Taking two young kids to a busy amusement park on a hot, humid day is a pretty good test of parental patience.
While expectations and spirits typically hit record highs at the start of these excursions, there is so much potential for things to go awry in a hurry; think hordes of people, never-ending line-ups for rides and motion-sick kids coming off a sugar high, to name just a few. That’s why I was so pleased that our recent family trip to Hersheypark (in Hershey, PA) was a resounding success.
After making the six-hour drive from Ottawa, we kicked things off with the complimentary Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour Ride, which is located in a pavilion just outside of the amusement park. The tour ride gives an impressive and informative overview of the chocolate-making process, set against the historical backdrop of the founding Hershey family. While the ride is free — and even concludes with a complimentary taste of Hershey’s chocolate — it should be noted that you can’t leave the building without passing through the immense Hershey store. It’s a brilliant marketing ploy; only those with willpower of steel — and absolutely no sweet tooth whatsoever — would be able to resist passing through the aisles of chocolate bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Jolly Ranchers empty handed (we left with our wallets considerably lighter than when we arrived!).
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We waited until the next morning — when we were fresh after a good sleep — to tackle the rides at Hersheypark. While this wasn’t our first time experiencing Hersheypark — we were last there two years ago — this was definitely our best visit yet. One of the things that really struck me was how well the park caters to different ages and interests. On previous visits — when our kids were smaller — we were restricted to the tamest rides, which can sometimes be sorely lacking in amusement parks. But Hersheypark offers a fantastic selection of rides for wee ones (or Hershey “Miniatures” as they are called by the park’s sizing chart). On the other end of the spectrum are several crazy-scary roller coasters for the thrill seekers — as well as every other type of ride in between. And if you get tired of the rides, you can always switch gears by visiting the full waterpark and the zoo — both are included in the price of admission.
For me, perhaps the best moment of our chocolate-y adventure was the realization that our family is truly complete. For years, Ian and I have struggled with the decision of whether to further expand our brood by adding a third little tyke. Recently, the pendulum has more frequently been swinging in favour of maintaining the status quo, and this trip really cinched that feeling for us.
I have to admit that it was a big relief to be able to stride past the stroller rental hut and diaper-changing stations knowing that those days are well behind us. The logistics of travelling with infants and toddlers can be mind-boggling; it always baffled me that such tiny creatures required so many large pieces of equipment and luggage!
Our two daughters — now nine and nearly six years — are at such wonderful ages; they are still young enough to enjoy the cute-sy rides (like the Ladybug and the Frog Hopper) but old enough to test their sense of adventure with “big kid” rides like the Pirate Ship or Starship America.
It also thrills me to see our girls are developing such a close friendship. Days after our time at Hershey — when they’ve been given the necessary authorization to dig into their souvenir candy — I overhear them having an in-depth discussion about Bubble Yum flavours and gummy Jolly Ranchers. It culminates in an exchange of goodies but, more importantly, sweet memories of family time well spent.