Saturday, July 31, 2010

Foodie Family Road Trip: Hershey Chocolate World

On a recent trip to visit family in Upstate New York, I took the boys on a side trip to Hershey, PA. Even though I grew up a few short hours from Hershey Park, I'd never been. I suspected that the amusement park itself would be too much--for the boys, me, and the budget. But then I read about Hershey Chocolate World and decided it was just our speed.

Hershey Chocolate World is located just outside the gates of the amusement park, about a 10-minute drive off I-81, through some pretty dairy farm country. Parking was free for the first three hours and they opened at 9am. The timing was perfect for us, as we had just eaten breakfast and checked out of the hotel, and it wasn't that far out of our way. Admission to Chocolate World is also free, although if your kids are old enough to know better Hershey's has plenty of temptations inside to lighten your pocket book. My almost-five-year-old was blissfully ignorant of the other paid attractions and was more than satisfied to do the free 'factory' tour twice--so long as he got the free mini-Hershey bar at the end and was able to pick out a treat from the gift shop. My one-year-old was also wide-eyed by the tour, with its Disney-ish theatrical style; animatronic, singing cows; and amusement-park ride car. Also like Disney, they dump you out in the gift shop. :-)

If you're looking for a real factory tour, you'll be disappointed, but little ones will love it. I bet teenagers will get a kick out of it too, although they might not tell their friends. Also available besides the free tour: a 3-D adventure, Make-Your-Own Chocolate Bar experience ($15 a pop and they charge every member of your party), and a Trolley tour. All looked like fun for another day, especially for older kids.

My only complaint was that they made us leave our stroller outside, and since I was on my own, it made it more difficult to get around. Note to the world at large: If you see a woman lugging a baby and a preschooler through a chocolate factory, hold the d--n door! Also, full disclosure: I believe very strongly that the only good Hershey bar is one served with roasted marshmallows and graham crackers, but the tour does make you feel good about supporting dairy farmers. Also, the animatronic cows seemed happy. I do have a soft spot for York Peppermint Patties and their dark chocolate bars with the nuts and berries. Both boys will apparently eat anything that starts with an H and ends with -ershey.

I see many more stops at Chocolate World in our future. Maybe next time we're up that way we'll give the museum a shot (A shuttle will take you to the museum from the Chocolate World parking lot) or Hershey gardens. Lots of fun photo ops; smelled great; low cost; and we were back on the road in time to miss the morning commuter traffic. See you next year, Chocolate World!

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