Speaking of planning, this is what happened during our first trip to Christmas Candy Lane: knowing we were heading there in December, I tried to prepare for anything I could imagine- snow, blizzards, ice, whatever. I bought my giant Lands End puffy coat for the occasion, as well as snow boots, thermal underwear, earmuffs, arctic GPS (just kidding on that one). What I did not prepare for was the RAIN and FOG that we experienced while we were there. Oh well. Ya can't win 'em all. Future trips would prove to have much better weather!
When Does Christmas Candy Lane Open?
If you fear the cold, know that Christmas Candy Lane at Hersheypark usually opens weekends starting in mid-November, so you could always visit early! Then it closes around January 1st and reopens for its Spring season some time in April.
We have visited several times during the winter season and the weather varies. We've hit rain, cold and beautiful, mild temps on separate occasions, so you just never know what you'll get! One thing I can tell you is that it's been fun every time, no matter what the weather has been.
|Still fun, even in the rain!|
|Beautiful and fun, even in the cold!|
What is Christmas Candy Lane?
Hersheypark remains open for part of the winter season. Check their website calendar for exact dates and times. Only some of their rides are operational, so don't expect to be hitting up all of your favorite roller coasters in the winter weather (although some are operational!). Most of their 30 kiddie rides are open, as well as their indoor rides, some souvenir shops, some food stands, etc.
|A view of Hersheypark from The Kissing Tower|
|The park is beautiful at night, but can be cold, so bundle up!|
What Can I Do During Christmas Candy Lane?
The park is decorated to a tee, and you'll find a plethora of photo ops! Someone once said to me, 'Who wants to go to a theme park in the winter?' Many of the rides were small or indoors, but it was still fun to ride the roller coasters (like the Cocoa Cruiser and the Wild Mouse) in the winter weather.
|Christmas in Hershey - kind of fun to ride a roller coaster in the winter! See me in my funky striped hat?|
During our latest trip, the weather was so mild that I didn't even need a jacket, and in some ways, it was even more pleasant to walk around the park at this time than during the hot summer months! So don't let the season stop you!
|The Jersey Momma waiting for The Jersey Momma's Boy to hit the road!|
The hours of operation vary by day, but usually the park opens at either 12pm or 5pm for Christmas Candy Lane. We usually leave by evening or just as it begins to get dark, but if you stay past dark, you can view all of their lights on display. The neon characters are throughout the park. There are also Christmas shows you can attend, but The Jersey Momma's Boy is not too keen on shows, so we have yet to see one!
The characters also walk throughout the park and they are adorable. It's fun to see them dressed in their winter outfits! You can also meet Santa and his reindeer.
The reindeer are soooo cute!! You can't go right up to their fence but you can get close. There are employees nearby to teach you about Santa's reindeer and show you samples of their antlers and food.
Santa was in an adorable workshop area and we didn't even have to wait in a line. You have to pay for your photos, but what's new about that? The picture below was not Santa's house, but an example of how they transform the shops at holiday time.
The park was super clean as always, but we did notice a difference between the winter staff and the summer staff. The winter staff, although friendly, was not as helpful or professional as the summer staff. I think this holds true for most theme parks, so I will cut them some slack there. After dark you will see certain areas of the park all lit up.
|The Milton Hershey fountain at Hersheypark|
What Can I Eat There?
Most of the food stands are open, but not all. And let it be known that there are supposed to be hot chocolate and s'mores stands throughout the park, but they are not always open. I'm not sure why this is, whether it's due to staffing or weather or if the stands open at odd times, but in all of the visits we've gone, the reliability of these stands is questionable!
They do usually offer a cool refillable mug. This one is from years past, but you can see how cute it is!
This year, Hersheypark added these awesome giant milkshakes to their selection of treats. If you want to buy one, they are only available at the stand called Simply Chocolate. If you don't go there, you won't find them! I looked for them during our last visit and was unable to find them. I learned where they were after we returned home.
|King sized shakes available at Simply Chocolate inside Hersheypark - photo from Hersheypark Facebook page|
In my opinion, if Hersheypark could improve on one thing during the Winter season, it would be their food selections. Sometimes it's hard to find something you want to eat from the choices given at the park during Christmas Candy Lane. Sometimes the food areas are crowded or kind of dirty because staffing is low. I hate saying that because everything else about the park is always so nice, but it's true. I was happy to see a Chick-fil-A will be opening there in Spring of 2017. I hope they decide to keep it open during the winter season, too!
|Chick-fil-A coming to Hersheypark in 2017!|
What Else Can I Do Here?
Also around the area are Chocolate World (which I talk about in part 2 of my blog!) and Hershey Gardens. We were unable to go to Hershey Gardens because of the rain, but they do offer Christmas activities for kids, so be sure to check out their website. Their new butterfly atrium is now open year round, too! We love The Hershey Story Museum, which we visited in the summer time. They have wonderful activities for kids during the holiday season, too.
Equally spectacular is Hershey Sweet Lights, a drive-through display of lights and wonder (also discussed in part 2 of my Hershey blog). We LOVED it!
|Hershey Sweet Lights is a separate attraction and admission fee, but it's worth visiting for sure!|
How Much is Admission?
Check the Hersheypark website for current admission costs. They usually offer coupon deals and discounts, so follow their Facebook page or sign up for their email list for more information. You can get discounted tickets and free shuttle service if you stay at a Hershey hotel. If you don't, keep in mind that you will also have to pay for parking.
Where to Stay
In all honesty, you don't have to stay at all. For us, Hersheypark is about a two hour drive from home, so we could essentially get to the park early and then drive back home. But I like to take our time and experience everything, so we usually stay at the stunning Hotel Hershey. It is truly a beautiful place, and we stay there every time we visit, basically now because we're spoiled and can't imagine staying anywhere else! But you can also stay at Hershey Lodge, Hershey Campgrounds, or the local hotels nearby. Hotel Hershey offers free shuttle service to the park and Chocolate World (on weekends), and is also within walking distance to Hershey Gardens. Plus, they give you a free chocolate bar when you arrive and they leave Hershey Kisses for you at bedtime! Sigh. The hotel was decorated beautifully for Christmas. The service is always top notch here. If you go, I highly suggest staying in the west wing, and the breakfast buffet at The Circular is fantastic (try the Hershey Kiss waffles!). For an in-depth comparison of both Hershey resorts, please check out my blog entry on this subject!
|Beautiful Christmas decorations at Christmas at the Hotel Hershey|
One of our favorite things about visiting Hotel Hershey in the winter is being able to swim in their indoor pool. Plus we got to wear cool robes!
|The indoor pool at the Hotel Hershey|
The Hotel Hershey has so many other enticing features. It is famous for its spa (which I have sadly never been to) and plenty of outdoor activities. I don't usually order room service, but The Jersey Momma's Boy started to come down with a cold on the last night of one trip (major bummer) so we ordered room service and stayed in. What a treat!
|Room service at the Hotel Hershey was divine!|
Jersey Momma Tips:
- We purchased our tickets through the hotel concierge at Hotel Hershey, so that was the biggest discount I could find. The hotels also offer packages based on how many nights you stay, so look into that if you want to plan a package deal.
- If you're not staying on property, be sure to follow Hersheypark on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up for their email list to receive coupon deals (the supermarket chain called Giant in Pennsylvania also offers Hersheypark discount coupons).
- Even in the rain we had a great time, so don't fret the weather and just take whatever comes. There is always something to do!
- Plan, plan, plan! Look at the websites (especially mine!), and view all that Hershey has to offer. I've had friends who visited and missed half the attractions simply because they didn't realize the attractions were there.
- Wear good walking shoes. Hershey is large and there is even some uphill walking. If you have little ones, bring a stroller to help out.
- I often say that Hershey is a nice alternative to Disney, especially if Disney is temporarily beyond your budget. Check out my friend's blog over at MousePlanning for a comparison of Hershey and Disney. But keep in mind that he is not comparing them during the winter season.
- Take advantage of the Hersheypark free app! It's helpful in finding which rides and concession stands are open.
Don't forget to check out Part 2 of my Hershey experience. You can read all about Hershey Sweet Lights and Chocolate World (one of my favorite places on Earth!).