Hershey, Pennsylvania is a small town not too far from Philadelphia, Baltimore or Washington, D.C. that makes a perfect place for a long weekend getaway for the whole family. Hershey is, above all, the home of the famous chocolate-maker. When I was a child, the highlight of a visit to Hershey was actually touring the factory (on foot) and seeing those huge vats of liquid chocolate. We saw chocolate being formed into bars, dropped into the famous “Hershey’s kisses,” and then at the end, we were offered a free sample! That was heavenly.
Milton Hershey’s Chocolate Town
Nowadays the factory tour is a simulation “ride” in the style of Epcot Center at Disney World, which is a different experience but also fun. The “Chocolate World” ride is an attraction located just outside the main gate of Hershey Park-the old fashioned permanent amusement park that C. Milton Hershey built for the recreational use of his workers at the chocolate factory. When you visit Hershey, you inevitably learn a lot about the town’s founder and leading citizen, whose mass marketing of candy confections made him a wealthy man.
Born in 1857, Hershey went from an unremarkable rural childhood in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to an apprenticeship with a confectioner, to several unsuccessful attempts at opening and sustaining his own confectionery shop in several different cities and towns. After decades of trying, Milton Hershey finally hit upon a confection-caramels made with fresh milk-that was a huge commercial success.
Then he hit upon the notion of mass producing chocolate, made from cacao beans, that had up until then been an expensive luxury item for the rich. He began building his chocolate factory in what is now the town of Hershey in 1903. Eventually his factory became the largest chocolate factory in the world. In addition to building Hershey Park and other amenities for the town, Milton Hershey and his wife donated a fortune to the creation of the Milton Hershey School for orphaned boys, which still operates today. The Hershey’s never had children of their own. Hershey died in 1945 in the town named for him.
Major Attractions in Hershey
Chocolate World (described above)
The Chocolate World ride ends up in a huge store of Hershey chocolates and Hershey memorabilia. No wonder the ride is free!
Hershey Park is a genuinely family-oriented amusement park that has old-fashioned charm. There are more trees and green space than you would find in any modern theme park. There are eleven roller coasters, rides for small children, stage performers, and a whole water park section open beginning on Memorial Day weekend. The park overall opens on weekends beginning in early May and daily beginning mid-May through Labor Day. It is also open on weekends in September. (Check the website here for exact days and hours of operation.)
There is a picnic area outside the park gates where families may eat food they have brought with them.
Regular (9-54) $52.95
Junior (3-8) $31.95
Senior (55-69) $31.95
Senior Plus (70+) $20.95
Children 2 and under free
Included in the Hershey Park admission is admission to the adjoining ZooAmerica, an 11-acre walk-through zoo with 200 animals, from prairie dogs to elk, bears to alligators. 2010 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the zoo by Mr. Hershey.
Building on Milton Hershey’s original rose garden, Hershey Gardens expanded over the years to 23 acres of gardens. There are theme gardens, a children’s garden, and a butterfly house with educational exhibits.
Hershey Gardens are open daily March through October.
Regular (13-61) $10.00
Senior (62+) $9.00
Junior (3-12) $7.00
Children 2 and under free
Lodging in Hershey
The Hershey Resorts range from the elegant four-star Hotel Hershey, which opened in 1933, to the Hershey Lodge and the Hershey High Meadow campground and cabins. The Hershey lodgings offer shuttle service to Hershey Park. There are four golf courses, as well as tennis courts, and other resort amenities. Special programs and packages are available. Restaurants from coffee shops up through the Mobil four-star Circular Dining Room at the Hotel Hershey serve fare suitable for families, couples, and major events.
Hershey, Pennsylvania may be the only town in America with streetlights shaped like Hershey kisses. There is a lot of history here and a fun, family atmosphere. For those of us who live within 2-3 hours drive, it makes a perfect weekend getaway.
“Milton Hershey” (article) on www.biography.com
Hershey PA Tourism website http://www.hersheypa.com/