I woke up yesterday frustrated by the freshly fallen snow that had ruined my plans to get out the bikes— daughter has a new bike, a grown-up bike, that she received for Christmas from her grandparents— and go for a long, first-ride-of-spring trip down the rail-to-trail path.
I didn’t have to work, and that only happens rarely on the weekends, so I wanted to do something with my family. My daughter suggested watching a movie. I wanted something better than sitting on the couch.
So, at noon yesterday, we hopped in the car and headed to Hershey. I last visited Hershey circa 1991. While I can technically say “I’ve been to Hershey before,” it has changed. It’s crazy amazing now. I think I stumbled upon the right age to take a child, since my daughter is ten-and-a-half and a full-fledged preteen know-it-all. Hershey reverted her to a spastic young ‘un full of wide-eyed awe.
I had done a quick web search from my phone as we were walking to the car. I knew there were multiple attractions of multiple prices ranging from free to $14.95 per person. I also knew Hersheypark was not yet open for the season. Roller coasters would have to wait for another day (and a bigger budget). It’s a nice 90 minute drive from our home to Hershey. I also viewed this as a way to practice spontaneity.
I’m very fortunate in a way. My mother is very frugal, knows how to budget, pays off her credit cards every month, and hides a little bit of cash somewhere for a rainy day. My father has a somewhat looser attitude towards money. He spends more generously than my mother, buys a lot of motorcycles and never balances his checkbook. I ended up a healthy blend of the two. I budget. I pay my credit cards every month. I also tend to spend when the occasion calls for it. Like on a good suit. Or, in this case, a family day trip.
We didn’t arrive at Hershey Chocolate World until 2 p.m. They close at 6 p.m. This meant we couldn’t do everything. (And honestly this kept the expense down AND the level of saying “no.”) We worked with the staff member at the ticket desk and booked the Trolley Works tour of Hershey ($14.95/adult; $10.95 child) and the Create-Your-Own-Chocolate-Bar ($14.95/person).
To be honest, I insisted we do the Create-Your-Own-Chocolate-Bar. My husband and daughter seemed to pick the trolley. The other options were cheaper, the 4D mystery show and the Chocolate Tasting. My daughter originally suggested that, but the staff member pointed out that it was primarily a lecture with a lot of samples of dark chocolate from around the world. I was drooling, but chocolate school did not appeal to her. The staff member was very adapt at timing things so we could move from place to place without rushing but didn’t have too much free time.
I reminded my daughter that this is why she needed to be thankful that she didn’t have siblings because at these prices with more than one child I couldn’t afford to leave the house.
I insisted we do the Chocolate Tour first. The Chocolate Tour is free, and though I don’t remember singing cows, it is the only part of Hershey Chocolate World that I remember existing from my other visit. The ride itself is like a Tilt-A-Whirl used as a transport device (without the spinning) that explains how Hershey makes chocolate. I thought my preteen would fine this lame. She adored it. We had to ride it twice. (I did make her wait until the end of the day for the second go.)
The trolley tour was an hour and fifteen minutes. I think the child lost interest after about 45. The history is extremely well done and the tour guides appropriately funny. Every time I started to get bored, they passed out chocolate samples. You eat a lot of free chocolate at Hershey.
The trolley tour chocolate samples started with Lancaster Caramels, what Milton Hershey made before chocolate, moved to Hershey Kisses, then flavored Hershey Kisses, then Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. When we disembarked, we received a full-sized Hershey Bar.
But, from a child’s perspective, I imagine the Create-Your-Own-Chocolate-Bar topped everything. They coded your name into your ticket, gave you a paper apron and hat, and sent you to some touch screens to select your options. First the chocolate innards: milk, white or dark chocolate. Then, up to three add-ins: crisped rice, toffee, pretzels, cookies, chocolate chips or butterscotch chips. Finally, whether or not you wanted sprinkles on top. From there, you went into the mini-factory.
You scanned your ticket and pushed a button and your bar was placed on the production line. A screen displayed your name every time your bar reached that part of the process and you watched your bar receive its guts, its chocolate coating, everything. Eventually, it slid into a chute where a machine inserted it into a box and laser-printed your name on the side of the box.
While it cooled and hardened, you designed the package. It was printed and a staff member boxed your bar in a Hershey tin and used your package as the outer sleeve.
We ate a portion of our bars for breakfast today. We hope to make a summer trip to Hershey.