Some families are camping types. Some are sports types. Some are museum types.
My family of four? We’re chocolate types.
Good thing Hersheypark is right down the road.
Hersheypark calls itself the sweetest place on earth, and for the McElroy family, at least, it is. Not only is the smell of chocolate always in the air, but there’s a lingering sense of fun and well-being, too, that can only come from risking death with a 97 degree roller coaster decline and from risking explosion from a pile of French fries larger than your head.
That’s why, every fall, my family drives a couple of hours across the state of Pennsylvania for fun in the park.
Where to Stay
Now, if you’re planning to eat chocolate for two days straight, you have to have a plan for where you’ll be when the inevitable sugar crash occurs. Hersheypark itself, like any self-respecting theme park, has a couple of great options: The Hotel Hershey (a luxurious, historic property with an indoor pool, a fitness center, and a spa) and Hershey Lodge (more rustic, but equally comfy and fun). If your family is really up for a comfort-filled splurge, the Cottages at the Hotel Hershey are the crème de la (chocolate) crème, with huge, marble bathrooms and linens so soft you’ll never want to get up to ride the twelve coasters at the park.
More on a budget? Or want to bring the dog along? The Homewood Suites, about 20 minutes away, offers roomy two-bedroom, two bath apartment-like crash pads, complete with kitchens for snacks and couches for Fido. Even better? Homewood includes free internet and a huge, free breakfast in the room rate. Can’t beat that deal. Believe me I say that, once you’ve tried Homewood, you’re a true believer.
What to Do
At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Duh, it’s a theme park, woman. I wait in line. I spend a lot of money. I try to keep myself from strangling my screaming toddler. That’s what I do.”
But, in fact, what you really want to do at Hersheypark is explore. That’s because, every time you go, you’re going to find something new, like we did this year with Skyrush (a crazy new coaster where you hang off the sides) or a couple of years ago with the Boardwalk, a giant, super cool water park complete with cabanas and lazy river. Add those new adventures to your old favorites, like the Coalcracker flume ride or the Reese’s Extreme Cup Challenge (complete with laser targets), and you’ll be busy from dawn to dusk.
If that’s not enough, this particular theme park is home to Zoo America, which in turn is home to porcupines, burrowing owls, and chocolate chip spotted ocelots. The zoo always has some programming going on, like the popular Creatures of the Night or Paws, Claws, Scales and Tails.
And, for those chocolate lovers? Gotta tour Chocolate World. Right next door to Hersheypark, it offers a free tram tour to show the whole family how chocolate is made, a “make your own candy bar” activity, a 3-D show, and a café where hot chocolate is mix your own.
Mom need a break? Let Dad take the kids to Chocolate World while Mom heads to the Hershey Spa, where even facials and body wraps are made of chocolate. Mmmmm.
Where to Eat
Hersheypark offers restaurants to fit any budget. If you’re splurging, don’t miss Harvest, the farm-to-table restaurant at the Hotel Hershey – the chocolate barbecue ribs are a must-try. For Sunday brunch, the Circular Dining Room at the Hotel Hershey boasts a spectacular spread of everything from chocolate cherry bread to tortellini to flank steak to made-to-order omelettes. In the park, kids will love the food court at Pioneer Frontier, where the cooks make homemade spiral potato chips while little ones watch. And in the town of Hershey, at Houlihan’s, the whole family will get into the dessert s’mores fondue, with toasted marshmallow and melted chocolate for graham cracker dipping.
Sure, the park’s closed for some of the winter, but the zoo is open year-round, and the park celebrates Halloween and Christmas in style. We’ll see you there!
For more information, check out Hershey Park’s official website.