Hershey, Pennsylvania is located about 95 miles west of Philadelphia on I-76. Hershey may be best known for Hershey Park, but this town has family-friendly things to do reaching well beyond rollercoasters and midways.
My family road tripped out to Pennsylvania last month when the colors were vibrant and the air was crisp. I’m not sure there is a better time to go. Cars, caves and chocolate, lots of chocolate, are three of the things we enjoyed and while we spent three full days in the region we could have easily extended our stay another two days.If you can, plan at least a long weekend here because there is so much to see and do.
Cars. Antique Automobile Club of America Museum (AACA) is located right down the street, within walking distance, of the lovely and new(!) hotel we stayed at, Hampton Inn & Suites Hershey Near the Park. When we saw the front of the building we knew we were in for a good time. The Hershey Kissmobile parade float was sitting on the lawn.
I should have known this would be an impressive stop, AACA is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Inside, we fought the urge to hop behind the wheels of the many, many vintage automobiles. Beside drooling over the antique cars, the busses, motorcycles and mopeds, and interactive exhibits, like the model train display, kept our kids engaged for quite a while. There is even a play area with tables and lots of toys. Automobiles range from the 1890s through the 1980s. We visited the same week as Back to the Future Day and guess what! There was a Back to the Future tribute car built out of an original 1982 DeLorean (the one in the movie was created from a 1981). Some of my other favorites included:
The Forrest Gump Bus
The 1948 Tucker
Whitney Houston 1986 Rolls Royce
These pictures don’t serve the museum justice. There are three floors each filled with fascinating histories. AACA Rates: Adults: $14, Seniors: $11, Kids: $9, Under age 3: Free.
Caves. Indian Echo Caverns and Estate technically isn’t in Hershey, it’s in the nearby town of Hummelstown, only minutes away. Expect to take a hike down over 70 stairs to start the 45-minute tour of these historic and natural wonders (yes, you will climb the stairs back up at the end). During the tours you will learn about and see stalactites, stalagmites, columns and expect to feel drops of water falling from above. Trained guides share fascinating histories, folklore and point out interesting details that would otherwise be missed on your own. For example, you will learn about the William Wilson, the Pennsylvania Hermit, who lived in the caverns in the 1800’s.
Indian Echo Caverns Rates: Adults/children 12+ $16, Seniors (62+) $14, Kids 2-11 $10, under 2 free.
Chocolate. Hershey is known as the Sweetest Place on Earth and let me tell you, there is so much to do, see, and taste. I’ve already written a post about Things to Do at Chocolate World, a great place to start your chocolate adventure, but another worthy stop is The Hershey Story, The Museum on Chocolate Avenue. Plan to carve out several hours here because the displays are brimming with information and history. Plus, there are many hands-on activities to partake in. For example, on the first floor visitors can “be an apprentice”, learn all about the original Hershey factory, and the hard labor it took to produce the delicious treats. For example, every bar was hand-weighed and hand-wrapped! I won’t spoil the rest but I will say the experience if fun and educational.
The second floor experience allows visitors to follow along as Milton Hershey grows up, creates and company and a town. It is often called a rags to riches story and as you follow the trail of history and interactive exhibits (my favorite being the old-fashioned Hershey Kisses wrapping) you will likely agree.
The Chocolate Lab ($10) is something the entire family can partake in (unless you have a little one – age restrictions do apply). It’s a class to learn about the history of chocolate, tempering, molding, dipping, making chocolate from scratch and candy designing. Get ready to don the hairnets and have fun with chocolate. The Chocolate Lab is located on the first floor right next to the onsite Cafe Zooka, a nice place to grab lunch, a cup of coffee or have a treat at the S’mores Station.
Our final experience is a must-do for anyone who appreciates chocolate: Warm Drinking Chocolate Flights come from all corners of the world. Hershey, Venezuela, Ghana, Tanzania and the Dominican made an appearance at our tasting. Much like wine tasting, the goal is to search for the unique notes in each sip. Cost: Flight of 6 – $10; flight of 3 – $6.
Museum admission: Adults $10, Seniors $9, Kids 3-13 $7.50, under 3 free.
As you can see, there is a plenty to keep the family entertained during a long weekend in the Hershey area and we haven’t even talked about the state capital of Harrisburg yet. Stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, be sure to browse the Visit Hershey Harrisburg tourism site for more on the region.
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