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We Try It: Hershey’s Chocolate World

I am road-tripping this week with my husband, two teenage sons and six-year-old daughter. The drive from Atlanta to Hartford takes roughly seventeen hours, so my husband had the brilliant idea to stop over in Hershey, Pennsylvania (or Hershey, Transylvania, as MiniB kept calling it) to blow off a little steam. We drove twelve hours the first day, spent the night on Chocolate Avenue and woke up bright and early on day two to explore Chocolate World.

chocolate world entranceIt was wonderful. We got there just as the doors opened we had the place to ourselves for about half an hour. Since it is winter, the big amusement park is closed. Chocolate World is fairly small, and just perfect for a few hours of fun before getting back in the car.

The first thing we did was the Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour. This is one of those cheesy Epcot-like rides where you ride through a pretend chocolate factory with singing animatronic cows. Since we were completely alone, we had a blast. We laughed and yelled and pointed at things. If there had been other people on the ride, we would have been more restrained, but as it was we were free to be obnoxious as we wanted to be. At the end of the ride, one of the cows takes your picture so that you may buy a copy for posterity. You can buy a 5×7, or the code for a digital download, for $12.99, or you can get both for $17.99.

The ride spits you out near the food court, so Mister and the boys went in search of coffee while MiniB and I went to play and buy tickets for their new attraction, “Create Your Own Candy Bar.” We explored the factory fun area, where littles can pretend they’re factory workers and package some Kisses. It was a little anti-climactic. It’s hard not to think of I Love Lucy but really it is just a scaled-down replica of the Kiss packaging line. If you like shows like Unwrapped, it is kind of interesting to see the engineering in the machinery so that no Kiss gets left behind. The kids get their picture taken before they start and, of course, you can buy a chocolate box full of Kisses, like the one they just filled, with their picture on it for $9.95.

chocolate booty
We went a little overboard

MiniB and I went back to find the menfolk, and we killed an hour in the Marketplace while we waited for our turn to create a candy bar. As you can imagine, it is candy store heaven. They have every product that Hershey sells in the states – including Zagnut! I don’t actually like Zagnut, but it’s way fun to say. Their candy prices are slightly cheaper than regular store prices, and the candy is really fresh, so if you eat Hershey’s products on a regular basis it’s a good place to stock up. You can also get hard-to-find items like two-foot-long Twizzlers (or Zagnut bars), as well as T-shirts, keychains and all the candy-related souvenirs you can imagine.  The prices range from $2 for personalized stickers, to $65 for a licensed sweatshirt.  It’s easy to go overboard, but if you restrain yourself you can get mementos and candy aplenty for not too much money.

little girl in a hairnetSo finally it was time to create our own candy bars. This is a brand new attraction, I believe it opened this month. Until the end of February it costs $9.95 per person. As far as I can tell, starting in March it goes up to $14.95 per person. It’s pretty cool. You start  by preparing for the factory floor – remove loose jewelry, don disposable aprons and hairnets (beardnets too if necessary), if you are wearing nail polish you must also wear gloves. I don’t know why this is, you don’t really come in contact with anything that

beardnet
Beardnet!

could be tainted, but I guess it makes the experience more authentic. First stop is a set of computers where you design your bar. You choose your base, white, milk or dark chocolate, and then you pick you inclusions. The list changes weekly, our choices were: white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips, pretzels, toffee, chocolate cookie pieces and crispies. You can pick up to three to go into your bar. The last step is deciding whether or not you want rainbow chocolate chip sprinkles on top. Once everyone has decided, the group moves on to the “factory” floor. You get to watch a machine select your base, which is kind like a rectangular chocolate boat. The base moves down the line and stops under the inclusion hoppers, which dump out toppings with remarkable precision into the chocolate boats. A fun part of this process is that there is a display in front of each new machine which tells you whose candy bar is up. After receiving toppings, the bars go through an enrobing machine. This is an important detail that I feel should have been mentioned up front. No matter what base you chose, white, milk or dark chocolate,

everything gets covered with a layer of milk chocolate. My son who likes white chocolate was a little disappointed to find his candy bar covered in brown chocolate. It wasn’t a huge thing for us, but it would have been nice to know. We’ll chalk it up to the quirks of a new exhibit and hope they figure it out soon. After enrobing, the bars pass through the rainbow sprinkle dispenser. From there they get a ten minute ride through the cooling tunnel.

Watching chocolate cool for ten minutes would be pretty boring, but never fear. This is when you go to another room full of computers to design your custom label. It’s simple desktop design, pick a background, choose some design elements and play around. It was easy enough for the six-year-old to do without much help, but there was still enough to keep me occupied for ten minutes. For some reason, everyone in my family wanted purple labels, but you can make them any color you want.

candy tinsWhen the labels are done, it is time to watch the line again. The candy comes out of the cooling tunnel and moves to the packaging machines. Each one is shot into its own box, sealed up and sent to the packaging ladies. The coolest part of this part of the tour is watching your name get laser-burned into the box. It’s all hi-tech and junk. Then the packaging ladies put each one in a tin with your custom designed label. The whole process takes about 45 minutes, and it was totally worth the ten dollars.

That was it for us, we had been there for 2 1/2 hours and we had a road trip to finish. There were a number of things we didn’t do, like the Hershey’s Really Big 3D Show, and the trolley ride around historic Hershey. It is very much a tourist trap, there are a LOT of ways to spend money, but admission is free, the Chocolate Tour ride is free and, like I said, you can get souvenirs for not too much money if you shop around. If you have a plan, you can spend as much or as little as you want. The greatest thing about Hershey is that chocolate is the great equalizer. Every single family member was excited to go. There was very little whining by the little girl, the teenagers were smiling and un-sullen, and mom and dad oohed and aahed like kids. We all had fun without fighting. If you have ever taken a family vacation, you know what a rare thing this is. MiniB said more than once that it was her best day EVER and she wanted to come back in summer, and I found myself thinking that it might be a good idea.

 

By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at www.etsy.com/shop/AngryOwlStudio if you're interested in checking it out.

9 replies on “We Try It: Hershey’s Chocolate World”

My favorite way to experience Chocolate World is after a long day of fun in the park (preferably when it’s been very hot out) and basking in the air-conditioning glory. I’ve never actually done the stuff you pay for because by the time I usually got there I was exhausted and just wanted to get some candy and maybe one of their killer milkshakes or something. This post is giving me a serious case of nostalgia!

If you can ever make it back when the park is open, you must go there–it’s hands-down my favorite amusement park because it’s packed with rides (including new-ish wooden roller coasters that are FUN), really clean and well-maintained.

I was seriously disappointed with Chocolate World. I had a couple of surgeries at the Hershey Medical Center, so I was in town for that and decided to check out Chocolate World to make it a little more awesome. I thought that you would actually get to take a real, live tour, but it’s just a stupid little train through a set of movies and fake stuff. I was expecting so much more!!!

I went to Chocolate World during a family road trip about 5 years ago (We were also going to Hartford, funnily enough). There’s not a whole lot to do at the place, but it’s an amusing way to spend a few hours. I thought the ride was adorable, and there are lots of good photo opportunities. Kids love it (my sister was eight at the time, and it blew her mind). They didn’t have the make-your-own-candy-bar thing then, but it sounds fun. I bought pajama pants with Hershey’s kisses on them.

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