Hershey Park in 1907 was a local recreation area developed by Milton Hershey for his employees. The entire little town of Hershey was built around the chocolate factory, with many of the magnificent structures erected during the Great Depression. Before long, trolley service brought in other folks from around the area, and Mr. Hershey began to realize what a tourist destination his sweet-smelling factory and the park was.
Fast-forward to 1971. The newly re-named Hersheypark has a fence around it for the first time, requiring an admission fee. (There were five entrance gates that year, reduced to one for the 1972 season.) Randall Duell & Associates, hot on their spree of designing new theme parks across the country, was asked to reimagine the park into a modern, themed experience. In 1973 the park debuted a charming Tudor-styled entrance area. The winding walkway from tram circle, over the bridge and past various shops and restaurants, led you up to the ticket windows in Tudor Castle. It was beautiful, it was themed appropriately for the local region, and it was one of the best transition designs to be found in regional parks. Disneyland pioneered the concept of the cinematic reveal, where guests bought their tickets before passing through the tunnels under the railroad tracks, gradually coming into view of Main Street, USA. The journey from tram to tickets at Hershey accomplished the same thing in a very memorable way.
Forward to 2019. A victim of its own success, the park’s increasing attendance necessitated a solution to an overcrowded entrance. That charming, narrow walkway and Tudor structures created a logjam on busy days. It might also be considered a bit quaint and yesteryear, depending on your point of view. So the park decided to go with a different design vibe, trading nostalgia and regional flair for a thoroughly modernized front gate. The new entrance has a far more open, spacious feel with much better accommodations for incoming guests. New retail and restaurants are a reflection of Hershey’s unofficial moniker as Chocolatetown. It looks great and will serve the park well for the next several decades. Most visitors won’t give it a second thought, but some of us will always have a soft spot for that old Tudor gate.