Our family trip to Hershey

I was shocked to learn that Hersheypark was only a 90-minute drive from Ellicott City. I’ve gone plenty of times as a kid, and it was always a day trip. However, this was my first visit as a family. We decided to get a hotel room and do 3 days there. This is a quick list of the pros and cons of staying overnight.

Our Itinerary

  • Drove up Tuesday evening: We left after dinner and headed straight to the hotel so we would be ready for a full day.
  • Wednesday at Chocolate World: We squeezed every ounce of entertainment there and it took five hours.
  • Wednesday dinner: Headed out to dinner near the hotel, then relaxed in the room all evening.
  • Thursday at Hersheypark: First in line at the gates and stayed at the park all day.
  • Friday Morning Drive: We skipped our trip plans for the zoo and headed back home.

Where We Stayed

We stayed 10 miles away from Hersheypark at La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Harrisburg Airport Hershey. There are much closer hotels, but for a third of the price and 16-minute drive, you can save enough money to justify staying overnight.

Pros of Staying Overnight


Eisenhower Boulevard in Harrisburg has a strip of hotels that are affordable. We stayed in a room with two double beds. However, La Quinta’s best room, a king suite, was available for $149 a night. Each stay includes a free breakfast.

More Time for Fun

My boys and me after a long day at Hersheypark

Dad Pro Tip: Every ticket includes a Preview Plan: free access for 2.5 hours before it closes the day before your full visit, details here.

Theme parks are less crowded empty as soon as they open and right before closing. If you’re the family that wants to be lined up at the gate or staying until close, then get a room. It will maximize your ticket.

Cons of Staying Overnight

It’s Close Enough

At a 90 minutes drive, it’s manageable to drive home. Everyone else in the car might be passed out, then go for it. Please drive safe and plan accordingly. Driving down the boring scenery of I-83 the whole ride can put the best road warriors to sleep.


Paying for a hotel when you only spent 4-5 hours there doesn’t make much sense. It’s not a good value if you’re not going to spend the whole day out at the park or your kids won’t be able to ride most rides.

Hersheypark Attractions

What’s Hersheypark?

Hersheypark is an amusement park in Southcentral Pennsylvania themed to The Hershey Company and its brands. I hadn’t been in about 8 years and it’s grown a lot since. With a park entrance, you get access to a water park, an adjacent zoo, and over 70 rides including 14 rollercoasters.
We were so happy that our youngest son was 42 inches. That opened up a lot more rides and quite a few roller coasters for us.

If Staying Overnight:

  • Find an inexpensive hotel with free breakfast; lots of options along Eisenhower Blvd.
  • Use the Preview Plan for admission the last 2.5 hours the day before
  • To be amongst the first to enter at the 10 AM opening, plan to park by 9:30
  • If rain closes rides for more than an hour, visit guest services to get tickets to come back tomorrow.

For a Day Trip:

  • Use the Hersheypark website to know which rides your kid is tall enough to get on.
  • Watch reviews on YouTube with the kids to pick the ‘must-do’ rides
  • Avoid driving during rush hour. 83 isn’t bad, but 695 traffic will eat up your day fast.
  • If rain closes rides for more than an hour, visit guest services to get tickets to come back later in the season.

Hershey’s Chocolate World Attractions

What is Chocolate World

Chocolate World isn’t technically part of Hersheypark, but if you’re visiting the park, it’s a must-do. We did just about everything they had to offer and spent five hours there. We ended up eating far too much chocolate, just from the samples given out at different attractions.
It’s located just outside the entrance gates of Hersheypark. If you’re doing a day trip it’s worth going in for huge gift shop and the Chocolate Tour ride. The Chocolate Tour is a free 10-minute ride that teaches you how chocolate is made. In the end, you’ll get a piece of Hershey chocolate.

If Staying Overnight

  • Dad Pro Tip: Get the parking pass when ordering a bundle online. It’s a free addition, but the price can be up to $40 if you stay as long as we did.
  • Get a pass that bundles the attractions and meals to save money
  • The trolley ride and tour is the best of the paid attractions offered.

For a Day Trip

  • Enjoy the free Chocolate Tour Ride and get a mini Hershey bar.
  • Shop for unique gifts if that’s your thing
  • Get out of there and spend your time in the park.

Bottom Line

If you want to squeeze every ounce out of your park admission hedge your bets for a rainy day, get a room for sure. If you’re okay just hitting the main attractions and you don’t expect the kids (or parents) to last the whole day, you will still have a blast on a day trip.