If you have ever wished that you could step inside Willa Wonka's Chocolate Factory, visiting Hershey, Pennsylvania is probably as close as you can get.
Founded in 1903 by Milton S. Hershey, the town was originally designed for factory workers. Milton Hershey, however, had much more than economics in mind. Hershey envisioned a community where people loved where they lived and worked. In light of this goal, he built homes with electricity, indoor plumbing, and heating. He invested in the town by adding a a public trolley system, a free school to educate children of employees, a free vocational school to train orphaned boys, an amusement park, and many other recreational spaces.
Now, almost 100 years later, Milton Hershey's benevolent legacy and philanthropic mindset remain. Hershey explained his development of the town in this way, "I am trying to build here a place where people can be happy and contented while they work, and live in pleasant surroundings." His dream lives on in the hearts of the people and in the physical structures, the landscaping, and the overall schematic of the city. Just shy of 14,000 people call Hershey home (most of whom are employed by a Hershey company), but many more vacation here every year.
WEATHER IN HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA
Hershey, Pennsylvania has four distinct seasons with brisk winters, sparkling springs, hot summers, and colorful autumns. The best time to travel to Hershey from a weather perspective is April, May, September, or October when highs are in the 60s and 70s and lows are in the 40s and 50s. Early to mid-June can also be quite pleasant.
THINGS TO DO IN HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA
Hershey's Chocolate World
Just outside Hersheypark's front gates, Hershey's Chocolate World is a treat for the senses. Walk inside the doors and you'll find mountains of candy, candy-centric souvenirs, and candy-themed experiences behind many closed doors (tickets required).
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Hershey's Chocolate Tour ride is FREE and you won't want to miss it! In fact, it's one of the best things to do in Hershey! You'll board a Hershey Kiss and then experience all that goes in to the chocolate-making process. "Feel the warmth of roasting cocoa beans, smell rich milk chocolate, and watch thousands of candies twist and turn on conveyor belts." At the end of the ride, you'll disembark and receive a complimentary chocolate sample! Tours run continuously, but note that lines can be long during the summer and other busy seasons.
Although admission into Hershey's Chocolate World is free, most of the experiences inside Hershey's Chocolate World require tickets. Current options are: Create Your Own Candy Bar, Hershey's Unwrapped, 4D Chocolate Movie, Hershey Trolley Works, and Reese's Stuff Your Cup. You can purchase an Adventure Bundle to maximize your visit.
Hershey's Chocolate World has a cafeteria-style food hall (similar to what you might find in a mall) where you can order specialty milkshakes, ice cream, s'mores, cocoa, coffee, beer, and wine.
There are SO MANY souvenirs! If you are a fan of Hershey-branded treats (Jolly Rancher, Twizzler, Reese's, etc), you will go crazy here. Purchase stuffed toys, sweatshirts, GIANT candy bars, and much, much more for your return home.
Short-term parking is free. All-day parking is $25. RV parking is also available at the same rates. Guests who stay at any of the Official Resorts of Hersheypark can access a free shuttle service to Hershey's Chocolate World and Hersheypark.
LOCATION: 101 Chocolate World Way, Hershey, PA
COST: Free Admission. Dining, tours, experiences, and souvenirs are available for purchase.
HOURS: Hershey's Chocolate World opens at 9:00am on most days. Check the website for current hours.
Originally opened in 1937, Hershey Gardens is a 23-acre serene space where you can be immersed in natural beauty. While the crowds descend on Hersheypark, you can wander through quiet green spaces and vibrant flower gardens (featuring 3,000 roses).
GOOD TO KNOW:
Active duty military personnel are free. Veterans and accompanying guests of active duty military personnel/veterans receive $3 off admission with valid military ID.
Teachers receive $3 off admission with valid school ID.
LOCATION: 170 Hotel Road, Hershey, PA
COST: Regular (ages 13-61): $15; Senior (ages 62+): $14; Junior (ages 3-12): $11; Children ages 2 and under – FREE. All tickets include the exterior 23-acre gardens, as well as the Milton & Catherine Hershey Conservatory and the indoor Butterfly Atrium.
HOURS: Hershey Gardens opens at 9:00am yearround. Check the website for current hours.
Hersheypark is the most well-known attraction in Hershey, PA. Originally opened in 1906, the 121-acre amusement park is the most visited theme park in Pennsylvania and the ninth most visited theme park in North America.
Hersheypark has almost 70 amusement rides! Of the amusement rides, 13 are roller coasters, 19 are kiddie rides (best for ages 1-10), and 15 are water slides/spaces.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Download the Hersheypark App ahead of time to help you navigate the park and find dining venues, restrooms, specific rides, etc.
As with any amusement park, your best bet for shorter lines and fewer people is to visit on a weekday. Also: Arrive early on the day of your visit!
Because Hersheypark is also home to a water park and several water rides, dress wisely. Lightweight, easy dry clothes are your best bet: athletic shorts, a rash guard, and waterproof or quick-dry shoes.
Wear (and bring) sunscreen, sunglasses, and light layers to protect your skin.
Make time for photos as there are meet & greets with Hershey characters.
If you bring a water bottle, note that there are several water stations throughout the park. You can also ask for water and ice at any restaurant in the park.
There is a Chick-fil-A inside Hersheypark. Prices are higher than a non-theme park CFA, but they offer the same delicious fare and friendly service.
Outside food is not permitted, but there are picnic tables outside the park gates if you want to return to a cooler in your car.
The kids/teens in our party (ages 10-15) particularly enjoyed Lightning Racer, the first wooden racing/dueling coaster in the United States.
Need a break from coasters? Board the monorail for a relaxing tour of the park from the sky.
Your ticket also grants you admission to ZooAmerica (inside the park).
A fun perk for any ticket purchased in 2022: Guests can enjoy Hersheypark the night before the day of their visit - free!
LOCATION: 100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, PA
COST: $54.95 for a 1-day ticket (ages 3+). Parking is $25/day.
The Water Park portion of Hersheypark is called The Boardwalk at Hersheypark. This area has 15 water attractions, including 8+ waterslides, a sandy shore, and playzones for toddlers & young children.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Boardwalk is open seasonally - from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Changing rooms are available so if you plan to spend time in splash areas or on water slides, plan to pack swimsuits, quick-dry towels, and flip-flops. Note that swimwear is only permitted in the waterpark area (called The Boardwalk). If you wear your swimsuit outside of that area, there is a good chance you will be asked to change by a Hersheypark employee.
The Boardwalk tends to close earlier than the rest of the park so check the hours carefully in order to plan your best day at the park.
Lines can be very long so try to head for the slides and rides you want to go on the most at the very beginning of the day.
The Hershey Story Museum
Navigate to Chocolate Avenue on your GPS and you'll find your way to The Hershey Story, a museum about the life of entrepreneur & philanthropist Milton S. Hershey. Although you may be tempted to whizz into Hersheypark and then buzz out of town, we don't recommend it! You'll miss a fascinating history lesson and incredible facts that will leave you with a greater love for what makes Hershey unique. In fact, I would argue that one of the very best parts about Hershey is learning about the man himself and his enduring legacy.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Hershey Story Museum is in Downtown Hershey.
Free parking is located in the garage directly behind The Hershey Story.
Plan to spend about 1/2 a day at The Hershey Story in order to fully interact with the exhibits.
Active duty military personnel receive FREE admission to the Museum Experience. Veterans and guests of active duty military/veterans receive $3 off admission to the Museum Experience with valid military ID.
Teachers receive $3 off admission to the Museum Experience.
Bundled tickets are available for The Hershey Story Museum and Hershey Gardens.
Tastings is a ticketed experience at The Hershey Story Museum, which allows you to sample a flight of warm tasting chocolates from around the world. The chocolates are presented in shot glasses and are thicker than hot cocoa (it's melted chocolate in varying degrees of light, dark, sweetened, etc). You will undoubtedly enjoy observing how very different chocolate can taste, depending on its origin and/or mixing ingredients.
GOOD TO KNOW:
A full flight of 6 is $13 (includes tax). A half flight of 3 is $8 (includes tax).
A kids tasting experience is also available for $8 where kids receive a mug of warm water and a chocolate stirring lolly - which allows them to transform their milk into a cup of warm hot cocoa. This is best reserved for very little ones (ages 5 and under) since most older kids will probably enjoy the regular flight experience more.
Hershey, Pennsylvania is charming and I wouldn't hesitate to vacation here again. On our next trip, however, I'd probably skip the theme park and immerse myself in the history and chocolate experience instead!
Here is what is on my Hershey Bucket List for a future trip:
Wander Downtown Hershey if the weather is nice.
Go to a concert or see a play at Hershey Theatre.
Explore High Point Mansion, the home of Milton and Catherine Hershey.
Be like Einstein at the Chocolate Lab at The Hershey Story.
Tour the Milton Hershey School.
Try the Ferris Wheel Sampler and Heath Bar Crusted Salmon at The Chocolatier.
Spend more time at Hershey's Chocolate World. Ride Hershey's Chocolate Tour again. Create a candy bar or stuff a Reese's cup. Book a ride on Hershey Trolley Works. See the Hershey's Unwrapped show.
HAVE FUN IN HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA!
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