Hersheypark – Family Fun of Every Flavor

Hershey! Makes you think of chocolate bars and roller coasters right?
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Not only is Hersheypark the “sweetest place on earth” but the park boasts more water than ever for the 2013 season and it’s true. Last week we spent 2 full 12 hour days at the park and had an amazing trip.  If you haven’t been there recently, or have never been to Hershey, it’s time to pack the car and head out to PA! Only a 4 hour drive from NYC, I think Hersheypark is the perfect family destination for a super vacation. Even as a single Mom, it’s always been a very doable trip for me. There’s a real feel-good atmosphere at Hershey.

I’ll start with the Boardwalk, one of my personal favorite spots in Hershey.  From the minute you walk from the “dry” areas of the park into the boardwalk, the landscape changes to sand, beach grass and surfboards and the vibe is total beachy-wet-madness, just like what summer should be! New for 2013 at the Boardwalk are 2 new slides and a great little  area called shoreline spray ground. My youngest (6) loved playing on the spray ground but our real favorite spot is East Coast waterworks, the giant water play zone with slides, shooters, dumping buckets and all that craziness. It’s big. And I mean big. We’ve been to water parks before but  this area takes the cake for complete soaking wet action, steps, slides, buckets and spray jets. Not only did the kids( 12, 10 and 6) love it, even I spent an hour with them.I’m talking 600 interactive toys, 7 slides and even bridges and tunnels.  On a hot Pennsylvania summer day at the park, heading over to the water park is a must midday to cool off before you head back to the roller coasters and rides. I just love that both areas are accessible on the same day and you can go back and forth as often as you wish.

The Boardwalk also has Waverider where you get to test your skills on a bodyboard with rushing water . There’s always a crowd viewing this fun ride, part of the reason I won’t go on it, ha. Both my older children did and and they did great, no wipeouts!  Me? I’d lose my suit for sure but it’s certainly fun to watch.

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My kids were also brave enough to go on one of the tallest splash down rides in the world-Tidal Force. I was content to just watch this one. And later we took a walk to the viewing area and got absolutely drenched when the boats splashed down. This area attracts a small crowd who want to cool off and enjoy the giant splashes. It’s pretty fun for kids of all ages.  I saw quite a few Dads who were enjoying it as much, or more , than the kids.

We took a brief dip in the gorgeous wave pool for a bit too.  Luckily, it wasn’t too crowded. There’s a lazy river and several cool tube slides so really, you can spend half the day or more at the Boardwalk and not get bored. If you have young kids around toddler age, the Bayside Pier, Sandcastle Cove and the new spray ground will keep them occupied for quite a while.

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Ok, back to the DRY rides. This year my kids were tall enough (and brave enough) to go on several of the roller coasters and loved them enough to go back repeatedly. In my eyes, the roller coasters range from relatively easy to classic wooden to absolutely insane. Of course, the ones I label insane are the ones many people come to the park for. Watching them alone is enough for us. If you are a coaster fan, you’ll probably want to go on all 11 coasters from the 200 foot high, 75 mph winged seat Sky Rush to the crazy and wild Fahrenheit to the 61 mph Great Bear to the more mild SooperDooperLooper (I went on that one when I was 11 and it was just about the biggest in the park) to the Trailblazer that even this chicken, er, I mean Mom, went on and high fived my kids afterwards.

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The park is designed by area and it took us the full 2 days to navigate to each and every spot and ride. One day is really not enough to experience the whole park. In the past, we did the preview and 1 day but I really liked the pace of 2 days to really soak it all in and be able to go on rides more than once.

I have a new favorite ride too (remember, I’m not a roller coaster person so while I enjoyed the tamer Trailblazer roller coaster with my kids) I prefer rides of a slower pace. It’s called Reese’s Extreme Cup Challenge and if you’ve even been to Disney and loved the Toy Story Mania ride, you will LOVE this one as well. It’s a laser shooting ride where you score points. It’s fun for every age (Dads particularly love it). We went at least 6 times. It’s also a great place to head over to if a storm comes through.

There’s at least 30 family rides ranging from the Kissing Tower to the antique cars and sports cars on the Twin Turnpike  to the Carousel. The Kissing Tower gives amazing views of the whole park. We did it day and again at night when everything is lit up. Fabulous views of the roller coasters from above!

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The monorail takes you over Zoo America which is another area free with admission. We walked through the zoo for the first time this year. It takes about 20 or 30 minutes and is a nice break if you are looking for some quiet time in the day.

There’s also over 20 kiddie rides which even my 10 and 12 year old often took the 6 year old on (if it was allowed.)

Hersheypark is also home to several shows and of course the characters that walk around the park for photo opps. We joined the dance party, my daughter danced with a giant Rolo bar and a big kiss. It  was hysterically fun for the kids. We caught a bit of the sea lion show too, though if you go, don’t sit on the end sections as they keep letting people in those 2 areas and it is very distracting. More  insider tips in my top 15 Hersheypark tips blog.

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As for food, I found plenty of options to choose from and since I am not a hamburger and fries person, it was nice to see some more variety (though of course, plenty of burgers and fries available, plus the standard chicken , hot dogs and pizza). I had a Mexican rice bowl  one night and a salad and wrap the next.  They even have a character breakfast (extra fee) with a full buffet.

And there there’s ICE CREAM! It’s everywhere. How can anyone resist on a hot day? Or ANY day for that matter? Nice sized bowls for the price actually too.

So, this was about our 6th trip to Hershey and it was better than ever. We had short lines , decent weather and a lot of fun! You can leave the park and walk over to Chocolate World as well, if you feel like an air conditioned break. The ride there is a must and of course, you get the Hershey candy as you leave the ride. We had to go 3 times!

The all new 4D movie at Chocolate World was absolutely adorable and even more fun than the one that played there for the last few years. So if you haven’t been to Chocolate world and Hersheypark in a while, I highly recommend a few day vacation to make SWEET memories.

Hershey is open in the Fall on weekends and even at Christmastime. We went one year at Christmas. It’s decorated beautifully and the smaller kid rides are open. Of course, there’s hot chocolate at every corner too.

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*Disclosure- Hersheypark provided us with admission for one of the days of our trip to review the park for TodaysMamareaders.Wewere grateful to have this opportunity. All opinions and pictures are my own.

For more fun, visit Dutch Wonderland during your Pennsylvania travels!