Taking two of my grandkids to Hershey, Pennsylvania ranked as a delicious day in numerous ways. Of course we tasted lots of decadent chocolate, but my grandchildren and I gained much more than yummy calories.
We attended a “Hershey University Adventure” which began with a brief history on cacao; something that might have been a bitter lesson but engaged the children by using “live” video. The class then learned to properly taste chocolate by letting it melt on our tongues. We sampled milk chocolate, dark, artisan, and specialty varieties and learned that white chocolate isn’t really chocolate. Each of us discovered we liked a different flavor.
I felt like a kid again wearing 3-D glasses, but the animated film we watched was touted as 4-D; it included smells, spraying water and floating bubbles.
Next, we hopped on a trolley where the guides, a dynamic singing duo, cleverly educated us about Milton Hershey, the company founder who developed the small town with a large candy factory. Their puns came so fast and furious the entire group got the giggles.
The trolley traveled down appropriate named streets like Chocolate Drive and Cocoa Avenue and past many community projects built by Hershey. The so called “Sweetest Place on
Earth” is illuminated by candy kiss lamp posts, alternating between silver and chocolate- like wrapped and unwrapped kisses.
Did you know Milton Hershey began an orphanage and school for under-privileged boys? The academic institution continues to this day but now accepts girls as well. The high school students can earn scholarship money for college by accruing good grades and participating in community service. This statement is not sugar coated – they can earn up to a whopping $88,000.
During WWII, Mr. Hershey got behind the war effort and produced ration bars for battlefield soldiers. During the Great Depression, he kept workers employed by building homes for employees and the grand Hershey Hotel. (Don’t miss touring the hotel and magnificent gardens.) Milton Hershey is rightly considered a great American philanthropist and humanitarian.
The ultimate experience at Hershey’s World of Chocolate is creating your own candy bars. First we donned aprons and hair nets which looked quite silly. We each got to choose ingredients for the fillings at a computer screen – treats such as nuts, pretzel bits, sprinkles or butterscotch chips. We watched our personal bar (with slightly raised sides) move down an assembly line, get filled and coated in melted chocolate, then cooled and finally wrapped and packaged in a box we personally designed on another computer. We ended up with a divine chocolate confection in a tin container and a euphoric sugar high.
Couldn’t miss the thrill rides at adjoining Hersheypark, an amusement arena containing a super-sized water park – at no extra fee. While I wasn’t up for all the death defying vertical roller coasters or queasy twirling ones, I did feel proud to survive the Super Duper Looper and water flume with my grandson and granddaughter.
As an out-of-state grandmother, making memories is what spending time with grandkids is all about. Honestly Hershey, Pennsylvania provided one of the sweetest opportunities I’ve encountered.