Our family stumbled across Hershey, PA quite by accident. I was scheduled to present at a conference in Washington, DC so my husband and I began looking for fun places to visit along the way. We like taking road trips so we looked at what was en route between Southern Ontario and Washington.

We seriously considered cancelling our trip due to the exchange rate between the Canadian and American dollar but decided to carry on, being mindful of how we could spend less while still having a great time. The travel website expedia.ca actually did a survey of its readers and found that many Canadians were feeling the same as us: they still wanted to travel, but were planning to stay closer to home.

Rather than doing a warm-weather vacation as we usually do, we decided to make this trip our annual winter get-away. There is only a 6% sales tax in PA—an awesome discovery to help with the exchange rate. The price of gas was about the same as in Canada so the bulk of our costs were accommodations, eating, and attractions.

To our surprise, we discovered that there was a whole town created in 1894 by the Hershey chocolate company founder! The smart man that he was, Milton Hershey knew that milk was one of the main ingredients of his chocolate so rather than building his factory in the big city, he put it in the middle of dairy country in Pennsylvania.

In the beginning, the majority of Hershey, PA’s population was working in the chocolate making business. Although The Hershey Company employs about four percent of today’s population, the town is certainly centered in its original chocolate roots. Many of the street lights here are in the shape of Hershey Kisses!

Here are the fun things we found in Hershey, PA:

The Hershey Story (Museum)

The Hershey Story is a fascinating museum, which walks through the story of Milton Hershey’s history, his discovery of the current chocolate making process, and the story of the town’s creation and evolution. I suggest doing a tour of this building first—you’ll have a better understanding of the other things you experience with this information in mind. There are interactive exhibits and opportunities for children to have fun in a chocolate making lab (there’s an extra charge for this).


Hersheypark is a theme park full of rides, adventures, and fun! We weren’t able to experience this place ourselves, as we visited Hershey in February, but we did drive past it several times. Our children are eager to come back to try it out—we’ll see how their bravery stands up when they’re actually sitting in the roller coaster seats!

Here’s a picture of the park map, which you can also view by clicking here:

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Hershey’s Chocolate World

The Hershey Chocolate Company used to do tours of the chocolate making factory, but had the good problem of facing too many visitors each year. To solve this dilemma, they opened an off-site attraction where you can learn about how the chocolate is made. Chocolate World is a huge building, which houses a 4D theatre, eating area, gift shop, and the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour. Please note that the tour is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in May, 2016. Instead of the tour, visitors are being given free tickets to see a 3D movie about the chocolate making process.

One of our favourite parts of Chocolate World, and actually our whole trip, was the Hershey Trolley Works (extra fee required). You can catch a trolley there, which provides a guided tour of the area. You see where the Hershey factories are, where the founders of Hershey first built their houses, and other important landmarks in the area. The part of the tour, which completely blew my mind, was the visit inside the Milton Hershey School Founder’s building. I tried to take a picture of the massive dome (the second largest free-standing dome in the world) but couldn’t do it in one shot. Seeing this building and hearing the School story is incredible!

Oh, there is free chocolate being handed out everywhere you turn in this place!

The Hotel Hershey

We chose to stay at The Hotel Hershey to get the full Hershey experience. Milton Hershey founded this hotel with the help of his wife, Catherine in 1933. The Hersheys were world travellers, and asked the architect/ chief engineer to create a hotel based on a postcard they had from a hotel they adored in the Mediterranean. The hotel certainly has a worldly feel.

As we were at the hotel in February, we weren’t able to play in the phenomenal outside pool area (with infinity edge adult pool and whirlpool, family pool with zero-grade entry, and two large water-slides, and a kid’s spray deck), however; we did spend a great deal of time in the inside pool area. They crank the heat in there so I relaxed on a lounger to watch my kids go back and forth between the spray pad and pool. There is a lifeguard on duty!

Here’s a picture of the outside pool taken from their website (We have promised to take our guys back here in the summer!):


And one of my guys in the spray pad:


As this hotel is part of The Hershey Company, you get full-sized chocolate bars at check-in and tickets for each of your family members to the Hershey Story museum ($10 per person value).

The stunning Hershey Gardens are across from the hotel. I encourage you to peruse their site to see how it looks in the summertime.

Also, there is an outlet mall at the bottom of the hill from the hotel! We were hesitant to shop there because of the dollar, but many times the prices were still so low the exchange rate made the prices well under what we’d pay for similar things in Canada.

There are other attractions in the Hershey, PA area like a zoo, concerts, and golfing, which you can look through from their official website.

Getting There

Hershey is 640 km from downtown Toronto, via some interstate highways and smaller one-way roads. With bathroom breaks and a lunch stop, it took us nine hours to get from our house in London, ON (700 km) to the hotel. We crossed the Canada/ US border at the Peace Bridge by Buffalo on a Monday morning. As expected, even though we have NEXUS cards, there weren’t any lineups there.

Notable Breakfast Place: The Hershey Pantry

We stumbled upon a restaurant where we had a memorable breakfast. The food was amazing, and the thing I found very cool was that they handed each of our children an Etch-A-Sketch when we sat down! I’m not surprised visitors have voted this place as PA’s best breakfast place.

Washington, DC is a short drive away

Our stop in Hershey was on the way to Washington, DC, and Chantilly, VA, a short two-and-a-half hour drive away. If you do happen to go to Hershey, consider taking a couple of days down in the VA, DC area because the Space Shuttle Discovery is in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Chantilly, and the other Smithsonians in Washington are absolutely mind-blowing. All the Smithsonian museums ARE FREE!

This trip was a cost-friendly Disney alternative.

I did receive a reduced rate at The Hotel Hershey: all opinions are my own. Feature image taken from www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld/