2012, Pennsylvania, Theme Parks

4 reasons why Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania was the worst theme park experience I have ever had in my life

I get a lot of emails and messages from readers asking me to check out Hershey Park in Hershey, PA. I also get a lot of people asking me what I feel about Hershey Park. I actually have, but I hadn’t posted about it because I was frankly too angry last Summer to do so.

I had gone to Hershey Park once in 1992 and had a pretty good time. I returned in about 2004 and had a less good time. I remember really long lines and the food poisoning that I got from their pizza stand on that trip. The most recent (and last time ever) I went to Hershey Park was August 2012. Last Summer.

There is a point in which you have such a terrible time at a park that you just can’t post anything at that time – so I didn’t. I like to be fair when I post things like this. Now that it is about a year later I have calmed down. I’ve thought it through enough that I am confident about posting this. I believe the park management needs to hear this and hopefully make some changes. We feel that Hershey Park is without a doubt the worst park experience we have had in recent years.

Hershey Park is the only theme park I have ever been to in which the experience was so terrible that we ended up leaving after only 3 hours and feeling like we wasted our entire day and our money.

We were so frustrated that we should have probably asked for a refund but we just were done after what we had gone through.

I’ll explain.

The drive to get to Hershey Park is 2.5 hours for us one way so it was a rollicking fun day of 5 hours in a car and 3 hours of utter frustration and hell inside the park.

1. Confusing layout with no signs: Hershey Park is not a large park and the pathways are a little confusing. This is not a problem. Many parks that we go to deal with confusing layouts by posting lots of signs, giving the guests good maps, and perhaps even an app to navigate with. Hershey gets it all wrong. The signs were the most confusing I have ever seen in a theme park. The maps were just as bad. The iPhone app we had was absolutely useless to the point where my mild-mannered husband almost threw his phone on the floor in a rage. To be fair almost every theme park app is terrible, but when the signs and print map has already failed you it’s a bit crazy.

The day we went it was almost 100 degrees outside. We were confused and lost for the entire time we were there.

2. Their Fast Track system is appallingly bad: They have a “Fast Track” system that is much like Disney’s Fastpass if Disney’s Fastpass were handled by someone stuck in the 70s with no concept of how to handle their own park’s capacity and no idea what every other theme park is doing today. These things are basically little paper punch card tickets that you buy for the ridiculous price of $50. For that cost you would think that it would be like almost every other theme park where you can choose which rides you want to ride, right?

Nope.

Your ticket has a list of 9 coasters and specific times that you have to arrive at the queue in order to get on the ride. You can only ride each ride once. The understanding I have is that if you miss your appointment time you are screwed. You can see a photo of the tickets and get more info here.

Let me make myself clear here – I’m the person who does not care that much about paying for things like this. I believe in paying for quality. Almost every theme park I go to I am the person who buys the option that lets me ride quicker.

In addition to this I review theme parks for my blog. While this is fun it can also be grueling to go to so many every season. The ability to buy up really helps me get my work done faster. In addition to this my husband can’t ride coasters so it’s far more worth it for us to buy up so that I can get on and off of the rides fast so he isn’t baking in the sun.

I’m fine with paying $50 – but Hershey is way out of line with their price point for this option. Your $50 gets you far less than what most other parks would sell you for that price. For example, at Cedar Point $50 gets you the ability to bypass the line on 20 rides as much as you want. At Hershey it gets you only 1 ride on 9 rides but only during your appointment time. Yes, Cedar Point has more rides. I am not fixated on the number of rides – the point is that a large percentage of Cedar Point is available to you when you buy up there and only a small percentage of the rides at Hershey are available to you for the same/similar price.

We decided to buy the Fast Track for me even though it was expensive because we didn’t care. It was almost 100 degrees out and there is almost no tree cover in Hershey Park. Because of point #1, we were lost and confused for about 10 minutes upon entering the park. This was enough time for all of the Fast Tracks to sell out so we couldn’t even buy one. They must not actually have that many Fast Tracks available per day. We encountered a very poorly-managed line and some park employees who seemed downright confused. They told us to keep checking back throughout the day as they might get some more in.

What? It’s like they just deployed this system sloppily without doing any studies on the park’s capacity and are just making it up as they go! I have never ever seen a theme park not know how many of these things they have per day. What the heck, guys. What the heck…

The bottom line is that if you plan to have a relaxing day in Hershey Park with a Fast Track you’ll need to pretend it’s the 70s and camp out for one like a Van Halen concert or something. They do not appear to keep many in stock and the way they are managing this system appears to be questionable, overpriced, and variant from every other theme park in America. It’s like Hershey Park is the crazy kid in the corner eating paste. When even *Six Flags* can put out a better system there is something wrong.

3. Very little shade in ride queues and a callous attitude about it: We were here on a nearly 100 degree day and it was made that much worse by there being absolutely no tree or roof cover in the ride queue we were in. (NOTE: We only got on 1 ride the ENTIRE TIME WE WERE THERE, so I can’t comment about the others.) What does the park do, though? They send vendors pushing and shoving through the lines (adding to guest discomfort) selling cold drinks at a mark up. I felt like I was in the joke theme park that they make fun of in The Simpsons ride at Universal Studios. This was the reality. I could almost hear Apu’s speech about the tiny but expensive shot glass-sized slushie that once you drink it it becomes a second drink from the leftover ice.

4. Hershey Park employees have no idea how to load rides and they can’t deal with single riders: This was the number 1 thing that infuriated us and ultimately led us to leave in a rage. There are no single rider lines (of course). While this sucks, it’s not something that woudl lead to an umtimate negative from me. What did was how they handled the lines in general. We waited for over 2 hours in the line for Fahrenheit. The line was long, but it was not that long. What would happen is that each time there were an uneven number or a single rider, they would not fill the car with another single rider – they would just send the car through with empty seats.

They do not do this:

They run empty cars because they don’t care:

Imagine this – you are standing in direct sunlight. It’s 100 degrees. The line is over 2 hours long while cold drink vendors push through the line. The entire 2 hours you are watching half-full cars launch because the employees can’t even bother to fully load the car. When you, a single rider gets to the front of the line they also have you ride next to an empty seat while hundreds of people in the line look like they are about to fall over from heat stroke. They might as well have had a giant Hershey Kiss giving the finger to the park guests from the loading platform.

After I finally rode Farenheit we were starving because by then it was noon. Even though we arrived at opening, we ended up only getting on 1 ride by lunchtime and felt miserable for it. We went to a rotunda-type area and tried to find a place to eat but the map and the iPhone app failed to give us the information we needed.

This is when we lost it. Those of you know that Harknell is the most quiet and patient person ever. He almost threw his phone on the ground in a rage because we were both so miserable, the lines weren’t being managed well, and we couldn’t even figure out where to eat because the map and signs were a big pile of fail.

We then left the park gladly and departed for New Jersey never to set foot in Hershey Park again.

We will never get that day that we wasted back.

Have you gone after August 2012? Did they make any changes? Let me know in the comments.

23 Comments on “4 reasons why Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania was the worst theme park experience I have ever had in my life

  1. I had a very similar experience at Hershey when I was last there about five years ago. My husband and I had honeymooned at Disney World and also visited Universal, and we were shocked about the length of the waits and the poorly-trained employees. My sister wanted to go on some of the water rides, and it took us like an hour in line just to get into the locker room to change! We also had to wait in a separate line to obtain a locker to put our dry clothes. It was ridiculous.

    I went there several times growing up and was shocked how much the experience has worsened. They need a serious reality check.

  2. Huh. I went on my 12th and 13th birthdays and recall there being 2-3 hour lines for one or two of the rides, but that was back in 1988-1989. I was also with family, and not all rode, so there was a lot of general walking around and shopping and eating and such. Could be it really was better back then, or it could just be that I was younger and more optimistic. In either case, I’m not sure I could do it now, as I’m just not fond enough of theme parks to put up with that nonsense.

    My fiance and I went to Disneyland last year, and I was disappointed by how small it felt. Was happy that California Adventure had a restaurant with a bar, though, and the food was actually quite good. Was also happy about how well they kept the lines moving, and how generally polite they were about it. The only thing which really annoyed me was how they cattled people around during the water show. Being very much the family-oriented park it is, it empties out quite a lot after the fireworks, so getting on rides in the evening is easy. And rides are more fun at night.

    Harknell sounds much more patient than I am. I “fixed” the line situation at CTN Animation Expo last year, because they couldn’t manage their own registration, which was done by hand, with cards, and not by computer, because that would make just too much damned sense, especially because it’s a animation expo, where both software vendors and Wacom are out in force.

    1. I loved Hershey in 1992. I’ve been sadly getting a lot of messages that it’s changed since then. :(

      Yeah, Harknell is super patient. Like, I think only I have ever seen him mad and I can count those times on 1 hand.

      I like theme parks, but can’t deal with bad guest experience. Even tiny parks an have great guest experience (like Knoebels) So I guess you could say I do not like the stereotype of theme parks. This is why I almost never go to Six Flags. It’s just too tired and coarse there.

  3. Hersheypark doesn’t have that confusing of layout. You walk in the main gate, through Founder’s Circle, and out to a fork in the road – where you can go to the Hollow, Minetown or Music Box Way. Fahrenheit is on the northern end of Music Box Way. Even from there it’s pretty straight forward. Pioneer Frontier leads to the Boardwalk and Midway America.

    I think what you failed to do was go out into Midway America and ride those rides first. Instead, you got trapped into waiting in a long line for Fahrenheit. Clearly you did not do your research before going to the park.

    As for trying to find food, there was a food place right across from the rotunda building you were at. And a larger food court on the otherside of the train tracks. I don’t think their map is the best by any means, but the map clearly tells you where food is at.

    Two other things of note – you’ve obviously never been to Six Flags America and Hershey Park hasn’t existed since 1970.

  4. @ Kahn: Hershey Park first opened in 1907 to employees, then in 1910 to the public. So, I’d say that Hershey Park existed well before 1970.

    Apparently, you either think you know it all, or work for Hershey Park. I have heard similar stories from tons of people whom have recently been to Hershey Park that their experience sucked big time. That’s life, things suck sometimes and just because you are a 400 pound fat kid doesn’t mean you get to be nasty to someone for expressing their opinion. Don’t defend what doesn’t need defense,

    Check your facts before you open your chocolate filled ignorant mouth. I was going to take my kids to Hershey but because of this honest review, I won’t be. Thanks to the authors for their honesty.

    J

    1. Ah, you don’t have to insult him – it’s OK people can disagree with me. :)

      I don’t know how old your kids are or what they like but if you are looking for great parks in PA we love Knoebels near Philly. It’s a family owned park and its a smaller scale than a metal coaster park but it’s got a great experience. We are adults and enjoy it a lot – especially the sit down restaurant – it’s adorable. But it’s not one of those BIG THRILLS parks. It’s medium thrills. :) I am at the point where Park Experience is the big thing for me because my husband cannot ride.

      1. Thanks for the suggestion. We are looking for a place that the kids will enjoy they are 9 and 10. Our 9 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes about a year ago, so medium thrills is fine. Great site, I enjoy your artwork.

        J

        1. Another place we love is Ocean City, MD. That is more of a boardwalk though. They have a great classic ride through Haunted House that is for all ages.

          I think the things I am looking forward to this year are Knoebels, Ocean City, and of course Orlando.

          I do like Cedar Point for metal coasters but that is a haul.

          OH!! I can’t believe I didn’t mention Busch Gardens! Busch Parks are really great! Pretty, relaxing at times, and good food choices – great for dietary restrictions. My whole group of riders and non-riders can attend and we have a blast. Just type “Busch Gardens” into the search ba on my site and you can see some examples of post I did on it.

          I hope to create a better resource page for theme parks in the future – I am just now doing those types of reviews. Normally I did Haunted Houses. :)

  5. As Pennsylvania resident, I agree with this.

    Hersheypark is overpriced for what it is, and — on those hot, busy days — downright unenjoyable.

    The food prices are insane… I recall seeing a sign for a “family value meal” that was like, $50 for 4 hotdogs, fries and drinks.

    Ironically, I know a lot of PA folks who are under the impression that WDW is much more expensive than Herhsey, when that’s totally not the case.

    Better PA theme parks? Knoebels and Kennywood.

    Rumor is, Hershey has been trying to buy out Knoebels for years, but the family has refused. Let’s hope that never happens!

  6. We camped at the Hershey Highmeadows campground every Labor Day weekend for past 10 years or so. We go to the park and really don’t use the maps and just know where things are. I do agree about the very slow lines. We use the get in the night before on your day ticket where you get in the last 3 hours the nit before…..if we want to ride coasters we do it that night….the following morning you might get in one or to rides before the lines get to be hours long. Another aggravating thing is if you stay at one of their resorts the have something called a Sweet Start where you get in a hour early…..but the only coaster running during that time is Comet…..overall we enjoy the day but just must be prepared for looooong lines!

  7. I have been to Hershey Park about 15 times and the maps are not hard to read at all if you have any sense. I only waited in line for about 50 minutes at the most and went in August. You are right about the the single riders. It is ridiculous to see each set of trains have 1 rider by themselves. Just be smart and bring water and sunblock, I bring a lunch and half way threw the day I go back to the car and eat. Save lots of money. And go when school is in Session. Just think people and a day can be alot more enjoyable.

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  9. Weighing in first on the Fast Track thing, you basically proved yourself wrong with the link you gave us. It clearly says “Each Fast Track Pass has all the available rides on it, and a time. You may go ANYTIME after that time, you can not go before.” Even if that is not the case and Im wrong the whole showing up at a certain time thing is the same as other parks. Like six flags for example. I waited in line for KingDa Ka for about 2 hours total and about 15 mins of that time was eaten up by waiting for fast pass appointments. Most other parks do it, you’re just looking for things to whine about cause you dont like Hershey. Next point, the “horrible shading”, ok I can see how that would get annoying but now you’re just looking for extra filler to make it seem like Hershey Park is horrible. Not all parks for all rides are going to have something to shade riders, and you’re also leaving out the fact that in most of Hersheys lines are fans with mist rings attached to keep potential riders cool. In total Hershey park is a great family friendly park and while it may have some flaws it does NOT make it worse than any other parks.

    1. So this post is a few years old and I am not even sure what you are referencing. Regardless you aren’t proving anything by citing things that weren’t current when this post was written. Unless I secretly own a time machine. Which I don’t. :) I hope they fixed the issues I encountered by now.

      If you are citing SFGA as an example of a well-run park we are going to have to understand that you and I lead different lifestyles and aren’t going to agree on the same quality scale.

      Try Disney one of these days. They brought out free lemon water and umbrellas for us 3 weeks ago on line. They didn’t try to use discomfort as a profit center. Similar with Busch and Universal. Also Holiday World.

      The second a park uses discomfort to sell they become the joke park on The Simpsons.

  10. Well you went in when 2012? Well even then they had the mist fans and what not, things were good then but I can understand how you found problems with the park. Also I understand we have different lifestyles and in no way did I mean for my reply to sound like a dig at you. Im just a HUGE fan of the park so my perspective is a bit biased because I have been going since 2005 and Im 1hr 30mins away. Also you have to realize that Hershey is a small independent park so using discomfort sells, its sad to know they do that but hey money is money. Also Im saying SFGA is just similar in fast track passes and using discomfort. Plus the park itself is actually not as good as Hershey in terms of bags and personal belongings, pricing, and loading. They are the same way. I was just making the case that there are parks that are the same and don’t work like other. I think they are okay now with single riders and what not, I went back last year and they would actually try to find another rider and by try I mean they REALLY try(depending on who’s working that coaster that day). They now do try to find other riders, but I hope you do give Hershey another chance and go back. Once again sorry if the previous post sounded a bit harsh Im just a huge Hershey fan :)

    1. No worries – I don’t dislike Hershey in general. The reason I was so upset is because I started going when I was little in 1992 and I have friends who played costumed characters there. It has changed. Or at least it had the year/day I went. I keep hoping they’ll reach out to me and tell me it’s different so I can re-asses and try again. I really want them to be successful because they are so close to where I live and have a long history with my family.

      I try to only post negatively about things when I like them and want it to be better. :)

  11. We went to Hershey a week ago and encountered all the same problems you did. Our kids were frustrated with the long waits and finding anything took forever. Employees seemed annoyed if we asked for directions, and often their directions were confusing too. Also it cost 2 dollars for a standard sized Hershey Bar there! Are you kidding me! We ended up leaving 4 hours before the park closed because even the kids were tired of standing in line. We have been to Disney World and let me tell you, we never waited that long in lines there. We live in Western PA and from now on we will stick to Kennywood or Waldameer.

    1. Were you there on a weekend? I’m visiting on a Monday and am hoping for less of a crowd.

  12. To the folks complaining about the long lines- Were you there on a weekend or during the week?

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