No visit to Pennsylvania would be truly complete without a visit to Hershey – the town that truly, at times, smells like chocolate. Wayfinding TravelingMom took her three kids to check out all of the unique attractions in the area. Check out her overview of must-see and exciting attractions for families in Hershey, Pennsylvania. You may want to have some chocolate on-hand.
Attractions for Families in Hershey, Pennsylvania
The name Hershey is synonymous with chocolate. I recently heard a story told by a US soldier serving in Europe during World War 2. Thanks to Hershey’s involvement providing ration bars to meet the needs of soldiers serving in the war, he said that children of all ages at that time seemed to know “Uncle Sam,” “GI Joe,” and “Hershey bar.” Today, the Hershey company is one of the leading providers of chocolate in the world; I’m pretty sure such a strong association still exists. No wonder then that thousands of visitors head each year to Hershey, Pennsylvania: “The Sweetest Place on Earth.”
Planning to visit the Hershey/Harrisburg region? Read on for 5 exciting attractions for families in Hershey Pennsylvania to add to your must-see list.
1. Hershey Gardens
Hershey Gardens began 80 years ago as Milton Hershey’s “nice garden of roses.” Today, it encompasses 23 acres of themed gardens, including an adorable and interactive Children’s Garden.
New last year, Hershey Gardens added the Tropical Butterfly Atrium, one of only 25 year-round tropical butterfly exhibits nationwide. Guests walk through the atrium surrounded by butterflies of a number of species and see dozens of chrysalises and cocoons in varying stages.
Fortunate enough to live near a similar attraction? This can probably be skipped on a busy trip. While not year-round, the annual Butterfly Show at the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati is a very similar experience. Other similar attractions included the butterfly houses at the National Zoo and the Tennessee Aquarium. The Hershey Gardens reminded me of the Krohn Conservatory, though a bit larger.
Can’t get enough of botanical gardens and butterflies? The Hershey Gardens exhibits are beautiful, well-kept, and fun.
2. Indian Echo Caverns
Indian Echo Caverns at Echo Dell are “living” caverns, which means they’re still growing and changing with time… albeit very slowly! Every day, 45-minute tours of the underground attraction are offered.
Our tour guide was very knowledgable about the caverns and told incredible stories. As a result, our whole tour group was highly entertained from start to finish, both by the beautiful rock formations and crystal clear lakes — and by the guide.
Hersheypark opened in 1906, as a place for Milton Hershey’s employees to spend time with their families boating and playing outside. Though still a place for families to enjoy together, it’s certainly changed quite a bit over the years.
Since then, Hersheypark has added 13 roller coasters, 15 water slides, 20 kiddie rides, and 23 family rides. It’s on par with other major amusement parks in the country.
What we enjoyed most about Hersheypark was the balance of nostalgia and cutting-edge thrills. We rode a couple of roller coasters unlike any we’ve experienced before (and we visit a lot of amusement parks!). I also introduced my kids to classics like Tilt-a-Whirl, The Whip, and kid-driven Antique Cars – all attractions long gone from our local parks. It’s definitely worth a visit if your family enjoys rides of any kind!
4. The Hershey Story
The Hershey Story: The Museum on Chocolate Avenue is almost two attractions in one. Enter on the first floor for a chocolate tasting experience (different from the one at Hershey’s Chocolate World), the hands-on Chocolate Lab, and a temporary, traveling exhibit.
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In “Chocolate Workers Wanted,” my kids donned aprons for on-the-job training in all the departments in a Hershey chocolate factory, an immersive, interactive, and educational experience. The “Special Exhibit Galleries” vary, but they are touted as interactive overviews of the chocolate-making process and/or Milton Hershey’s life and the history of the company. For us, it served as a great introduction to our museum visit.
The “Special Exhibit Galleries” vary, but they are touted as interactive overviews of the chocolate-making process and/or Milton Hershey’s life and the history of the company. For us, it served as a great introduction to our museum visit.
On the second floor, the main museum experience invites visitors to explore Hershey’s life in five phases, from early failures to the legacy he left with the company we know today. Old photographs and memorabilia, videos, interactive screens, and more make the museum an easy place to visit with families.
Take several hours and pour over the detailed and inspiring history of Milton Hershey and the Hershey company, Or experience an hour or two getting a glimpse of his legacy. Either option is very doable with the setup of each exhibit area.
5. Hershey’s Chocolate World
Chocolate World was hands-down our family’s favorite attraction in the Hershey area. With several unique experiences, there’s definitely something for all guests, regardless of itinerary or budget. Our first stop: the massive gift shop (the largest collection of chocolate and chocolate-themed gifts anywhere!), followed by the free Chocolate Tour ride-through experience.
We then viewed a 4D Chocolate Mystery movie. Moving chairs and other special effects matched the movie to put you right in the middle of the 3D action.
During the Create Your Own Candy Bar experience, we each designed a candy bar from start to finish, including the packaging. We watched as it was created before our eyes.
Finally, we sat in the Chocolate Tasting Experience and learned how to truly taste chocolate, not just eat it, and took an adorable and informative trolley ride around the town of Hershey.
If you find yourself in the Philadelphia area, any number of these attractions would be worth a short drive. Truly though, these attractions for families in Hershey, Pennsylvania should be on every family’s list of must-visit destinations. There really is something for everyone… and all the chocolate you could want!