Written by Michael Burkes, GOCC Member and Contributor to The Streak

Hersheypark, the grande dame of eastern Pennsylvania and what has become the “Sweetest Place on Earth”.  A bastion of good times and great memories for everyone who steps upon its grounds, the park will be forever enchanted with its charm and grace.  From 1906 to 1970, this facility was like many other amusement parks throughout the country. A traditional green space that evolved into a major entertainment center, with rides and picnic grounds for patrons from near and far to visit, relax, and have the time of their lives.

In the early 1970’s, Hersheypark decided to begin their transition into a full-fledged theme park and from that point until 2019, the five distinct areas that originally made up the park became two and then two became one.  Starting in 2020, something brand new will take over exactly what brought this park a unique quality that in my mind, will be missed dearly. This post will concentrate on the areas that will be greatly affected by this change, including the picturesque scenery that will be severely altered in the years to come to keep up with the so-called times.

The theme areas that are being affected by this change were once known as Tudor Square, Rhineland, Carrousel Circle, Der Deitsch Platz (The Pennsylvania Dutch Place)/Animal Garden and finally, Music Box Way.  As the years progressed, these themed areas were changed to Founders Way and Founder’s Circle, then finally changed again to just Founder’s Way, celebrating Milton S. Hershey.

Tudor Square was the first land guests would enter as they came to Hersheypark. It was technically located outside the main gate.  Marked by a drawbridge and a tall guard tower, this land showcased classic English Architecture with steep pitch roofs and half-timbered framing.  These buildings were not facades with decorative fronts and non-descript backs. The buildings themselves were decorated with little motifs to give that extra European English flavor. The narrow walkways that sloped downward were lined with full-sized trees.  There was also a full-size restaurant where kids could eat with the park mascots, as well as a candy store, a retail souvenir store, guest relations building and restrooms. All of these structures lead to the grand castle, or in layman’s terms, the front gate.  

After entering the park, you were in Rhineland, a recreation of an 18th century German Village.  Like outside of the front gate, these buildings were also full-sized with half-timbered designs and steep roofs.  However, each of these buildings housed only souvenir shops or refreshment stands. The most striking building in this area of the park was a steeple-style tower that had a painted façade of a knight about to slay a dragon with the year 1432 written on it.  This area was laid on an upslope with narrow winding walkways, strategically-placed trees and stairs and at times can be very steep to maneuver.

At the top of the hill was an area called Carrousel Circle.  When you entered this land, it was the first place in the park where you would encounter amusement rides.  It was also home to the park’s Grand Carrousel, which was surrounded by several other kiddie and family rides. It was also in this section that patrons would see two, three and possibly four major roller coasters: Comet and Skyrush would definitely be in view along with the small bits of the tops of Great Bear and SooperDooperLooper.

What was notable about Rhineland and Carrousel Circle were three rides and attractions that were located here but were removed long before the new renovation was even thought of.  In the Rhineland section at the top of the hill and a little off to the left was one end of a Von Roll SkyRide station (similar to Cedar Point’s model) that took passengers over to a theme land called Kissing Tower Hill.  In front of the Grand Carrousel stood an attraction called Star Light Plaza. A lighted decorative circular structure placed on a concrete slab where famous persons had their names, footprints and handprints encased within the concrete.  Within Carrousel Circle to the left of the carousel stood the Intamin Giant Wheel, a double-arm wheel where twelve gondolas holding four to eight passengers were carried skyward for views of the park and surrounding areas. The placement of both the Giant Wheel and Skyride made it seem as if the cars were going to crash into other nearby rides and trees but there was ample clearance.

The last two lands were Der Deitsch Platz/Animal Garden and Music Box Way.  Der Deitsch Platz was a barn where the Craftbarn restaurant, Get the Picture Souvenir Photo Stand, a Subway franchise and a small petting zoo were located.  As the years came and went, this barn was more aligned with Carrousel Circle than a lone entity. Music Box Way is/was home to a musical venue as well as a loading station for the monorail and a couple of flat rides.

All these lands were separate destinations at Hersheypark until 2014, when they all merged into Founder’s Way.  The quaintness was still there, but the individual names were gone. So, when 2020 arrives, a brand-new look will come across this wonderful land of chocolate.  The new section of the park will be called appropriately enough, Chocolatetown. This section of the park will feature the largest themed restaurant, bar and patio in Hershey, a 10,000-square-foot flagship boutique store, an ice cream parlor, a 2,200 square foot Starbucks store, a kettle corn location that will be the largest at Hersheypark and the grand finale, a Bollinger and Mabillard hypercoaster.

For coaster and amusement park fans, we will all have to wait for 2020.  How will all these changes take hold and how will the park look? Only time will tell.  We all look forward to the new Bollinger and Mabillard coaster coming and fortunately the sweet smell of chocolate will not be eliminated from our senses.  Let’s all hope with ever growing enticement that Hersheypark will keep its charm but also expand its grandiose nature! Good fortune to you Hersheypark.