As a travel writer, I go lots of places, and I take my kids with me at least half of the time. Yes, my two tween daughters are world travelers, but pretty much their favorite place on earth is only about a two hours’ drive from our house – it’s sweet, it’s fun, and it’s home to strolling candy bars.
Did you guess it? Yep, my kids would sacrifice their American Girl dolls at the altar of all things Hershey.
Last week, my family hit the road on an old-fashioned road trip. Our goal? To see how much fun we could have within a half-day’s drive of our Philadelphia home – all without going through a security line (OK, my husband’s goal was to get the best mileage on record for Prius devotees, but we just humored him). And even though we went to a lot of cool places like Gettysburg and Charlottesville, we decided to throw in an old favorite and spend 24 hours in Chocolatetown, USA, better known as Hershey.
If you haven’t been to Hersheypark, you must go. True, it’s not as huge as Disney or Cedar Point, but that just adds to its charm. When you go to Hersheypark for a couple of days, your kids can actually do everything they want to do. You don’t have to promise to fly the whole crew back next week so that they can ride the 93 rides they didn’t get to try. Still, between the theme park and the Boardwalk (the waterpark) and Chocolate World and the Gardens and the Hershey Story and the zoo and the faux ice rink and the s’mores pit, there’s more than enough to keep you busy from morning to night, eating chocolate all the while.
Now, we’ve stayed at the Hershey Lodge, and we’ve stayed at the Hershey Hotel, and we loved them both. We’ve even stayed at a couple of non-affiliated hotels in the town of Hershey, and those were also good. But, this trip, we found out what true luxury was, chocolate-style – yes, this time, we stayed in the Woodside cottages.
The cottages are new, and boy are they swank. Each cottage is home to four gigantic, plush rooms, with to-die-for beds, marble bathrooms with soaking tubs and separate showers, and walk-in closets. When you check in, they give you chocolate bars (OK, they do that for all the Hershey lodging options, but Special Dark bars taste extra good in the cottages).
Just a short walk up the hill from the cottages, we hopped on the hotel shuttle to hit the park. Abby, my ten year-old, had an agenda in mind: Do all the fun rides before the park got too crowded, then hit the Boardwalk at the hottest time of day and ride the waves in the wave pool. She also wanted me to ride Fahrenheit, Hersheypark’s scariest coaster (it has a 121 foot, 90 degree ascent and a 97 degree drop, and that’s just in the first few seconds), but that was not in the cards (we’ve had this conversation approximately three times a year for the past three years, and it still ain’t happening).
It sounded like a plan. So we swung on the pirate ship and whipped around on the Rambler and hopped on the FrogHopper and . . . well, you get the drift. And then we hit the lazy river. And we were lazy. And it was nice and cool. And my kid was about as happy as a kid can get.
We headed back to the cottages, showered, refrained from sinking into the comfy beds, and walked up the walk to Harvest for dinner. Harvest is new Hershey fare, and it’s based on the farm to table concept; at least one item on every plate is locally sourced. At first, Abby was in a grouchy mood (I’d dragged her away from her beloved Hersheypark, after all), but she perked up when the perogies hit the table (cheese and bacon and crème fraiche – oh, my!). By the time she’d scarfed down a giant pork chop and half of my prime rib, to boot, she was once again grinning ear to ear.
We decided to pass on dessert – after all, they were firing up the s’mores pit right outside our window. When I finally forced Abby into bed, she was covered with melted marshmallow, graham crackers, and Hershey bars. Oh, well. A dirty kid is a happy kid.
Up in the morning, it was time to hit the road. Next stop? The Catskills, Roxbury, New York, and a renovated motel that looked like a genie had gone to work on it. I’ll tell you all about it in my next road trip installment!