Fun Fact! I’ve been to Hershey, PA about 20 times in my life yet I know very little about Hersheypark. Why? Because all but just one of my visits to Hershey have occurred in the month of December and Pennsylvania isn’t usually hot and humid in December.
Cool temps notwithstanding, Hershey puts on quite a show during the holiday season and it’s a cute little place to celebrate (and in my family’s case) extend the holiday spirit for a few more days.
The Sweetest Place on Earth
Hersheypark may get all of of the buzz but the best thing about Hershey, PA by a long shot is all of the Hershey CHOCOLATE. Yes, the company founded by Milton Hershey well over a century ago makes some of the most well known sweets in the country - from the standard Hershey Bar to my personal favorite, Reese’s Pieces - not too far from your house. In Hershey, PA, there are mementos of the Hershey Company everywhere - even the street lamps lining Chocolate Avenue are shaped like Hershey Kisses.
The absolute best place to celebrate all things Hershey Chocolate while in town is at Hershey’s Chocolate World. A huge indoor complex right next door to Hersheypark, Hershey’s Chocolate World is heaven for anyone who likes chocolate (aka EVERYONE).
Just like its sister spots in places like Times Square, Chocolate World contains a ginourmous boutique selling every kind of Hershey food and branded product imaginable. It’s a ton of fun to walk through the boutique and stock up on chocolate while you’re there. BUT the Hershey, PA Chocolate World is far more than just a store.
Chocolate World has changed a lot since my visits as a child and today, it is made up of FOUR awesome attractions. The most popular/Do Not Miss attraction is the adorable and FREE Hershey’s Chocolate Tour ride. This approximately 10 minute “people mover” style ride takes you on a fun journey to learn how Hershey’s Chocolate gets made. This ride and its theme song will forever hold a piece of my heart. And bonus - you get a free piece of chocolate when the ride ends.
We always pony up the cost for the other two kid friendly attractions (the fourth attraction, a Chocolate Tasting Experience, has always seemed too difficult to manage with little ones). In fact, our “go to” move is to arrive at Chocolate World when it opens and head first to the 4D Chocolate Mystery Movie before anything else. It’s a super cute interactive 4D movie and very much worth the $7.95 admission ($6.95 for kids age 3-12).
After the movie, we stroll over to the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction ($21.95 per person). Here, you put on a silly factory outfit and using computer programs, design your own candy bar and labels. You then watch as machines actually make the candy bar and label you designed. Said candy bar is put in a nice quality take home tin and given to you as a souvenir!
Pro Tip: If you plan on doing the Chocolate Mystery Movie and the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction - and you should - buy the combo pack for $23 per adult and $22 per child to save up to $7pp!
We save the adorable Chocolate Tour ride for last - both because it’s super cute AND because the ride empties you out into the huge shopping area afterwards. From there, we load up on our take home sweets and merch and usually finish up at Chocolate World just as the crowds are starting to get unbearable.
The Official Resorts of Hershey Go All Out For the Holidays
A big part of the fun of being in Hershey around Christmas is found at Hershey’s two branded resorts - the more casual and chaotic, Hershey Lodge, and the more luxe but still family oriented, Hershey Hotel. I’ve stayed at both many times and you really can’t go wrong.
The Lodge has a super fun indoor pool complex called Hershey's Water Works that any kid will love. It also has a big indoor arcade and kid friendly resort dining options like the sports bar themed Bear’s Den and you’ll just generally see kids running around everywhere at the Lodge.
The Hotel is a bit more subdued but still incredibly welcoming to kids - it has a dedicated Kids’ Club for ages 5 and up and a nice indoor pool for colder weather. And for all the tired mamas, don’t skip a visit to the Spa at the Hotel Hershey and its signature chocolate treatments.
No matter which of the two Hershey resorts you pick, BOTH do it up for the holiday season. Cookie decorating, crafts, character visits, scavenger hunts, chocolate bingo (HELL YES!), s'mores over the fire pit and even magician shows - the Hershey Lodge and Hershey Hotel are jam packed with holiday themed activities. It’s a ton of fun and you’ll run into families all over both hotels this time of year (including many parents wielding drinks from the hotels’ bars).
Don’t Worry, You Can Still Go to Hersheypark
On select dates from November 16th through January 1st, Hersheypark operates Christmas Candylane. Christmas Candylane is basically the park operating some of its rides plus a whole bunch of holiday lights and decorations, a visit from Santa and possibly some frostbite. Because we have young kids and are wimps when it comes to cold, we usually don’t bother with Christmas Candylane, but I think we’ll end up here on future visits as our kids get older. For now, we’re busy enough with the hotel’s activities, indoor pool and Chocolate World.
If you prefer your Christmas lights without frostbite, consider instead going to the Hershey Sweet Lights - a drive through Christmas lights experience ($19.15 per car Monday - Thursday; $26.15 per car Friday - Sunday). Though be warned that the Yelp reviews aren’t stellar for this event.
Other Fun Indoor Hershey Activities
Another super fun and easy indoor activity to do while in Hershey this winter is to catch a Hershey Bears game. This minor league hockey team affiliated with the Washington Capitals plays right in the center of town near Hersheypark. Games are easy to access and lots of fun. This year the Bears are home on all but one of the December weekends.
And why not visit Troegs Independent Brewing while in the area. This Hershey, PA craft brewery is producing some really delicious brews and serving what is probably the best food in the area. The brewery is large and kid friendly.
And if you’re still finding you have time to spare, there’s the Hershey Story, an interactive museum detailing the history of Hershey’s Chocolate and its founder. My girls were mildly amused by the exhibits but I can’t say that they loved it. What they DID love, however, was the tasting we did of warm drinking chocolates from around the world located in the lobby area of the museum.
Ice Cream Fans Can Have Their Fun, Too
Because we don’t take in enough sugar in Hershey, on our visit a few years ago, we decided to also stop by the Turkey Hill Experience, about 30 minutes away in Columbia, PA, while in the area. For $9.95 per person ($9.50 for ages 4-12), you can spend a few hours in this interactive museum that celebrates all things Turkey Hill ice cream. And, yes, it includes unlimited ice cream samples.
On our visit, we also tried out the Taste Lab, a roughly 45 minute guided chance to make your own ice cream flavor! To include the Taste Lab in your visit, combo tickets are $15.40 per person age 13 and up and $14.95 for ages 4-12.
At about 3 to 3.5 hours from the NYC metro area, Hershey makes for a cute little family weekend away. And while most folks will save their visits for the warmer months when Hersheypark is in full swing, I will always cherish my family memories there in December.