The last time Hersheypark redesigned its entrance in the early 1970s, the Super Duper Looper was the new attraction.
I remember going deep into the park to find the new roller coaster. After my one ride, my parents bought me a toddler-sized t-shirt praising my survival.
Fast forward … Hersheypark has transformed and enlarged its entrance so that the all new 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 forward instead of further.
“Hershey Chocolatetown is a completely different arrival experience than we’ve had since the 1970s,” said Quinn Bryner, director of public relations and strategy for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.
The park expansion is the largest in the company’s history, with 23 acres, $ 150 million and 15 new features.
The new architecture has an early 20th century vintage look and feel, with nods to the style of Milton Hershey in his heyday as a young entrepreneur, building the city that would become his legacy. You’ll find plenty of modern twists, while still being the Hershey signature.
Here are some of the best new experiences:
The biggest literal twist is Candymonium, a one-of-a-kind “hypercoaster” billed as the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster on Hersheypark. With a lift height of 210 feet, a track length of 4,636 feet, and a top speed of 76 miles per hour, roller coaster enthusiasts should expect an exhilarating ride. But I can already imagine myself with my head between my knees. I’ll be on the bench with my hot corn, people watching, holding my kids’ sunglasses as they roll.
Historically symbolic work
While I wait, I can admire some eye-catching art. The structure of the water gushes out in the shape of a Hershey Kiss. Students at Milton Hershey School donated a kiss-shaped bell hanging from a beam signed by students. On the sidewalk is a “compass rose” with 22 bronze medallions, honoring key periods of Mr. Hershey’s enduring contributions to the region. Bricks from the original entrance are incorporated into one of the buildings, commemorating the old and welcoming the new.
Right next door is a new souvenir shop preserving the history of Hersheypark. Hersheypark Supply Co. is a 10,000 square foot flagship store with a large collection of memorabilia. The ones you can’t buy are the retired rides placed throughout the store.
“The new store pulls in Hersheypark’s ride collection and retro reel logo,” Bryner said.
You can approach a chariot from the old carousel and part of the old mini-train.
The store shares space with the three new restaurants, taking inspiration from the old-fashioned architecture and the arena building.
Le Chocolatier, one of the new on-site restaurants, has its outdoor terrace located on part of the arena, just above the old ticket office with its three small windows. The restaurant is century-old retro-dated, with retro tiles, green colors, and ceiling mirrors to project the lighting of its showboat. Inside, it offers an incredible aerial view of the new store.
At the bottom is the Milton Glacier. The decor is a throwback to a drugstore soda fountain, with stools at the counter, with hand-crafted sweet and savory dishes on the menu.
The signature dish is a chicken and waffle sandwich, a tip of the bowler hat to Milton Hershey’s favorite dish. Grilled sandwiches are encrusted with crunchy Parmesan. And because it’s Hershey, there’s even a chocolate (molé) dip for the chicken and fries. The 12 gourmet signature sauces are resolutely modern, such as beer cheese, spicy maple mayonnaise and rosemary aioli dip.
Rob Gordon, General Manager of Food and Beverage for Hershey Entertainment Complex, loves working 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 for yourself with Milton’s ice cream menu, with 24 toppings available in unlimited quantities and ‘ice cream’ (holding my dream job), creating custom, locally sourced flavors.
Signature flavors include Reese’s Peanut Butter, Toasted Marshmallow, Graham Coaster Station, and Malted Memories, a Spartan recipe developed by students at Milton Hershey School in their creamery. Another must-have is the Candymonium, which contains chunks of peanut butter cups and chocolate chips in a Twizzler flavored ice cream.
(My own shameful step: to get out of there.)
Gordon’s main collaborator is award-winning pastry chef Cher Harris. You can watch her homemade sweets and desserts in the local Sweeterie confectionery kitchen.
“The biggest draw is the interactive element, being able to watch handcrafted fudge being made up front,” Harris said. “It will create interest to look at the old confectionery technique.”
Harris’ open kitchen equipment includes a fudge paddle, kettle, marble tabletops and a sneeze guard.
His signature desserts are too numerous to list. Many “coaster” pastry-style desserts are fashioned after the rides at Hersheypark, such as the Comet Coaster Bar, Kissing Tower Mousse Cake, and Chocolatetown Cheesecake. For children, one dessert is shaped like a carousel horse and another is a ladybug.
If you’re like me, you go places for food and plan your day around that. With everything done in-house, I probably wouldn’t make it to the ticket office. But if I did, I would wander here …
Virtual reality experience
Hyperdeck is an immersive virtual reality experience. Up to eight players enter a dynamic virtual world, with a moving ground and multisensory effects (strong winds, heat and ground movements).
Players can choose between two scenarios. HAIR 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 additional interactive element, spectators can help or hinder players via tablets.
Whatever your attraction preference, Hersheypark is looking forward to welcoming visitors again after last year’s pandemic-induced trend reversal.
“We know how excited the guests are to come back after winter, especially this winter,” said Bryner.
For more information visit www.hersheypark.com.
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