In Hershey, Pa., it only makes sense that the streetlamps are shaped like silver-foiled Hershey’s Kisses. The town, situated about 15 miles east of Harrisburg, and about 100 miles west of Philadelphia, is, of course, home to the Hershey Co, which was founded by Milton Hershey in 1894. The chocolate magnate went on to establish the community in 1903 for the company’s workers. The homes had electricity and plumbing, and the town boasted a public trolley and free vocational school.
A few years later in 1906, Hershey opened his eponymous amusement park, which has been drawing both chocolate- and adventure-seeking visitors since it opened. And while Hersheypark is the town’s top attraction with three million visitors each year, there are plenty of other reasons to make the two-hour drive (not least of which is the faint smell of chocolate that, thanks to the factory, permeates throughout the town when the wind blows just right).
“Hershey has a lot to offer — a strong local community, tourism, a family atmosphere, great schools, lots of employment opportunities, and plenty of entertainment,” says Chris Trogner, cofounder of Tröegs Independent Brewing. Trogner and his brother John founded Tröegs in Harrisburg in 1996, and eventually grew out of their space and moved to Hershey.
From the award-winning Tröegs tour to a falconry lesson, a string of thrilling roller-coasters, and, of course, plenty of sweet, sweet chocolate, there are many reasons to plan a day trip or overnight trip to Hershey. Here are some of the best reasons to visit Hershey.
By car, Hershey — about 100 miles via Interstate 76 West — takes a little less than two hours from Philadelphia and surrounding counties.
Greyhound buses run several times a day from Philly to Harrisburg, and from the capital, you can take an Uber or Lyft the final 15 miles, or hop on the Capital Area Transit (CAT) bus 322 Hershey/Hummelstown, which runs regularly to Hershey.
While it’s best to have a car in Hershey (there’s no public transit in town), most hotels offer complimentary shuttles to main attractions like Hersheypark and Hershey’s Chocolate World.
Things to do:
You can’t visit Hershey without a trip to Hersheypark. Or rather, you can, but then you’d miss more than a dozen roller-coasters and the Triple Tower (an 189-foot-tall amusement ride), the shore-style Boardwalk, an 11-acre water park, plus life-sized chocolate bar characters and a roster of shows and entertainment.
To get a closer look at candy making, there’s Hershey’s Chocolate World. This attraction is less thrill ride and more educational and interactive, with a create-your-own candy bar workshop, 4D movie, and live shows. You can also take the free 30-minute chocolate tour ride to get an overview of how the chocolate is made, plus taste a sample at the end. Reserve a ticket online before you go.
At ZooAmerica, animals native to North America — think mountain lions, otters, and alligators — are the main attraction. Besides taking a stroll around the grounds to spy a desert box turtle or black-tailed prairie dog, you can sign up for a chance to spend time with the animals with fewer crowds during early bird or after-hours tours. Or, you can opt for a special photography-focused tour for the chance to snap photos of animals up close.
Car buffs shouldn’t miss the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum. The Smithsonian-affiliated museum is home to the Cammack Tucker Collection, the world’s most extensive collection of vintage Tucker automobiles, plus Hershey’s Kissmobile cruisers, and, for fans of Back to the Future, the DeLorean prototype.
For a sweet break from standing in park lines, visit the Meltspa by Hershey, where some of the 70-odd treatments feature confections. You can get a cocoa massage with cocoa massage oil and cocoa butter, or a manicure with chocolate exfoliation and dark chocolate mousse mask. In fall, #PSL fans can also indulge in a seasonal pumpkin spice body wrap.
Where to eat:
It’s not all chocolate in Hershey. After getting your fill at Hersheypark, visit Tröegs for the brewery tour, voted best brewery tour in America in 2019 by readers of USA Today’s 10 Best. Held on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the one-hour, $12 tour takes visitors through some of the behind-the-scenes areas of the brewhouse — including the hop cooler and fermentation cellars — and includes a beer and souvenir glass. Afterward, stay for a snack or meal, from rosemary popcorn and hop fries to pulled pork sandwiches. A dedicated kids menu and nonalcoholic drink list make it a good option for families, too.
» READ MORE: Craft breweries in Pennsylvania worth a day trip
Housed in a restored feed mill designed with exposed brick walls and lofty ceilings, The Mill serves small plates, steaks, and a seasonally rotating roster of craft cocktails. The warm, family-friendly vibe extends from Sunday brunch to happy hour and dinner. There’s also a heated patio for outdoor seating year-round.
What started as a ghost kitchen operating from Hummelstown’s Soda Jerk Diner is now a full-fledged brick-and-mortar, serving whipped feta dip, lamb souvlaki, spanakopita, and many other Greek specialties.
Beyond the stellar burgers, this casual gastropub offers an impressively robust menu of salads, grain bowls, and entrées like seared duck and honey ginger salmon. Don’t miss brunch for the breakfast tots, which come smothered with cheese, house-made sausage gravy, and an egg.
The distillery is known for being the largest producer of craft straight bourbon whiskey in Pennsylvania but also produces vodka, spiced rum, gin, and other craft spirits. From Wednesdays to Saturdays, order pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, and burgers from the on-site food truck and take your meal to the outdoor courtyard.
Where to stay:
A little over two hours by car, Hershey can be a day trip from Philly, but you might prefer to spend the night, especially after a long day at the amusement park. Two of the most popular options are, unsurprisingly, Hershey accommodations.
The Hotel Hershey, the more upscale of the two, is a sprawling resort anchored by a historic hotel built in the 1930s. Rooms are outfitted with bath products from the Spa at the Hershey Hotel. The resort also has both indoor and outdoor pools, including a family pool with waterslides.
The Hershey Lodge, with a special check-in service for kids (including an arrival treat and chocolate guessing game), also has an indoor water park. They also have a falconry experiencethat is open to folks of all ages (and non-guests). Don a glove and get up close and personal with hawks, falcons, and a golden eagle.
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About the author:
Regan Stephens is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia, covering food, travel, business, and lifestyle topics for outlets like People, Food & Wine, and Fortune. Follow her on Instagram.