[Originally composed 7/27/2016]
I'm typing this post out as we cruise down Route 15, heading back to DC from a terrifically fun last couple of days in Hershey, PA. Yesterday we spent the day at Hershey Park with friends and a handful of kids. Everyone had a blast. Given the crazy heat, you can appreciate why we spent most of the time near the water attractions. And man, they did not disappoint. Even though the wave pool only gets to 6 feet deep, once those wave start rolling it, it's a bouncing good time. The kids, who all got to wear lifejackets, really enjoyed it. The park also has a number of spraygrounds which the younger kids really enjoyed. Most of the rides we went on were pretty standard amusement park fare. Alas, Shira didn't have time to try any wild and crazy roller coasters, which the park seemed to have.
One aspect of the park which I enjoyed was that it seemed like the marketing push was dialed down a bit. Other than the fact that the height rankings correspond to the names of Hershey candy, and an occasional chocolate reference here or there, I didn't feel the constant push to buy, buy, buy that I'd expected. At least it seemed toned down when compared to Disney or Lego land, where you feel as though you're in one big commercial. I suppose it does cut both ways, though. The Lego Miniland in in Florida's Legoland is impressive enough to be an attraction in and of itself. In that case, I suppose the branding really works.
One definite personal highlight was the Kosher food offering in the park. The Kosher foodstand in the park is among the most complete menus I've seen outside a traditional restaurant. We split a chili-dog and hamburger, and could have opted for more exotic fare had we been interested. As a bonus, the Kettle Corn Popcorn is proudly marked as pareve throughout the park.
Today we continued the Hershey experience by taking in the "factory tour," which is where the marketing push is in full swing. At least the tour is free, which partly makes up for the massive candy store you encounter to access it. Tour is in quotes above because you don't actually see anything functional. Instead, you sit on a ride and gently go through a series of active dioramas. It's nothing amazing, but our friend's 6 year old, was thoroughly impressed with the experience, so I can't complain. After the tour we couldn't resist buying a massive chocolate-peanut-butter cookie from the bakery, which actually tasted as a good as it looked.
As a memento of trip, we purchased a mug and decided to have it laser engraved on site. The operator did an excellent job of engaging us all in the process and we all stood around the machine anticipating the spark that would blast our initials on the mug. J, not exactly sure what to expected, stared intently at the mug as he was told to, but also plugged his ears just in case. We counted down, 3, 2, 1...and then zap! In a fraction of a second, the laser burned our message into the mug. J was floored. A laser, an actual laser! Even I have to admit, it was pretty cool. Definitely an unexpected highlight.
After the shopping and tour propaganda, I had enough of rides and amusement parks, and pretty much insisted we hit Hershey Gardens next, which is located a mile or so from the factory. It didn't disappoint. First up in the gardens was a visit to the Butterfly Atrium. This is probably the 3rd or 4th live butterfly exhibit I've been to, but I'm such a sucker for them. There's just something amazing about these tiny creatures, and being surrounded by them is such a treat. After walking in, one landed on J, which I'm pleased to say he didn't swat away (whew). After about 45 minutes in the atrium we made our way to the gardens proper. They too were impressive, and J definitely enjoyed the various activities in the Children's Garden. Alas, it was just so hot and sunny that we had to head out before we'd really scratched the surface of the 23 acres the gardens offers. I'd definitely go back.
After a delicious lunch of Indian food it was time to get on the road and make our way back to DC. Such a good time!