Hershey Chocolate’s sprawling empire in Hershey, Pennsylvania is much more than a chocolate lover’s paradise. Positioned just two hours from Philadelphia and Baltimore and three hours from New York City, Hershey lends itself to a perfect fall weekend of affordable fun, relaxation, and — of course — endless chocolate.
1. Best Attractions: No visit to Hershey is complete without a visit to Hersheypark, the flagship theme park at the heart of Hershey. The park is open weekends in September and reopens for select weekends in October for Hersheypark in the Dark, the park’s immersive Halloween experience. The newest attraction for 2015, Laff Trakk, is a spinning indoor coaster with hair-raising drops and incredibly themed backlight effects — and worthy of its lengthy queue. While many of the park’s 13 coasters are worth mentioning, Storm Runner takes the cake for the most thrilling in the park, with its two-second zero to 72 mph launch.
For hungry travelers, Hersheypark delivers a mix of familiar brands including Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Subway. But for the best in-park lunch and dinner, don’t miss out on the park’s recently added Chickie’s and Pete’s. At this Philadelphia favorite, don’t miss the Philly Cheesesteaks and signature Crabfries, fresh-cut fries with Old Bay Seasoning.
2. Best Breakfast: Venture off the grid to save a couple of bucks for country cooking at Top That in nearby Palmyra, PA, where scrambles and apple pie French toast are served. The tiny joint has a friendly, neighborhood feel with great prices — a nice break from the commercial polish of the city.
3. Best Local Hangout: With an expansive property that features a tap room, culinary counter, and lively patio, Tröegs is the place to be. A large assortment of onsite brews are available for tasting, while the kitchen cooks up braised beef brisket on brioche ($12), lamb burger on curried naan ($14), and more.
4. The Perfect Nightcap: After a long day hitting the pavement at Hersheypark, kick back on the veranda at The Hershey Hotel. Grab a drink and some bar bites at the Iberian Lounge, which is open to the public, before heading outside to the fire pits. Beer starts from $4.25 and cocktails from $10, and we highly recommended the margherita pizza for $12.
5. Where to Shop: Having recently undergone extensive renovations in 2014 and expansion in 2015, Hershey’s Chocolate World stands as one of the most immersive and all-encompassing experiences you’ll ever have with chocolate. Don’t miss the free Hershey’s Chocolate Tour, an automated slow ride that follows the manufacturing process of the company’s chocolate. This year, Hershey’s also introduced a hands-on Chocolate Tasting Experience, offering visitors the chance to learn the finer art of tasting chocolate — with samples included. ($9.95 for adults; $6.95 for children over 2; free for 2 and under.)
6. Where to Stay: If you’re planning on visiting Hersheypark, opt to stay at one of the resorts owned and operated by Hershey for the best value. There’s the classy Hotel Hershey, from $259 per night in the off-season and $359 in peak season; the affordable Hershey Lodge, from $129 and $229 in off- and peak season; and the nature-filled Hersheypark Camping Resort, where log cabins start at $77. The best part of staying at one of the three Hershey properties is the perk of early access to Hersheypark, an hour before many of the park’s most popular rides and attractions. A stay in the properties also offers complimentary shuttles to and from the park (providing helpful savings on parking) and discounts on tickets.
7. When to Visit: Summer is peak season, but Hershey welcomes visitors year-round. The city goes all-in for Halloween, and while snowy, the Christmas season is cozy (and you’ll find lots of savings outside the prime holiday dates).