I love to think that there was a time - a time not long ago, just over a century ago - when you could build something in America that was able to become such a success, that an entire town could be named in it's (and your) honor. That happened when Milton S. Hershey created a "company town" that became known as Hershey, Pennsylvania, or "The Sweetest Place on Earth" back in 1894. Now, in addition to boasting the birthplace and main manufacturing hub for the Hershey's brands of chocolate-based goodness, Hershey, PA also includes a ballpark, arena, a theme park, and the original HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD. As part of our first Great American Road Trip series, my wife and I took the girls the Chocolate World last month to experience it as a family.
Open since 1973, HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD was created after daily visitors to the Chocolate Factory began to exceed it's daily capacity for plant tours. Able to serve up to 20,000 visitors per day, Chocolate World welcomes over 3 million visitors a year, each able to experience the making of their favorite chocolates on The Great American Chocolate Tour, check out the all-new HERSHEY'S GREAT CHOCOLATE FACTORY MYSTERY in 4D, learn about flavors in the Chocolate Tasting Adventure, and put everything they've learned into action in the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction. These adventures and more are accented by a fantastic company store and food court, along with a Bake Shoppe and Trolley Works.
The day we went was busy - impacted by an afternoon rainstorm that sent visitors from the neighboring Hershey Park looking for a little indoor fun... and there's a lot of fun to be had.
HERSHEY'S GREAT CHOCOLATE FACTORY MYSTERY in 4D was the big hit of the day, an interactive film (with 3D elements) that crossed over into the physical realm with 4D features involving the senses - from lights and sounds, to wind, motion and scents, Hershey's partnered with the crew from JIM HENSON'S CREATURE SHOP to craft the elaborate branching adventure, that allows audience participation to determine over 100 possible variations. It's sorta like SCOOBY-DOO meets DESPICABLE ME, but in the Hershey's Factory. Check out a trailer below...
The Great American Chocolate Tour is a historical "dark ride" that takes families through the process of chocolate making from sourcing to production and through packaging and beyond - focusing on the things that make Hershey's special.
While the kids really enjoyed that, the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction was a more hands-on approach, as families go through a working, yet scaled-down assembly line to craft their own custom candy bar, complete with toppings, fillings, and even custom packaging.
Sprinkles on a Hershey's Bar? Not my bag, but my girls love it, so almost anything goes in this one.
Personally, I went really basic with a chocolate-on-chocolate creation of Hershey's Milk Chocolate encasing tiny chocolate chips.
On the way out, we picked up some Jumbo Hershey's Kisses for gifts, along with some cool pillows for the girls, a shirt for my wife, and for me - a pair of cool diecast vehicles to add to our collection. They were a big hit on Instagram...
HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD has locations around the World, but the original location in Hershey, PA is a must-visit for anyone that's planning to pass through the area. Next time, we'll do Hershey Park, too! Visit the official site to plan your visit.
Disclosure: While the folks at HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD knew that we were coming and were kind enough to hook me up with family passes for the day, we bought quite a few add-ons and souvenirs that enhanced an already-fantastic experience.
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality and Commentator.
He serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), has made guest appearances as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew, was featured in the Father's Day issue of Lake County Magazine, and is a former contributor to Chicago Parent.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.