A guide to Hersheypark: the sweet theme park that gives back

Everything you need to know about the sweetest place on earth.
front entrance of Hersheypark theme park in Pennyslvania
(Photo: Megan duBois)

Set in the hills of Pennsylvania, Hersheypark is a chocolate-filled wonderland. I recently spent a few days getting to know the massive theme park complex that also includes a water park and a zoo, two hotels, a campground, and a shopping and entertainment district. While you may have thought Hersheypark was a single-day event, it’s truly a weekend-worthy destination that’s becoming more and more popular every season.

The theme park is known for its blend of high-thrill roller coasters and an abundance of kiddie rides, which is great for families with kids that may be years apart in age. Nostalgic adults will also love that the park still has wooden roller coasters, including Comet, the last coaster bought by the founder of Hershey Chocolate, Milton Hershey.

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But what truly makes Hersheypark and its surrounding areas special is that part of the money made at the park and hotel operations goes directly back to the Milton Hershey School, a private institution that Milton Hershey created in 1909 to house and educate orphaned boys. Now the school provides cost-free, private schooling and housing for children from low-income families. Since 2012, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts has given more than $100 million in dividend payments to support the School.

If you’re considering going to Hersheypark soon, read through our first-timers guide to learn everything you need about the theme park and its surrounding areas.

Ticket types for Hersheypark

Aerial view of Hersheypark (Photo: Hersheypark)

There are multiple ticket options for Hersheypark, so it can be challenging to know which one is best to buy for your family.

  • Single-day tickets: This ticket type offers the most flexibility for your trip since it can be used any day of the week and is valid all year. Single-day tickets currently start at $65 for those ages 9 to 61, and $57 for those ages 8 and younger or 62 and older.
  • Two-day tickets: The two-day tickets are the best deal, starting at just $45 per day, regardless of age, and can be used throughout the year.
  • Mid-week tickets: If you plan on visiting Hersheypark this summer, mid-week tickets offer you the chance to get into the park for $60 on Mondays through Thursdays only, from now until September 2, 2024. Age is not a factor for this ticket type.
  • Happy hour tickets: If you get into Hershey late, you may want to consider making the most of your time with a happy hour ticket, which grants admission to the park after 4 p.m. Tickets cost $40 per person, no matter their age.
  • Summer Fun Card: For those who want to make an entire summer of going to Hersheypark, the Summer Fun Card may be a great option. For $114 per person, you can visit the park an unlimited amount of times until September 8, 2024.

Ticket benefits

There are quite a few benefits for those purchasing tickets for Hersheypark. The biggest is the ability to “preview” the park the night before your main entry day. This free extra-hours benefit is good for all admission types. If you are staying at a Hersheypark hotel, you can enter the park three hours before closing to hop onto attractions. Those not staying at a Hersheypark hotel can enter the park two hours before closing to experience what the park has to offer and get onto rides.

Are ticket add-ons worth the cost?

Along with your ticket, you can purchase add-ons that could make your trip to Hersheypark easier and more cost-efficient. Two add-ons that you may want to consider are Fast Track and food voucher deals.

Fast Track

Fast Track is Hersheypark’s paid skip-the-line system. There are six different Fast Track options, but the most useful ones would be either the traditional Fast Track which allows your family to skip the line of participating attractions once per day, or the Unlimited Fast Track which allows you to ride participating attractions an unlimited amount of times. Fast Track add-ons are priced on a sliding scale based on the date you want to use it. Prices for the single-entry per attraction Fast Track are between $50 and $170 per person, while unlimited entry Fast Track prices are between $75 and $225 per person.

Food vouchers

Food voucher deals can be a great way to save money on lunch or dinner in the park. Hersheypark offers two different meal options, a single-use meal deal or an all-day dining deal. The single-use meal deal is $18 per meal, per person and can be used at 12 different locations around the park. The deal includes one drink, one entree, and one side. I used this meal voucher on my recent Hersheypark trip where I ate lunch at Philly Cheesesteak Co. My six-inch sandwich, fries, and a drink would have cost me well over $20. The big hurdle with single-use meal deals is finding and buying food that is equivalent to or more expensive than the meal voucher cost.

The all-day dining deal includes the chance to dine as many times as you wish throughout the day for just $40. Each meal includes one entree and one side from ten dining venues throughout the park. Drinks are not included in this food voucher.

Season passes

Hersheypark does offer season passes, which come with a slew of perks including unlimited visits throughout the year, discounts on food and drinks, and free or discounted parking. Based on the level of pass bought, other perks may include free entry for kids under five years old who are accompanied by a season pass holder adult (called Pre-K pass add-on), one hour of early access to the park before other guests with Sweet Start, free Hersheypark tickets, free drink plans, and free single-use Fast Track for each day.

Operating seasons for Hersheypark

Hersheypark has seasonal operation schedules. Its big summer season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day when the park is open every day of the week. Park hours during this time may vary, but Hersheypark tends to open between 10:00 am and 11:00 am every day, with the Sweet Start early entry time for season passes and hotel guests starting an hour before the official opening time. Hersheypark closes most days in the summer between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm.

The park starts its fall season in September and is only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The holidays bring more availability to the operating schedule with the park being open most days between November 22 and December 1, 2024. The December schedule currently shows the park being open most days in December. The park shuts down for its routine maintenance and upkeep season starting January 2, 2025.

Touring Hersheypark

Wooden Rollercoaster, Comet at Hersheypark (Photo: Hersheypark)

Before stepping into the park you should download the Hersheypark app to your phone and any other mobile devices your family might be bringing into the park. The app is helpful for knowing when attractions open each day, if an attraction is down, what dining options are nearby, and showing a map of the park. There are no paper maps available at Hersheypark.

Additionally, Hersheypark is completely cashless, so be sure to have your credit cards in your wallet or be able to pay with a mobile pay system like Apple Pay.

Hersheypark attractions

Wildcat’s Revenge coaster at Hersheypark (Photo: Hersheypark)

Hersheypark has 56 rides, exclusive of the attractions inside the waterpark, which I will get to in a moment. Rides inside Hersheypark range in style from death-defying coasters to kiddie rides. If you only have one day in the park, I would suggest prioritizing the following attractions, which range from slow-moving family-friendly options to high-thrill coasters.

  • Carrousel (located in Chocolatetown): this is a classic theme park attraction, but the carrousel at Hersheypark is special since it’s one of the historic attractions in the park and features music provided by a Wurlitzer model 153 military band organ.
  • Monorail (located in Founder’s Way): while you may think of a monorail as a transportation system at other theme parks like Walt Disney World, the monorail at Hersheypark is actually a ride. The attraction takes guests above the streets of the park to see it all from a birds-eye view and even takes a short route over the nearby ZooAmerica.
  • Reese’s Cupfusion (located in Founder’s Way): if you’re ready for a challenge between family members, hop on Reese’s Cupfusion, where everyone in your group gets to shoot at targets with a hand-held laser gun.
  • Cocoa Cruiser (located in Founder’s Way): Cocoa Cruiser is a great starter roller coaster for kids who may be apprehensive about or not tall enough to ride the bigger and faster coasters in the park. The ride is two minutes long and goes over 279 feet of track.
  • Trailblazer (located in Pioneer Frontier): kids and adults will love hopping on Trailblazer, which reaches a peak speed of 45 miles per hour. Even more sweet is that this is the second oldest coaster in the park, right behind Comet.
  • Lightning Racer (located in Midway America): when your kiddos are big enough and brave enough to ride their first wooden rollercoaster, consider making a bee-line to Lightning Racer. The coaster has a max speed of 50 miles per hour, a height of 90 feet, and is the first wooden dueling coaster in the United States.
  • Comet (located in The Hollow): Comet is a very special wooden rollercoaster at Hersheypark because it was the last coaster bought by Milton Hershey. The thrill here is a little more intense than Lightning Racer, with the highest peak being 96 feet.
  • Wildcat’s Revenge (located in Midway America): those looking for one of the biggest thrills in the park will want to get in line for Wildcat’s Revenge. The hybrid wood and steel coaster reaches speeds up to 62 miles an hour and is 140 feet at its highest point.

The Boardwalk Water Park

The Boardwalk Water Park (Photo: Hersheypark)

Inside Hersheypark is a dedicated water park called The Boardwalk. Entry to the water park is included with every type of Hersheypark ticket. The Boardwalk features classic water park attractions like a lazy river, racing slides, a splash pad, a wave pool, and more. When it’s time for a bite to eat there are 10 dining locations in the water park. For families looking for a dedicated home base, the water park does offer cabana rentals that come with complimentary towels, soda, and bottled water.


Black bear at ZooAmerica (Photo: Hersheypark)

Another area that’s part of your Hersheypark ticket is ZooAmerica, which is an 11-acre complex that showcases animals from around North America. To enter the zoo with your Hersheypark ticket you must first walk into Hersheypark and take the sky bridge over to the zoo. This is a great spot to get away from the park crowds for a while without feeling like you have to go back to your hotel.

Dining inside the park

All around Hersheypark, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat whether you’re looking for a quick slice of pizza or a pretzel, or something more filling like BBQ or cheesesteaks. There are many outside vendors at Hersheypark, including Moe’s Southwest Grill, Chick-fil-A, and Subway. Because the park is not open during breakfast hours, be sure to eat something in the morning before you go to the park.

What is Chocolatetown?

Entry area to Chocolatetown (Photo: Megan duBois)

Chocolatetown is one of the regions inside the park where you’ll find the Candymonium coaster. The region of the park also features three distinct dining options, all of which do not require park entry to enjoy. Each of the restaurants is located inside the Hersheypark Supply Co. retail store, which is accessible from inside or outside of the park.

The three restaurants include a quick service spot called The Sweeterie Confectionery Kitchen, known for its tasty confections; Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor, which makes all of its own ice creams, plus has sharable entrees; and The Chocolatier, which is the signature restaurant of Hersheypark, showcasing how chocolate can be used in sweet and savory dishes.

I dined at The Chocolatier during a recent visit to the park and loved how creative the menu was with chocolate appearing on everything from cocktails and chicken wings to steaks and shakes.

What is Hershey’s Chocolate World?

Attraction inside Hershey’s Chocolate World (Photo: Megan duBois)

For even more fun outside of the park, consider heading to Hershey’s Chocolate World. The free-entry complex is where you can shop for branded items like t-shirts, plushes, and of course candy. Chocolate World also has a free attraction that you can ride to learn about how chocolate goes from bean to bar. Be sure to watch out for the adorable animatronic cow named Cupcake as you ride!

If your family is looking for a more unique activity, there are some separately ticketed options too. A few fan favorites include creating your own oversized completely stuffed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or making your own candy bar with the help of an interactive screen. I was able to make my own candy bar on my visit and I loved all of the personalization options, including chocolate type, fillings, and packaging.

Hotels at Hersheypark

There are three official Hersheypark resorts near the entrance of the park. Each offers a different vibe but has the same free resort benefits.

The Hotel Hershey

The Hotel Hershey (Photo: Hersheypark)

The Hotel Hershey is the premier official hotel. The Forbes 2024 Four-Star Hotel opened in 1933 and is on the Historic Hotels of America list. The hotel has 276 rooms, with accommodations ranging from standard-style hotel rooms to massive multi-bedroom villas. The Hotel Hershey has an indoor and outdoor pool, the latter of which has a smaller adults-only pool too. The onsite sports complex has basketball and tennis courts, plus the hotel has access to nearly six miles of hiking trails.

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The Hotel has more of an adult vibe. While you will find kids roaming, the entire property feels elevated thanks to its impressive spa, outdoor formal gardens, and a multitude of common area terraces that overlook the hills.

Hershey Lodge

Hershey’s Water Works (Photo: Hersheypark)

If you’re looking for a more family-friendly option while you’re vacationing at Hersheypark, consider Hershey Lodge. This is the largest official resort with 665 guest rooms and suites. The Lodge is known for its onsite indoor water park, Hershey’s Water Works, which is only accessible to Lodge guests. Additionally, the Lodge has a cute Kids’ Check-In program where children can sign the guest book, play a candy guessing game, get a chocolate treat, and a lanyard with their name on it. Kids’ Check-In is available daily, but hours may vary.

Hersheypark Camping Resort

For a more low-key stay, try the Hersheypark Camping Resort where your family can camp in a tent, RV, cabins, or tiny homes. The campgrounds has an indoor game room, volleyball and basketball courts, and horseshoe pits for some fun before or after the park. And don’t worry if you forgot to pack something because the onsite Country Store has camping items, plus this is where you’ll find the gift shop, family fun center, laundry, and showers.

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Free resort benefits

No matter which official resort you choose, there are some free resort benefits, including:

  • A free shuttle to and from the park
  • Three extra hours in the evening before your ticketed park day, called “Preview Plan”
  • One hour of early access before the park opens, called “Sweet Start”
  • Free chocolate at check-in for everyone in your room
  • Access to two golf courses

Those staying at Hershey Lodge or The Hotel Hershey also get free admission to the Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story’s Museum Experience. If you’re staying at the Hersheypark Camping Resort, you get preferred pricing on both of these activities.

Top tips for touring Hersheypark

Hersheypark character meet and greet (Photo: Megan duBois)

After spending three days touring Hersheypark and the surrounding areas, these are my top five tips for a great trip.

  1. While there are plenty of dining options inside the parks, the best restaurants are actually at the hotels. Consider making a point to dine at Fire & Grain, which specializes in sharable plates and a great happy hour. I particularly loved the buffalo chicken meatballs here, which were savory and spicy.
  2. Did you know Hersheypark has characters you can meet? While touring the parks or hanging out at an official hotel, you may see the likes of Ms. Twizzler, Hershey Bar, or even Ice Breaker. Characters are always happy to stop for photos.
  3. Take advantage of the many free activities around the Hersheypark complex. I loved the attraction inside Chocolate World, and depending on which official hotel you’re staying at entry into the Hershey Gardens or the The Hershey Story’s Museum Experience is included. These are all great ways to spend an arrival or departure day if you don’t want to buy another ticket to the theme park.
  4. If your season pass or hotel reservation comes with the ability to use Sweet Start you must use it. The hour head start to get onto attractions is huge, especially during the busy summer season. During Sweet Start, I was able to get onto three attractions, including the popular Comet rollercoaster. If you’re staying at an official hotel, complimentary shuttles start running an hour before Sweet Start, so if the Sweet Start entrance opens at 10:00 am, the shuttles start at 9:00 am.
  5. Getting around Hersheypark is fairly easy, but be sure to allocate enough time if you need to use the shuttle buses. The shuttles run about every 10 to 15 minutes from the official hotels and the park.

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is the Senior Theme Park Editor for FamilyVacationist. She's also a freelance journalist who covers theme parks, cruising, family travel, and wine tourism for outlets like Conde Nast Traveler, Business Insider, Forbes, Travel + Leisure, The Points Guy, and National Geographic. You can reach her via email at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com.