A Review of Christmas in Hershey: Christmas Candylane (part 1)

Wednesday, December 20, 2023
My review of Hersheypark Christmas Candylane in Hershey, PA is one of my most popular posts. Have you ever visited Hersheypark at Christmas? It's so much fun! First, let me start off by saying how much I love Hersheypark. I actually love Hershey, PA so much that I devoted an entire page to it on my site. So be sure to check out my Hershey Insider Page for all of my other Hershey review articles (no one paid me to do this post, it's not sponsored). This post is a two part series, so be sure to read part two detailing Hershey Sweet Lights. We've been visiting Hershey since our son was little (and now he's a teenager), so trust me, I know what I'm talkin' about here!

*This post has been freshly updated for 2023

Speaking of planning, this is what happened during our first trip to Christmas Candylane: 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, and actually, the rainy visit wasn't so bad.

My posts are always updated and designed for easy reading. Scroll below to see bold headlines for the info you need. I answer all reader comments, too, so if you have a question, ask away!

When Does Christmas Candylane Open?

If you fear the cold, know that Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark usually opens select dates 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 foggy rain, cold/beautiful, and 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. 

What is Christmas Candylane?

Hersheypark remains open for part of the winter season. Check their website calendar for exact dates and times. Not all of their rides are operational, so don't expect to be hitting up every roller coaster in the winter weather (although many are operational). Most of their kiddie rides are open, as well as their indoor rides, some souvenir shops, some food stands, etc. Everything takes on a Christmas or holiday theme, too.

What Can I Do During Christmas Candylane?

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?' Yes, some of the rides are closed, but it is still fun to ride the roller coasters (like the Cocoa Cruiser and the Wild Mouse) in the winter weather, I assure you. Plus, the ferris wheel is BEAUTIFUL.

You can also walk through TREEville at the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk has been decorated with more than a dozen trees for the holidays. Walk through and check them out! 

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 hours of operation vary by day, but usually the park opens at either 12pm or 5pm for Christmas Candylane (**check their website for exact hours). If you visit when it's dark, you can view all of their lights on display and see their NOEL light show synchronized to music. It's beautiful and runs every half hour.

Photo from Hersheypark website

You can visit with Santa and meet the Hershey characters at Music Box Theater.

It's fun to see the characters dressed in their winter outfits!  You can also meet Santa and his reindeer. The reindeer are REAL and so exciting to see up close. 

The real 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 is waiting for you right at Founder's Way (with his elf helpers, too)!

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! Just had to make that known.

They do usually offer a fun refillable mug. This one is from years past, but you can see how cute it is, right? I think the mug is worth the extra cost. This mug has been a favorite of mine for years!

The Season Passholder mugs are refillable throughout the park (image below is from 2022- this year's photo coming soon!)

Hersheypark also serves these awesome giant milkshakes, and the design of them changes seasonally. If you want to buy one, they are only available at the stand called Simply Chocolate. Simply Chocolate is located across from Reese's Cupfusion, and you won't find these shakes anywhere else in the park.

Me and my delicious King Shake from 2019 -BFF's!

New Treat and Food Options for 2023

There are always fun new additions to Hersheypark's list of delicious sweet treats and savory foods, and they change every year. 

The delicious holiday menu they offer is one of the best reasons to visit the park during the Christmas Candylane. Here's just a small portion of what you can find:

-King Sized Donut

-Frozen Hard Sloshies

-Traditional and Cookie S'mores 

-Mini Donuts (found at the mini donuts food truck - these are a MUST TRY!!)

-bread bowl soups

-Loaded Create Your Own Baked Potato bar

Hot Chocolate varieties (check their menu for exact flavors), but here's a pic of this year's selection. 

What Else Can I Do Here?

ZooAmerica is actually part of Hersheypark and is open year round.  You can visit the zoo while you are inside the park as part of your admission fee. Breakfast with Santa is available at The Chocolatier (advanced reservations required). You can also visit Hersheypark's Chocolatetown even when Hersheypark is closed.

Also around the area is Chocolate World (which I talk about in part 2 of my blog) and Hershey Gardens. Hershey Gardens offers Christmas activities for kids, so be sure to check out their website. Their butterfly atrium is open year round, too. We love The Hershey Story Museum, which we visited in the summertime. They have wonderful activities for kids during the holiday season, also.

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!

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 resort. 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 it's so much more fun to stay over! 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, Hersheypark Camping Resort, or the local hotels nearby. The Hershey Resorts offer free shuttle service to the park and Chocolate World (during park hours). The Hotel Hershey was decorated beautifully for Christmas. If you go, I highly suggest the breakfast buffet at The Circular (try the Hershey Kiss waffles). Just check operation hours because The Circular is only open certain days of the week. For an in-depth comparison of both Hershey resorts, please check out my blog entry on this subject.

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!

Jersey Momma Tips:

  • We purchased our Christmas Candylane tickets through the hotel concierge at Hotel Hershey, and 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 plan to visit The Chocolatier or do Breakfast with Santa there, book early. It fills up fast. You can make a reservation right online so don't delay.
  • 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 usually 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! On colder trips, we saw some little guests in the park wearing their snowsuits or snow pants (even though there wasn't any snow). This was not a bad idea, since it obviously kept them warm.
  • 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. Or check out my Hershey Insider Page for plenty of advice.
  • Wear good walking shoes. Hersheypark is large and there is a lot of walking. If you have little ones, bring a stroller to help out.
  • 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).


  1. Those are great pictures. Really enjoyed reading your post.

  2. How fun! Love the photos and review!

  3. FYI if your ever in town and want to go to,Hershey try purchasing your tickets at giant not a huge savings but could buy you a slice of pie or two :) enjoyed your blog thanks for the share :)

  4. Thank you so much for posting this. My family is going tomorrow to hershey and I wanted to find something that discusses which rides will be open.

    1. Awesome! I'm glad I could help! Have fun on your trip, anazelia! Thanks for reading.

  5. Great Review..Thanks. I am a tour coordinator and we are planning a trio up that way next November. They haven't issued the prices yet for Candy Lane for 2017 yet. I would like to know what the admission was this year so I could better plan the trip. Thanks

    1. I had replied to this comment and it somehow got deleted so I am very sorry about that! I know it is over a year old!! I hope you were able to find the prices you were looking for. They usually don't publish them until closer to the dates of opening.

  6. Hi, I have a 3years old baby, which season do you believe is a better season/time for visiting Hershey Park?

    1. Hi Su. Well, any season is nice and it depends what you are looking for. At 3 years old your child will only be able to ride the little kid rides anyway, so you will probably have less crowds and cooler weather in the Spring. You could do summer, too, but there will be more crowds and the heat might be a lot for your little one! If you're staying at a Hershey resort, they have wonderful pools, though. Each season has its good points! If you're going to try the Christmas season, aim for earlier (like November when they first open for the holiday) and the weather might be warmer. I think the holiday season is really special for little ones. Were you planning on staying at a Hershey resort?

  7. How crowded is it dec 23? We’ll be Wanting to try all the rides, is fast pass worth it or is the park fairly low volume at this time

    1. Truthfully, it's hit or miss as far as crowds go. We have never been to Christmas Candylane on the 23rd, but out of all the times we HAVE gone, crowds have been very mild. I, personally, wouldn't recommend the Fast Track for CCL since not all of the rides are operational and the ones that ARE open are subject to weather conditions (meaning they will close some of them in extreme cold or rain). That being said, if you get there and find that the park is super crowded, you can purchase a Fast Track pass while you're there, so it's not like you lose the opportunity if you don't purchase them in advance. I hope that helps!

  8. Seriously? You have all this info but tell your readers to refer to website to find out tix are $53.00

    1. I have learned through experience not to publish prices in my posts because they tend to be inaccurate. Prices can fluctuate and I don't want to misinform people by posting improper information. I don't make any profit from this post or from anyone clicking the links. My goal here is to tell you what the experience was like for us, but it's up to the reader to find out accurate pricing, operational hours and other important travel info. There are often sales and discounts throughout the season, too, so the price isn't always the same.


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