Chocolate Town, USA
Planning a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher
Hershey Park in Hershey, PA (Flickr: accidentalhedonist)
Where else but Hershey could you find yourself at the intersection of Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Avenue, standing beneath a streetlamp fashioned like a Hershey Kiss? The place even smells like chocolate, most noticeably when the breeze is blowing from the 2-million-square-foot Hershey Factory, the largest chocolate plant in the world. But chocolate is only part of the appeal. Hershey is also home to the top amusement park in the Northeast, according to FamilyFun magazine (whose parent company, Disney, knows a thing or two about theme parks).
Hershey has plenty to keep families busy for at least three or four days. The top attractions are:
You’ll need at least two days to do it all. There are more than 60 rides and attractions, including 11 roller coasters, more than 20 kiddie rides, and several live shows. The Boardwalk is a tribute to the seaside resorts of the Eastern seaboard that features waterslides, interactive water features, and several water thrill rides. Keep in mind that admission to Hersheypark includes entry to ZooAmerica, a North American wildlife park with an entrance from the theme park.
Body Surfing at Hershey Park (Flickr: 98777704@N00)
Along with the free Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour, which simulates a tour through a chocolate factory, there are opportunities (for a fee) to go on a trolley tour around Hershey town and watch a 3-D animated show starring the Hershey characters. And at FactoryWorks, kids can don factory caps and work on a Hershey Kisses assembly line. The Hershey megastore is the best place in town for souvenirs.
These 23-acre themed botanical gardens include an interactive children’s garden and a butterfly house (open only in summertime). Free or discounted admission for guests of the official Hersheypark resorts.
Full of fascinating trivia and artifacts, this museum offers a terrific history lesson on Hershey—and American culture. Free or discounted admission for guests of the official Hersheypark resorts.
Child with the famous Hershey Kiss (Flickr: donhomer)
When to Go: Come during the summer season, which runs May through September. Hershey may bill itself as a year-round destination, but you need to come in the summer to get the most out of Hersheypark. You definitely don’t want to miss The Boardwalk and its water-play zone, which you can only experience in the summertime.
The park is closed in January, February and March. It reopens for one weekend in April for “Springtime in the Park.” Hersheypark opens for the summer season for weekends only in early May, and then ramps up to a daily schedule for the summer season (in 2008, May 21 to September 1). After Labor Day, the park reverts to a weekends-only schedule until the end of September. Hersheypark is open three weekends in October for “Halloween in Hershey,” and in November and December for “Hersheypark Candylane.”
Want fewer crowds? Hersheypark’s web site reports that the busiest day is Saturday. If you can plan a weekday-only stay, you’ll be way ahead of the game. July and August are busier than May and June. There is also a dip in attendance on the following holidays: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day Monday, Father’s Day, July 4th, and Labor Day Monday.
Where to Stay: There are three official resorts of Hersheypark:
- Hotel Hershey, a historic, grand hotel with a salubrious spa and children’s program.
- Hershey Lodge, the middle-priced choice with many family-oriented activities
- Hershey’s Highmeadow Campground, for camping under the stars.
Choosing one of the official Hershey resorts means that you’ll get some nice privileges, including preferential pricing on tickets to Hersheypark and free or discounted tickets to Hershey Gardens and Hershey Museum; early access to Hersheypark one hour before the official park opening; and a free shuttle service to and from Hersheypark, Chocolate World, and Hershey Museum.