For many kids, a trip to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania is what sweet dreams are made of. But if your kid suffers from allergies, you may be wondering if a visit to Chocolate Town USA might be a nightmare instead. Our Solo Traveling Mom packed her dairy-free kid in the car and drove to Hershey to find out if it’s worth visiting Hershey Park with food allergies.
Hershey, Pennsylvania is a chocolate lover’s dream destination. Families can fill their days with visits to the Hershey Park amusement park, choice of lodging at two hotels or a camping resort, and a walk-through of the enormous Hershey’s Chocolate World store and museum. For kids who have severe allergies, there are some aspects of Hershey that work and some that don’t. Here’s what you need to know about staying at the resort and visiting the park with a kid whose allergies may compromise their experience.
Hershey Park with Food Allergies: What Works and Doesn’t at Hershey’s Hotels
First off, The Hotel Hershey and Hershey Lodge are all about the Hershey bar. What that means for kids with allergies is that if it’s a peanut allergy, they are good to go. The Hershey bar, according to Hershey, is made in a plant that does not process peanuts and is produced on a dedicated line that does not manufacture any tree nuts items.
If your kid’s allergy is to milk or soy, like my child’s is, you are in for some trouble. The staff hands out Hershey bars when you check in with no alternative. At check-in I asked for the first and not the last time, “Any chance you have any Twizzlers?” to find there was no substitution for kids with allergies.
One of the best parts of staying at the hotel and lodge is the Kids’ Check-In. Kids are invited to sign a kids’ guest book, meet some chocolate mascots, guess how many candies are in a jar, and you guessed it – receive a chocolate surprise. While I did understand that they might not keep an alternative at the front desk, I pondered how hard it would be to keep a bag of Halloween snack size Twizzlers on hand for kids that couldn’t eat chocolate. Charlie did enjoy getting her own personalized lanyard to take home and had some fun hugging chocolate treat mascots, even though she had never tried the candy they represented.
Customized Dining at Hotel Restaurants
Where you will have better luck is in the hotel restaurants. Here a chef will come to your table and design a safe and enjoyable meal for your child. I find Charlie’s soy allergy is really the issue when ordering in restaurants. The chef here really went out of her way, getting down on her knees to speak to Charlie face to face to find out what her favourite things were. She made a customized kids’ meal for Charlie that was safe and made her feel important. She also produced a complete list of ingredients of every item on the menu for me to review. At the end of the meal, expect more Hershey bars and don’t bother asking about the Twizzlers.
Hershey Park with Food Allergies: What Works and Doesn’t at Hershey Parks
Similarly to Disney, we found Hershey Park to be a leader in allergy-free eating. First and foremost, there is actually an allergy-friendly food stand called The Outpost. Menu items are gluten-free, nut-free, and fish and shellfish-free. The ingredients are listed on the menu meaning you don’t need to question what is in each item. Although it didn’t work for our allergies, it was very cool to see.
As for the other dining locations within the parks, we found the staff very well versed on what was in the food and how it was cooked. Complete ingredient lists were available at every dining location we visited. We also were able to bring an entire bag of food into the park ensuring that Charlie had plenty to eat. Hard sided coolers are not allowed.
As for what didn’t work for kids with allergies, we didn’t find much. The staff is very accommodating and there are enough alternatives offered for snacks, full meals and desserts. You’ll even find a mini Twizzler pack giveaway right outside of the park in Hershey’s Chocolate World!
Should You Visit Hershey Park with Food Allergies?
Absolutely. If your kid has a peanut allergy, Hershey Park is actually the perfect place to visit. With Hershey bars and peanut-free Hershey Kisses around every corner, they’ll love visiting. We were not exposed to peanuts at any point during the trip.
As for kids who can’t eat chocolate, dairy or soy, the answer is still yes. To keep your kid smiling, make sure to pick up a few small treats before you arrive that you can substitute for Hershey chocolate bars on your own. When you return home, their dreams will be filled with sweet memories of fun family rides, playful mascots, and plenty of excitement. If they are anything like my kid, they won’t dwell on missing out on a few chocolate bars.
Looking for more tips on traveling with kids with allergies? Check out this guide to keeping allergic kids safe on the road.