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During our family vacation this summer, we used Hershey Park’s accessibility program.
My family took its third trip to Hershey Park this year, and compared to other visits in 2011 and 2015, I saw many more kids with varying abilities and special needs families enjoying the park, which was so exciting to see!
Located in Hershey PA, our first trip to Hershey Park was when my daughter was 5. We felt it was a good alternative to the large crowds and plane trip to Disney World; we can get to Hershey with a 5 hour car ride. [We still have not braved Disney, perhaps someday]
It’s a large park that, in my opinion, takes more than 1 day to see. The amusement park is broken into family-friendly sections, each including kiddie rides, so we can move from section to section as a family, which I love.
book to avoid crowds
For our trips to Hershey Park, we’ve purposely traveled in late August, during a lower-attendance time for the park. Additionally, we book travel between Sunday and Thursday, to experience less crowds. Less people means less wait time for rides, which can be a challenge for our daughter. [read: meltdown city]
Similarly, we did book a Sunday-to-Thursday trip in late August this year, but it was during a week with several concerts, meaning LOTS more people, and in many cases, 2 hour wait times for rides
Equal OPPORTUNITY to enjoy the park
For the first time, I went to Guest Services to ask about their Accessibility Program.
Honestly, I’m not sure why I hadn’t asked before; perhaps because my child doesn’t have a visible, physical disability, and because the lower crowd volumes in past years made it easier to navigate.
Furthermore, knowing the backlash related to the Disney accessibility program a few years ago, I thought that it might be more difficult or burdensome. Surprisingly, it wasn’t, and the Guest Services associate said something to me that resonated – she explained that the pass is to give people with differing abilities an equal chance to enjoy the park. That statement really hit home.In places where they are available, an accessibility pass allows people with differing abilities an equal chance to enjoy amusement park features and attractions. Click To Tweet
Quick and easy
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the process took less than 15 minutes. In this case, we completed a short form which allowed staff to understand which rides she could safely enjoy.
Furthermore, the pass is valid for up to 30 days – so we only needed to go through this process once.
The program clearly says that accessibility passes are for folks with mobility impairments, and “certain qualifying accommodation needs,” but doesn’t define what those are. However, upon arrival I did explain that my daughter has difficulty waiting in long lines due to a disability, and they were quick to tell me that she qualified for their program.
Next, staff took her picture to create our paper accessibility pass, and we were on our way. We chose to place it in one of those waterproof cell phone cases with a lanyard to protect it.
The pass allows her and up to 3 more riders to skip the long lines, and instead, join the Fast Track line. For us, this meant 10 to 30 minute wait times rather than 120 minutes (or more). I love that the program allows other riders to join her – because that allows her to enjoy the park like everyone else –riding with family or friends.
The Accessibility and Safety Guide provides all the information needed to enjoy the park. And enjoy the park, we did – meltdown free! Something I cannot say about previous visits.
Other highlights of HersheyPark’s accessibility program include:
- Quiet areas across the park
- Wheelchairs at various water attractions (made for the water)
- Assistive listening systems for hearing impaired for some of the live shows
- Service animals
- Personal Care Aides who meet certain criteria may be eligible to have park admission waived
Yes, there’s an app for that!
Simply download the Hershey Park (free) App to a smart phone to understand ride wait times, where bathrooms and services are located (with a cool “take me there!” map feature) and where to find food that would accommodate a special diet or allergies. I will say that although there were separate dairy and gluten free options, very few existed that were both dairy and gluten free. (If you follow this blog, you know we have a gluten and dairy-free lifestyle.)
Although we’ve only visited Hershey Park in the summer, it is open select days September through December.
Because of the Accessibility program, we had a very successful and fun family vacation at Hershey Park!