It's time for the final installment in the differences between Disney World, Dollywood, and Hershey Park. If you've been following along, and need a reminder of what's already been covered, or if you are just joining, here's the links to get caught up!
Part 1 An overview of each park.
Part 2 Entry methods, fast passes, staff and maps
Part 3 The Rides, games, and app
Part 4 The Food
Part 5 A Comparison between the three for an overall opinion (You are here!)
As I've thought about each park carefully, one thing strikes me. Each park has it's strengths, and it's weaknesses. Each of the three parks is unique in different ways. I'm not sure there is a winner.
Disney World and Dollywood seemed the most family friendly. Their rides were designed where they were an experience, not just a county fair style, like most of the not coasters were at Hershey Park.
The clear winner when it comes to entry method and staff is Disney. It's always easy to get the help you need when you need it, the lines are well managed and not chaotic, where no one knows where to stand, and they move easily. By comparison, we felt like Dollywood was similar, but Hershey Park, there were no staff members around at all. While it's possible that's a covid staffing problem, it's hard to say.
When it comes to food, Hershey Park and Disney knocked it out of the park for counter service treats of all kinds. It's kind of hard NOT to fall in love with a bucket of French fries, but the food was pretty blah and basic tasting. Meanwhile, Dollywood, they sure do have their home cookin down pat! Our meals were tasty and the service was great. We never felt rushed, a contrast to Disney and Hershey Park.
One thing Magic Kingdom didn't have that we really enjoyed at Dollywood and Hershey Park were the midway games. We loved the games where kids win every time, and Hershey Park was our favorite for the games, midway and arcade.
At all three parks, parking is ample. If staying at the park owned resort, transportation is offered.
As you see, pros and cons for each. So, who won?
Planning a trip to one of these parks might need to go a little deeper based on these questions.
1. Do you need to drive out of your way to get there?
2. How epensive is it?
3. Is there enough to do for several days?
For us, Dollywood was fun, because we happened to be nearby. I don't think we'd ever go out of our way to go there again. Hershey Park is pretty close by, and their cost is fairly reasonable. It's likely we will go again, but oddly enough...not really for the rides. We didn't enjoy the ride choices, and the problems with it being at the ride operator's discretion who got on. We would return for the games, and the Disney Outlet nearby, plus the fact it's just a few hours away. Disney...now Disney, we make that 13 hour drive for. We are always excited to plan and go. There's that sparkle of magic that we got there, we just didn't feel elsewhere. Not just because Tinkerbell is flying around, but because they really do make you feel welcome and valued at Disney.
As I think back over our last trip to each park, I realized I only rode three rides at Hershey Park. My youngest was either too scared or too big to ride wat he wanted, so the ones he could do, I spent the two days standing out so he could enjoy himself. At Dollywood, I rode maybe a half dozen. At Magic Kingdom, I don't do the coasters, but you have to pull me off of some of the others! I love them so much!
Dollywood and Disney are similar in pricing, and Hershey Park offers discounts that make the tickets quite reasonable. You've followed along and seen my thoughts...but the best way for you to decide is to visit yourself!
If you've been to all three, which did you like best? Or, like me, did you feel like each had good things and bad?
50 years ago, on October 1, 1971 Walt Disney World opened. The reason it was called WALT Disney World, and not Disney World, was Roy O Disney was adamant he would name it after his brother. Roy passed away, from a stroke, in December of 1971, at the age of 78 from a stroke. Were it not for Walt's vision, and Roy's execution, we wouldn't have either Disney park, but especially Disney World, and quite possibly, anything Disney. Roy was always the one finding the financing, taking care of the business side and funding his brother's dreams. They really were a brilliant team.
There are a few great books about Roy O Disney on Amazon if you'd like to learn more about the man who made it all happen. If you'd like to see the original photo that was the inspiration for the famous Sharing the Magic statue, click here!
On the Wonderful World of Disney, there was a special, showing the grand opening of Disney World! If you've never seen it, I hope you enjoy it.
Are you ready for two brand new nighttime spectaculars at Disney World? LIVESTREAMING Wednesday and Thursday, you can check out Epcot's new show, (didn't they just have a new show?!) and Magic Kingdom's new show! (which also isn't very old!)
I'm super excited, are you? You can go here to visit the Disney Parks Blog and get the link to watch!
Can't watch live or maybe you missed it? No problem! It's recorded, you can watch whenever you want!
There's something so special though about watching a Disney livestream, so I'm really looking forward to it tomorrow and Thursday!
It's time for another installment in the differences between Disney World, Dollywood, and Hershey Park. If you've been following along, and need a reminder of what's already been covered, or if you are just joining, here's the links to get caught up!
Part 1 An overview of each park.
Part 2 Entry methods, fast passes, staff and maps
Part 3 The Rides, games, and app
Part 4 The Food (you are here!)
Part 5 (Coming soon) A Comparison between the three for an overall opinion
Though these are theme parks and share some similarities, each is different.
For many, eating out while on vacation is an absolute highlight! For the budget minded, they try and cut a few corners on the things that don't matter to allow more towards those things that do. For a family with food allergies? Every meal is like a well planned tactical maneuver.
Theme parks seem to have these three things in common when it comes to food. Snacks, counter service, and casual (or deluxe) meals where you can sit and be waited on.
I'm sure you know we're pretty experienced Disney World eaters! I've even written a Disney book about how to navigate dietary needs among other things there. If you've been a reader of my blog for a while, I give a break down of these three types of eating establishments. I go more in depth within the book. I'm not as much of an expert at Dollywood and Hershey Park, which it was so interesting to discover the similarities and the differences between these theme parks.
Let's talk a bit about each way you get refuel your body at Disney World, Dollywood, or Hershey Park.
Yum! Who doesn't love a snack when you are just a little hungry but don't want too much?
Disney, and remember, we are ONLY using Magic Kingdom for comparison, by far has the most places to grab a snack. Between the savory, like pretzels, popcorns, onion rings, and fries to the sweet, like soft serve, dole whips, churros, cookies and candy apples, there's something for most everyone. Note I say MOST. For those of us who need to be careful of cross contamination, it's a bit harder to find a Disney themed snack. There are also tons of prepacked snacks, everything from chips and candies to fresh fruits and bars.
Dollywood had many similar snacks. Popcorn, soft serve, hand scooped ice cream, pretzels, and their cinnamon bread seemed to be the most popular. While there were specialty treats like fudge being sold, that's not really a great idea in the summer to tote around as the sun beats down!
At Hershey Park, I was a little surprised that so much of the food there was owned by chain restaurants. There are some local places, and the East Coast Mini Donuts were very popular. We tried those, and honestly, they were cute, but heavy and greasy. Tower Fries was another place which sold buckets of French fries! That was something we enjoyed. Overall, the snacks were similar, popcorn, pretzels, soft serve unless you went for a specialty dessert. Of course, at Hershey, you'll find chocolate everywhere. And it's used to create cakes, ice cream sundaes, and other treats. I'm not sure how much real food anyone actually eats at Harshey Park. Everyone we passed seemed to be eating chocolate something.
These three parks share similarities in the counter service food as well. Fries, burgers, pizza, sandwiches, along with salads, hot dogs, and nachos on occasion. Disney's Magic Kingdom has the most counter service spots, but not the widest variety, the menus do tend to repeat themselves.
At Dollywood, staffing continues to be a major concern, and because of that, a great number of their places are not open to eat at, reducing the choices further. Luckily, Dollywood is right in the heart of town, so if you were not able to get a good meal in the park, especially with such short park hours as they have been having, you'll find plenty of places outside the gates.
Hershey Park doesn't fare much better on the staffing situation, however, because they operate very few eating establishments and allow chains in, the food choices are more varied. You'll find a Moe's Southwest Grill near Chic f'ilet, not too far from a gyro house. Again, outside of Hershey Park you have tons of choices, in case you don't want to eat all of your meals on property.
In terms of variety, Hershey Park has the most. You'll find very little on the menus repeated, which can make it difficult if you have a chicken fingers and fries kinda need for most meals.
If you'd like to be waited on, you likely already know you have to plan ahead at Disney! Reservations for these meals start six months out for on property places. You'll find a wide variety of food, and some from multiple countries. As far as variety, Magic Kingdom might be the winner here.
Dollywood is more limited, they are a smaller park after all. What you will find though, is home cookin' and comfort food in each door you enter. Salads, fish, chicken, sandwiches, BBQ, chicken, and pleanty of kid food, like mac and chicken fingers. Dollywood's menus seem to be pretty all American, but also family friendly.
Hershey has less to choose from as well, though they do boast a restaurant that uses chocolate in well...almost everything! It's a very popular spot, and pretty unique!
The winner here is a toss up...it really depends on what you like! If southern style cooking is what you crave, Dollywood is the winner, with comfort mood and kid favorites. Something a bit more sophisticated or with a cultural flair? Disney is the choice for that. Unique, fun, and covered in chocolate? Hershey Park for dinner!
We've talked about pretty much everything between these three parks..so which one did we enjoy most? Which one do we want to go back to? And which one do we plan to skip next time? You'll find out soon!
If Disney's Halloween parties have you in the mood, but a trip there isn't happening, how about creating your own? Especially for those of you teal pumpkin families, this might be a fun way!
Oriental Trading has these fantastic tokens that our kids can collect, and then trade in for treats of all varieties! I'm actually thinking I'm going to get a bunch and let my kids earn them by doing extra jobs, as well as turning in their unsafe candy. Total win win! My kids already trade out their candy, but this just looks so fun...who wouldn't want to earn these to trade in for fun things?
Speaking of Halloween, it's never too early to plan a costume! Check out Disney DIY costume ideas!
You can go here for kids costumes and then you can go here for adult costumes!
Need a little more Disney spookiness? How about some easy Disney Halloween decorations?
Next, we share our annual list of our favorite Disney Halloween books and our must watch Disney Halloween movies!
Each year we project a movie outside as we hand out treats. This year, it's going to be Coco. I can hardly wait!