Looking for a vacation destination that’s sure to please every member of your family, from toddlers to grandparents? A well-organized and fun place that’s also within a reasonable driving range? Hershey, Pa., is the answer.
A former factory town, the “Sweetest Place on Earth” has evolved into a full-blown mecca for intergenerational travel, with a broad array of attractions and interests bound to appeal to the inner child in all of us.
Here are a few musts for your chocolate-filled itinerary.
Hersheypark, originally created as a recreation hub for Hershey factory workers, has blossomed into a world-class attraction that provides entertainment for all ages. Thrill-seekers will enjoy 14 roller coasters (the SooperDooperLooper and the Great Bear will get your heart pumping!), and families can bond over tamer rides such as bumper cars, spinning teacups and a galloping, wooden carousel.
Visiting during the summer? Soak in the 378,000-gallon wave pool or float along the 1,360-foot-long lazy river at The Boardwalk. The staff members at Hersheypark are courteous, caring and safety-conscious – a relief for parents and grandparents alike.
ZooAmerica is a quiet oasis uniquely set adjacent to the amusement area. Constructed on the edge of Hersheypark, the rattle of roller coasters fades in the distance as the zoo gives visitors of all ages the chance to view brown bears, elk, mountain lions and dozens of other animals from around the world. The naturalistic setting is also a great place for everyone, from kids to seniors, to recharge their batteries.
The Hershey Story
Set in an elegant two-story building in a downtown lit by Hershey’s Kiss-shaped street lamps, the museum tells Milton Hershey’s rags-to-riches real-life story. Most exhibits are child-friendly and interactive. Some trace the history of chocolate making while others showcase actual equipment used in the original Hershey factory. There are historic photos of factory life, including one that captures workers circa 1920 individually hand-wrapping Hershey kisses. Children can enjoy experimenting in the aptly named Chocolate Lab, where they get to create (and eat) their own creations. A small cafeteria provides well-made sandwiches and a variety of snacks.
Welcome aboard America’s only tram ride through a fictional chocolate factory!
This interior attraction takes travelers into the world of chocolate making via a series of animated scenes. From growing cocoa beans in the tropics to assembly-line packaging techniques, everyone from tykes to seniors will learn something along the way. And be sure not to miss a chance to make your own individualized chocolate bar and personally designed wrapper. Eat the chocolate but save the wrapper – it’s a great souvenir.
The Hotel Hershey
If you’re taking the clan to Hershey, this is THE place to stay. The AAA Four Diamond Rated resort is elegant without being stuffy and successfully exudes a sense of luxury, while never losing its family-first focus. The grounds are flawlessly maintained with an abundance of walking trails – and benches. Amenities include outdoor and indoor swimming pools, a professional spa (Whipped Cocoa Bath, anyone?) and three award-winning golf courses. The Circular, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, offers everything from foie gras to chicken fingers. The dining room is luxurious and the views are serene. Don’t miss the nighttime s’mores fire pit. In addition to Hotel Hershey, there are over two-dozen places to stay in the immediate vicinity.
Hershey Gardens, which overlooks the town of Hershey, provides a stunning visual of industry intersecting with nature. An impressive assortment of flowers and rare trees are a feast for the eyes, and the indoor butterfly atrium is not to be missed.
One thing that all generations seem to agree on: the self-proclaimed “Sweetest Place On Earth” certainly lives up to its moniker.
Please share your Hershey experiences in the comments section.