So that his employees would have a pleasant environment for picnicking and boating, Milton S. Hershey built Hershey Park in 1907.
From the moment he created his community, Milton S. Hershey planned to build a park to create a more pleasant environment for workers and residents than any typical factory town of the time.
In 1903, even though Hershey's Mennonite mother thought his idea was frivolous, he proceeded to survey a site along Spring Creek suitable for his park. On April 24, 1907, Hershey Park opened with a baseball game played on the new athletic field as Mr. Hershey and his wife, Catherine, watched from the grandstand.
Hershey Park's original appeal was its simplicity. An ideal spot for picnicking, boating, and canoeing, the Park was landscaped with graceful trees and wooded groves that provided a shady retreat for thousands of people without being crowded. The original main buildings, a rustic bandstand and pavilion, served as a stage for vaudeville and theatre productions.
On July 4, 1908, a merry-go-round was installed and opened. An amphitheatre was constructed adjoining the pavilion and was described as a "model of excellence." One of the most acoustically perfect buildings of its kind, the amphitheatre offered 1,500-tiered seats on a sloping hillside. The entrance sign read, "Ye who enter here leave dull cares behind."
The 1909 operating season saw the addition of two bowling alleys, a tennis court, a large band shell, and a photography gallery. In addition, the Scenic Railroad was completed and offered guests a relaxing ride through the picturesque area. During the 60-year history of the train, it is estimated the train traveled more than half a million miles.
In July of 1912, William H. Dentzel of Philadelphia, known as the "great flying horse manufacturer," built a $15,000 carrousel. The carrousel was described as the "most magnificent and up-to-date carrousel in this part of the country as well as one of the largest." The carrousel was 50 feet in diameter and featured 53 animals including pigs, rabbits, lions, ostrich, deer, goats, giraffes, bears, and two chariots.
From 1913 to 1923 the following attractions were constructed: a dance pavilion, known as the Starlight Ballroom, a new stage to accommodate the big band era, a new Convention Hall which later became the Hershey Museum, the Hershey Park Café, and the Hershey Zoo that housed Milton Hershey's own animals.
The community of Hershey celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1923. Mr. Hershey's present to the town was The Wild Cat, a new roller coaster. The Roaring Twenties brought even more new rides to Hershey Park including a small Ferris wheel, the Aeroplane Swing "with electric lights and streamers," and the Skooter.
In 1933, new Hershey Park attractions included The Bug, a fun house, The Mill Chute water flume ride, and the penny arcade. The Wild Cat roller coaster was renovated in 1935; its dips were built up and the curves more steeply banked.
Each season brought added attractions to Hershey Park. By 1945 there were more than two dozen "amusements and fun devices," and the original carousel was replaced by the one that is still in use today. In 1946, The Wild Cat roller coaster was replaced by The Comet, which is still a family favorite and is ranked in the country's top ten wooden roller coasters. The year 1950 saw the addition of twin Ferris Wheels 66 feet high. Ten years later, the Dry Gulch Railroad was installed.
In 1971, the first phase of a five-year redevelopment campaign began the conversion from Hershey Park as a regional amusement park to Hersheypark, one of America's most popular theme parks. The pay-as-you-ride policy was replaced with a one-price admission plan.
In 1973, Hersheypark opened a new open-air theatre, the Amphitheatre, on the same spot as the Park's first amphitheatre. The new Amphitheatre featured the Allan Alberts' TV Showcase and Hersheypark Revue. In the same year, Mark Wilson, a magician, performed in a tent adjacent to the Monorail station, which was later developed into the Dry Gulch Theatre. The tent was replaced by an outdoor stage, known today as the Music Box Theatre. The Chevrolet Music Box Theatre was totally enclosed in 1979, providing the Park with its first enclosed theatre since the 1960s.
Over the years, the quality of entertainment provided by Hersheypark has been compared to that of Broadway. Each year Hersheypark hosts auditions in various areas such as New York, Hershey, Boston, St. Louis, and Alabama in search of the best performers.
The sooperdooperLooper was unveiled on July 4, 1977, as the first steel looping roller coaster on the East Coast.
The 1980s brought the addition of rides including the Cyclops, Pirat, Wave Swinger, Conestoga, and Timber Rattler. In 1987, Canyon River Rapids opened allowing guests to simulate a white water rafting trip.
In 1990, The Flying Falcon ride was added. The Sidewinder, a multi-loop steel coaster, opened in 1991. Tidal Force, the world's tallest water plunge ride, opened in May of 1994, and Hersheypark expanded to 90 acres. In 1996, Hersheypark celebrated its 90th operating season with the unveiling of a new one-of-a-kind wooden roller coaster, The Wildcat, named for The Wild Cat at Hershey Park from 1923 to 1946. In 1997, a Ferris wheel and Whip ride were added and Hersheypark expanded to 110 acres.
In 1998, Hersheypark debuted Great Bear, the first steel inverted looping roller coaster in the state of Pennsylvania. You will see Hersheypark as you have never seen it before, plummeting from 120 feet high at nearly a mile a minute - twisting, turning, and spiraling your way through loops and spirals, 360-degree flat rolls, even a zero gravity Immelmann turn with nothing beneath your feet but the ground far below and the sky above... all of this in a hair-raising 175 seconds!
THE FAIR THAT LASTS ALL SUMMER LONG arrived at Hersheypark in 1999. The Hersheypark Fair, featured five new rides such as the Wild Mouse, the Merry Derry Dip Fun Slide, Music Express, Chaos, and the Frog Hopper. A large 10,000 square-foot festival and exhibition tent to showcase a variety of agricultural and educational exhibits is the centerpiece of the fair area. In addition, the fair brings back a wide variety of exciting games to test your skill and the foods of days gone by.
Hersheypark welcomed the new millennium with a new attraction: Lightning Racer, the first dueling coaster in the United States. Lightning Racer was succeeded by The Claw, a thrilling, 65-foot spinning pendulum ride – the first of its kind in the Northeast – in 2003, and Storm Runner – the 10th roller coaster at Hersheypark – in 2004, which debuted as the world's first hydraulic launch coaster that features inversions. Hersheypark made an equally sweet and exciting addition in 2006 with Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge – an interactive dark ride featuring family-friendly competition.
Hersheypark made waves in 2007 with the opening of its brand-new waterpark: The Boardwalk At Hersheypark! The Boardwalk featured water attractions such as East Coast Waterworks, Coastline Plunge, Bayside Pier, Sandcastle Cove, and Waverider! The Boardwalk got more soak-worthy in 2009 with the addition of The Shore – a 30,000-gallon wave pool and Intercoastal Waterway – a 1,360-foot lazy river. Hersheypark celebrated 100 years of happy, thrills, sweetness, and more with its 100th Anniversary in 2007. A year later, in 2008, Hersheypark debuted its 11th roller coaster: Fahrenheit, a vertical lift looping coaster that lives up to its name with a 97-degree drop!
Hersheypark introduced guests to Skyrush in 2012 – its highest, fastest, and longest roller coaster both then and now – making one dozen roller coasters! Feeling the need to add some silly-yet-sweet thrills to the lineup, Hersheypark cut the ribbon on its thirteenth coaster – Laff Trakk in 2015. Laff Trakk is also the first indoor, spinning, glow-coaster in the United States!
Happy additions continued to happen as recently as 2017 with the arrival of Hershey Triple Tower – the first choose-your-thrill triple tower in the United States! Featuring three separate towers of varying heights and thrills, Hershey Triple Tower truly is an experience the whole family can enjoy and share together!
From the addition of rides, the introduction of a waterpark and plenty of food offerings and creations along the way, Hersheypark has grown, changed, and become happier and happier since its 1907 opening. However, one thing has not changed and this is a commitment to providing guests with sweet memories they can cherish forever. That has, and always will, remain the same. Discover for yourself with a visit to Hersheypark! A complete history of the life and philanthropy of Milton S. Hershey is available for purchase at most of our retail shops.