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.
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?
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.
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.