The last time Hersheypark re-designed their entrance in the early 1970s, the Super Duper Looper was the newest attraction.
I remember walking deep into the park to find the new coaster. After my only ride, my parents bought me a toddler-sized T-shirt boasting my survival.
Fast-forward… Hersheypark has transformed and expanded its entrance so that the newest coaster, Candymonium, is—splat—the first thing you see. You’ll need to get your bearings when you see the refurbished carousel and its accompanying bar moved up front instead of farther in.
“Hershey’s Chocolatetown is a completely different arrival experience from the one we’ve known since the 1970s,” said Quinn Bryner, director of public relations and strategy for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.
The park’s expansion marks the largest in the company’s history, with 23 acres, $150 million and 15 new features.
The new architecture has a vintage, early-20th century look and feel, with definite nods to Milton Hershey’s style during his heyday as a young entrepreneur, building the town that would become his legacy. You’ll find plenty of modern twists, while still remaining signature Hershey.
Here are a few of the top new experiences:
The largest literal twist is Candymonium, a one-of-a-kind “hypercoaster” touted as Hersheypark’s tallest, fastest and longest coaster. With a lift height of 210 feet, a track length of 4,636 feet and maximum speed of 76 miles per hour, coaster enthusiasts should expect an exhilarating ride. But I’m already imagining myself with my head between my knees. I’ll be on the bench with my kettle corn, people-watching, holding my kids’ sunglasses while they ride.
Historically Symbolic Artwork
While I wait, I can admire eye-catching art. The water structure spouts into a Hershey’s Kiss shape. Milton Hershey School students donated a Kiss-shaped bell hung on a beam signed by students. On the walkway is a “Compass Rose” with 22 bronze medallions, honoring key periods of Mr. Hershey’s lasting contributions to the area. Embedded in one of the buildings are bricks from the original entrance, commemorating the old and welcoming the new.
Just next door is a new souvenir store preserving Hersheypark history. Hersheypark Supply Co. is a 10,000-square-foot flagship store with a large collection of souvenirs. The ones you can’t buy are the retired rides placed throughout the store.
“The new store pulls in the ride collection from Hersheypark and the retro pinwheel logo,” Bryner said.
You’ll be able to get up close to a chariot from the old carousel and a portion of the old mini-train.
The store shares space with the three new restaurants, drawing in old-style architecture and the arena building.
The Chocolatier, one of the new on-site restaurants, has its outdoor deck situated on part of the arena, just above the old ticket counter with its three small windows. The restaurant is backdated by a century, with retro tiles, green color scheme and mirrors on the ceiling to project its showboat lighting. Inside, it has an amazing aerial view of the new store.
Downstairs is Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor. The décor is a throwback to a drugstore soda fountain, complete with stools at the counter, with hand-created sweet and savory items on the menu.
The signature dish is a chicken-and-waffles slider sandwich, a tip of the bowler hat to Milton Hershey’s favorite meal. The grilled sandwiches are encrusted with crunchy Parmesan cheese. And because it’s Hershey, there’s even a chocolate (molé) dipping sauce for chicken and fries. The 12 gourmet signature sauces are decidedly modern, like beer cheese, spicy maple mayo and rosemary aioli dipping sauce.
Rob Gordon, managing director of food and beverage for Hershey Entertainment Complex, loves collaborating with his team to create the menu.
“Working on the menu is a process of experimental discovery,” he said. “More variety to come as development continues.”
You can experiment yourself with Milton’s ice cream menu, with 24 toppings available in unlimited amounts and “ice creamologists” (holding down my dream job), creating locally sourced custom flavors.
Signature flavors include Reese’s Peanut Butter, Toasted Marshmallow, Graham Coaster Station and Malted Memories, which is a Spartan recipe developed by Milton Hershey School students at their creamery. Another must-try is Candymonium, which has chunks of peanut butter cups and chocolate chips in a Twizzler-flavor-based ice cream.
(My own personal walk of shame: waddling out of there.)
Gordon’s main collaborator is award-winning corporate pastry chef Cher Harris. You can watch her handcraft candies and desserts at the is Sweeterie Confectionery Kitchen around the corner.
“The biggest attraction is the interactive element, being able to watch handcrafted fudge being made out front,” Harris said. “It will create interest to watch the old confectionery technique.”
Harris’ open kitchen equipment includes a fudge paddle, kettle, marble tabletops and a sneeze guard.
Her signature desserts are too numerous to list. Many “under-glass” patisserie-style desserts are fashioned after Hersheypark rides, like the Comet coaster bar, Kissing Tower mousse cake and Chocolatetown cheesecake. For the kids, one dessert is shaped like a carousel horse and another like a ladybug.
If you’re anything like me, you go to places for the food, and you plan your day around it. With everything made in-house, I probably wouldn’t make it to the ticketing counter. But if I did, I would wander here…
Virtual Reality Experience
Hyperdeck is an immersive, virtual reality experience. Up to eight players enter into a dynamic virtual world, complete with a full-motion floor and multi-sensory effects (strong winds, heat and earth-rattling movements).
Players can choose from two scenarios. H.A.I.R. is a post-apocalyptic world where a 1980s guitar hero becomes a villain. Dreamsaver is a dream that turns into a nightmare that the player must overcome.
As an extra interactive element, spectators can help or hinder players via tablets.
Whatever your attraction preference, Hersheypark looks forward to greeting visitors again after last year’s pandemic-induced topsy-turvy.
“We know how excited guests are to come back after winter, especially this winter,” Bryner said.
For more information, visit www.hersheypark.com.
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