When it come to Hershey, Pa, both visitors and locals are all about the sweet city. So, what is there to see, do, and eat when you’re in town. From historic hot spots to beautiful views to experiments in chocolate, here are the 12 sweetest things to do in Hershey, PA for families!
Disclosure: I was graciously hosted by the folks at Visit Hershey & Harrisburg! A huge thanks to them for the opportunity!
When I was a kid, I used to dream about visiting Hershey, PA. I mean, who doesn’t want to visit a city that’s all about chocolate? I imagined the entire city smelled like chocolate and that everybody walked around with a candy bar in their hand at all times.
Last month, my dream finally came true. And while those visions weren’t exactly true, I can differently understand why it’s called the “Sweetest Place on Earth”. Here are my top picks for your next visit.
1. Sweetest Things to Do in Hershey, PA: Hershey’s Chocolate World
I’m going to be honest, I really didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did at Hershey’s Chocolate World. But, as soon as I walked through those door, my thoughts completely changed. With several indoor attractions, Chocolate World has something for everyone- including all the Hershey brand chocolate you could ever want to buy.
The highlights of our trip included Hershey’s Chocolate Tour moving ride (think Haunted Mansion-style at Walt Disney World) explaining how Hershey’s chocolate is made, a 4-D Chocolate Movie, and Hershey’s Unwrapped – A Chocolate Tasting Journey.
But, the uber standout is the Create Your Own Chocolate Bar experience. While you don’t get to be fully hands on with its creation, you can specify ingredients, type of chocolate, and even create you wrapper design.
As for pricing, each attraction inside Hershey’s Chocolate World is a separate charge, but you can bundle them together to save some cash! However, you can save some money. A visit lasting three hours or less offers free parking!
2. Hershey Gardens
Hershey Gardens, opening in 1937 by Milton Hershey himself, was a place for him to create a “nice garden of roses.” Fast forward to present where it’s now 23 acres of themed botanical gardens, a Butterfly Atrium, and gift shop.
In my opinion, Hershey Gardens is the hidden gem of Hershey, PA. Not only is it a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle that can come with traveling to Hershey, but it’s ideal for photos. If you’re able, go when the rose garden is in full bloom. And when you go, make sure you look for the special M.S. Hershey rose, named after the chocolate creator himself.
3. Sweetest Things to Do in Hershey, PA: The Hershey Story Museum
As a gal that has eaten plenty of Hershey’s chocolate, I was a little disappointed in myself for not knowing the story behind it. But compliments of a recent visit to The Hershey Story Museum that all changed.
For visiting adults, the old-fashioned displays and information will be well worth the visit. But for kiddos who like hands on experiences there’s plenty to keep them entertained, too. Ask to sign up at the front desk for the Apprentice Program ($3 per child) that let kiddos really explore the history of Hershey chocolate, scavenger hunt-style.
4. Chocolate Lab
Located inside the Hershey Story Museum, it’s like test-driving Milton Hershey’s apprentice program, but definitely worth it. It’s here you’ll learn the science behind making chocolate and try your hand at chocolate creativity. An additional charge to your visit, the 45-minute experience gave us the scoop on chocolate making, but also let us decorate our creations.
Tip: Make sure schedule your time ticket early because it’s super popular and may sell out. Also, the Lab is for guests ages 5 and older.
5. Sweetest Things to Do in Hershey, PA: Hershey Park
If there was one Hershey, PA, bucket list item for me, it was Hershey Park. Think part classic theme park, part roller-coaster haven with a sweet theme. Truly, the park has something for everyone. New this year is Reese’s Cupfusion, a 3-D moving ride that’s super popular, so be prepared to spend some time in the standby queue.
Also worth mentioning is the Kiss Tower that takes you high in the sky and gives you a 360 degree view of the entire park.
But wait, there’s more! For families with younger kiddos there’s ZooAmerica (a quaint, smallish zoo) that is also included with park admission. It only takes an hour, or two, so if you have time, definitely take a look at the cute animals. And, on hot days, you’ll definitely want to hit the Water Park. Filled with water slides, a wave pool, and even a Waverider, it’s perfect for summer days.
6. Hershey Tanger Outlets
Located very close to Hershey Park, the Hershey Tanger Outlets are a great place to shop, especially when not looking for Hershey souvenirs. You’ll find everything from Disney Outlets to Kate Spade to Banana Republic.
Before you visit, check for premium outlet discounts online or at your hotel. Many times there’s flat discounts or percentages off to help save you more.
7. Stroll Around Downtown Hershey
It’s really hard to stress just how beautiful downtown Hershey is until you visit for yourself. It has an old town charm combined with updated restaurants and shops. But, my favorite part is the hundreds of Hershey Kisses street lights that illuminate the roads at night.
Tip: If you visit The Hershey Story Museum you can park in the adjacent lot or look for on-street parking.
Sweetest Things to Do in Hershey, PA: While You’re Visiting Hershey, PA
If you only visited the above attractions on your visit, you’d be good. But, there’s plenty more fun things to do both in and around Hershey, PA:
8. Indian Echo Caverns
Another fascination for me as a kid were underground caverns. I’ve visited them from Sand Antonio, Texas, to Corydon, Indiana, and have been happily blown away by their beauty. In Hummelstown (just outside of Hershey) are the Indian Echo Caverns and they’re perfect for kiddos of all ages.
In addition to the permanent, 52 degree temperature year-round, there’s also a small petting zoo, picnic area, and outdoor playground. The tour itself is 45-minutes long, but plan on spending a couple of hours to really enjoy all of the activities.
9. Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat Ride
Rolling on a river is very easy, especially when it’s in Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg. Pride of the Susquehanna is a true paddle-wheel riverboat, ad as long as the weather is accommodating, there are several 45-minute long summer cruises each day.
And, while no reservations are officially required, it’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure the cruises are a go.
10. The Bookstore of Bookstores
Right in the heart of Pennsylvania’s capital is the coolest bookstore I have ever visited, Midtown Scholar. At first, it might look like a regular, older bookshop, but start walking the isles and you realize it’s much more.
Several stories of both classic and new titles will make anyone happy. But, the real gem is downstairs where the antiques books reside. Love foreign books? You’ll be in old school books heaven. As a mom with a teenager fascinated by old books, I was hard-pressed to get her out of the shop. Trust me, I’m not complaining.
11. Broad Street Market
Right across the street from the Midtown Scholar Bookstore sits Broad Street Market. If you’ve ever been to Cleveland’s or Columbus’s local markets it has the same vibe and feel. You’ll find smaller food and drink vendors that create special dishes and a hip vibe.
While all of the food stands are popular, my top picks are Taquitos Atenco where giant plates of Mexican food are very affordable and Urban Churn, an ice cream stand with unique flavors and traditional styles, too.
12. Lake Tobias Wildlife Park & Safari Tour
The farthest from Hershey proper, Lake Tobias Wildlife Park is a really fun spot to visit, especially if you’re an animal lover. There are plenty of exotics including giraffes and Zebra, but there are the cute, cuddly ones, too.
The park is basically a walk-around, apart from the Safari Tour, which is an additional charge. Is it worth it? Oh, yeah. We boarded an open air bus and hit the dirt roads to hand feed some gentle giants (food is extra).
There’s an indoor reptile building that’s a must when you visit, particularly if you love sloths. I, myself, go bananas over them (check out my Laurel Highlands Sloth Encounter) so talking to the Two-Toed Sloth was heaven.