And, you’ll keep your wallet happy.
Hershey, PA, is synonymous with chocolate and with its giant amusement park. It is a popular for road trips, summer vacations and as a getaway destination all year long. But if you know the secrets to visiting Hershey, you’ll get a lot more out of your trip. My top tips are:
- Avoid the high-priced amusement park in favor of Hershey’s other attractions and activities
- Stay at the sprawling Hershey Lodge resort to cash in on enough perks that your room is practically free.
Now that I have your attention…
Discounts on Attractions Through Hershey Lodge Make Your Room Price Sweet
Hershey Lodge features one of the largest water parks in the Northeast. Since it’s free to guests, it means you are not paying $76.95 for adults or $56.95 for kids for a one-day pass to the amusement park rides and water features, or $45 per person for nearby Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.
The hotel’s indoor Water Works complex is more than 30,000 square feet of slides, spray zones and watery games such as basketball, and kids also get a free souvenir logo towel. The rope course over one of the pools is challenging, and a mis-step and dunking is an integral part of the fun. It’s open year-round, and there’s an outdoor pool between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Every Hershey Lodge stay also includes free tickets to two company-owned attractions (keep reading for details).
The Gardens Will Inspire Your Backyard Dreams
Hershey Gardens sounds like a gag-worthy bore for kids, but there’s much more here than Mrs. Hershey’s prize rose bushes, including a Children’s Garden with whimsical giant chocolate kisses to climb, and a collection of thick fir trees from Asia that look like they belong in a Harry Potter story. The most enchanting area, though, is the year-round Butterfly Atrium with hundreds of colorful creatures flittering and fluttering inside. If you stand quietly long enough, one might even land on you. Stand still long enough with a leaf or dish of sugar-water and you can get close-up photos. Thankfully, palm-sized hairy tarantulas and their equally sinister-looking scorpion relatives are caged.
Don’t Skip the Chocolate
Chocolate World is all about the chocolate experience, from farm to finished product, and designed to please kids – especially sampling their way through the exhibits, including being guided to taste differences between various beans and bars. Costumed characters make appearances, including Reese’s and KitKat characters (Hershey’s owns those brands), there’s a 4D movie, and the aroma of chocolate permeates the space. Add-ons include creating your own candy bar with choices of ingredients and toppings such as sprinkles and almonds and a customized label.
Hershey Lodge room rates start at $159 double occupancy, depending on date. Kids stay free all the time and even get their own personal check-in counter in the lobby, with costumed chocolate characters, of course.
Here’s what’s included in the room rate, basically giving you the hotel room for free –
- Hershey Gardens is $14 per adult, saving $28.
- Chocolate World starts at $31.90, saving $60+
- Hershey Park starts at $76.95 for adults and $56.95 for kids, saving more than $250.
- Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom is $45, saving $90.
That gives you some wiggle room to enjoy these other activities, all within a ten-minute drive of the hotel.
The Hershey Antique Auto Museum Will Make Everyone a Car Enthusiast
Because I am a huge fan of vintage automobiles, it made dear old Mom happy to watch him be fascinated by display cases of historic hood ornaments from around the world. He was entranced by old newspaper and magazine advertisements and real paper road maps that folded out to the size of the kitchen table. An interactive exhibit on the evolution of headlights over 140 years lets you or the kids turn any of them on and off, so it’s a great teaching moment about design, engineering and safety – which is really what cars are all about, and central to all of our decisions about buying or leasing.
My son even became curious enough about the gorgeous old Tuckers, Packards, “Woodie” station wagons, Pontiac GTOs, trucks and buses of generations past and Marlene Dietrich’s Pierce Arrow to read their information panels. The museum is a Smithsonian affiliate, with more than 100 original and restored vehicles on display over three floors. They are grouped by decade, so you can wander from the 1890s to the 1990s with stops in between, including a “Back to the Future” DeLorean, which may (or may not) be produced again.
The Hershey Antique Auto Museum is open daily, 9am to 5pm. Admission is $14 for adults, $11.50 for seniors 61 and over, and $9.50 for children 4-12. Again, it’s free if you are staying at the Hershey Lodge.
And… The Zoo!
ZooAmerica offers more than 200 animals native to North America, from alligators and bears to vampire bats and wolves, with barn owls, ferrets and rattlesnakes in between. The animals are represented in regional categories, so it’s easier to walk from Big Sky Country to the Southwest than it is to drive the actual geographic distances.
Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors 62+ and kids 3-8. Admission is free for members of another accredited zoo or aquarium, so don’t forget your membership card. There also are special behind-the-scenes tours, including with flashlights after hours, for an additional fee.
Do You Know the Hershey Story?
The Hershey Story Museum is similar to Chocolate World, except that it is more narrowly focused on the story of Milton Hershey, a trained confectioner who invented the concept of adding milk to European-style dark chocolate. And the rest, as they say, is history – including his early failures, which are a lesson in perseverance for all of us. This outpost also focuses on his philanthropy, including founding schools and scholarships. Of course, there are free samples, and the choice to upgrade to a Chocolate Lab Class and a real sit-down tasting.
Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors 62+ and $10 for kids 3-12.
Who Has Time for Amusement Parks?
Back at the Hershey Lodge, a falconry experience is pricey ($50 for kids, $80 for adult hotel guests and $90 for non-guests), but fascinating. The program is run by Master Falconer Jack Hubley and includes demos of hawks, eagles and falcons in flight, including a simulated hunt, and the chance for these fearsome creatures to land on your arm, protected from their claws by a thick leather sleeve. They land as light as the feathers which cover them, and you’ll leave with new knowledge about, and respect for, the beauty and importance of these often-misunderstood predators.
While there are several cafes and restaurants within the Hershey Lodge, plus a well-stocked candy store, there are several family-friendly chains within a few miles, which offer an escape from Hershey-themed everything everywhere. Plus, a huge Tangers Outlet mall for shopping therapy.
So there’s plenty to do in Hershey, for a weekend or longer, without spending big bucks, or all your time, at Hershey Park.