Hershey’s Chocolate World, a large building on the west side of the HersheyPark amusement complex in Hershey PA, presents a fun and somewhat free activity for visitors. It’s worth budgeting 1 to 3 hours to take it in.
Chocolate World actually consists of five components. (1) Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour is a free, enclosed, Disney-like ride through a simulated factory that explains how Hershey chocolate products are manufactured. The tour ride ends with free admission to (2) Hershey Marketplace Shops, a huge gift and food court that features all kinds of chocolate and related candy products (many at premium prices) for consumption and display.
Nearby are the (3) Hershey Factory Works, where for a fee visitors can create their own specialty Hershey candies, covered by custom wrappers printed with their photo. Across from it is the (4) Hershey Trolley Works, a fee-ticketed, motorized trolley tour through the town of Hershey. During the trip, costumed guides describe the town’s history and the story of Milton Hershey, the company’s founder. Trolley Works uses Chocolate World as its depot and ticket office. Finally, (5) Hershey’s Really Big 3-D Show is a 250-seat movie theater. It presents a fee-ticketed children’s animated film, featuring Hershey-branded characters in a story line with three-dimensional effects.
For those unfamiliar with how chocolate is made, the tour is entertaining and worthwhile. But those hoping to see the actual manufacture of Hershey products will be slightly disappointed. The tour is not the real thing. If that’s what you want, become chummy with a Hershey employee. Once a year, on a Sunday in the spring, the company invites them, their families and selected friends to peek inside the plant. Maybe you can wrangle an invitation!
The tour begins as visitors walk up a curving ramp. A video, presented on high-definition screens that line the ramp walls, explains the conditions under which cocoa beans are grown and harvested. The ramp serves as a form of crowd and line control. At its end are ride cars constructed of molded fiberglass. Their bench seats are hard but roomy. No seat belts are used or required. Each car carries about six passengers. Passengers with disabilities can be accommodated.
Once inside the cars, an automated audio presentation takes over. The cars move slowly over a pre-set path, traveling past simulations and models showing how the beans are prepared, how cocoa products are blended with other ingredients, and how various Hershey products are then manufactured. The ride is geared toward youngsters; along the way they meet singing dairy cows, talking Hershey-branded treats, lighted and blinking factory controls, and a bull that’s a photographer. Look up toward the ceiling the ride’s end, and smile! Each car is digitally photographed, and occupants can buy prints (without obligation) as they exit into the Marketplace. The photos are clear and colorful souvenirs, but pricey; about $11 each. Don’t forget your complimentary sample of Hershey’s candy as you leave, handed out by attendants.
We (two adults in our 50s) visited Chocolate World during January 2008. It was warm and comfortable inside, in contrast to the winter cold outside. This was our second visit; we had attended during the summer about 10 years earlier, when our children were in elementary school. The entire tour has since been refurbished. Our off-season visit was made enjoyable by smaller crowds, very short lines and, consequently, quicker service. We did not ride the trolley, see the movie, or pay for the Factory Works, although non-participants are allowed to mill around outside its machinery and watch others have their candies made. The trolleys are heated, but we did not deem the $12-$15 per person admission fee to be worth the price. The movie, at $4-$6 per person, may be worthwhile for those traveling with children age 12 or younger.
Parking during our visit was free. However, during HersheyPark’s May-to-September peak season, a $6 parking fee is charged. Chocolate World is open year-round.
- This review and additional photos were published Jan. 29, 2008, by TripAdvisor.com, Gusto.com, Driftr.com, and in edited form by Yahoo Travel.