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...