by Paul Ruben
To its credit, Hersheypark was recently voted the number one park in the US outside Orlando by the TripAdvisor travel group. But TripAdvisor’s geography is twisted.
I would have voted it the number one park outside Harrisburg, and one of the Walt Disney World parks (not sure which) as the best outside Orlando, since they’re actually in nearby Lake Buena Vista. In case you’re wondering, SeaWorld or one of the Universal parks would be my choice as the best within Orlando.
As I walked into Hersheypark this summer, I spotted this beautiful statue of Milton Hershey, candy bar mogul and founder of the park. Me and Milton? It was a photo op waiting to happen.
The park’s new addition for its recent centennial season was the Boardwalk. It’s a brilliant concept, and very popular among park guests. The Boardwalk is a tribute to the legendary beaches of the Northeast United States, including Atlantic City, Ocean City, Coney Island and Rehoboth Beach, where nude bathing is forbidden – no ifs, or butts.
These beaches are favourites among local park guests, and combines the best parts of a great summer vacation – a day at an amusement park and a trip to the beach.
The Boardwalk at Hersheypark features five distinctive water attractions located inside the park near the Midway America area. The centrepiece, East Coast Waterworks, is the world’s largest water-play structure, built by Whitewater West. In total, the Boardwalk at Hersheypark represents a $21 million enhancement and is the biggest attraction ever assembled inside the park.
While we’re handing out geographically accurate accolades, Hersheypark now also has the best water play area outside Harrisburg. Congratulations. The brilliance of Hersheypark was to build this water play area adjacent to the park’s existing wet rides, including Tidal Force, a shoot-the-chutes, Canyon River Rapids, a white water raft ride and Roller Soaker, a coaster equipped with water bombs and ground-based water cannons. I’ve usually avoided these rides because I didn’t want to get my street clothes wet. But if you are in the water play area, you’re in your bathing suit. Wet? Bring it on.
Because of the Boardwalk’s popularity, even on the weekday I visited it was crowded. In 2006 Hersheypark drew 2,690,000 visitors, and because of the Boardwalk experienced a rare double-digit attendance increase in 2007. It seemed everyone wanted to get wet, and the park could easily have filled a full waterpark several times the size of the Boardwalk. There was a side benefit too; the coaster lines were short.