A day trip to Hershey — Mommy Daze

HersheyPA02 WMy friends from college and I plan a trip with our families every year for a day of fun and catching up. Over the years we've met at various kid-friendly locations including Sesame Place, Dutch Wonderland and Port Discovery. This year we decided on Hershey, Pennsylvania to visit ZooAmerica and Hershey's Chocolate World.

The drive to Hershey was quicker than I expected, less than two hours. The kids enjoyed going through downtown Hershey, smelling the sweet aroma of chocolate and seeing the Hershey Kisses-shaped lamp posts along the street. We arrived at ZooAmerica soon after they opened at 10:30 a.m. It's located right next to Hershey Park, which is also a great place for families.

The Zoo parking lot was extremely small, but free and visitors can also park at the nearby Hershey Press Building for no charge. We met up with our group of friends and their families, loaded our strollers with coolers of food, and headed in to the zoo.

We were given a map which included a suggested route to explore. Without the kids, it probably would've taken less than an hour to get through the entire place, since it's a fairly small zoo. With the multiple children we had in tow — moving at the speed of a sloth — we ended up stretching out our stay to about two hours. My kids especially enjoyed watching the otters, playful bears, and large American elk. They also liked walking through the creepy, dark area in The Great Southwest exhibit that housed snakes, spiders and alligators.

The small size of the zoo made it perfect for our group of children, but we had driven quite a ways so we decided to visit the nearby Hershey's Chocolate World as well. Parking is free if you stay less than three hours. As you walk up to this impressive building, you can't help but feel like a kid again. Inside, costumed candy characters greet you and there are great spots for photos. A large assortment of Hershey related souvenirs, gifts and candy are available to purchase.

Activities include a Create Your Own Candy Bar station, 4D Chocolate Mystery, Chocolate Tasting Experience and a Trolley Works ride. All of these require tickets, however, so we opted for the free Hershey's Chocolate Tour with our group. Despite it being a Saturday afternoon, the line wasn't long for the 30-minute tour. The kids loved the “ride” that took us on a track through a model Hershey factory. They were intrigued by how chocolate is made and pleasantly surprised when they received a free miniature Hershey's chocolate bar at the end of the tour.

After the tour, we wandered through the store and picked out a few souvenirs. We had already eaten lunch, but if we hadn't there was a large food court and bakery filled with delicious looking goodies.

Though we had to make this visit to Chocolate World a short one, I think next time we will plan for a longer stay so we can enjoy the trolley tour through town to learn more about Milton Hershey. I'd also love to make our own candy bar and maybe indulge at the Hershey's Ice Cream & Milkshake Shop. Cause why not? It is the sweetest place on earth!

Watts FamilyClick here to read more Mommy Daze.

Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.

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