Hersheypark reopened to the public in July 2020, with the $150 million Hershey’s Chocolatetown expansion. This features Candymonium – the tallest, fastest, and longest coaster at the park.
Hershey’s Chocolatetown is inspired by the legacy of Milton S. Hershey. The new expansion at the much-loved park covers 23 acres and is the largest investment in the company’s history.
In addition to Candymonium, Chocolatetown offers a brand new arrival experience as well as a new home for the historic carousel. Plus, visitors can now enjoy Hyperdeck, an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience. Finally, Chocolatetown also includes Hersheypark Supply Co. – a flagship retail experience.
Blooloop spoke to Hersheypark’s CEO, John Lawn, to find out more about the historic new expansion. He spoke about his passion for the industry, what makes Hersheypark unique, and Chocolatetown’s reception so far.
John Lawn and Hershey Entertainment & Resorts
John Lawn has many years of experience in working for popular brands in the entertainment industry, most notably in the sports sector. He began his career working for New York’s famed Yankee Stadium.
“In working with such a storied franchise, I quickly recognized the high expectations of our fans and the importance of delivering memorable experiences to our guests,” says Lawn. “Whether it is about food, retail, entertainment, or lodging, guests deserve the best experience possible.”
“Watching people enjoy themselves and make memories with family and friends ignited my interest in hospitality and drove my passion for the industry. From Yankee Stadium, I went on to work with other professional sports teams and notable venues.
“I learned the importance of innovation in the industry. I was also continually challenging myself and my team members to exceed our guests’ ever-changing expectations, as well as our own.
“Although I enjoyed all of my professional experiences that led me here, working for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) has been the most impactful to me.”
A special history
“No other destination has our special history,” says Lawn on Hersheypark. “It all starts with Milton Hershey, an innovative businessman who created a global brand. He built an idyllic town for his employees and then left his fortune to maintain Milton Hershey School (MHS).
MHS a cost-free, private, residential school and home for children from lower-income families. It was founded in 1909. HE&R’s purpose is to provide value and service to MHS through engagement opportunities with students, faculty, and team members. It also makes financial contributions and in-kind donations.
“Our team members take great pride in knowing we are working together for the higher purpose of assisting MHS in their mission to give the children at the school a nurturing home environment and a world-class education.
“Only Hersheypark can lay claim to being located in The Sweetest Place on Earth. We are the only amusement park in the world focused on fun and chocolate. Over the past 110 years, Mr Hershey’s modest plans for picnic grounds have transformed into a world-class family amusement park. One that draws guests from across the country.
“Today, thrilling coasters, 70 attractions, an entire water park and life-size Hershey’s characters illustrate the sweetness of a visit to Hersheypark.”
Hershey’s Chocolatetown is a transformational expansion and the largest investment in the company’s history.
“The $150 million project involves 23 acres and 15 marque elements for our guests to enjoy for years to come,” says Lawn. “Our creative planning process began back in 2016. We announced this historic development in October of 2018, and construction on Hershey’s Chocolatetown started in January 2019.”
“It was an incredibly proud moment for our team when it opened to guests on July 3, 2020. Despite truly unprecedented and ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone who worked on the project had a sense that we were making history. A foundational element of the project was to connect the development to Hershey’s history and the legacy of our founder. Throughout Chocolatetown, we celebrate the life and legacy of Milton Hershey by continuing to bring people together for happiness, fun, and of course, chocolate.”
Paying homage to Milton Hershey
Hershey’s Chocolatetown pays homage to the architecture of Milton Hershey’s era, says Lawn. The building choices that reflect his style, while exuding a classic American factory town look and feel.
“For example, we use four-sided pitched roof towers as you see at The Hotel Hershey and brick colours designed to match the historic Hersheypark Arena. We also use arched windows like many of the buildings and factories throughout Hershey.
“We often say it’s of an era but not from an era. And that’s the enduring legacy of the landmarks that Mr Hershey created. They feel nostalgic and timeless.”
In addition to brick choices and architectural style, there are nods to chocolate throughout the design. In the arrival area, a one-of-a-kind Kiss-shaped bell hangs on a beam. This is signed by students of the Milton Hershey School.
“Guests entering Hersheypark are invited to walk through the history rooted in the town of Hershey from the ground up.
“Located just outside the new front gate is the Compass Rose, a tribute to the life and legacy of Milton S. Hershey with 22 bronze medallions honouring key periods of Mr Hershey’s lasting architectural, cultural and philanthropic contributions in and around our community. A glance in any direction will reveal the story of these iconic Hershey landmarks and how they impacted our community.”
Hershey’s Chocolatetown – where fun meets chocolate
Milton S. Hershey once said, “The more beautiful you make something which people can see and use, the more enjoyment they get out of it.”
Lawn says: “That is certainly true of the all-new region of Hershey’s Chocolatetown. We wanted to design an area for our guests that represents the place where fun meets chocolate in more ways than ever before, with 15 new experiences for our guests to enjoy for years to come.”
The 23-acre development features an entirely reimagined arrival experience. Inside, visitors will find the custom Candymonium hypercoaster.
In addition to this, it is the new home of the historic 101-year-old carousel as well as a one-of-a-kind Kisses Fountain and the first-ever Starbucks inside Hersheypark. The Starbucks includes three reclaimed bricks from the former front gate, as the building stands on that spot.
Guests can also enjoy Hyperdeck, an immersive virtual reality experience, sample new food offerings at Chocolatetown Treat, and shop til they drop at Hersheypark Supply Co. This 10,000-square-foot flagship retail experience has a large collection of apparel, gifts, toys and more, exclusive to Hersheypark.
A unique sense of place
On these new developments, Lawn says:
“Our reimagined arrival experience offers a unique sense of place. It has both subtle and obvious nods to the legacy of Milton S. Hershey as our guests see Candymonium passing between our iconic pinwheel sign and the Kisses fountain.
“Every design choice is intentional and devoted to telling the story of the place where fun meets chocolate.”
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“We moved our 101-year-old carousel to a place of prominence in the region and into a new pavilion designed to harken back to its setting in the 1940s. We still have each of the 66 hand-carved horses from The Philadelphia Toboggan Company’s 1919 carrousel for generations to enjoy.
“Several of the horses are also unique to Hersheypark – including one that showcases our pinwheel logo. Guests looking closely will also see a very special horse that is painted chocolate brown and gold in honour of the Milton Hershey School. This features an image of Milton Hershey.”
Starbucks & Hersheypark
“We were also excited to add a flagship Starbucks for the first time inside Hersheypark. Starbucks is an attraction in itself, as the patio allows guests to get an incredible view of Candymonium and the beautiful Spring Creek.
“We enjoyed a great relationship with the Starbucks design team. They developed a unique store concept that leveraged many of Chocolatetown’s architectural elements and themes.”
“Also, the new Starbucks sits on the former front gate that welcomed millions of visitors for 45 years. To honour that history, we salvaged bricks from the old gate. We placed three of them into the building to pay homage to the historic threshold of that era of our history. Those are the meaningful touches that help connect our past to the future of the Park.”
A positive reception
Since opening, Lawn says, the reaction to Candymonium and Hershey’s Chocolatetown has been universally positive:
“Candymonium has been well received. Especially among coaster enthusiasts who praise it as one of the best B&M coasters in operation.”
“Importantly, it also serves as a centrepiece of the new region and showcases excitement from the second you arrive. Our guests have told us they are very happy to be back in the Park, making memories in a fun and safe environment. The idea of sharing happiness inspires us this summer more than ever before.”
Candymonium boasts a lift height of 210 feet, a maximum speed of 76 mph, and a track length of 4,636 feet. It offers the most airtime of any coaster at Hersheypark.
“As the place where fun meets chocolate, we also wanted to add a world-class roller coaster to the 23-acre development as a marquee element that our guests will see upon arrival to Hersheypark,” says Lawn.
“We were able to leverage The Hershey Company’s unique candy brands and assemble the finest ingredients to create Candymonium. Therefore, this is a one-of-a-kind hypercoaster – one that sets records for us at Hersheypark.”
“The experience begins when you enter the candy-themed queue. Then, the intensity of the guest experience builds as you approach one of the three signature trains. These represent the world-renowned Hershey Company brands of Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Twizzlers. Candymonium is our tallest, fastest and longest coaster.”
Candymonium, The World’s Sweetest Coaster, is an out-and-back style coaster. It features a milk chocolate track that crosses over Spring Creek 10 times. It also makes a panoramic banked curve around the iconic Kisses fountain. Once atop the 210-foot lift hill, riders have a stunning view of Hershey’s Chocolate World and the town of Hershey.
“Guests have told us that they love the airtime they experience on the seven camelback hills. Plus, many guests have commented that the experience is truly different depending on what row you select. We have also received incredible feedback about the smoothness of the ride.”
PGAV Destinations & Hershey’s Chocolatetown
PGAV Destinations, a global leader in the planning and design of unique destinations, worked on the Hershey’s Chococatetown project as attraction designer, architect, interior designer, retail designer and graphic designer. Together, the two companies were able to execute a shared vision for the expansion.
“PGAV brought their depth of industry knowledge in guest experience to assist Hersheypark in reimagining our new arrival experience,” says Lawn. “During concept design, we aligned on the development of unique experiences upon arrival at the park from the Kisses fountain and Candymonium to enhanced retail and food and beverage experiences.
“Throughout the process, PGAV utilized a variety of state of the art visualization methods to help model the guest experience on this complex site well before construction began.”
The Hyperdeck VR experience
Hyperdeck is a four-player, immersive virtual reality attraction offered as part of Hershey’s Chocolatetown. Two versions of the 300-square-feet Hyperdeck fully immerse four players in a dynamic virtual world. This features a full-motion floor as well as multi-sensory effects like strong winds, heat, and earth-rattling movements.
“Dreamland is centred on a quest into the subconscious,” says Lawn. “Meanwhile, H.A.I.R. brings a rocking ‘80s-inspired soundtrack to the gameplay. The game also continues outside as spectators help or challenge players via tablets stationed outside Hyperdeck.
“We were thrilled to partner with MajorMega, a Pennsylvania-based virtual reality studio and location-based entertainment company, for this all-new, immersive virtual reality experience.”
The Hersheypark Supply Co. retail experience
Hershey’s Chocolatetown is home to two new retail locations, as Lawn explains:
“These feature the perfect blend of new collections and vintage designs. There are now more options than ever before for guests to bring a piece of Hersheypark home.”
Hersheypark Supply Co. is a 10,000-square-foot flagship store. Here, guests can browse an extensive collection of apparel, gifts, toys, and more – all exclusive to Hersheypark. HP Collections is a shopping destination for fashion, lifestyle, and home items. This includes exclusive Candymonium merchandise, as well as an all-new, co-branded Vineyard Vines boutique.
“The size and scale of Hersheypark Supply Co. have allowed us to incorporate some surprises for our guests. For instance, we installed a 16-foot pinwheel that rotates in the entry tower. The pinwheel logo was first used by Hersheypark in 1971 in advance of another historic expansion as we became a one-admission park.
“Custom fabricated replicas of our current Ferris wheel gondolas display merchandise on the floor. Suspended high in the two-story space, guests will also experience a replica Kissing Tower, complete with LED show lighting. Furthermore, the Park’s original mini train has been returned to Hersheypark and is now on display in the building. This was the second ride purchased by Milton Hershey in 1911.
“This new space has already led to strong retail sales.”
Food and beverage at Hershey’s Chocolatetown
There are some exciting food and beverage experiences still to come at the expansion. Inspired by the vision of chocolate entrepreneur and founder Milton S. Hershey, new dining offerings in Hershey’s Chocolatetown will delight guests seeking fun and chocolate.
This includes the Chocolatier Restaurant, Bar + Patio. This will be the largest themed restaurant in Hershey with one-of-a-kind views of Hersheypark and Candymonium. There is also Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor, where personal Ice Creamologists serve up exclusive ice cream creations. Plus, guests will be able to enjoy The Sweeterie, a new scratch confectionery kitchen.
“The Chocolatier will be Hershey’s largest full-service restaurant and bar,” says Lawn. “It will have seating for approximately 300 people indoors and around 100 outdoors. Innovative fare with hints of chocolate will be served from an open kitchen. Meanwhile, bartenders will craft cocktails behind a Carrousel-themed bar.
“It is a restaurant that can only exist in Hersheypark. The decor will feature past and present pieces from the Hersheypark ride collection as well as one-of-a-kind views of neighbouring attractions. There will also be dining with Hershey Character breakfast options and a second-story patio and bar.”
Hand-crafted confectionery at Hershey’s Chocolatetown
“On the first floor of the building, Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor is a nod to one of Milton S. Hershey’s earliest ventures in sweetness – a malt shop on Philadelphia’s Spring Garden Street. The vintage-style ice cream parlour will serve up scooped-to-order sundaes and shakes with a new-fashioned spin. There will be seating for approximately 60 indoors and 90 outdoors.”
“Expert Ice Creamologists will craft custom creations from more than 12 rotating flavours of house-made ice cream, an impressive selection of Hershey’s candy toppings, decadent sauces, and a shareable menu featuring classic snacks.
“Located next door, The Sweeterie will be a scratch confectionery kitchen. This will be led by Chef Cher Harris, the Corporate Pastry Chef at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. Guests are invited to watch as the team of Confectioners creates mouth-watering sweets right before their eyes.
“More than 50 hand-crafted confections will be made by our artisans in Hershey’s Chocolatetown. These include chocolate-dipped treats, artisanal baked goods, signature hand-crafted fudge, and more.”
Hersheypark and COVID-19
Like others in the attractions industry, the global pandemic has had an impact on Hersheypark. But Lawn says the park is happy to be welcoming visitors once again, with extra health and safety procedures in place:
“The health and safety of our guests, team members and our community will always be our top priority. Like parks throughout our industry, Hersheypark has implemented many new safety initiatives. These mean we can welcome our guests back to a fun and safe environment.”
“These initiatives include enhancing our already stringent cleaning and sanitization protocols. In addition to this, we have added 300 hand sanitizers and we enforce social distancing throughout the park. We are managing capacity through a reservation system and well as requiring the mandatory use of face coverings. Plus, we are conducting temperature screenings and increasing team member training.”
Extra safety procedures
“We couldn’t have predicted the impact of COVID-19 on our operations for summer 2020. However, our new space was always designed to give us the benefit of additional space.
“Our previous front gate was located on a 25-foot wide midway. The walkway to our new front gate is a comfortable 165-foot wide. This also then opens to an entry area that grows to almost 250-foot. So, we now have over a full acre of open gathering space, on both sides of the gate.”
“We also raised the elevation of the entrance by 12 feet to provide a smoother transition into the park. Our guests enter through new frictionless scanners, so bag check is touchless and expedited.
“Also, we were able to utilize the space next to Tram Circle for an enhanced Guest Services area, larger family restrooms and nursing rooms, a larger Wheelchair Rental space and access to Hersheypark Supply Co. As a result, we couldn’t be happier with the increased guest flow and efficiency as guests begin and end their Hersheypark.”
The future of Hersheypark
When asked about the park’s future plans, Lawn says that it will continue to put customers first, working to keep improving the guest experience:
“In the short term, we look forward to welcoming guests for expanded Halloween and Christmas Candylane offerings to round out the first year for Hershey’s Chocolatetown and Candymonium. And we’re already looking forward to opening our new culinary options in 2021. Our long-term master planning will continue to add even more experiences that you can only find in Hershey.”
“When guests visit Hershey’s Chocolatetown, we invite them to look for all of the touches of chocolate we have added. As part of the arrival experience, guests encounter a large sign in a Kiss-shaped planter which is a great photo spot. There’s also Hershey Bar pips etched in the pavement and our Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup-shaped Compass Rose.
“As soon as guests enter through the front gate, they will be welcomed by the iconic Kisses Fountain. This features 133 Kiss-shaped nozzles.
“Some other sweet touches include the shape of wrapped and unwrapped Hershey’s Kisses (58 in total), which grace the top of the buildings in Hershey’s Chocolatetown and form the street lights used throughout our new entrance.
“There truly is no place like Hersheypark.”