In the first part of our series, I gave a fried overview of Disney World, Dollywood, and Hershey Park.
Today is a more in depth look at the entry method, fastpass type services, and staffing along with maps. Maps? Yep. Trust me on this. It's needed info.
The differences between Disney, Dollywood, and Hershey Park are pretty tremendous. At Disney, we are used to the security. You'll often have your bag checked, especially if you've left your phone, camera, or an umbrella in it. You'll also find security walking all around. That wasn't the case at Dollywood or Hershey Park. You walked through the metal detector and off you went. I wasn't the only one confused. While there was a very short section for them to check bags, I didn't see anyone's bags being checked at Dollywood or Hershey Park. Was this due to lack of staff or lack of concern? I wasn't sure.
Once entering, all three parks have guest services and ticket windows right near by. Perfect for standby tickets or questions. This part was the same.
Fastpass Type Services
Each park has a type of Fastpass system, though the name varies. While as of this moment, Disney World's is temporarily suspended, my favorite thing has always been getting those passes included in the cost of my ticket. I've always known at least I get to skip the line on three rides, more if I was coordinated and took advantage of leftover passes that day.
Dollywood has a paid service with two options. And it sounds a bit like what Disney Paris is going to be doing. Dollywood has Timesaver and Timesaver Unlimited. Timesaver gets to skip the line 8 times on chosen rides. Unlimited means any time, all day, any ride that accepts the pass. Prices are hefty though! $49 and $64, pre tax. Just like at Disney, some shows can even be reserved with this pass. While there, I didn't feel like it wold be of benifit for our family. Really, the rides were not long unless you wanted a coaster.
Hershey Park uses something called Fast Track, and like Dollywood there are two options, one standard and one unlimited. However, the price, much steeper, also varies as to what day you go. Prices start at $49-130 for Fast Track, and $50-180 for Fast Track Unlimited. Is it needed? Not really, again unless you just want the coasters, or the only one family ride that's Disneyesque, called Cupfusion. That ride had a very slow load time because there were very few ride vehicles. Almost every other ride was near walk on, in July.
While it might not be totally fair to compare staffing as there is an obvious shortage, Disney by far still has the most staff. Dollywood, the second most but even still they struggled. At Hershey Park I counted one extremely young security officer, and one extremely old one. IF you had a question? Out of luck! There was no one to ask at Hershey Park. In fact, almost every single ride was operated by one person, and of an incredibly young age. Most of the employees were high schoolers. They were working their hardest, but it was very strange. It was similar at Dollywood, and imagine my surprise when the young man, likely just a year older than my oldest, said, "let me get my supervisor," and there, if the other kid was a year older than him I'd be surprised, he was. All polite, but severely understaffed and young. So be kind to these kids trying to make sure you have a great trip.
The contract was quite severe to Disney, because even now, Disney is staffed, less, yes, but still well staffed. Help is there when you need it, and only adults are operating the ride you or your child is riding.
Maps? Yep. Disney still has paper maps. Dollywood still has paper maps. Hershey Park? No maps. There were a few maps that were in the park and you can use your phone, but it's so, so hard to pull up everything on your phone and look for what you might want to go on. I'll talk more about the app next time!
So who is in the lead?
So far, Disney wins on staffing. Disney and Dollywood are tied on maps. While I enjoy walking in through security without really being checked...it also makes me a bit nervous. Point for Disney. Fastpass type system? Yeah...I don't want to pay that much extra for my family. Disney wins this too.
But what about the rides, games and the apps? Actually...there were some great things at Dollywood and Hershey Park... Coming soon, we'll talk more about that!
While the continuation of our multipart series on Who would win: Disney World, Dollywood, or Hershey Park is on the way, I wanted to stop and share what's been keeping me so busy.
My book is finally finished, edited, beta read, reedited, formatted, and artwork completed. It's my hope that this book has something for everyone.
The book is split into two parts. The first half is for those who need dietary considerations at Disney World. Anyone who might need to know ahead of time what to ask, how to order, what to watch out for.
The second half are those tips and tricks for saving you wish were all in one place along with a lot of practical advice.
This book was designed to be easy to slip into your bag for vacation, or passed around before hand. It's NOT overwhelming! It's actually going to be the thing that lets you enjoy your vacation with a minimum of stress.
I'd love to hear what you think if you buy my book. Reviews are always appreciated, so that small books like this, have a chance to show up in Amazon's algorithm, to help those who need it to find it.
Want to buy a copy? Click here or the picture at the top!
Thank you for your support over the years! There will be a special giveaway coming soon to promote my new book!
I was recently challenged to talk about and VISIT a theme park other than Disney. I'm a Disney girl at heart, but I'm also realistic. I know there are other places out there, and some that supposedly rival Disney World. Everyone talks about Universal, but who ever talks about the "Disney of the Smokies", Dollywood or Hershey Park? I chose those two because they are closer to me but also for another important reason...
Walt Disney, Dolly Parton, and Milton Hershey each came from humble beginnings, followed their dreams, and never, never took no for an answer.
I accepted the challenge, so get read for a 5 part series on the differences between Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Dollywood, and Hershey Park.
Part 1 (You are here!) is an overview of each park.
Part 2 Entry methods, fast passes, staff and maps
Part 3 (Coming soon) The Rides
Part 4 (Coming soon) The Food
Part 5 (Coming soon) A Comparison between the three for an overall opinion
So far, I'm not sure what I think. I've had questions but been unable to get hold of ANYONE by phone or email at Dollywood, and I've been trying for months. Hershey? Uhoh...they are 5 star and about to rival Disney in every way, if not exceed. I'm a little nervous guys! Could they be better than Disney? And their app? Tells this allergy mama EVERY INGREDIENT! in EVERYTHING! Who does that?
Let's start first, with the familiar.
To be fair, Disney World is HUGE. I mean, there's over 200 places to eat there! So how would it be fair to compare such a large park to two smaller ones? It wouldn't, so I am choosing Magic Kingdom and Magic Kingdom only for comparison's sake.
Magic Kingdom was opened in 1971, almost 5 years after Walt Disney died. It's true, he never got to see the final product of his amazing imagination, and Disneyland die hards will say their park is the only true on because Walt walked there, but he walked in Orlando, Florida too! Just not when the park was open.
With themed areas of the park, lots of rides, food and attractions, this is the perfect park to compare with, those it is the largest of the three mentioned.
An interesting fact is Dollywood wasn't Dollywood until 1986, when Dolly expressed interesting in buying the theme park. Before that, it was named Silver Dollar City. Before that, it was Goldrush Junction, and before that Rebel Railroad!
In addition to the standard theme park rides and food, Dollywood also features the music and grafts of the Smokie Mountains. Nestled in Pigeon Forge, TN, this theme park is, just like Magic Kingdom, split into different themed areas of the park. There are both "quick service" style and "table service" places to eat, and an official resort.
One thing that's really amazing, is that Hershey Park was actually created not for the public, but for his employees to enjoy. This is also the oldest of the three parks, Hershey Park opened in 1906!
Boasting it's own resorts, Hershey Park has one interesting thing the other parks don't offer! A fantastic, and FREE ride showing how chocolate bars are made, from the field to the wrapper. You'll also find them passing out free samples! Hershey also offers Twizzlers for those who cannot have regular candies.
If you are wondering if it's safe to take a nut or dairy allergic child to Hershey Park, the answer might surprise you. They take food allergies incredibly seriously and are a top allergy family destination!
So how do we pick a winner? Over the next several posts, we'll be comparing the parks, everything from food and fastpass systems to customer service, rides, overall feel of value. Each of these parks is similar in the fact they each own resorts, are popular travel destinations, allow you to learn more about the park creator, have special foods and events, and even share similar rides.
Get ready...I'm not sure who is going to come out on top...
I love high quality photos, especially those of Disney! Let's be honest though, between juggling the Dole Whip, the camera, people bumping into you, and of course, the wrong setting on your camera just as you go click, those perfect photos don't always happen!
Thank goodness for stock photos, huh? especially the FREE ones.
So what can you do with these? Besides the obvious, of phone or computer backgrounds, I've seen others make the most amazing and crazy awesome crafting items. Everything from holiday decorations to party invites, memory books to memes. Possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and we all know what Walt said about imagination!
So where do I get mine? There are a few great places, each with a huge selection of free and paid stock photos. Here are my favorites.
I use these the most, and each time I get a fantastic, high quality image for free. You'll find your favorite Disney photos, but you'll also find great images for all kinds of uses. Start typing in keywords, it will be hard not to browse for hours!
What will you do with these? I'm thinking some amazing inspirational Walt Disney quotes on top of a few of these might be in my future!
I won't lie. It really makes me sad when I hear someone is visiting Disney World and skipping Animal Kingdom. Or Hollywood Studios. Or Epcot. Yes, Cinderella's castle IS Disney World...but the other parks have value too.
If you've never been, maybe you wonder why each park is so special. What makes it so amazing. I've got the answer! I'm going to share a bit about each part and what makes it unique, and a must do!
Animal Kingdom is more than a glorified zoo. It's a completely immersive trip through Africa, the enchanting world of Pandora, a trek through Asia, an adventure in a prehistoric area, and so much more.
While many people don't want to spend a day here, and there's quite the mindset of this being a half day park, that's simply not true. There is a LOT to do at Animal Kingdom. My suggestion though in the warmer months is to start at Dinoland. There's simply no shade there like there is in much of the other park of the park, and it gets hot quickly during the summer.
Wondering what to do? Here's a FREE touring plan! Check out what we love doing.
What else do I love? The amazing nature trails! The Wilderness Explorers! The waterfall behind the tree of life. Quiet places to rest and relax in nature. Shopping that you just can't do elsewhere. While it's no longer there, and I pray it returns, there was something so special about walking to Africa and the band there drumming and blowing their whistle, the crowd joining in the dances. I was always too shy to do it, but my feet were sure tapping!
Hollywood Studios also has a bit of a reputation for a half day park, but also for one not for the littles. Perhaps that's true in a way, there's not as much for the smaller set to do, but this doesn't mean it's a half day park. Between the shows, the strolling around, unique shopping only at this park, and Star Wars, there's a lot to see and do you just can't find anywhere else.
If you visit Hollywood Studios, I encourage you to stop at Walt Disney Presents. While it's much smaller than it used to be, there are incredible things from Walt Disney's childhood, early career, and things used by Imagneering to create other parks. Often One Man's Dream is playing, a short documentary about Walt. It's so moving. I cry every time. Narrated by the talented Julie Andrews, this just shouldn't be missed. After all, without Walt, there would be no Disney.
Wondering what our family does? Here's another FREE touring plan!
It really depends on what you like to do as to if EPCOT is an all day park for your family or not. I think Disney has realized this, which is why over the last few years they've really made an effort to do more for children. The Kidcot stations have evolved, there are new rides (with more rumored!) and the Moana area that's being created sounds pretty cool.
One of the fascinating things about EPCOT is not only the international tour you can get, with culture, foods, shops, and fun no where else, there's also a chance for hands on activities that outdo the other parks. There are beautiful gardens to stroll, a fantastic miniature train set up, the aquarium has some neat things, there's the ginormous heavy ball floating on water, you can DIY a race car, see yourself in the future...there's a lot to see and do.
When we go, this FREE touring plan has a few of our favorites too!
Best for last? Nah! Just everyone starts with Magic Kingdom, so I ended with it. Here you are going to find something for every age. You get to be immersed in some of your favorite stories, meet beloved friends, have some thrills, chills, spills (ok, splashes, but it didn't rhyme!) and experience the sight everyone associates with Disney...the castle.
While here, walk through the middle and look at the breathtaking mosaics of Cinderella's story. Now, look again. Those 500,000 pieces were all pieced together by hand. BY HAND. During twilight, look up at Rapunzel's tower and watch the colors change. As you wait in line for Prince Regal's Carousel, see the story above. Or, just click here to take a peek.
There's so much to do, this really is a full day even two day park. But if you don't want to wait in lines, check out what we do in this FREE touring plan. It links to other age specific (also FREE) touring plans.
After that mini introduction, what do you think? Are you convinced that none of the parks are worth skipping? If you have a favorite, I'd love to hear it! Pop by and join me on Facebook and tell me your favorite place to visit at Disney. I'd love to hear your least favorite too, and why!