Amusement Parks, Road Trips from Maryland, Things To Do

Hershey Park Day Trip with Toddlers

We recently visited Hershey Park for a day trip! A friend gifted us tickets for this trip so we were really excited to check out the park for the first time since having kids! I read a lot about the park ahead of time and got tons of great information on their website, so I felt really prepared and excited to tackle this trip with 3 toddlers. We had a blast and my girls have already been asking when we can go back!

Keep in mind we visited in April so the water park was not yet open and the park was not fully staffed. With many thing I mention in this post, you could have a totally different experience if you visit in a different time of year. Just something to keep in mind as you plan your own trip!

Hershey Park App

Before visiting Hershey Park – be sure to do some research! The first thing you need to do is download the Hershey Park app. In the app you can create a profile for each member of your group and designate their age and height. This is helpful because the app lists all of the rides and their requirements and then will tell you which members of your group can ride each ride. This made it SO much easier when we were in the park trying to find rides that the little ones could do. Also in the app you can save rides, food stops and attractions and make folders to keep things organized. I went into the app ahead of time and saved food places we wanted to try, rides that my youngest could ride, and roller coasters that the twins could ride. It was a really helpful when we were planning. When you are in the park, the interactive map will navigate you to any ride you are looking for!

What to Bring

Hershey Park is HUGE and hilly. Definitely bring strollers for any little ones who may get tired of walking. Our twins are 4 and my youngest is 2 – we brought a double bob and single city mini and I’m SO glad we did. We definitely could not have done this day without strollers.

Hershey does not allow outside food, and they only allow you to bring one sealed water bottle per person. Our bags were not checked but they were randomly pulling people from line to have their bags searched. You can however leave the park and re-enter the same day (just make sure you get a stamp!). This means you could potentially pack a cooler in your car and have lunch outside and then return. Just keep in mind that the parking lot is huge and that could be more of a hassle than its worth, especially if you park far away.

Hershey’s Chocolate World

We arrived in Hershey at 9:00 and parked in the all-day general parking lot. We were able to park pretty close since we arrived early, but there is also a tram available if you end up having to park in one of the further areas. There is a fee for parking – about $25 a day – it is cheaper if you book online a head of time vs. paying in person.

Our first stop was Hershey’s Chocolate World. This is located just next to the Hershey Park gates and does not require an admission fee. Here you can do the FREE Chocolate factory tour ride and visit the huge Hershey’s store with souvenirs and just about every time of Hershey’s candy ever made. The store would be fun for older kids to walk around but it was crowded a little overwhelming for my little ones, so we just went straight to the factory tour. The tour is not stroller friendly so you should park your stroller in the stroller parking area on the right side of the Chocolate World building.

We were able to walk right onto the Chocolate World ride at 9:30 am without any wait. During the ride you sit in a small car that takes you through the animated steps of how their chocolate is made. You can seat 5 adults to a car and we fit 3 adults and 3 kids with plenty of room to spare. This tour was a highlight for us and one of my favorite parts of the day! The girls loved it and they especially liked the chocolate treat they got at the end. Just FYI – Hershey’s website recommends visiting during the first and last hours of the day to avoid crowds. In addition to the tour, there are several other paid activities at Hershey’s Chocolate World. You can check those out here.

Around 10:30 we got in line to wait for the park to open at 11. The lines were LONG but moved quickly once 11:00 hit. There are bathrooms right there, so we took turns going to use the bathroom while the others saved our space in line.

Rides

Once we were in the park, we headed towards one of the little kid-friendly roller coasters only to find out it wasn’t open yet. We discovered that they were having some staffing issues preventing them from opening several of the rides, even though the app was showing that the rides were open. This was frustrating in the beginning but is unfortunately the way it goes in Covid-times. We finally found an open ride and got started having fun!

The girls rode tons of rides including tea cups, swings, granny bugs, helicopters, mini carousel, mini scrambler and more! There were some rides where we cold ride with the and other’s where they had to ride on their own. This was one thing that was not marked clearly on the app, and I wish it was! Luckily my youngest (age 2) surprised us and was totally ok riding on her own or with her sisters. My twins were super nervous at that age and never would have done anything on their own- so it definitely depends on your kid. I’d say the majority of the kiddie rides were for kids only – so this is definitely something to consider if you have a kiddo who wouldn’t want to ride without you. They do have options for “family rides” but there seemed to be fewer, some were closed, and the ones that were open had longer wait times.

For a full list of rides, click here!

Where to Eat

One of the most fun things about Hershey park is exploring all of the yummy treats they have to offer. Here are a few of our favorites:

Cinnamon Bread from Chocolatetown Treats

Hands down, our favorite thing we ate in Hershey was this house-made cinnamon bread! If you are familiar with Dollywood, they are known for the cinnamon bread served at their park. We were so excited to find that Hershey Park now has their own version. I’ve never tried Dollywood’s but I can’t imagine theirs being any better than Hershey’s! It was incredible! Warm, gooey and fresh out of the oven. There was a crunchy cinnamon topping and the option to add on 3 dipping sauces – vanilla, chocolate or apple butter. We found this bread at the “Chocolatetown Treats” stand right outside the gates of the park. We grabbed a loaf on our way out – it was so good that we ended up grabbing a second for the drive home!

Pretzels From Pretzel House

Another treat we enjoyed in the park was the hand rolled pretzels from Pretzel House on Founder’s Way. When I think of amusement park soft pretzels – I usually think of the hard, stale frozen pretzels that leave a lot to be desired. 😂 That was not the case at this stand! These pretzels were soft, buttery and freshly made. They came in several different flavors, though we just stuck to the classic salted ones. These pretzels, paired with their fresh squeezed lemonade, were the perfect snack to hold us over until our late lunch.

Lunch at Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor

One issue we noticed at Hershey was that any restaurants in the center of the park that served meal-type food had EXTREMELY long lines at lunch time. The stands for snacks, treats and drinks were quick and easy to get to, but the places that sold lunch and dinner type food were packed. We easily could have stood in line for 45 minutes just to place an order. We didn’t want to spend our time doing that, and I remembered reading online beforehand that Milton’s Ice Cream parlor (near the front entrance of the park) served lunch – so we decided to see if it was any less crowded. Boy, did we luck out! It was totally worth walking an extra 5 minutes out of the way – the place was almost completed empty, had comfortably seating, clean bathrooms and there was no wait for food or ice cream. It was quiet and peaceful and exactly what my kids needed for a break from the crowds.

Milton’s Ice Cream parlor can be entered from both inside and outside of the park. When you enter the ice cream parlor you are technically “leaving” the park, so they will give you a stamp for re-entry. There is both indoor and outdoor seating here. We ordered a bucket of chicken nuggets for the kids, and I got one of their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with pulled pork and bacon onion jam – so good! After lunch we each grabbed ice cream and ate it outside on their patio. They had a mixture of both traditional and unique flavors (like lemon raspbery cookie butter and graham cracker swirl!). Everything was delicious! Once we were done, we headed back into the park to ride a few more rides to wrap up our day.

Closing out the Day

We spent about 6 hours inside Hershey Park before it was time to head home. We could have stayed longer but we had a long drive home and I wanted to make it back before bed time. If you count the time we spent at Hershey’s Chocolate World – we spent almost 8 hours here in total and STILL didn’t get to see and do everything we wanted to. You absolutely can spend multiple days in Hershey, but we were happy with the time we had and our kids were totally worn out at the end so I think a one day trip was just fine for us. On the way out out the park we stopped at Chocolatetown Treats (mentioned above) for the house-made cinnamon bread. They have several other treats available as well and is conveniently located to grab something to eat before you walk back to your car.

A Few More Notes on Hershey Park

  • We visited on April 30th thinking that crowds would be low before the peak summer season. We were wrong – it was PACKED and wait times for rides and food were LONG! On top of this, staffing issues caused several other rides to be closed which made lines longer at the rides that were open. Luckily, my kids were only interested in the kiddie rides and we were able to find plenty that had a short enough wait time where they could ride multiple times back to back. Some of the big roller coasters had wait times up to 120 minutes!
  • Hershey Park has a zoo called ZooAmerica that is included in your Hershey Park admission. I had really hoped to check this out but in the end, we never made it over that way!
  • Hershey Park only allows one sealed water bottle per person to be brought into the park. I assumed that we would be able to fill up our bottles at water fountains once they were empty. I was shocked to not find a single water fountain within the park. It’s possible I missed them but we looked all over. This means you are stuck paying $4+ for a bottle of water. When we had lunch at Milton’s Ice Cream parlor they did provide free cups of ice water, so that was helpful when we needed to refuel.
  • We did Hershey as a day trip but there is a huge perk if you stay overnight – their preview pass! Hershey Park offers a preview pass with every ticket – this means you can get into the park for 2 hours the night before your full day ticket. So if you get tickets for Saturday, you can visit the park Friday night for 2 hours. This would be super helpful to get your bearings, check out some rides, and explore the park with fewer crowds. For more information on the preview pass, click here.
  • We recently visited Sesame Place and there was one noticeable difference between the two parks that I didn’t consider beforehand – the teenagers and school groups! Our only other amusement park experience with our kids was Sesame Place, which pretty much solely consisted of families with toddlers. Since Hershey park is for all ages and has several HUGE coasters, there were tons of adults and teens at the park as well. We saw several large groups of high school band and choir groups, sports teams, etc. It wasn’t a problem at all of course but definitely contributed to the crowds.
  • For convenience – strollers and lockers are available for rent!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful for planning a trip to Hershey Park. Have a great time!

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