Hershey, PA: Chocolate Covered Fun!
By: Ryan Vest and Erica Pena-Vest
Summer vacation with kids is always a highlight of the year, an opportunity to create memories and get away from home to spend time together as a family. This year, we decided we wanted to do something a little bit different. I admit, we’ve been in a bit of a rut. Our summers generally involve a pilgrimage to either Orlando or Anaheim, with obligatory immersion into magical worlds drawn from our favorite stories and films. Perhaps it was because we were in Orlando for a conference in the spring, or maybe we just wanted to try something different and add some different memories to our family cannon, but we decided that we were going to stay closer to home this summer. As we looked at different options, one destination stood out above the rest, and so shortly after school let out, we hopped in the car and headed for Hershey, Pennsylvania.
In 1903, Milton Hershey began construction on his chocolate factory near the small town of Derry Church in rural Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Locating a factory in the country, near the dairy farms that would bring his milk chocolate worldwide fame. Realizing the need for housing the large number of workers he would need for this endeavor , he built a model town that was later named after its founder by the U.S. Postal Service. As part of his creation, in 1907 he founded a park for the recreation of his workers. Today that park hosts a wide array of roller coasters and attractions for the entire family.
Hersheypark is the crown jewel of the Hershey Harrisburg Region, and did not disappoint. Crowds were not overwhelming, and we had a nice time on a beautiful summer day. The park offers a wide range of activities, from jaw dropping roller coasters to rides designed for the smallest of patrons. We found the park employees friendly and pleasant, the park clean and well maintained, building a wonderful atmosphere for family fun. My seven year old was particularly enamored with the Super Looper, and can’t wait to come back when he is a little taller so that he can ride the fastest coasters. Food inside the park was affordable and tasty. We ate at the Hersheypark Place, at the entrance of the park and loved the family-friendly environment. We particularly enjoyed the stands throughout the park selling lemonade on a hot summer day.
Outside the park, Hershey offers many museums and attractions that are well worth the time to see. Our family particularly loved Hershey’s Chocolate World and The Hershey Story, the Museum on Chocolate Avenue.
At Hershey’s Chocolate World, don’t miss the Chocolate Tasting Experience and the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction. With the Chocolate Tasting Experience, we had an opportunity to taste different types of chocolate, and they taught us many of the 600 different flavors associated with chocolate. I will never eat a candy bar the same way again! For as much as I loved the chocolate tasting, the kids loved the Create Your Own Candy Bar, as they were able to invent their own bar, design packaging, and watch Hershey’s machinery create the candy they invented right in front of their eyes!
Outside of the park, The Hershey Story museum is a must see. Located in picturesque downtown Hershey, the Hershey Story museum tells the story of Milton Hershey and how he came to found Hershey’s chocolate and the city itself. Numerous interactive displays and films make it very kid friendly, and there are fun family activities, like sampling chocolate drinks from around the world to the Chocolate Lab, where each family member can make their own candy bar while learning about where chocolate comes from and how it’s produced.
While in town, we stayed at the Best Western Premier the Central Hotel Harrisburg/Hershey, which proved to be an excellent choice. This full service hotel had all the amenities we could ask for, and we made ample use of the hotel room service (which was much tastier than traditional room service)! The indoor pool was a standout feature as well, and for those that enjoy swimming, the hotel offers rooms that open directly on to the pool deck.
While staying in Harrisburg, we ate at Momo’s BBQ! Oh my goodness, I can’t recommend this family friendly restaurant enough to my BBQ-loving readers. As a native Texan, I know good BBQ and this was some of the finest I’ve ever had outside of Texas. Go prepared to try their large array of sauces. It is a foodie’s delight!
We didn’t know what to expect from our visit to Hershey, PA but now it’s listed among our family’s favorite destinations. We hope to return soon and explore even more.
Learn more about the Hershey Harrisburg Region and Hersheypark online:
Twitter: @HHRVB and @Hersheypark
Instagram: @Visit_HersheyHarrisburg and @Hersheypark