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4 Tips For Visiting Hershey, PA With Kids

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We went to Hershey, Pennsylvania on a whim. We had no weekend plans, it’s a reasonable drive from New York City, and my husband and I both had childhood memories of Hershey Park that made us curious about it.

We had a good time, but there are a few things we would have done better (like not saved our sojourn into Pennsylvania Dutch Country for Sunday when things are closed). Here’s what we liked about our weekend with 5YO Tiny Traveler. Plus, what we’d do differently on our next weekend trip to Hershey to get more out of our visit.

How To Plan A Hershey Family Vacation 

Tips For Your Day At Hershey Park

make your own chocolate bar at Hershey's Chocolate WorldWe all loved Chocolate World. It’s expensive, but fun. We started with a ride through a pseudo Hershey’s factory where cows sing and you learn how Kisses are made.

The highlight for us was making our own oversized chocolate bars. Using touch-screens, Tiny Traveler and I each chose the kind of chocolate we wanted and selected fillings.

Then we followed our bars as they progressed along a mini assembly line. While the chocolate cooled, we each designed a box for our treat.

A trolley tour mixes group singing with actors telling the story of the town and its namesake and founder Milton Hershey.

I really enjoyed learning about Milton and his many failures and innovations. But Tiny Traveler was only interested in the free candy they gave out and Rich rolled his eyes at the singing and hammed-up acting.

Hershey Park is a great theme park if you have tweens and teens who want to ride its 11 roller coasters. It’s also a good pick if you need to entertain both teens and vey little kids.

With only a small child we didn’t think it was worth the $153 we paid in entrance fees.

The handful of rides that would entertain the adults without scaring the heck out of our child had very long lines. We spent most of the day watching a Tiny Traveler go on kiddie rides alone or squeezing into too-small rides alongside her.

Next time, we’ll be sure to bring another family along.

We’ll also remember to bring our bathing suits so we can go to the water park we didn’t know was there. It’s small but it’s easier for us to find activities we all like at waterparks. And there are comfortable places for adults to sit and talk while kids splash around.

Or we might just try Dutch Wonderland, which local families have told us is better with with kids under 10. It’s also easier on the wallet.

(Read about Visiting Hershey at the Holidays, too.)

Kid-Friendly Dining Near The Park

Rich and I were thrilled to discover that microbrewer Troegs has a reasonably kid friendly taproom just down the street from the Hershey Park. The very good beer was a welcome change from the morning’s chocolate binge.

A pretzel from the Troegs tasting room beer at the Troegs tasting roomThe menu has more than first meets the eye. And the food is nicely done, often featuring local ingredients.

Rich and I shared spicy tortilla soup and a charcuterie plate while TT chomped on chicken saté.

For dinner one night we managed to wangle a table The Chocolate Avenue Grill (not easy to do).

The cocktail menu was fun and familiar sandwiches and entrees all had enough of a twist to make them interesting. The kids’ menu had steak, salmon, shrimp and coconut-crusted chicken as well as the usual pasta.

The Luna Grill is a Mexican restaurant further from town center that seems to be owned by the same people. We didn’t get to try it, but based on our experience on Chocolate Avenue, I certainly would.

The one thing we did manage to do as we drove home through Amish country was eat lunch. We sampled local specialties like chicken and waffles, baked cabbage and buttered noodles along with several kinds of pie at Miller’s Smorgasboard.

Afterward, we stopped at the nearby Dutch Haven to bring home a gooey but good shoo-fly pie.

Where To Stay 

Hershey has your pick of budget-friendly chain hotels nearby. We stayed at a Comfort Inn, where the indoor pool was handy on a rainy morning and the free breakfast was Okay.

If your budget is a little deeper, try the elegant but pricey Hershey Lodge, which boasts a small indoor water park, or the boutiquey Hotel Hershey. Staying gets you extras like a shuttle to park.

For a bit of adult indulgence, look for chocolate-themed cocktails in their restaurants and chocolatey treatments in the spa. 

Sidetrips From Hershey

An Amish horse and buggy in Lancaster, PAAmish egg noodlesHershey is about 215 miles from Pittsburgh, 95 miles from Baltimore, 100 miles from Philadelphia and about 170 miles from New York City.

It’s an easy one-day drive, but if you want to break it up a bit or extend your stay here are a few ideas.

Next time we go we’ll spend more time in Pennsylvania Dutch country. And we will certainly head to the Lancaster Central Market for seasonal produce and local specialties like fresh horseradish, egg noodles and pickled vegetables.

Anyone with young train fans (and especially Thomas fans) should consider a ride on a restored steam train in Strasburg.

Instead of staying in Hershey, next time we might look for a farm stay in Lancaster county that would give us a taste of local life and a chance to breathe some country air. In this case we would Hershey Park a day trip instad of the main event.

The road from New York City to Hershey passes through Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Experience, which finished major renovations a few years ago.

It promises games and interactive activities (probably arts & crafts). Plus, you get to learn how crayons are made. It seems like a good short break from driving if you need it. Plus, it sits on a town square with a decent selection of restaurants.

If your kids are the right age to be learning American history, a sidetrip to Gettysburg is essential.

a ranger with kids at Gettysburg

National Parks Service rangers who work at historic sites know their local history. They excel at engaging kids and adults in the stories of the place you are visiting. (Read our Guide to 24 Hours in Gettysburg.)

Baltimore families can break up the drive with an afternoon or morning in Frederick which offers its own piece of Civil War history, period homes and small children’s museum.  Pittsburgh families can take a few days to relax with a detour to Raystown Lake Recreation Area, which is known for its water sports and houseboats.

From either city it’s an easy sidetrip to Cumberland, MD, which offers it’s own scenic train, some small historic sites and the start of the Great allegheny Passage, a bike and walking trail that runs 150 miles to Pittsburgh.

With all these great things to do, you might just see us there this summer, for our Hershey-Lancaster-vacation do-over.

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