One of the many aspects of living in the metro Washington, DC region is just how many interesting places to visit we have within an easy drive from the city. One that I rediscovered a few years ago was the Sweetest Place on Earth, Hershey, Pennsylvania. My experiences there were fun and relaxing and I was so surprised by how enjoyable a weekend away in Hershey can be even for adults, that I recently organized a return to check out Hersheypark as well as the many other fun activities around town. The last time I visited Hersheypark, Reagan was President and my biggest worry in life was how complete my sticker collection was. So it was with incredible interest that I approached not only the Park, but the entire Hershey experience and I’m thrilled to say that it lived up even to those lofty childhood memories.
When I was last in Hershey I stayed at the beautiful and luxurious heritage property, the Hotel Hershey. Wanting to try something a little different, most recently I was a guest at the Hershey Lodge and I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience. More of a family hotel, granted, I had no problems fitting in and enjoying all of the resources available to guests of the property. In addition to the relaxing rooms, there’s a lot to do on site including the property’s new Water Works, a massive indoor pool complex that’s a lot of fun even if you’re not a kid. In addition, Lodge guests enjoy many benefits which I certainly took full advantage of including better prices on Hersheypark tickets, complimentary shuttle bus service and early admission to Hersheypark. Altogether, my Lodge experience was fun, relaxing and convenient – what more do you need?
One of America’s great theme parks, the antecedents to Hersheypark go back to 1907 when Milton Hershey opened it as a picnic and pleasure grounds for employees. In 1971, the park converted to a theme park and since then has only gotten bigger and better. Growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, I still remember all of those commercials for the SooperDooperLooper and my parents finally giving in to my pleas to visit. Returning 30 years later wasn’t only nice, it was fun in a way that only a great theme park can provide. The park has changed a lot since I was last there, and today features 13 roller coasters and their brand new Hershey Triple Tower – comprised of three drop towers of different heights. Aside from the adrenaline rush of the rides, the park is just a pleasant place to be. With plenty of relaxing places to decompress and relax in-between rides and some fantastic food options, it’s a well designed park that appeals even to this 40-something guy. I’m planning on devoting an entire post to Hersheypark, but I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.
Hershey Experiences Around Town
From my own experience enjoying the town of Hershey, I knew there was a lot to see and do away from the park and I made sure to return and enjoy my favorite experiences around town. First on that list is a popular attraction that has recently been reimagined, Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction. The official visitor’s center of The Hershey Company, this is a destination in its own right. The complex features a huge store and a lot of different activities for both adults and children. While I enjoyed the 10-minute simulated factory tour, what I really loved was the opportunity to make my own chocolate bar. For $14.95 (it’s also included in some hotel packages, so check those out) you can go through the process of designing your own chocolate bar, from conception to packaging. Visitors can choose the type of chocolate to be used as well as the add-on ingredients, everything from pretzel bits to toffee chips. The best part though is following your personal chocolate bar as it’s made, watching it at every step of the way. The activity takes about 45 minutes depending on the crowds, but it is a really fun experience and you walk away with a massive chocolate bar in its own special tin.
Other not to miss experiences around town include The Hershey Story, Hershey Gardens and learning more about chocolate by enjoying a special chocolate drink flight.
Great Adults-Only Weekend
Since I was in Hershey a couple of years ago, I knew that the town makes for an ideal adults-only weekend getaway, but that fact was driven home again through some well-organized experiences and also letting my inner child take over. The key in traveling in typically family-oriented destinations if you’re a couple of DINKS (Double Income No Kids) isn’t to ignore those kid-oriented experiences, that would defeat the entire purpose. These destinations are fun for a reason and are perfectly enjoyable whether you’re 8 years old or 41. It’s important to go with the flow and allow yourself to be a kid again for a few hours and from my own experience, there’s nothing better. Sure, you can go out and enjoy a fantastic and elegant meal at any number of restaurants in town, and I strongly recommend that. But then you also have to go to Hersheypark and scream your head off on the roller coasters and visit the Chocolate World Attraction and take delight in making your own candy bar. There’s no age limit to fun, you just have to be open minded enough to realize that and Hershey is one of the best places in the country to do just that.