Hersheypark was opened in 1907 as a leisure park for the employees of the Hershey Chocolate Company, an American confectionery company. Later, the company decided to open the park to the public. Today the park has over 110 acres (450,000 m²) and over 60 rides and attractions.
Hersheypark admission also includes entry into ZOOAMERICA, an adjacent zoo. Also adjacent is Hershey's Chocolate World, a visitors' center that is open to the public and that contains shops, restaurants, and a chocolate-themed ride. Both Chocolate World and ZOOAMERICA are accessible from outside the park boundaries, with Chocolate World offering admission for free.
A merry-go-round was installed and opened on July 4, 1908. A 1,500-seat tiered amphitheatre was built next to the pavilion.The entrance sign proclaimed, “Ye who enter here leave dull cares behind.” The park was expanded in 1909 with the addition of a tennis court, two bowling alleys, a large band shell, and a photography gallery. Guests could also enjoy a relaxing scenic ride on the Scenic Railroad.
In July 1912, a carousel manufactured by Willy H. Dentzel of the Dentzel Carousel Company in Philadelphia was added to the park. The carousel was in diameter and featured 53 carved animals that included lions, bears, giraffes, pigs, rabbits, an ostrich, goats and deer along with two chariots. The carousel was described as the “most magnificent and up-to-date carousel in this part of the country as well as one of the largest.”
Several structures were built from 1913 to 1923. Added to the park were the dance pavilion Starlight Ballroom, a new stage for big bands, a new Convention Hall (now the Hershey Museum), the Hershey Park Cafe and the Hershey Zoo. A new roller coaster called The Wild Cat was added in 1923. A small Ferris wheel, the Aeroplane Swing and the Skooter were added to the park during the 1920s. In 1929, a complex of four swimming pools was added.
A penny arcade, a fun house, The Bug ride, and The Mill Chute log flume ride were added in 1933. Renovations were made to the Wild Cat roller coaster in 1935 to build up the dips and to more steeply bank the curves.
More attractions were added to Hershey Park each season, and by 1945 the park contained more than two dozen rides. The Dentzel carousel was replaced in 1945 by a carousel built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1919, which still operates in the park today. In 1946 the wooden roller coaster The Comet replaced The Wild Cat. Twin -high Ferris wheels were added in 1950. The Dry Gulch Railroad was added in 1960.
A five-year redevelopment plan was started in 1971 to convert the regional amusement park Hershey Park into a large theme park called Hersheypark, as it is known to this day. A one-price admission plan eliminated the pay-as-you-ride policy. This five-phase project was orchestrated by Randall Duell.
Smaller sized rides were added during the 1980s. They include Cyclops (replaced by The Claw), Pirat, Wave Swinger, Conestoga (replaced by the Frontier Virtual Theatre and later the Howler), and Timber Rattler (replaced by Rodeo). Canyon River Rapids was built and added in 1987 (replaced by Intercoastal Waterway and The Shore wave pool in 2009).
The 1990s started off with the creation of Minetown. The old penny arcade was replaced by a massive three-story building, housing the Minetown Arcade, Minetown Restaurant, and games. The Flying Falcon replaced Himalaya, and three kiddie rides replaced the Coal Shaker. Four roller coasters were added to Hersheypark in the 1990s. Sidewinder, a Vekoma Boomerang coaster, was added in 1991. In 1996, the wooden coaster The Wildcat was added and was named after The Wild Cat that previously operated from 1923 to 1946. The Great Bear opened in 1998, the park's most expensive single ride to date. Wild Mouse opened in 1999. Several rides were also added during this decade. In 1994 the water plunge ride Tidal Force opened. A Ferris wheel and Whip ride were added in 1997. Four other new rides were added in 1999. These include the Merry Derry Dip fun slide, Music Express, Chaos (since removed), and the Frog Hopper.
Four more roller coasters were added in the 21st Century – Lightning Racer (2000), Roller Soaker (2002), Storm Runner (2004), and Fahrenheit (2008), continuing the rapid expansion of the park from the mid-1980s. A spinning pendulum ride called The Claw was added in 2003. In 2005, Giant Wheel was removed and replaced by two classic rides -- Balloon Flite and Starship America. Carrousel Circle, the first of the 1970s renovations of Hershey Park (now renamed Hersheypark), was remodeled into Founder's Circle in honor of original founder Milton S. Hershey. In 2006, Hersheypark introduced the Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge, the first interactive dark ride to have two cars compete against each other. In 2007, Hersheypark opened The Boardwalk at Hersheypark, a new waterpark and themed area that as of 2009, will include includes 9 water attractions. In 2009, The Boardwalk will be home to six games, eleven retail centers and thirteen food concessions. Roller Soaker, Canyon River Rapids (since removed), and Tidal Force were included in the new themed area, with Canyon River Rapids and Tidal Force having their entrances and exits rerouted. Hersheypark also announced that the Rodeo, installed in 1978, will be relocated to nearby sister park, Dutch Wonderland.
Bringing in food from outside isn't allowed in the park unless you have a food allergy, but is allowed outside the gates, such as in the parking lot (where picnic tables are available). A casual sitdown restaurant called Tudor Grill (formerly Pippin's Food and Spirits) is located just outside the park.
The park is run by Hershey Entertainment Group, a division of Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company (HERCO). HERCO owns the park, and is in turn wholly owned by the Hershey Trust Company. Within the Trust's holdings, HERCO is part of the Milton Hershey School Trust.