We did it.
We surprised the kids.
On our way to visit family in Maryland, we stopped to eat breakfast around 10 am. We had all been in the van for 6 hours already, and the kids were hungry and tired. As they were eating their breakfast sandwiches from Dunkin, we told them we were about to go right next door to Hershey Park.
They were too tired to fully comprehend at first, but then got super excited (or as excited as teens and tweens can get!)
As a large family with a wide spread of ages to account for, there are not that many activities where everyone can have a good time at the same time! It's a sad downside to our awesome big family life, but it is a reality. When we can find a place like Hershey Park that accommodates all the ages (from 15 down to 1) and is large enough to keep them entertained but small enough to visit in one day, we are all over that!!
We sent the older three boys away (with a cell phone!) to ride on the scary rides while we took the younger ones to have some fun.
The little kids got measured right away so they could wear a bracelet for the day instead of being measured at every ride. Declan measured in as a Hershey Kiss and Xander was a Hershey Bar by the tip of his head! He was very excited because this meant he got to ride his first upside down roller coaster!
As for the one year old, well he don't need no rides to keep him happy :) He found the one puddle in the place and was entertained for 20 minutes.
Maggie and Declan took a spin in the old fashioned cars, and Xander really wanted to drive his old mom around for a change.
Phil took them for a faster and bumpier car experience - the difference between moms and dads :)
Brendan took charge of the park like the baby boss that he is. I got plenty of steps in while keeping him entertained, and then Phil switched with me so I could ride with the bigger kids.
Andrew came back to hang around us as he wasn't feeling too great...I think he had a headache from waking up so early. He took Declan on a roller coaster and created a new adrenaline junkie.
The Trailblazer was a family favorite - not too scary but plenty of screaming opportunities (for me, the kids were fine!)
This video of Xander cracks me up. He said it was the best day of his life!
Hershey Park had PLENTY of little kid rides, big kid rides, and family rides. There was so much to choose from and we didn't even see it all! The park has a nice Preview Policy where you can enter the park for the last 2.5 hours of the day before you go and it's included in your one day ticket price. If we had stayed overnight in the town, we definitely would have taken advantage of that deal.
We were also able to eat cheaply during our stay because we had packed a lunch from home and could eat it at picnic tables right outside the park. I know that means we're the most boring parents ever, but we're okay with that!
When we were planning this pit stop to the park on our way down to visit family, there was one big problem. Our goldendoodle, Lucy. She was coming on the trip with us but needed a place to stay while we were at the park. I started researching doggy daycares nearby before coming across a service the park offers called the Barking Lot, where you can drop off your dog to be kenneled for the day for $10. Perfect? Or should I say purrfect? No I shouldn't. It's for dogs.
After 5 hours of non-stop rides, we took an ice cream break around 3 pm. It was an unusually hot day in April (sunny and 84 degrees) and it seemed everyone in the park wanted a cool treat...the line was looooooooooong, but the ice cream was worth it!
Ice cream is great, but what would a trip to Hershey, PA be without a tour of the chocolate factory?
(Get it? I know you do.)
We left the amusement park and headed over for the FREE tour. If it's free, it's for me.
During the day, the kids were asking us if the chocolate bar was named after the town or the town was named after the chocolate bar. Well, we found out, this guy below started the Hershey Chocolate Company (named after himself) and then built a whole town around the factory for all the employees to live. How cool?
Milton Hershey was a very interesting guy, starting and failing at his first company at 19, then successfully creating and selling Lancaster Caramels for a million dollars!! He also married what I can only assume to be a relative of mine since we share the name Sweeney:
|The family resemblance is uncanny.|
Milton and Kitty opened a school for orphan boys and all of his fortune was left to the school. There goes my long lost inheritance! No but seriously, what a great man. Some might even dare to call him sweet ;)
The tour takes you up in this long line where you can read facts about Hershey and look out onto the gift shop below:
Then you sit in moving "cars" and go for the tour. Coming from an ice cream family, I've always had a soft spot for cows, and the talking ones on the tour were so cute.
There's a screen in your car that tells you how chocolate is made as you're seeing a simulation of how chocolate is made. The whole process is fascinating. So many good things come from beans - coffee, chocolate, and that's all that matters.
At the end, we all received a small piece of chocolate. Apparently they used to give out full size candy bars, but they must have seen us coming ;)
And that's a hershey-kissed wrap! We made such SWEET family memories and can't wait for our next trip back!
*** This review was made possible by the kind people of Hershey Park through their Hershey Influencer program. Thank you!! ***