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2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

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2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

On an impulse, we are heading to Hershey for a long weekend. We'll arrive late Friday night and leave Tuesday morning. The kids are 8 and 10, and love coasters and water parks. We'd kind of like to do everything we can. We want to hit the park, get the factory tours, get out to the UTZ pretzel factory, check out Gettysburg, and maybe see the Amish country. So now I'm on a hunt for the best schedule for those days as well as where to get the best deals.

1. Where would be a good non-resort place to stay? Looking for a nice hotel with a pool, but not at the prices of the lodge.

2. What days should we do what? We'd certainly like to keep the lines for the rides to a minimum.

3. Are there other things we should do?

Any advice from those of you who have been down this road before?

Harrisburg, PA
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1. Re: 2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

OK, so I think I'd center your stay on Harrisburg. Hershey is about 20 minutes or so (depending on where in the Harrisburg area you stay) east, Gettysburg is a straight shot down US15 about 60 minutes, and Lancaster and easy commute down PA-283 about 45 minutes. There are a number of hotels nears the I-81 and Progress Ave area and the I-283/PA-441 area which will likely fit your requirements and come without the resort price.

Most of the Amish country visitor stuff will be close on Sundays.

Hersheypark will probably be best on weekday vs a weekend. Buy your tickets at a local Giant grocery store to save substantially on admission and take advantage of the evening preview the night before you plan to go (free admission after a certain time for those attending the park the next day).

Chocolate World - chocolate making experience is not a factory tour (they don't do those any more) is free and can easily be done on the day you do the park. Teenagers will find this likely uninteresting.

Never did an UTZ factory tour. But, this would be best on the day you are in Gettysburg. Gettysburg has a nice visitor's center which can take easily and hour or two. A drive around the battlefield will take a couple of hours depending on how much you want to get out and explore. Get the audio tour at the gift shop if you're a do it yourself person, otherwise check into a licensed battlefield guide which will ride around in the car with you. I hear they are quite engaging.

Same applies to Lancaster. Check at the visitor's center and look into a Mennonite guide who will ride around with you and take you on some of the back roads and such.

There's an interesting corn maze in the Lancaster area if you'd like that. Hershey Gardens and Hershey Story might be over interest. The gardens are smallish, but inexpensive and they have nice little butterfly house. The AACA automobile museum is also near by and Troeg's brewery which has a small self-guided tour and tasting room if the "legal" age folks are interested in that (actually, any age can walk thru the tour and sit in the tasting area which serves all the Troeg's line and some light fare).

Maybe Lancaster on Saturday, Gettysburg on Sunday (although that might exclude the UTZ tour - perhaps look at Sturges or one of the Lancaster country pretzel factories on Saturday for that?), and the Hershey on Monday with a wrapup of anything else you might want to do in Hershey/Lancaster on Tuesday before heading home?

I just went back and reread the ages of your children -- so perhaps Strasburg might be of interest. A ride on the Strasburg railroad and possibly a visit to the train museum across the street might be interesting. And then I'd definitely say the corn maze combined with that would make for a nice day.

Edited: 8:04 pm, July 28, 2013
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for Hershey, Harrisburg
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2. Re: 2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

It's been a few years since we did the Utz Potato Chip factory tour but back then it was just a self-guided tour where you were able to look down onto the production floor from a second story overlook area behind glass. I think at the end we got a small bag of chips. It's certainly nothing I would drive out of my way for unless it has changed.

If you are looking to cover the Hershey/Gettysburg/Lancaster I would agree to stay in Harrisburg. You might also want to check out the hotels in the area of I283 & Lindle Road. You would be centrally located to all the highways you need to get to the three areas and there are a lot of restaurants, stores, and services in that area.

I would definitely do Hersheypark on a weekday. The crowds tend to really pick up on weekends at this time of year. If you do Hersheypark on Monday, you could do the preview night on Sunday and you might get lucky and find the park less crowded as people tend to head home later in the day on Sunday.

I'm not sure how interested your kids will be in just riding around Lancaster County, so I would try to pick an attraction that might be of interest to them. The Strasburg RR, as all ready mentioned, would be one; others I'd consider would be Landis Valley Museum, and possibly one of the Amish Farm or Amish Village tourist sites (recognize these are not "real" Amish establishments).

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3. Re: 2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

You have 3 days, actually. I would strongly suggest cutting your itinerary a bit, rather than look for more to do.

When my kids were that age - also coaster and waterpark lovers - if they had never done HP before, we would truly need a full 2 days, especially at this very busy time of year. I would do HP on Sun/Mon, since you don't have a full day on Tues.

That is also a great age for Gettysburg, so it isn't a bad idea to do that on Saturday. You may be able to hit the Utz factory tour on your way to or back from Gettysburg.

Then, on Tues. before leaving, you could do another activity in Hershey such as Chocolate World, Trolley Tour or The Hershey Story Museum. Chocolate World is located at the Hersheypark entrance, so if your days are going well there or you need a break, it could be visited on one of your park days.

Alternatively, you could take a drive through Amish Country on your way home. Post to the Lancaster, PA board for some good driving itineraries.

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4. Re: 2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

There is a big concert this weekend at Hersheypark so Sunday/monday would be best as another viewer stated. Or monday/ tuesday depending on when you are leaving tuesday. You will prob need a day and a half minimum do do the waterpark (hit the big slides first thig in the morning) rides and chocolate world. There are other activies at chocolate world that are not free and also the zoo.

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5. Re: 2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

The long weekend went pretty well. We stayed in Lancaster and enjoyed driving around the countryside and walking around downtown Lititz on Saturday. The pretzel tour was ok, but the young tour guide was a bit awkward. We did the Hershey Park preview on Saturday night and rode a couple big coasters - Sky Rush and Great Bear. Then we did the rest of the coasters by early Sunday afternoon, and switched over to the water park. Finished the day around 8:00, grabbed some dinner in Hershey (but outside the park), and then crashed. Monday was a bust, as we didn't realize the corn maze was closed (thought it was just Sunday...totally our oversight). The kids didn't want to do any railroad stuff, so we found a neat place to do go karts, mini-golf, and batting cages after sleeping in a bit, then hit the road by 2:30. Plenty left to do on a return trip, and we would go back to Hershey Park again. It has a great balance of coasters, water stuff, and other activities. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions!

6. Re: 2 Adults & 2 Kids...first visit to Hershey

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