Spoiler-Free Review of Hersheypark Halloween and Dark Nights: Is it Too Scary for Kids?

Saturday, October 22, 2022
We just returned from Hersheypark Halloween and Dark Nights and I have so much to share! Read on for all of my tips and suggestions for visiting. And NO SPOILERS! I promise. If you have little ones at home and you're worried about bringing them to Hersheypark with these new Dark Nights- don't worry! I've got you covered, too! Read on!!

Disclosure: I was honored to be chosen as one of 2022's Sweetest Families members for Hersheypark, which means I'll be bringing you all of the latest (and sweetest) Hershey Entertainment news throughout the year. I was provided with tickets to the park but all opinions are my own. Please check out my Hershey Insider Page to see all of my Hershey posts and reviews.

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To preface, Hersheypark still offers their adorable Hersheypark Halloween (formerly known as Hersheypark in the Dark), with fun character glow dance parties, cute photo ops, trick or treating through Treatville, select rides, and so much more. Dark Nights is an add-on to the Hersheypark Halloween experience and certainly didn't take away from the fun and joy of the usual Halloween merriment in the park. 

All About Dark Nights

In all honesty, I wasn't thrilled about the idea of Dark Nights when I first heard they were adding it to Hersheypark Halloween. Hersheypark is such a fun, safe family-friendly place- I didn't want to see it become a scary place after dark! But I am a Hersheypark gal tried and true so I had to go check it out for myself. I can tell you truthfully that we loved it! First, here's the official description of Dark Nights from the Hersheypark site:

"Dark Nights frightfully immersive haunt experience spreads its shadows over the Hersheypark® landscape every evening during Hersheypark Halloween seasonal event, unearthing three scare zones and four spine-tingling haunted houses. Midways transform from enchanting to unnerving and once-familiar spaces mutate into chilling explorations of the unknown. The only thing more terrifying than the dark, is what lurks within it."

About the Scare Zones

There are three 'scare zones' in the park, which basically means you'll find some creepy fog, cool lighting effects and 'scare actors' dressed as various different creatures/ghouls who can leap out at you or just plain freak you out (don't worry, they can't touch you). Some of the scare zones are really well done, with bursts of fire above the gates and very entertaining character actors (some are even ready to pose for creepy photos with you). Dark Nights starts at 6pm, so before that time, you won't find anything truly scary in the park. These character actors don't wander around the entire park- scare zones means they are confined to those areas, so if you don't want to encounter them, don't go down there! Scare Zones are clearly marked with signs, too, and are detailed on the Hersheypark map. Also good to note is that the scare zones are included with your general admission (whereas you need an additional ticket for Dark Nights).

Is it Too Scary for Little Kids?

Dark Nights is recommended for ages 13 and up, and I would agree with that (although, you know your kids best). But I know a lot of people are worried about bringing their kids under 12 to the park in general. When we visited, I did not encounter any of the scare actors outside of the scare zones. Founders Way was completely clear of them, actually, and there were none near Treatville. I hear a lot of people asking why Hersheypark would do this kind of event when so many young kids love to visit the park for Halloween. From a mom's perspective, I don't think there is anything to worry about. Stay out of the scare zones for ultimate comfort, but overall, there was nothing there that I found terrifying for the littles. The park was still filled with all of the adorable and fun things that little kids love- from rides to games to their favorite characters. Hersheypark seemed to go for a more "thrilling" and "creepy" scary instead of bloody, gory or inappropriate.  And another option is to purchase a "No Boo!" necklace. For $16 you can get a No Boo necklace that lights up. It's not a guarantee that you won't get jump-scared, but it helps! These aren't for wearing in the haunted house areas, either, just FYI. I actually bought one just because I thought it was cute. They will be great to wear for trick or treating at night! 

About Dark Nights

There are four 'haunted house' type areas in the park as part of Dark Nights. You need a separate ticket for Dark Nights (along with your regular admission). Each haunted house has its own queue line and you go in as groups. You need to scan your Dark Nights ticket at an HPGO kiosk upon entering the park so you can get a wristband.

Haunted Coal Mine - "For too long, unsettling cries of miners lost in these coal shafts have tormented the living. Take a daring trek through the abandoned mine, which suddenly becomes an explosive encounter." Really cool sound and light effects here! This was a family favorite. 

The Descent - "Who prowls the dark underground tunnels beneath Hersheypark? Follow her into the depths of decay where the only way out is down…" Fun jump-scares here and lots of winding tunnels. Great lighting effects and fun character actors!

Creature Chaos - "Join Professor Darkstone as he pits you against Pennsylvania’s most fearful and deadly creatures. Don’t worry, they’re in their cages…for now." This was super creepy and cool and will definitely strike a chord for those people who are scared of cryptid animals and creatures!

Twisted Darkness - "Dare to have your tarot read by our twisted fortune teller and be forced into a never-ending carnival of nightmares. Was it real or was it all in your mind?" Plenty of illusions and darkness to confuse you here. I loved the fortune teller aspect, too!

Don't Miss the Food and Drinks

One of the best things about Hersheypark (there are many, but this is one of the best) is their food, beverage and treat selection. They change it up seasonally and it's always exciting to see what they come up with every year for each season. You can see their entire Fall Food Guide here, but here is some of what we tried and what we picked as our favorites. The Chocolatier in Hersheypark Chocolatetown also has incredible food and drink choices for the season (and anytime!!).

The crab meat critter fritter was my favorite and super delicious with the added sauce. Hubby loved the pulled pork sandwich with black brioche bun. We also tried one of the three amazing adult beverages offered for Dark Nights (they have the Dark Nights Inferno, Blue Beast and Rotten Apple). We tried the Dark Nights Inferno which is great for people who love Fireball Whiskey! It's a mix of fireball whiskey and cranberry juice and all of these drinks are served in a light up souvenir Dark Nights cup. I also highly recommend the orange soda sloshie at 1906 Grill! 

Don't miss the King Shakes (which are only sold at Simply Chocolate)

My son's favorite was the toxic mac and cheese, of course!

Jersey Momma Final Thoughts

Dark Nights was amazingly done. We absolutely loved it (and I told you I went into it kind of skeptical). The lighting and sound effects were seriously cool (especially in the Haunted Coal Mine - it was really mind blowing). We have been visiting Hersheypark for years and this was the most fun we have had there during the Fall season (all of our visits have been fun, but this one took the cake! Or the chocolate, however you want to say it). There were a lot of food stands open and it was cute to see the souvenir shops transformed into spooky spots, too! Trick or Treatville was adorable and the decorations were on point! I even loved the music piping through the park during Dark Nights- a new mixture of 80's and 90's 'darker' songs (like Rob Zombie's Dragula and Haunted by Love and Rockets, just to name a few). 

Jersey Momma Quick Tips

-I was told that The Descent had the longest queue line so we hit that one up first. We did not have to wait long at all but it was still light out when we visited, so maybe the crowds came after us, in the dark.

-We did not hit many lines at all but if you're worried about waiting, you can purchase a Fast Track Pass to skip the lines. The darker it gets, the longer the lines are going to get and the more crowded the park will get, I assure you! 

-If you're concerned about being too frightened or you're not sure how your kids will react to Dark Nights, try visiting the haunted areas as early in the evening as you can. It's definitely less scary when it's still light out. Once it gets dark, everything takes on a more ominous tone!

-I was worried that things would be too gross or gory but I didn't see anything that really made me cringe. I didn't even see a lot of fake knives or weapons (I've been in haunted castles where they come running at you with chainsaws and that definitely didn't happen here!). 

-The Haunted Coal Mine was our favorite, and my son and husband went through that one twice (I waited outside for them, which I quickly learned was a mistake as the fog began to roll in and a giant sea creaturish looking fellow emerged in the shadows as I was standing there alone!)

-Don't forget to hit up your favorite rides! We rode the Wild Mouse twice (always a favorite) and you can also ride some of the bigger coasters and Laff Trak in the dark! 

-Download the app for easy navigation around the park

-Once you enter the park, be sure to get your Dark Nights wristband. You'll need to scan your ticket at one of the HPGO kiosks in the park. 

Hours and Tickets

Hersheypark Halloween and Dark Nights is happening now, weekends through October 31st. Dark Nights begins at 6pm and park hours vary by day so be sure to check the Hersheypark website. Tickets and add-ons can be purchased here
Follow Hersheypark on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook or check out #DarkNights #HersheyparkHalloween and #HersheyparkHappy 

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