I used to love, love, love amusement parks. As a child, I love the exhilaration of the rides and the promise of cotton candy. As a teenager, I loved the constant whiff of hormones and the excitement of the music blaring out of the Himalaya (aka Music Express, Matterhorn, Thunderbolt, Flying Bobs). As an adult, I loved it for my children -- surprising them with trips to amusement parks on their birthdays, shepherding them around, taking pictures of their glee-filled faces on the mini rides.
But now that my kids are older, all they want from me and my husband is the ride. And the money. We went to Hershey Park recently to celebrate my youngest becoming a teen, and after a couple of turbo rides, the kids kindly asked us to leave them alone. They wandered off and we were left with a serious case of wooziness and a mild sunburn. What we were going to do with ourselves the rest of the day?
Until amusement parks decide to install a napping spot like this one we enjoyed in Tulum, here are some suggestions for enjoying yourself at Hershey Park:
- Go to the back of the park first -- It's a good rule for any amusement park visit: Start at the back and work your way forward. People rush the gates and run to the first, largest, craziest roller coaster they can find, lending to an hour-long wait and an otherwise empty park. At Hershey, two great wooden roller coasters, uncrowded pathways, plenty of benches and state-fair styled food stands greet you at the Midway America section in the back of the park.
- Ride the wooden roller coasters -- Most of the rides with their loop-de-loops and twirls will make you nauseous. It just happens when you're older; I think it's an inner ear thing. But Hershey Park has three great wooden roller coasters (Wildcat and Lightning Racer in Midway America, the Comet in The Hollow) that will give you the exhilaration you remember while keeping your guilty-pleasure amusement park food in your stomach.
- Eat guilty-pleasure amusement park food -- If I'm going to put the calories on my hips, I want it to be worth it. Two food stands we enjoyed were:
- Bricker's Famous French Fries (Midway America) - They cook the fries when you order them and let you salt and season them yourself.
- Dippin' Dots Sundae Shop (Kissing Tower Hill) - The Cookies and Cream Sundae was big enough for two, although I wanted to order another one. Around the corner from the Sundae Shop is a quiet and relaxing area with shade trees and tables with umbrellas.
- Don't eat guilty-pleasure amusement park food -- Sometimes the body has had enough. The light-filled, quiet and air-conditioned Gourmet Grille on Kissing Tower Hill offers salads, paninis and wraps as well as the standard hot dogs and chicken tenders. Choose it over the Overlook Food Court, also on Kissing Tower Hill, which was a zoo the day we visited.
- See a show -- We needed to figure out a way to while away the time, and stealing the place of lady who was laying back on a shaded bench and reading her Kindle wasn't an option (although we did consider it.) So we entered the Aquatheater and -- although we've seen such shows a hundred times before -- we still were oohed and awed by the seal and sea lion show, Our Friends from the Sea. A piano duel and hard-working young entertainers singing and dancing in a country-music revue were also some shows we considered.
- Take a quiet stroll -- Believe it or not, it is possible to take a quiet stroll in the midst of an amusement park. There is a long path alongside a manmade lake that connects The Hollow with the Main Entrance, winding beneath the Coal Cracker and Sky Rush, and on a busy, hot Saturday, we felt like the only two people who knew about it.
- Ride Tidal Force -- What I loved about Hershey Park when I was a more enthusiastic rider was that it felt like all the rides had been turned up to 11. Tidal Force is an epic log ride that puts all other log rides to shame. And while the line is long (but in the shade), and although you will get to-the-skin soaked, the mammoth fall and the endless whoosh is completely worth it.