This isn’t quite a day trip, but close enough. If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Hershey, I have to say I’m jealous. We’ve been going almost every year (sometimes twice a year) for the past few years, and it just never gets old. Each year, as kids grow and reach a new candy level, new rides open up. Even though my kids aren’t quite tall enough for roller coasters, there’s plenty to do! Here are some basics, based on our experience.
Where to Stay: Unless you can get a deal, I find the Hotel Hershey expensive. However, there are plenty of options around Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg if you don’t mind a 15-20 minute drive to the park. If you are feeling adventurous and love to camp, the Hershey Campgrounds offers tent, trailer, and cabin spaces. There is a large playground and two swimming pools, for those who still have energy at the end of the day.
When to Arrive: Most hotels don’t offer check in until 3 or 4 p.m. However, if you time it right, you can check into your hotel, grab dinner, and if you go to the park at 7:30 p.m, get in free by buying a ticket for the following day. When the nights are warm, there’s no better deal.
What to Do: If you are short on time, or it’s a rainy day you can take a tour of Chocolate World, make your own candy bar, and participate as a “factory worker.” If you have all day, there is the park. All rides are categorized by height and by candy bar type. even if you have kids with varying ages and heights, the park makes it easy to participate in as much as possible as a family. Many rides allow the smallest riders (except hand-held infants) to participate when accompanied by a responsible adult. Many rides are also only for kids–no accompanying parents needed. For us this was scary the first time, but this past time, what a relief. I just can’t handle the twirling rides like I used to. It was easy for us to have the two older kids (ages 6 and 8) participate on a ride while another one of us rode with a 2 year old and then meet up at the end. In many cases, we were also all able to ride together.
When to Go: The park seems to open earlier and earlier every year. This season, they opened for weekends starting Easter weekend in April. However, what I love about Hershey is that there is plenty to do in the off season. In October, there is Hershey park in the dark when kids can trick or treat through about a third of the park at night. Rides are open and it’s lots of fun. Around Thanksgiving, the park opens for Christmas in Candylane. Santa visits the kids and you can tour a Christmas version of the park. Additionally, there is an arena for hockey games, the Milton Hershey museum, Chocolate World, and the Chocolate Spa. Plenty to do even when the roller coasters are closed.
On the Way There: A great place to stop is the Crayola Factory at Two Rivers Landing in Easton, Pa. This time of year, in addition to the indoor hands-on activities there are outdoor canal boat rides. something I’ve always wanted to do, but alas have not yet made it to Two Rivers at the right time of year.
Home page photo courtesy James Trosh, via Flickr.