The Weekend in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Out of the many roadtrips we take throughout the year, our recent roadtrip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, from Boston was one of the longest (roughly, 6 hours each way). Still, I am all for this mode of family transportation. Planned wisely, roadtrips offer great flexibility of choices for family members of different ages and tastes. Take this trip, for example. It was originally planned as an extended weekend trip via New York City so that me, the mom (not an amusement park fan by any means) could enjoy her own day of spa and culture.
We were not able to add an extra night for New York City on this trip, however, and instead, stopped over in Connecticut (to visit our son in college). Whether you plan to stop in Connecticut or New York City on your way to Hershey from Boston, I definitely recommend an overnight stopover on the way to Hershey to break the long drive and add the fun.
Day 1. Hershey Amusement Park (or simply the Hersheypark).
We visited the Hersheypark on the opening weekend this year (March 30, 2018) which happened to be a gorgeous sunny day. (The park is typically open during select weekends in the spring and fall, all summer and during the Christmas season. Be sure to check Hershey Park website for current fares and opening hours.) There is much more happening in the park outside of the rides during the regular season (Memorial Day through the summer) with food trucks, water slides (new ones are planned for this summer), concerts and shows. So if you have a non-rider like myself in the family, it might be better to visit in the summer.
Still, there was an abundance of rides to occupy my 8-year old daughter (who LOVES amusement parks) and my husband (and they did not even visit the Zoo on site). Such as the superduperLooper (they went 4 times) – the first looping roller coaster on the East Coast or a Comet, a wooden roller coaster classic (3 times), as well as (one of the!) Hershey Triple Towers (The Reese’s). I also heard about the one ride they did NOT dare to try: an inverted steel coaster Great Bear which you ride below the track.
Day 2. Chocolate World and the Town of Hershey.
As a non-rider, I was looking forward to our second day at Hershey and it did not disappoint. Our visit to Hershey Chocolate World (right across from Hersheypark) was both enjoyable and educational – for all three of us- as it included many interesting facts about history, chocolate growing and making, and industrial economics (and I am not even talking about the giant “all things chocolate and Hershey” store inside the complex).
There are five attractions at the Pennsylvania’s Chocolate World location which was originally built to showcase the simulated free Hershey factory tour. The ticket booth hostesses at the entrance are very good at helping you schedule your day as all attractions (except a continuous 30-minute Chocolate Factory Tour) are timed. We experience all five of the attractions but split on some of them. My husband accompanied my daughter to Create Your Own Candy Bar experience and for the 4-D show Chocolate Mystery shows, while I enjoyed the Trolley Tour of Hershey on my own.
We started the day with the Chocolate Tasting Experience.- and there was no way I was going to miss that. “Don’t chew! Let it slowly melt in your moth!” – instructed our professor at “chocolate university” as we pretended to be the Hershey Palateers for the day (yes, it is a word and official position at the Hershey factory). The tasting included several types of Hershey chocolates of different “darkness” and “smoothness” (and whatever else your own palette allows you to notice.) The tasting started with a short lecture on chocolate growing and we were transported to a Costa Rica chocolate farm (where we recently made our own memories during our Costa Rica trip).
We continued our chocolate day at the 4-D Chocolate Mystery show (both my husband and my daughter enjoyed it) and at “Make Your Own Candy Bar” experience. My daughter was able to choose the ingredients for her candy (she chose white chocolate base, topped it with semi-sweet chocolate chips, rice crispies, chocolate cookie bits and the sprinkles on the very top) which she observed being made right in front of her. Her name was then lasered onto the box.
On a free Hershey’s Chocolate Tour, they trolleyed through the demo pavilions telling about the steps in chocolate growing and making process and the story of the Hershey factory which is also a story of how chocolate was brought to America.
In the meantime, I toured through the America’s corporate town of Hershey on a 75-minute Trolley journey, learning about its founder Milton Hershey’s rise from several failed business attempts to the top of candy and chocolate making in America. We learnt many fascinating facts about this interesting man (who reportedly did not let his employees down during the Great Depression); we drove by the amazing Hershey boarding school where the underprivileged kids get the best education for free. The school was built and is maintained through the Hershey estate from the funds left by Mr. Hershey.
There are plenty of Hershey candies passed around on the tour! (Make sure to book this tour early in the day, as it gets filled up!)
If you find yourself with some time left at the end of the weekend, check out the other Hershey-Harrisburg attractions here.
Tips for Visiting Hershey Park and Hershey Chocolate World.
*When to Visit: Hersheypark is open on limited weekends in the spring’s “pre-season” (starting at the end of March this year); not all attractions are open, but on a plus side- tickets are more affordable. Hershey Chocolate World across the street from Hersheypark is open almost every day of the year (check the website for specific days and opening hours).
*Watch out for the days when Hersheypark stays open late: on the day when we visited in late March, it was open until 9pm and there are practically no lines at 8pm!
*Consider reserving a Fast Pass online before your visit to Hersheypark to avoid or reduce the time in lines (it costs extra).
*Hershey Chocolate World is an attraction just across the street from Hershey Park. Spend some time on their website reviewing the attractions beforehand to plan your day; the ticket booth attendants also help you schedule the attractions.
*If you are a non-riding parent and would like to enjoy a couple of hours by yourself with a cup of chocolate, head to the Chocolate World’s food court which serves some decent food and bakery options and offers nice seating area.
*Take advantage of the guest services window near the entrance to the Hersheypark to help you with your needs while visiting (or to make reservations for a sit-down meal in the park, for example).
We received complimentary media passes to some of the attractions mentioned in this story. Be sure to check Hershey website for current ticket prices. All opinions are my own.