28 JulLeave a Comment
My family and I had always wanted to visit Hershey, Pennsylvania, “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” and experience all of the chocolately family fun. This summer we did it! We rode the rides at Hersheypark, talked to the animals at ZooAmerica, explored Hershey’s Chocolate World, learned how the Hershey biz began at The Hershey Story, and stayed and played at Hershey Lodge.
Read on for our recommendations for your own family trip to Hershey and opportunities to save.
Hershey Park is one huge amusement park! You could definitely spend more than one day here, making it a wonderful destination park versus just a day trip. For our mixed age group of kids, we appreciated the great diversity of thrill levels of rides. There were scream-your-head-off roller coasters for 11 year old Charlie (and his parents!), intermediate-level rides for nine year old Eve, kiddie rides for four year old Alice and family rides all five of us could enjoy together.
Alice’s favorite kiddie rides
There are 27 attractions for preschoolers, the most we seen at an amusement park! These are rides that littles ride on their own, without a big parent next to them. These experiences made Alice feel so independent! Alice particularly liked the MiniPirate – a small version of the big dragon boat, and the Balloon Flight.
The best place for dorky family bonding is when you can all ride together on a family ride. We loved the Coal Cracker log ride, the Cocoa Cruiser gentle coaster, Fender Bender bumper cars, Frontier Flyers air boats, and especially the brand new Laff Trakk indoor ride. Try and do Laff Trakk as soon as the park opens as the line can get longer later in the day for this popular attraction. My kids enjoyed watching a video of Laff Trakk before riding so they could see what to expect.
Emboldened and empowered, Charlie is now committed to all the attractions his 5′, 100 pound frame is qualified to ride. And we his parents are happy to accompany him! Chris and I turns riding rollercoasters with Charlie, and we were especially wowed by Storm Chaser, one of the faster coasters we have ever flown. It is the first hydraulic launch coaster to feature inversions! Charlie and Chris screamed their heads off on Great Bear and Sidewinder, too. Charlie alone was man enough to tackle The Claw, as I have a Tilt-O-Whirl allergy.
We only allowed ourselves one day to experience Hershey Park, so we were unable to do the waterpark this trip. (Again, this is a park that could take two or more days to cover completely.) However, water slide attractions are included in all Hershey Park tickets! We were there on the hottest summer Saturday in July, so the waterpark was packed. We used that to our advantage and found shorter lines on dry rides as the sun heated up. I plan on taking the kids back on a summer weekday as I have heard from friends that the water attractions are less crowded then. Check out the 14 swimsuit attractions and The Boardwalk.
Guests of Hershey Park get the chance to visit ZooAmerica free of charge on the day of their ticket, and we took advantage of that perk. You can also visit ZooAmerica on its own, without purchasing full Hershey Park tickets for the reasonable rate of $9-$11, and kids under 2 are free. There are not as many animals as DC’s own National Zoo, but it is a shaded area and we found ZooAmerica to be a relaxing mid-day counterpoint to the hooplah and stimulation of the ride-centric park. The antics of the prairie dogs were a particular high note, and we all had a cold drink and enjoyed the Ed-ZOO-Cation Team show full of comedy, singing and juggling on the ZooAmerica stage.
After a full day at Hershey Park, the kids got a second wind when they saw the exciting resort hotel, Hershey Lodge. The first thing kids see when they walk in the lobby is the special Kids’ Check-In. There they get their own lanyards and kids’ passes, schedules of the kids and family resort activities and lots of sweet treats. This kept the kids busy while I checked us in to the hotel, and as any parent knows who has had a child on her hip or crying during hotel check-in, this was a lifesaver.
Making regular rounds in the lobby are the Hershey characters, too! Every member in your party also receives a full-size Hershey bar upon check in, and there are kisses everywhere. The kids were loving all the chocolate. The hotel is very beautiful, reminding me of other higher-end family lodges we have experienced in Orlando and Williamsburg. The staff were very helpful and all touches were top-notch.
We scoped out our room — more candy treats! If you are a family with more than two kids like us, you can reserve a Premium Two Queen Guest room that sleeps up to six thanks to a pull-out sofa, without having to spring for a full suite. However, there are suite options at Hershey Lodge, too.
We threw on our suits to experience the three onsite family pools. The kids loved switching back and forth between the big outdoor pool and indoor pool, located side-by-side. Chris and I appreciated the ability to order some adult bevvies poolside from Ripples, the snack bar with full bar.
There are so many dining options at Hershey Lodge, it was tough to decide where to have dinner. In the end the kids called it, choosing the casual sports-themed Bears Den. There was a line when we arrived but the hostess took my cell phone number and texted me when our table was ready, just 20 minutes later. We had a great meal! We watched a baseball game on the big screen and enjoyed burgers, fries, pasta, salads and for me, even a surprisingly wonderful Bahn Mi.
After dinner we explored the family activities at the resort, including arcade games, a Wii room and mini golf. Charlie especially loved the games room and making friends with other middle school kids.
The next morning we had yummy bagel sandwiches and coffee at the Cocoa Beanery before checking out.
Shout out to the Catholic families: Finding a Mass was spectacularly simple, thanks to St. Joan of Arc parish right in the heart of Hershey. They offer six Sunday Masses, from Saturday evening vigil to four Sunday morning and a Sunday evening, giving you lots of options. Thanks St. Joan’s!
The Hershey Story
Our kids are museum veterans, but The Hershey Story was their first foray into chocolate education. I thought the museum had a great array of interactive exhibits for kids. Charlie, Eve and Alice’s favorite part was the Chocolate Workers Wanted special exhibit, in which they got to perform the various jobs of chocolate factory workers during Mr. Hershey’s time. At each worker station they received a special stamp.
I would allow your family at least one hour for The Hershey Story, and more time if you are planning to do an add-on experience such as the Chocolate Lab or Chocolate Tasting. We did not do those, as we planned to do a tasting at Hershey’s Chocolate World immediately after.
Hershey’s Chocolate World
The kids thought touring a “chocolate factory” would be the coolest thing, having been raised on every version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in print and on screen. Hershey’s Chocolate World did not disappointed! The coolest thing is that the Chocolate Tour is completely free! You take a magical indoor ride and learn how Hershey’s chocolate is made, which was educational and fun. Afterwards you receive a delicious chocolate treat! You are also free to shop the massive Hershey retail space, filled with all the treats and Hershey-themed merch you could ever want.
We also tried a few of the paid attractions at Hershey’s Chocolate World.We experienced the 4D Chocolate Mystery, a 3-D animated movie with “smellovision” and some in-seat effects. The kids thought it was a hoot, and again, at the end of the show we all received a yummy fun-sized Hershey sample.
The Chocolate Tasting Adventure was a blast. Here we were taught to eat chocolate and explore the “notes” of several different Hershey chocolate creations. Led by a chocolatier and guided by interactive tablets and presentations, the kids loved the merging of tech and chocolate! Here there was a lot of slow, thoughtful eating.
How to save at Hershey
I believe the best deal a family can get at Hershey is to stay at an official Hershey Resort to obtain the Hershey Resorts Advantage perks.
- The best price on Hersheypark tickets.
- Complimentary shuttle bus service to Hersheypark, saving you on parking.
- One-hour early access to select rides and attractions at Hersheypark.
- 3.5 hours of fun at Hersheypark the night before your scheduled visit. Just show your regular full-day admission ticket at the front gate 3.5 hours prior to closing.
- Discount admission to Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story’s Museum Experience.
- Special family activities at all three resorts.
Additionally, Hershey Lodge and Hotel Hershey are offering Kids Stay, Play and Eat Free Packages selects dates through September. This package includes free breakfast and free park admission for kids 17 and under, in addition to your room and two adults’ one-day admission to Hershey Park! The package rate is $369 at Hershey Lodge and $469 at Hotel Hershey for an overnight for a family of four. More details.
Our trip to Hershey, PA and the chocolate attractions was one of the greatest experiences of our #WeLoveSummer mission to get the most out of the sunny months of 2015. We totally recommend it!
Disclosure: We were provided one night’s stay at Hershey Lodge and tickets to Hershey Park, Hershey Chocolate World and The Hershey Story for review. All meals and other expenses covered by us. No additional compensation received. All opinions are my own.
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