Moments after arriving at our house for the start of her weeklong vacation, my five-year-old niece Phoebe was focused on just one task: planning her ultimate day trip. “You know,” she said, almost conspiratorially as she gazed at a stack of coloring books I had laid out on the guest bed, “you don’t live very far from Chocolate World.” With her heart set on a full day eating her way through Hershey, Pennsylvania, we were set on making her dream come true. One Saturday morning, Adam, my parents, and I joined our wildly excited Phoebe for a road trip to Chocolate World. Hoping for an experience that would delight a rising kindergartener and entertain four adults at the same time, we found exactly that: a diverse collection of activities and options that exceeded all of our expectations.
There’s a lot to love about Chocolate World, and that’s why we have teamed up with a couple of vacation (and chocolate) experts—my dad and Phoebe herself—to share some perspectives on what a day at Hershey’s Chocolate World can offer to you and your family.
Whether you are interested in learning about the history of the Hershey family and the chocolate production process or you just want a fun way to entertain the kids, Chocolate World is a terrific choice.
Hershey’s Chocolate World: A Grown-Up Perspective
GUEST AUTHOR: Craig Mathias
What to do at Hershey’s Chocolate World
There are six key elements to the Chocolate World experience. One of these, the Make Your Own Candy Bar activity, wasn’t working the day we visited, so we missed that. Another, the Hershey Chocolate Tour, which I’m told shows the manufacturing process and ends with a free sample, had too long of a line, so we skipped that (although, as an engineer, such would have been more than interesting to me, and not just because engineers love chocolate). And a third, the inevitable Gift Shop, well – proceed at your own peril, although the five bags for $20 seemed like a really, really good deal.
The other three activities all come with fees (and free samples as well); check the Web site above for the latest. Because the Make Your Own Candy Bar element was down, as noted above, we ended up paying about $20 each for all three of the following, which I think is a really good deal. Anyway, here we go, and I’m leaving out any spoilers so as not to ruin the fun:
► The 4D Chocolate Movie
This is pure kid stuff, centered on a small-scale mystery, and based on a 3D-glasses movie (the 4D stuff is there, but, again, no spoilers). Very good 3D – take it from me, I’m an engineer. If you’re not here with kids, though, you can skip this one. And, yes, it’s a bit of a commercial for Hershey products, but not oppressively so.
► Chocolate Tasting ExperienceThis is a classroom setting where a live instructor will tell you more about chocolate than you’ve likely heard before and explain how to really taste and enjoy one of the greatest creations ever. There’s a little history and, yes, you get to taste and really experience five different chocolates, including the unsweetened nibs at the core of the final product (which I personally enjoyed). Lots of fun for everyone irrespective of age.
► Trolley Works
This is a tour around Hershey on an old-timey-themed trolley car and features live-action narration by actors in old-timey garb that goes way, way beyond the usual “now, on your right, you can see the very spot where Milton Hershey perfected his recipe, blah, blah, blah.” Yes, you will see that vey spot, but the overall show is first rate and fun for everyone except total introverts who will probably still enjoy most of it – yes, there is some audience participation. Lots of history and fun for about 45 minutes.
Hershey is one of those truly legendary and iconic companies that define Great American Success Stories. While there’s a good deal of history available as part of the above, I highly recommend the book The Emperors of Chocolate if you want to dig deeper. And, a personal note: The Hershey Bar with Almonds is my all-time personal favorite for anything chocolate. Mr. Hershey himself failed at business four times before hitting on the recipe that built the modern-day firm, and there are now many recipes, including this one. My strategy: break the bar into pieces. Crunch the ones with the almonds, and let the others slowly melt on your tongue. If aliens ever do arrive on Earth, this would be the first and quintessential experience I’d recommend to them. At least they’d leave the planet happy – or perhaps return to conquer us just for the Hershey’s.
And, by the way, to return to my now-non-rhetorical “where else?” above, you can also find Hershey Chocolate World experiences in Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, New York City (Times Square), and Singapore, but be advised that these are essentially retail outlets and not really adventure destinations unless your idea of adventure is seeing just how high you can get your blood sugar without proceeding to a genuine medical crisis. For the record, both I and the staff and management of Road Unraveled enjoy a good adventure but advise against such unnecessarily risky behavior.
Anyway, and bottom line, my key point here is simple: Hershey’s Chocolate World exists for children, perhaps as a bit more than a mere nod to Kitty and Milton Hershey’s deep and sincere love for the little ones. But most adults will, I think, find a good deal of value here – I personally dislike theme parks, but I had a great time with only part of said great time spent watching my granddaughter have a great time. Bottom line: go. And, as noted above, be careful in the gift shop.
Hershey’s Chocolate World: A Kid’s Perspective
Hershey’s Chocolate World is great for adults, but how does it measure up to a child’s expectations? On our way home from Chocolate World, I asked Phoebe what she thought of her day. She was thoughtful for a moment, gazing out the window at the cars passing by, before telling me, “It was good. I really want to live at Chocolate World.”
“What was your favorite part?” I asked her. “Watching the 4D movie!” she said without hesitation. “And also the gift shop—it had everything. And the trolley ride! I liked all the funny songs.” I asked her if she would like to go back to Chocolate World. Again, after a brief pause where she considered the question, she shook her head. “No, I’m tired,” she told me. “But I would go back next year. And I want to bring all of my friends.”
To truly test the impact our day trip had on Phoebe, a few weeks after our visit I called her to see what—if anything—she remembered about our visit to Chocolate World. Her favorite part is still the 4D movie—in fact, she took great pride in detailing the storyline and how the characters in the movie thanked some audience members by name (including her!) for their help solving the mystery. “Do you have any other favorite memories?” I asked her. “I liked learning about how to taste chocolate,” she told me. “I learned chocolate comes from fruit pods. And I learned you should smell the chocolate and break it in half to listen to it. And then you taste a small bite. I like dark chocolate the best.” This gave all of us pause—my mom, my sister (Phoebe’s mom), Adam, and me—because learning about the chocolate production and tasting process was, perhaps, the least glamorous part of the day for the children in attendance. The fact she remembered what she learned in such detail after an otherwise busy day—including a 30 minutes mystery-solving movie experience and an hour-long trolley ride—and retained that information weeks later proved Chocolate World is so much more than entertainment. Kids will really learn something about their favorite treat as well.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Phoebe if Chocolate World is a good activity for kids. “Yes!” she said—no hesitation there. “Do you think your friends would have fun if they went to Chocolate World?” I asked her. “Oh, yes!” she told me. “I already told all my friends about Chocolate World, and I invited them to your house so we can go together next summer!” I didn’t ask just how many kids to expect next year—knowing Phoebe her whole class will be asking their parents if they can visit “Anie and Uncle Adam” for vacation—but that was all I needed to know: Chocolate World is a winning activity.
Plan Your Visit to Chocolate World: a Few Tips
► Buy tickets online
Chocolate World is a popular destination, especially on weekends in the summer, and most activities require a reservation. Buy your tickets online so you can be sure you don’t miss the activities you want to experience. Buying tickets onsite is a good option as well, but you will run the risk that the activities you want will be sold out or you will have to wait a while—even hours—for the next available entrance.
► (Some) parking is included
Chocolate World offers up to three hours of free parking, which means you may not need to budget for parking depending on how long you stay. Our visit took us right to the three-hour mark, but we didn’t stay for lunch, the make your own candy bar experience (which wasn’t offered that day), or the chocolate tour (which is free but had a lengthy wait—not ideal for a five-year-old). If your visit is longer than three hours, parking rates start at $15 and go up from there.
► You won’t have to walk far
Chocolate World is surprisingly compact, and it’s a short walk from the entrance to every activity. The movie, trolley, and chocolate tasting provide seating, and kids won’t tire as you shuttle them from place to place—and with the abundance of free chocolate samples, you might wish they could burn off a little more energy!
► There’s something for kids of all ages
With several great activities, you’ll be able to find something to match your children’s interests and attention span. Where the movie is clearly meant for the younger crowd, I was amazed at how focused Phoebe was during the chocolate tasting geared for an older crowd. The whole family enjoyed the trolley ride, which featured some talented performers who brought the Hershey story to life for all of us. When it comes to activities, you can’t go wrong with any combination you choose for your family.
Hotels near Hershey’s Cholocate World
Ready to find a hotel for your trip? Hershey is just 15 minutes from Harrisburg (the capital city of Pennsylvania) so you’ll find plenty of options. Here are a few deals to consider.
Visit Hershey’s Chocolate World!
Hershey’s Chocolate World is a fun, educational, and memorable experience for kids—and grown-ups who don’t mind feeling like kids again. Milton Hershey’s life and legacy reminded us a little of a real-life Willy Wonka story, and the stories we heard shared how much passion goes into the making of one of the world’s favorite candy brands.
Are you planning to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World with your family? Leave a comment at the bottom of this page and let us know if Hershey Park or Chocolate World is part of your family’s vacation plans—and let us know what tips you have to share about making the most of your visit!
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* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. This post includes our candid review of our experience at Hershey’s Chocolate World. We selected this trip based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review. Learn more about our travel philosophy here.