This spring break we took a brief 3 day trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania-home of the largest chocolate factory in the world. Technically, there isn’t a city called Hershey. It is called Derry Township, PA. How we came to taking a trip to Hershey was rather circuitous. For years, I’ve always been curious to take the family there for a mini-vacay. This spring break we originally decided on an impromptu trip to Florida to do the Universal park experience. However, after packing our bags, coolers, and waking up at 3:30AM to start a drive, we discovered half the family was ill and cancelled.
After a few days of rest, we decided we could squeeze in a trip to Hershey before the break was over!
The drive to Hershey from the south can make you feel like you are driving to the middle of nowhere. However, seeing the rolling hills of Pennsylvania is rather calming.
The town of Derry Township/Hershey is quaint and small. If you are used to an Orlando, FL type atmosphere when you are not at the park, you will not find it here. Very quiet. You can find your standard chain restaurants. Harrisburg is the closets city, but it is sufficient to commit your stay to enjoying the area of Hershey.
Our first day we went to Hershey’s Chocolate World. This is like a museum of everything Hershey. It is directly adjacent to Hershey Park, but is not included in Hershey Park admission. Once in, you’ll see that you can buy a customized ticket according to what you want to see. There is a free slow moving “ride” that walks you through the process of how chocolate is made, a 3D movie, a chocolate tasting, and a “build your own chocolate bar” experience, a trolley guided tour ride throughout Derry Township, and more. You don’t have to do all of these attractions, however, I thought every single one was worth it. We paid for all of them and our individual ticket price was roughly $30-40 each. When you buy your ticket, you receive an itinerary for all of the attractions. This is great because you don’t have to wait in lines!*
*Parent note: Depending on how many attractions you have, your itinerary may overlap through lunch. This happened to us and my youngest almost had a meltdown because we didn’t eat lunch until almost 2PM!
Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour Ride (FREE)
We liked this ride so much that we went through it twice! You board a slow-moving pod that walks you through how chocolate is made, from cacao nuts to all the refining processes. Throughout the ride you hear the lovely voices of the “hosts”, dairy cows Gabby, Harmony, and Olympia!
Create Your Own Candy Bar
We had a blast making our own candy bars! This probably was the longest line to go through, but it was fun! They gave us aprons, gloves, and hats prior to starting the candy bar making process.
The process included selecting “inclusions” in your bar via a computer kiosk. We could add three out of a variety of inclusions including rasperries, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, peanuts, almonds, and pralines. Next we watched our creation get made on a conveyor belt. Your name came up on a screen so you could identify which bar was yours as it was being made.
You even got to design the packaging. Here’s mine!
Chocolate Tasting Adventure
I originally thought the chocolate tasting was going to be a chance to taste only exotic chocolates. It did include one artisan Scharffen Berger milk chocolate. However, most of the tasting samples were the classic Hershey chocolates. What made it interesting was that they taught us how to savor the chocolate, understand the differences with types of dark chocolate, and other interesting production facts of the chocolate we love. For example, the Hershey Bliss line of chocolates is made of 50% cacao and takes 10-20 days to make. An artisan chocoalte has a higher cacao percentage and can make up to 30 days to make. Aside from the learning, you got to eat and keep all of the samples!
Trolley Works Tour
I thought this was one of the most interesting parts of the day. We rode a trolley with a tour guide through Derry Township and got to pass by the real Hershey factory, Milton Hershey’s home/birthplace, and the Milton Hershey School. I wasn’t aware that Milton Hershey had established a private school for underprivileged children. Mr. and Mrs. Hershey could not have children and noticed that the orphanages all had a majority of boys. So they started their own school where several of the boys lived with them, attended school with Mrs. Hershey, and worked on the dairy farms. Girls were finally admitted in 1977. But today, the principles are still the same. Underprivileged children from all over live in beautiful homes with “host parents”. The Milton Hershey School consists of a separate elementary, middle, and high school. Even more amazing is that prior to his death, Milton Hershey signed over the majority of the stake of his company to the Milton Hershey school. Therefore, every candy bar you buy directly benefits the Milton Hershey school and students.
Me and the hubby on the trolley tour.
We even had the chance to step off the trolley and tour Founder’s Hall at the Milton Hershey School. Gorgeous!
Parent note: The trolley tour includes multiple passing of samples of different types of Hershey candies as they tell Hershey’s story…make sure there is room in your bags for this!
Although I thought we would only spend a few hours at Chocolate World, we ended up spending the majority of the day there. I think we got caught up buying souvenirs and chocolate confections from the large chocolate store! With the free samples, purchases, and more, we definitely had lots of chocolate to chomp on for weeks to come!