Hershey's Chocolate World: A more richly themed alternative to Hersheypark?
Written by Robert Niles
When people who know little or nothing about Hersheypark hear that there's a theme park with that name, I suspect that most of them envision something more like Hershey's Chocolate World than the actual amusement park next door.
Opened in 1973, Hershey's Chocolate World replaced the factory tour at the old, now-closed Hershey's chocolate plant a few blocks away in downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania. The look of the attraction's exterior replicates the style of the old factory, including its iconic twin "Hershey" smokestacks. Substantially expanded and renovated over the years, Hershey's Chocolate World now includes an Omnimover-style dark ride, a 4D theater show, chocolate tasting, a "build your own chocolate bar" experience, and a trolley tour of the town — in addition to a food court and souvenir shop.
Three singing cows host your dark-ride trip through Hershey's world of chocolate.
Imagine a completely corporate Epcot pavilion, one dedicated to telling the story of chocolate — as made by the Hershey Company, and you'd have Hershey's Chocolate World. Compare this attraction with Hersheypark next door, and it's like you're looking at two different companies' approaches to implementing the same theme.
Which, in fact, you are. Chocolate World is run by the Hershey Company, the chocolate makers, and not by the separate Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company that runs Hersheypark. (Both companies are controlled by the Hershey Trust, established by Milton Hershey, who left his companies to the Trust.)
Hersheypark is, at its heart, a regional amusement park that simply references the Hershey brand without really exploring it or trying to deepen your relationship with it. When you're visiting Hersheypark, you're thinking more about airtime and visuals and speed and all the other things we think about when we're riding rides. If you're thinking about chocolate, it's simply about eating some more of it, as you might in any other iron park. An infrequent visitor would find it difficult to tell the difference between Hersheypark and similar parks such as Busch Gardens Williamsburg or Holiday World.
That's not the case over in Chocolate World, which is unmistakably all about Hershey, chocolate and forever equating the two. Chocolate World doesn't simply name-check Hershey products, as Hersheypark does. Every moment inside Chocolate World is designed to deepen your connection with — and affinity for — Hershey's chocolate brands.
It's the difference between how Six Flags treats Superman, for example, and how Universal treats Harry Potter or Disney treats any of its character franchises. At Six Flags, a Superman roller coaster doesn't do anything to deepen or inform your relationship with the DC Comics icon. It simply name-checks Superman, to exploit your already-existing affinity for that character in the hopes of transferring some of that affinity to the ride. But in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or Cars Land, or the Be Our Guest restaurant, Universal and Disney are going beyond simply name-checking something you already know and love. They're trying to lead you to into a deeper relationship with those franchises, rather than settling for you simply enjoying a few moments on a ride with their name. Disney and Universal want these rides, shows, and other experiences to boost your appreciation for their theme — not the other way around, as with Six Flags and Superman.
To apply this analogy, Hersheypark takes the Six Flags approach, while Chocolate World goes the Disney/Universal route. The dark ride in the pavilion, Hershey's Great American Chocolate Ride, tells the story of the making of Hershey's chocolate products in a 10-minute musical narrative, designed by The Goddard Group, a major themed-entertainment design firm that also helped create The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Jurassic Park: The Ride, and Terminator 2: 3D, among other attractions around the industry. The Jim Henson Company worked on Chocolate World's 4D show, Hershey's Great Chocolate Factory Mystery. Sit in Chocolate World's food court, and you might as well be in a brighter, funner, sweeter version of the Sunshine Seasons food court in Epcot's The Land pavilion.
But the disconnect between Hersheypark and Hershey's Chocolate World goes beyond implementations of theme. The dark ride in Chocolate World is free, but you have to pay to experience the 4D show, tasting adventure, build-your-own-bar experience, or trolley tour.
Want to buy a combo ticket with the theme park? You can't. Hersheypark offers a combo ticket with Dutch Wonderland, an amusement park 30 miles away in Lancaster that Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company used to own. But there's no combo ticket on Hersheypark's website that includes Chocolate World next door. You can buy a package that includes all four Chocolate World's paid-admission attractions for $39.95 per person. After spending about $50 a ticket for Hersheypark next door, we decided to ride the free dark ride, browse the shop, grab some chocolate drinks and dessert in the food court and call it a day.
A Hershey's frozen cocoa, along with a free sugar cookie the attraction was offering as part of its 'Christmas in July' promotion.
But what if we could have bought a combo ticket in advance, with an appropriate discount for buying the combo? We'd probably have spent the extra money and gone for the full Chocolate World experience. In lieu of that opportunity, after visiting both attractions, my wife and kids, who aren't that much of thrill ride fans anymore, said that they wished I'd just skipped Hersheypark and bought them Chocolate World tickets instead. I'd love to hear in the comments from fans who've bought the full Chocolate World experience if they think that was a good deal.
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