Apr 032014
Dole Whips only come in one size - so split them

Dole Whips only come in one size – so split them

This is a little trick I came up with when my kids were toddlers.  Even the kids size cones at Turkey Hill at Hersheypark were too big for them at the time so I bought one ice cream cone and asked for another plain cone or a dish (depending on what they wanted) then I split the cone between the two of them.  Often I travel with extra spoons and small plastic dishes in our backpack anyway so that makes this very easy.  I have only once been charged for that extra empty cone but the price was significantly less than the cost of a second cone that we just didn’t need.

This works especially well at Dutch Wonderland where Dole Whips only come in one size – too big.

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Apr 022014
Hersheypark Entrance Gates

Hersheypark Entrance Gates

All regular tickets to Hersheypark include a free preview of the park to be used the night before.  This includes tickets purchased with our Boy Scout discount.  This post will help you get most out of that free preview.  To view the free preview plan information on Hersheypark’s website, go here.

Locating the free Preview box on your ticket

I don’t have a photo of a 2014 ticket yet, but I will get one as soon as I can.  Somewhere on your ticket there will be a box.  In 2013 it was in the upper right. I’m not sure what the label will read or if it will even have a label, but there will be a box on your ticket.  This is the same for home printed internet tickets, tickets purchased through a box office or through another vendor like a school fund raiser.

How do I use the free preview?

When the clock reaches the magic hour (see the next question) you are allowed to go in with the Preview Plan.  You go to the entrance gate and show them your ticket.  The attendant will check that box and give you the ticket back to use the next day for your full day visit.  The trick here is not to lose the ticket.  Do not try to jump that entrance time, they will tell you to go away and come back at your allotted time… they will do it nicely of course.  :-)

The preview must be used BEFORE your full day in the park as you won’t get your ticket back when you go for your full day.  Does it need to be used exactly the night before?  The jury is out on that.  Hersheypark wants you to do it that way but right now there is no way for them to know when you used the preview. In 2013 my family used our previews first and then went back several weeks later to use the full days.  Without knowing what the 2014 tickets look like it is hard to say if they will crack down on this or even have any way to know when they were used.

What time can I get into the park with the free preview?

The free preview entitles you to enter the park at the following times:

  • For an 8pm closing you get in at 5:30pm.
  • For a 10 or 11pm closing you get in at 7:30pm.

What parts of the park will I be allowed to visit during the free preview?

The entire park is available to you during the free preview; however, ZooAmerica and the Boardwalk have earlier closing hours than the rest of the park so you may not be able to catch them before they close.

How can I make the most of my free preview?

Having 2 1/2 or more hours to roam the park is a good thing, especially if you have not visited before.  Here are the best ways to use that time:

  • Explore the park and get your bearings.  Hersheypark is large and a map is a must for each person.
  • Use a park map and circle the things you don’t want to miss on your full day (or send yourself a text message.)  When you go back to your hotel you can make a “touring plan” using the map to fit in everyone’s top 3 items or so to make sure everyone has a good day.
  • Ride coasters if your goal is to ride them all.  Hersheypark has 12 coasters (one is a kiddie, but adults can ride it) and it is VERY hard to fit them all in during a single day, especially if it is a weekend day in the summer.  Best coasters to do on your preview are as follows:
    • Any coaster with a short line!
    • The coasters in Midway America – Lightening Racer, Wild Mouse, Wildcat.  These coasters are the easiest ones to get even on a busy day, but getting them out of the way on your preview frees up your time for the tough ones.
    • Skyrush, Fahrenheit or Storm Runner – These rides have long waits on any day generally but if the queue area is still open you WILL get to ride.  They estimate how low it’ll take to work through the line till closing and close off the queue accordingly.  So if your dream is to ride one of these coaster by all means do it on your preview.  You may wait but you will for sure get ‘er done.
  • If you plan to visit the Boardwalk on your full day, fit as many rides in as you can during the preview to give you more time in the water.
  • Take in a late show.  The Music Box Theatre usually has its last seating at 8pm.
  • Buy souvenirs and win the giant stuffed Scooby Doo.  You won’t have to lug them around all day.
  • Let the kids ride their favorite ride until they drop.  Kiddie rides often have shorter lines at night so it is a good time for them to make the most of their favorite.  Sometimes the ride operators will let them stay on if there isn’t a line.
  • Take a ride on the Dry Gulch Railroad.  Lines for the railroad are long all day but thin at night.  Riding the train is a great way to see the park up close.

What should you do BEFORE the free preview if you have time to kill?

  • Chocolate World is always a nice option to keep busy before you go to the park. If you want to do any of the attractions that require tickets you can purchase them several days in advance to get the times you want which will let you make a candy bar or see the 4D movie and still get out just in time for the preview period.  The factory tour is free and there are always tasty things to eat.
  • Eat a good dinner at Hersheypark Place.  This is the only full service restaurant on Hersheypark property.  It is outside the main gates so is available to you before you go into the park. Their menu is posted outside.  They serve adult drinks which is nice too.  I have found many of their sandwich plates are excellent values compared to eating in the park and the food is better in general than what you well get at counter service. I loved my ham and cheese on a pretzel roll.  Al fresco seating is available on some nights and you may get a visit from a Hersheypark character.  I was visited by Kit Kat last year.
  • Shop the shops at the entrance to the park or grab a coffee at Dunkin Donuts.  If you’ve only got a short time this is probably enough to keep you busy.   Coffee is hard to come by in the park so if you need a bit of java, get it now. You CAN take the cup in with you even though you can’t take other food and beverage in.  The guards will allow Dunkin Cups in – though they usually ask if you will get them one.  😉
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Apr 022014
Free Water at Dutch Wonderland

Free Water at Dutch Wonderland

I wish I could tell every person coming into the gates of these parks this piece of information it is that important.

One of the most common health problems visitors face at an amusement park is dehydration.  Bottled water is expensive at the parks and soda doesn’t do much to keep you hydrated.  There is a solution though…

  • If you have a souvenir cup for either park, ask for it to be filled with water and ice at any stand that sells fountain soda.  They will do it for free.  This includes the kids cups at ZooAmerica and Dutch Wonderland.
  • If you do not have a souvenir cup, visit a stand that sells fountain soda and ask for a cup of water with ice.  They will give you a cup for free – sometimes it is a small cup, sometimes it is a full size soda cup.  Depends on the person and the stand.

There are also water fountains at most rest rooms so that is another source of water to drink.

Remember, you never have to pay for water at the parks so keep hydrated!

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Apr 012014
One of the places you can get a kids sized soft serve cone - Turkey Hill Creamery in Pioneer Frontier

One of the places you can get a kids sized soft serve cone – Turkey Hill Creamery in Pioneer Frontier

Last Updated 4/3/2015 for price and location changes

If your children like ice cream, especially soft ice cream, a good place to take them is any of the Turkey Hill soft Ice Cream places.  It is not on the menu, but you can ask for a kid’s size cone or dish of regular ice cream (vanilla, chocolate or twist.)  They are plenty big enough even for an adult and the 2015 price is $1.89 with a season pass (Around 2.25 without the pass) and sprinkles are free!  They are still not listed on the menu.  The photo below is of my kids (ages 4 and 5 at the time) with their kids sized ice creams.  Neither one of them could finish their ice cream (I did finish mine… yum.)

2014 Kid Sized cone and dish - sprinkles are free!

2014 Kid Sized cone and dish – sprinkles are free!

Places that serve Turkey Hill soft serve are:

  • Simply Chocolate (where Cold Stone was in years past)
  • Waterfront Creamery in Midway America (near Tidal Force)
  • Turkey Hill Creamery in the Pioneer Frontier Food Court
  • Comet Creamery in The Hollow
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Apr 042013


Last Updated 4/03/15 – updated price and example of my meal in 2015

Every year this is one of the top 5 Hersheypark questions I get, Does the Hersheypark meal ticket save you money?  It can save you quite a bit of money but only under certain circumstances.

The basics:

  • The meal ticket comes in two version, regular (Hersheypark) and food allergy (dietary).  You can see the meals that are included on each ticket at Hersheypark’s website here. They will also be listed in very small print on the back of your ticket.
  • Each ticket is $14.00 (tax included) –  you can sometimes find discounts on these or buy from people who didn’t use theirs.  Be sure it is a 2015 ticket if you get it second hand.
  • As you can see in the photo of my 2013 meal ticket above, each ticket includes a voucher for a 2013 souvenir cup whether you want one or not.  There is no non-cup option.  This is the same for 2015, your voucher has two pieces, one for the meal and one for the cup.
  • You can buy your meal voucher in the park at Hospitality Services just inside the gate or you can order it online.  If you order it online you can take your online order to Hospitality Service OR any venue that accepts the meal vouchers to redeem it.

Does it save you money?

The ONLY time you will save money buying the meal ticket is if you plan on getting a souvenir cup for the person using that ticket.

The souvenir cup sells for $8.59 plus tax ($9) and gives you free refills till 12/31/15 for .99 plus tax ($1.05).  That means that whatever food you buy is only costing you $5.58. It is hard to get the food listed on the back of the ticket for that price.

Some meals will save you more than others. I tried to do the math, but many of the meals offered on the back of the ticket are not combinations offered at the restaurants off their menus so you can’t really determine an accurate savings.  I do think one of the best savings is if you use the ticket at Spring Creek Smokehouse since their menu prices are the highest in the park.  The ribs in particular are quite pricey but you can try to do the math. It’s tough.

If you were not planning on getting a souvenir cup for that person then do not buy the meal ticket. You will do better by just buying them a meal and a drink.

Children especially do not do well with the meal ticket since the souvenir cups are much more than they need and no kids meals are included in the program.  You could split a voucher meal between two kids but you still get stuck with the cup.

I buy a meal ticket for my first trip to the park so I can get my cup for the rest of the year.  Then I save the meal ticket for later since it is good all season.  Just don’t lose it.  :-)

A real life example from 2015 Springtime in the Park

I stopped at Hospitality Services and got my meal voucher for $14.  After looking at my options I opted for a burger and fries at Overlook Food Court (they have a burger topping bar where you can kinda make a small salad – they even have ranch dressing on tap this year…).

My lunch total was $18.47 ala carte (6.29 for a hamburger, though I could have had a cheeseburger or bacon cheeseburger which costs more and I would have saved more, but I don’t like cheese on my burger…ick; 3.59 for my fries and 8.59 for my souvenir cup.)  So I saved $4.47 by using the voucher.

However, you see if I didn’t want that cup?  I’d have paid $14.00 for $9.88 worth of food. I could have bought a soda for the difference.

Still want to save money on food at Hersheypark?

Check out my post on 10 ways to Save money on Food and Drink at Hersheypark.

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