Review: DARK NIGHTS at Hersheypark

A new immersive haunted house experience for the brave at heart...

By: Sep. 21, 2022
Review: DARK NIGHTS at Hersheypark

Hersheypark has been a year round staple for me since I was 4 years old. A lot has changed over the last 31 years, and I was beyond excited when I found out about the park's newest venture... adding immersive haunted house style attractions to their annual Halloween celebration! I was honored to be among the first to journey into this new form of darkness, and overall it was incredibly fascinating.

During the fall season, the park opens early in the afternoon, giving you some time to explore the park before it turns spooky. There are a good amount of rides and food options available to keep you occupied. My biggest issue with Hersheypark continues to be that despite being a park incredibly proud of its roller coaster collection, they continue to execute a major design flaw that keeps roller coaster junkies like me (who are of larger size) from experiencing them. This issue seems to get worse with every new coaster addition, and those in charge do not appear to care about being incredibly excluding towards guests of size. I know for a fact that it is possible to include a much wider range of sizes in their coaster seat designs. They just choose not to and give all kinds of ridiculous excuses when approached with this issue, and that is beyond frustrating and disappointing. So, if you are a guest of size in any area of your body, just note that a good half of the open rides are off limits to you, especially the roller coasters and newer rides.

I was not incredibly impressed by the special Halloween food offerings. I have a lot of sensory issues surrounding food and do not appreciate extreme changes in a dish for theming purposes. For example, a "toxic" mac and cheese was offered, and I couldn't stomach the bright greenish-blue color or the hot sauce dumped on top. I was much happier with my classic amusement park fare and would rather see fall friendly comfort food style options as the main focus for the season. Desserts like eyeball cake pops and themed milkshakes were a cool addition though.

At the strike of 6, it was time for Hershey's spooks to come out and play. I would definitely advise starting at the front of the park and working your way back. We made the mistake of starting in the back and working front, which caused some awkward backtracking in the front section of the park and was very inconvenient. Only 3 hours were given to experience the haunt attractions (which are spread throughout the entire park), so you must move fairly quickly to get around to everything in one night. We were incredibly lucky that there were not any real lines for the attractions, or we never would have made it through everything offered. We did not appreciate this at all. As a chronically ill person who loves to enjoy every nuance and detail of attractions like this, one of my biggest pet peeves is feeling rushed. At least another hour would have been greatly appreciated.

The scare zones that we saw were hit or miss. The Midway Of Misery was by far the best scare zone. The performers there were amazing to watch and very interactive. The Valley Of Fear was cool but could have used more performers, as we only saw 2. By the time we reached The Hollow around 8:30pm, there were no scare actors to be found, which was thoroughly disappointing to not only have very limited time to experience the event, but then to have the scare actors appear to disappear up to 30 minutes early. I am a huge fan of the scented fog that was uniquely scented to each section of the park throughout the evening. If all of the scare zones were brought up to the level of the Midway and not emptied out early, they would have gotten a 10 out of 10 from me.

And last but certainly not least were the haunted houses themselves. The theming concept for each house was full of really awesome, original concepts. The opening scene of each house was super engaging and promising. And then, something got lost... the rest of each house got very muddled when it came to continuing the plot all the way through. It left me very confused and unsatisfied, as did the short length of each experience. The sets were really well done with the exception of there being nothing over the top of the interior mazes to keep light from coming through, causing some maze sections that were likely meant to simulate walking through total darkness to instead look like somebody ran out of materials or ideas to decorate that section. This was the worst in The Descent. Other than that, the details within the sets, costumes, and makeup were beautiful to look at. For the most part, the performers inside the houses were okay. Many of them were just doing the basic jump out and scream incoherently in your face, and I'm really not impressed by that. I prefer much more thoughtful character interactions when possible, and that concept could have been utilized a lot more than it was. There were also WAY too many "security" people placed throughout the houses, which really killed the mood despite their best attempts to stay hidden a majority of the time. There are many creative ways to fix this issue so as not to ruin the ambience. Favorite house? Twisted Darkness.

I believe that there is a really good foundation for this next level of entertainement at Hersheypark. It was a great first attempt, and I hope they will give it time to grow and become a much anticipated part of Central PA's annual haunt scene. Overall, I had a fabulous time and would highly recommend checking it out. You can visit Hersheypark's website to purchase tickets.

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