Are you a fan of chocolate? How about charming small cities? Perhaps you enjoy stories about entrepreneurs who overcame adversity and left an almost unparalleled philanthropic legacy? If any of that appeals to you, then Hershey, Pennsylvania should absolutely be on your travel list. There are lots of great things to do in Hershey, PA for young and old, and it makes an excellent weekend getaway!
In late summer, with the COVID-19 pandemic at a point where we felt comfortable getting away for the weekend, M and I decided to take a short trip to Hershey. After doing some research, we felt confident that we could enjoy ourselves responsibly, and we were excited to check out a bed and breakfast that had come highly recommended by friends of ours who had visited a couple of years earlier. The best part, however, was that my parents were willing to meet us in Hershey to pick up E for a couple of days of grandparent time, leaving M and me blissfully kid-free.
While I was certainly looking forward to a change of scenery after more than five months stuck at home, I will admit that Hershey wasn’t an overly exciting destination at first. Growing up in central Pennsylvania, I had been to Hershey more times than I can count. I’d visited the amusement park, seen concerts and state wrestling championships at the Giant Center, toured Chocolate World, and indulged in a treatment at the Hershey Spa. I’d made many visits to my grandmother at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center at the end of her life, and two of my best friends from college had gotten married right in town. In short, Hershey didn’t feel like anything new.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, though, it’s that you can always find something fun and novel if you look hard enough. That was certainly the case for us! M and I had a great weekend taking it easy in the “Sweetest Place on Earth” and found lots of things to do in Hershey that were new to us. Plus, because we’d already hit most of the major attractions on previous visits, we didn’t feel a need to rush around or check anything off our lists. We could simply enjoy spending quality, kid-free time together.
Below is a recap of our time in Hershey, along with other suggested things to do and lots of tips for planning your own trip!
This Article at a Glance
Day 1: Hershey’s Chocolate World and Our Sweet Bed and Breakfast
Day 2: The Hershey Story Museum, Massages, and Date Night
Day 3: The Hershey Hotel and Saying Goodbye
Other Things to Do in Hershey, PA
Other Places to Eat in Hershey
Other Places to Stay in Hershey
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Day 1: Hershey’s Chocolate World, Antiquing, and Our Sweet Bed and Breakfast
Our weekend getaway in Hershey started at Hershey’s Chocolate World, which just so happens to be one of my favorite spots in town. I’ve been going to Chocolate World since I was a little kid, and even now it never fails to put a smile on my face. (One of my hidden talents: my sister and I can still sing the chocolate tour ride jingle from the mid-90’s word-for-word.) I couldn’t wait to share it with E.
My parents met us in the parking lot for our timed entrance to Chocolate World, and soon we were headed inside. Chocolate World is a feast for all the senses, from the smell of chocolate in the air to the explosion of bright colors in the gift shop and attractions. There’s a lot to do, including creating your own candy bar, a 4D movie, a theatrical chocolate tasting experience, and more. A big part of the space is devoted to the gift and candy shop, where you can find all sorts of fun gifts and souvenirs featuring your favorite Hershey’s brands and characters.
Our group, however, headed straight for the chocolate tour. This ride has been around for ages and is one of the best things to do at Chocolate World. Over the course of 10-15 minutes, you’re taken on a simulated factory tour that shows you how Hershey’s turns raw ingredients into their world-famous confections. Despite regular makeovers to keep up with the times, it’s still a lot of fun and great for kids. The best part comes after the ride, when you get a free piece of candy for your trouble.
To be honest, I think E was a little overstimulated on the ride – there are a lot of bright colors, music, and movement – but afterward he wanted to get right back on. Luckily, we could distract him with some bites of his complimentary fun-sized Hershey bar.
After the ride, we did a little browsing through the gift shop and candy store. We didn’t need anything (who does, really?) but it’s always fun to look and see what’s on offer. Thankfully E was still too small to be asking to buy everything in sight, though I know that day will come!
I had planned for us to just grab a quick lunch at the little food court area at Chocolate World, but most of the sections were out of service due to COVID. Instead, the five of us headed down the road to Lisa’s Cafe, a small family restaurant in the next-door town of Palmyra. The food was good and the service was very friendly, making it the perfect refueling stop. It probably also saved me from eating three or more desserts at Chocolate World.
After lunch, it was time to say goodbye to E and send him off on his grandparent adventure. M and I still had a little time to kill before we could check into our bed and breakfast, so we ended up just taking a drive around town. That drive took us to a big antique mall, which was perfect for passing the time.
M and I aren’t huge antiquers (is that the proper term?), but we do enjoy taking a browse now and then to see what sort of unique and interesting things people have for sale. In that regard, Crossroads Antique Mall did not disappoint. I have mostly visited antique shops at the beach with my mom, so it was intriguing to see the differences in what sort of old-timey stuff people collect and value in central PA versus Delaware.
Soon, however, we were on our way to check into the beautiful Inn at Westwynd Farm, a bed and breakfast just outside of Hershey. Situated on a picturesque horse farm, the Inn is ten minutes from Chocolate Avenue (Hershey’s main street) but feels peacefully removed and secluded.
The Inn is fairly large by B&B standards (there are twelve guest rooms and multiple common spaces), but it still manages to feel intimate and cozy. There are plenty of complimentary snacks and beverages available at all times, including a table laden with home-baked goodies in COVID-friendly individual packaging. These, along with the Hershey products set out in our room, definitely were a home run in this pregnant lady’s heart.
Speaking of our room, it was so big and comfortable! We had plenty of space and there were lots of warm touches throughout. Bed and breakfasts can sometimes go a little overboard on the Victorian decor for my taste (I’m looking at you, dusty Dubuque B&B), but this one was perfect.
There was even an awesome jetted tub to help us soak away our parental and pandemic stresses!
And, of course, the aforementioned complimentary Hershey goodies. Also good for stress relief. It’s science.
After settling into our room, we took a short wander around to acquaint ourselves with the Inn and farm. The place really is beautiful, and I’m sure we would have spent a lot more time walking around outside had it not been drizzly and cool. Instead, we took advantage of the gloomy day to enjoy that most blissful of activities for kid-free parents: a couple of hours of quiet relaxation and a nap. We grabbed our books and two cups of hot tea for some reading on the wraparound porch before retiring to the big comfy bed to catch up on some rest.
It. Was. Glorious.
The rest of our first evening in Hershey was similarly low-key. We ate a late but delicious dinner at the Chocolate Avenue Grill, formulated a loose plan for the next day, and called it an early night.
Tips for Visiting Hershey’s Chocolate World
- Chocolate World is free to enter, and there is no cost to take the Chocolate Tour. While in non-COVID times the line to take the tour ride can seem daunting, it moves quickly because the ride is in continuous motion. Use caution when walking across the moving floor to and from your little vehicle, and don’t forget to grab your sweet treat at the end!
- As of the time of writing, free timed tickets are required to enter Hershey’s Chocolate World to control crowd size.
- The gift shop is actually really nice and often has products on sale you can’t find anywhere else. For example, my mom always grabs tins of their hot chocolate mix because it’s the only place she’s ever seen it.
- Similarly, when fully operational the food court area has a nice variety of offerings that make for a good lunch stop… Plus, you’re in the perfect place to indulge in a little dessert!
Day 2: The Hershey Story Museum, a Massage, and a Kid-Free Date Night
As is the case at any good bed and breakfast, our day started out splendidly with an excellent morning meal in a cute dining area. Our hosts served up a delicious multi-course, socially-distanced feast that provided the perfect fuel for our day.
After taking our time over breakfast, M’s and my first stop was The Hershey Story, a museum on Chocolate Avenue dedicated to the history of the Hershey Company, the town, and its eponymous founder. It seemed like the perfect indoor activity for another gloomy day, and visiting the museum was also one of those top things to do in Hershey that I had never actually gotten around to doing.
Additionally, I will admit to having something of a fascination with Milton Hershey. This is largely due to my father, who has long admired Hershey’s entrepreneurial spirit, business acumen, and, most importantly, his philanthropic legacy. (We have joked for years that old Milt is Dad’s man-crush.)
Parental influences aside, Hershey’s rags-to-riches story really is inspiring. He endured multiple failures, bankruptcies, and setbacks on the way to creating what would become a chocolate empire. In the process, he founded the town that bears his name and sought to make it a worker’s utopia complete with recreation areas (now Hersheypark) and multiple philanthropic endeavors. He used his own fortune to keep the company and its employees afloat through the Great Depression and left behind an enduring legacy in the form of a school that has positively impacted the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children.
If you’re a fan of biographies, chocolate, 20th century industrial tycoons, or just a good story of business done well, I highly recommend you check out this book about the life of Milton S. Hershey. Alternatively, you can visit The Hershey Story on Chocolate Avenue.
Visiting The Hershey Story was like walking through the biography I linked above come to life. Both M and I found it to be really interesting and inspiring, like a love letter from the town to its founder. In addition to the story of Milton himself, we also learned a lot about the chocolate making process, the town of Hershey up to the current era, and other local history. I definitely recommend the museum to any visitor looking to gain a deeper appreciation for the town or chocolate company.
By the time we finished at the museum, we were ready for a little bite to eat. Luckily, during the previous day’s restaurant search, we had come across a crêperie called Au Bon Lieu. It was perfect for the light meal we needed to get us from our hearty breakfast to our date night dinner. It also helped that it was within easy walking distance from the museum.
Since the name of the weekend’s game was relaxation, M and I had each booked an hour-and-a-half-long massage at Releaf Massage Therapy just up the road. (The ability to pamper ourselves in this way was actually one of the main reasons we chose Hershey as our getaway destination rather than a cabin in the Pocono Mountains.) After polishing off our crepes, it was time for M to head to his appointment. I, on the other hand, returned to the Inn to enjoy some peaceful alone time.
Another reason to love the Inn at Westwynd Farm was how they managed to provide excellent hospitality while maintaining a safe distance due to the pandemic. When I arrived back to our room, I found a basket of goodies that contained everything we might need for the rest of our stay. There were fresh towels, more paper supplies and bath products, and – of course – some more candy, along with a kind note from our innkeepers.
M and I tend to forego housekeeping services during shorter hotel stays, so I would love it if other places would implement a similar practice even post-pandemic! The ability to get the things you need without having anyone enter your room while you’re away would be absolutely ideal.
Later that evening, we headed back into town of a delicious date night at Devon Seafood + Steak. It had come highly recommended to us by our innkeepers, and we even got a free appetizer (a panko breaded sweet chili cauliflower dish that was to die for) for being guests at Westwynd Farm. Everything was fresh and delicious, and the ambiance was warm and romantic. It was the perfect way to end our last night of kid-free Hershey bliss!
Tips for The Hershey Story and Other Things to Do in Hershey, PA
- At the time of writing (with COVID in view), it’s recommended that you purchase tickets online in advance for contactless entry. Adult admission is $13.50, and discounts for seniors, kids 12 and under, and teachers are available. Active military personnel and guests at the Hershey Hotel and Hershey Lodge (below) are free.
- There’s a lot more to do at The Hershey Story than just tour the museum exhibits. Families will enjoy the kid-centric activities available, as well as the Chocolate Lab where you can take a 45-minute class on chocolate and create your own confection. My biggest regret is that we didn’t do a hot chocolate tasting! There’s also a nice gift shop and cafe if you need some refreshment.
- While our day was pretty relaxed, there are lots of other fun things to do in Hershey, PA! Check out the list below to round out your trip.
- Reservations are highly recommended for Devon Seafood + Steak, especially during the pandemic when seating numbers are restricted.
Day 3: The Hotel Hershey and Saying Goodbye
Our final morning in Hershey started with another scrumptious breakfast prepared by our innkeepers. It only got better from there, for me at least, as it was now my turn for a massage. The only downside was having to say goodbye to the Inn at Westwynd Farm, but I made sure to take some sweets from the hospitality table to remember them by.
After my massage, M and I had a little bit of time to spare before we met up with my parents to retrieve E. We ate lunch at a diner called The Filling Station, searched around a bit for a Christmas ornament souvenir, and eventually ended up exploring the grounds at the Hotel Hershey. While the main appeal of the hotel is its fabulous spa (more on that below) or splurging on a luxurious night as a guest, it’s also just a beautiful place for a wander. The interior is gorgeous and the outdoor gardens are lovely even on a gloomy day like we had.
The Hotel Hershey was built by – surprise! – Milton S. Hershey as a means to provide employment for the town’s construction workers during the throes of the Great Depression. The building was modeled after the grand hotels of Europe that Hershey had seen on his travels, and the resemblance is obvious. If you’re visiting the Hotel Hershey, don’t miss the Fountain Lobby. It feels like you’ve just been transported to a Mediterranean courtyard from the 1930’s.
At last, our kid-free weekend in Hershey had come to an end. We met my parents to collect E, who had spent the past two days in a whirlwind of tractor rides, grandmother snuggles, wildlife park visits, helping his grandfather with farm “chores,” and probably a few too many desserts (says the pot about the kettle).
All five of us had had a great weekend, and my time in Hershey really realigned my perspective around places that I may have otherwise written off as old hat. Even though I had visited Hershey dozens of times, M and I still found fun and new things to do. We enjoyed our visit and would absolutely go back if given the opportunity, which looks highly likely given the close proximity and abundance of fun family activities.
Other Things to Do in Hershey, PA
Because I had visited Hershey so many times, M and I didn’t feel the need to rush around trying to do everything available there during our short weekend visit. That said, there are plenty of things to do in Hershey to occupy your time if you’ve never been! Here are some of my favorites:
Originally built as a recreation area for company employees, Hersheypark is now a world-class amusement park and one of the most popular things to do in Hershey. There are dozens of rides for all ages, a water park, and excellent holiday-themed attractions, especially at Halloween and Christmas. And the best part? Proceeds from Hersheypark benefit the Milton Hershey School, a private boarding school that provides disadvantaged children with an excellent education and up to $95,000 in college and career scholarships.
The Spa at the Hotel Hershey
For a truly indulgent experience, book a treatment or two at the Spa at the Hotel Hershey. This is not a place where you pop in, get a massage, and leave. This is a destination where you can spend hours relaxing and luxuriating until all your stresses melt away into a chocolate-scented puddle. From the moment you put on your robe and slippers, relaxation is the name of the game. It should also come as no surprise that there are lots of chocolate-themed options. If you’ve ever dreamed of bathing in chocolate, now is your chance!
Note: Personally, I wouldn’t recommend prioritizing the spa until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and the services are back to normal. At the time of writing, a lot of the great perks of the spa are currently unavailable: for example, the Oasis lounge and restaurant are closed, complimentary personal care amenities have been removed from locker rooms, many services are suspended (such as facials), and refreshments are only available upon request. You will enjoy your experience more – and get more for the money you’re spending on a treatment – if you go when restrictions lift.
ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park
Another great activity for small children, ZooAmerica is a small wildlife park that exclusively features animals from North America. Admission is included in your Hersheypark ticket, so there’s no additional cost if you’re already visiting the park.
Tanger Outlets Hershey
Whether you’re a shopping addict or just need to pick up something you forgot to pack, the Tanger Outlets in Hershey are a great choice. Located just down the road from Hersheypark, there are dozens of stores with a few restaurants sprinkled throughout the property.
Another great outdoor activity in Hershey is Hershey Gardens. Situated on twenty-three acres and featuring the lovely Milton and Catherine Hershey Conservatory, the gardens are a worthwhile destination for horticultural enthusiasts, families, and people who just like strolling outdoors looking at beautiful scenery.
The Giant Center
If you’re looking for some live entertainment during your visit, make sure to check out the Giant Center. This is one of the biggest concert spaces in central Pennsylvania and hosts a wide range of musical acts and other events. The Giant Center is also the home of the Hershey Bears, an American Hockey League team.
The Hershey Theatre
Another great option for live entertainment is the Hershey Theatre. This beautiful 1930’s performing arts center features touring Broadway shows, comedic acts, musicians, and lots of other artistic and cultural events. My mom, sister, sister-in-law, and I saw Something Rotten! here a few years ago and had a great experience.
Day Trip to Lancaster
A little more than a half-hour southeast of Hershey is charming Lancaster, which has a lot to offer. Lancaster is perhaps most famous for its thriving Amish and Mennonite communities and their world-renowned handicrafts and baked goods. Here, you can visit a working farm, shop for expertly crafted furniture and quilts, stuff yourself with Pennsylvania Dutch foods, and even take a buggy ride. Beyond the Amish attractions, Lancaster is also home to a great little amusement park perfect for small children, outlet shopping, lots of live entertainment, and a trendy downtown area full of fun boutiques and great restaurants. (Pro tip: Make sure to pronounce it “LANG-kiss-ter” instead of “Lann-cass-ter” to sound like a local.)
Other Places to Eat in Hershey
- Tröegs Independent Brewing. A great microbrewery and local favorite. The menu isn’t huge, but I’ve never been disappointed! Try the Hopback Amber and/or Perpetual IPA, my personal go-to’s.
- The Hershey Pantry. Tasty breakfast and lunch joint just up the street from downtown Hershey.
- The Mill in Hershey. Scratch kitchen featuring locally-sourced ingredients in a restored mill. We didn’t get to eat here, but it came highly recommended by our innkeepers. If you’re looking for good food and a great atmosphere, this is it.
- Rising Sun Kitchen and Bar. Tasty and reliable spot just down the road from downtown Hershey.
- Duke’s Bar & Grille. Large menu of pub food. Try the crab dip!
- Iron Hill Brewery. This small chain started in Newark, Delaware (our college town), and has since spread into Pennsylvania and beyond. It features tasty brews crafted on-site and an always-reliable menu with a wide variety of good eats.
Other Places to Stay in Hershey
While I can’t recommend the Inn at Westwynd Farm highly enough, there are lots of other places to stay in Hershey if the Inn is full or you prefer something else. Here are some recommendations:
- The Hotel Hershey. If you want to splurge, the Hotel Hershey is your best choice. This large, award-winning, five-star hotel has tons of amenities, and you won’t even have to leave the building to access the best spa in town!
- The Londonderry Inn. Another well-reviewed, beautiful bed and breakfast not far from downtown Hershey. One of my best friends had her bridal shower here and it made me want to come back as a guest!
- Hershey Lodge. Also a meeting and event space, the Hershey Lodge is one of the best options for families because there are plenty of dining options and lots of things to do right on property. There’s an indoor pool complex that kids will love and admission to both The Hershey Story and the Hershey Gardens is included with your room rate. I stayed here multiple times for conferences in high school and had good experiences.
- Fairfield Inn and Suites Chocolate Avenue. Reliable, well-located chain option with an indoor pool.
- White Rose Hotel. Family-owned, well-reviewed budget hotel with a heated outdoor pool.
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