle, country music being played in the Pioneer Frontier themed area, the Beach Boys being played near Tidal Force and later in The Boardwalk, as well as Ragtime and jazz music being played in Midway America. However, the music was phased into being the same across the park, except in The Boardwalk and Pioneer Frontier.

In 2020, Hersheypark will open a new themed area called Hershey’s Chocolatetown, which will feature a new entrance plaza, ice cream parlor, flagship retail store, and a new hyper-coaster.

Hersheypark Rides

During it’s history, Hersheypark has had 142 rides.  There are currently 70 rides in operation. Over the years, the park has featured 16 roller coasters, two of which no longer stand – Twin Towers Toboggan and Roller Soaker.

Photo via JourneyswithJenn.com

Hersheypark uses Hershey Company products as names for each height range to determine who can ride which rides.

  • Miniatures: 0 – 36 inches
  • Kisses: 36 – 42 inches 
  • Reese’s: 42 – 48 inches 
  • Hershey’s: 48 – 54 inches 
  • Twizzler: 54 – 60 inches
  • Jolly Ranchers: 60 inches and above 

Hersheypark uses a ride ratings system to alert guests to the aggressiveness of the ride. The “Ratings” for each ride are as follows:

1 – Children’s Ride

This is a low-speed, gentle ride intended for young children and may accommodate chaperones where permitted.

2 – Mild Thrill Ride

This is a low to medium speed ride with expected changes in elevation and speed. This ride may require some rider body control and is not recommended for unaccompanied toddlers or very small children.

3 – Moderate Thrill Ride

This is a medium speed ride where riders may experience unexpected changes in elevation and speed. This ride may contain moderate twists, turns, bumps, spins and loops and may require some rider body control.

4 – High Thrill Ride

This is a fast-paced ride experience with unexpected changes in speed, direction and/or elevation. This ride may contain significant twists, turns, bumps, spins, and loops and requires full rider body control.

5 – Aggressive Thrill Ride

This is a high-speed ride experience. Riders will experience many unexpected rapid changes in speed, direction, and/or elevation and requires full rider body control. This ride is not recommended for guests with physical, cognitive, and/or medical limitations.

Dining at Hersheypark

You can enjoy a meal, grab a snack, or treat yourself to something sweet at more than 60 locations throughout Hersheypark.

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

Photos via JourneyswithJenn.com

There are facilities for accommodating particular dietary needs, including a kosher restaurant and a variety of restaurants offering gluten-free rolls and bread. Groups can pre-arrange catering in one of six private picnic areas inside the park.

Photo via Zoo America

Zoo America

Also included in the price of admission is access to ZooAmerica. It is open year-round and offers 11-acres of land to visit and walk throughout. ZooAmerica houses “more than 200 animals from five regions of North America” and offers tours, birthday parties, and informational programs.

The Water Park

The Boardwalk is included with all summer admission tickets. The Boardwalk waterpark was officially opened in 2007 and featured five new waterpark attractions along with three already standing rides.

The centerpiece of The Boardwalk, East Coast Waterworks, is a seven-story-high water-play structure featuring body waterslides and nearly 600 different water play toys. The biggest splashes come courtesy of two huge tipping buckets that drench the guests who stand under them. 

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

Photo via Hersheypark

For a relaxing time, the lazy river ride on the Intercoastal Waterway is 1,360 feet of winding water and waterfalls or take a dip in The Shore, The Boardwalk’s 378,000-gallon wave pool with depths from zero to six feet.

For the little one is the family, there’s Shoreline Sprayground and Sandcastle Cove that includes misters, bubblers, water jets, cannons and fountains or Bayside Pier, a kiddie wave pool.

Official Hershey Resorts and Hotels

There are a few official resorts to choose from when visiting Hersheypark:  The Hotel Hershey, Hershey Lodge, and the Hersheypark Camping Resort.

Photo via Hershey Hotel

These official resorts offer some sweet VIP benefits for guests. 

  • Free front gate shuttle service
  • 1- hour early access with Sweet Start during the Summer Season
  • Best price on park tickets
  • FREE admission to Hershey Gardens, including the Butterfly Atrium 
  • FREE admission to The Hershey Story’s Museum Experience

Coming in 2020

In 2020, Chocolatetown will open and feature a 10,000 square foot boutique, the parks’s tallest and fastest coaster, an ice cream parlor and the largest full service themed restaurant, bar and patio in the city.

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

Photo via Hersheypark

The area will also include a 2,200-square foot Starbucks store and a kettle corn location that will be the largest in Hersheypark will also be part of Chocolatetown. A one of a kind Hershey’s Kisses fountain is planned to be completed.

Did you have the chance to read America’s Most Amazing Theme Parks – The History of Amusement Parks where you can learn how it all started! Also, don’t miss:

Amazing Parks Hersheypark

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