Hersheypark’s Comet dates back to 1946. Photo courtesy: Hersheypark What Each Theme Park Offers

BG: Busch Gardens

One Busch Gardens Blvd.
Williamsburg, Va.

KD: Kings Dominion

16000 Theme Park Way
P. O. Box 2000
Doswell, Va.

 HP: Hersheypark

100 W. Hersheypark Drive
Hershey, Pa.


BG: 1975
KD: 1975
HP: 1907, in very different form

Drive time from Bethesda:

BG: 3 hours (I-95 S to I-64 E) 
KD: 2 hours (1-95 S, exit 98)
HP: 2½ hours (I-83 N, exit 46B)


BG: Various European localities such as Germany
KD: Old Virginia/boardwalk games/African adventure/Snoopy
HP: Chocolate


Basic humanity of parking: 

BG: Surprisingly complicated network of satellite parking lots and trams employing probably more retirees than strictly necessary; parking starts at $13
KD: One big (big) lot, $10
HP: $10, or a 10-minute walk or tram ride from The Hershey Story (which has nearby street parking and a lot)

Opening day:

BG: March 26 (March 19 for pass-holders)
KD: April 2
HP: April 16

Summer hours (closing times vary; check websites):

BG: 10 a.m-10 p.m.
KD: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
HP: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and till 11 p.m. on Saturdays in July


Regular adult cost (day/season):

BG: $63.99/$63.99 (ages 3 and up)
KD: $42.99/$69.99
HP: $53.95/$142 (9-54)

Regular child cost (day/season):

BG: $53.99/$109.99
KD: $34.99/$69.99 for those taller than 4 feet or $59.99 if you buy four or more
HP: $32.95/$132 for those 3-8


BG: “Bonus ticket,” two-for-the-price-of-one admission, limited time
KD: Save up to $15 by buying online
HP: Coupons at certain Giant Foods, Subways, Wawa; keep checking the website for more current information


Number of roller coasters:

BG: 6
KD: 14
HP: 11

Coaster to brag about surviving:

BG: Griffon, for its pause as its front row dangles over the void
KD: Intimidator 305, with a top speed of 92 mph and a first drop of 85 degrees. It’s among the Top 10 fastest coasters worldwide.    
HP: Fahrenheit, with a 97-degree “negative drop” (third steepest in America) and a top speed of 58 mph

Most diabolical foodstuff from a cart:

BG: “Irish nachos,” fried potatoes and chili and cheese
KD: Dippin Dots Parfait
HP: Deep-fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups


Adult entertainment (not a euphemism):

BG: Concerts throughout the summer, including Pat Benatar, Miranda Cosgrove and many folks in between this year. River cruise. Very pretty grounds. Skyride through Europe.
KD: Observation deck atop a 1/3-scale Eiffel Tower offers views of 1,000 square feet of surrounding woods and highways; model Model Ts to guide along a track; concerts in the summer.
HP: Strolling bands, monorail over zoo, museum, Hershey souvenirs such as postcards of old Hershey ads (“as nourishing as meat”).

If you hate roller coasters…

BG: A river cruise; boardwalk/midway-style games; a zoo; water park; shopping; country-themed song and dance shows throughout
the park
KD: Carousel built in 1917 and imported from Rhode Island; Snoopy sound-and-light show; water park; midway games
HP: Chocolate Lab; The Hershey Story museum; Chocolate Factory; a monorail; zoo; pools and water park; musical revues; midway-style games


BG: 350
KD: 400
HP: 110


Required walking:

BG: A lot—layout is such that you have to cross through Italy to get to Germany; or you can take the trolley.
KD: Park is a big circle—nothing is very far from the central 1/3-size model Eiffel Tower. 
HP: The most; the trolleys don’t go everywhere.

Bathing suit time:

BG: Yup. Wave pools, water slides, a splashing coaster.
KD: Yup. Wave pools, inner tubing, water slides. 
HP: Yup. Water park and a Roller Soaker.

Buypass waiting in line:

BG: Yes. “Quick Queue Pass,” $14.99 one-line jump, $39.99 all-day line-jumping
KD: Yes. VIP and Platinum season pass holders, only on “Walk on Wednesdays”
HP: Yes. “Sweet Access Pass,” three-hour tours with priority boarding for groups of four to eight; 9-55, $240; other ages, $140; parent/legal guardian must accompany children. Must reserve more than four days in advance, contingent on staying at Hershey resorts, hotel or campground. Call 1-800-HERSHEY. 


Shorter people entertainment: 

BG: Almost every ride has a kids’ version nearby; playground-type “Land of the Dragons”; Elmo has his own section.
KD: KidZville, a section of the park devoted to rides and games for kids.
HP: Gentle coasters; smaller versions of big rides.

If gas is $5 a gallon:

BG: 20-minute bus ride from Williamsburg’s train station to Busch Gardens
KD: Must drive
HP: Must drive

On-site lodging:

BG: Nope, but there are 11,000 hotel rooms in Williamsburg. Really.
KD: Campsite and hotel (rooms start around $100) on-site.
HP: Hershey Resorts (starts around $350 for a family of four and may include discounts and other perks).


Pet kennels onsite:

BG: Yes, $10
KD: Yes, $5
HP: Yes, fee is situation-dependent

Rachel Manteuffel is a freelance writer and actress.