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East Coast Road Trip: Hershey, Pennsylvania

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 hereDay 7 hereDay 8 hereDay 9 here, and Day 10 here.

Okay, I’m going to get real and tell you that Day 11 of our trip was a little rough. I just wasn’t feeling all adventuresome or like a fun mom.

Honestly, I was wishing we were home and I could plop the kids in front of a movie, shut my bedroom door, and read a book in quiet.

Yeah. I felt on edge. I felt people-d out. I felt tired of the close quarters and long car rides. And I was frustrated with two kids who were being extra whiny.

And of course, this was the day I was wearing my Love Your Life shirt. 😉 Well, I needed the reminder. Because vacations with kids aren’t always fun or amazing. Sometimes, they are just plain hard.

However, despite what I was feeling inside, despite the fact that I did snap at the kids a few times, it was a good day. I’m truly grateful for this trip and the memories we made together on it. Also, close quarters are a great way to recognize character issues we need to work on and are fantastic ways to realize where we need to work on communicating better.

We spent the morning at The Hershey Story where I was so inspired by Milton Hershey’s life and legacy. What an incredible man! I was especially inspired by his business principles and by how generous he was with his employees.

It was cool to see some of the original recipes for caramels (the candy that Milton Hershey initially started making in his business, before he switched to chocolate).

It was also fascinating to read about creative ideas they had implemented to make their factories run more smoothly — like transporting chocolates via bathtubs!

The kids especially loved the Chocolate Workers Wanted exhibit, getting to try chocolates from different countries at their Tastings bar, and then getting to learn more how chocolate is made (it’s a pretty incredible process!) and make our own chocolate bar in the Chocolate Lab.

A few things to note:

  • The Museum Admission is $12.50 for adults and $9 for kids. The Tastings bar and the Chocolate Lab are an additional fee. Teachers, veterans and families of active duty military personnel receive $3 off admission to the Museum Experience. Valid school/military identification required. (They were so generous to give us free admission plus free tickets to the Tastings bar and to their Chocolate Lab since I am a blogger and was blogging/posting on social media about our trip.)
  • There is currently a Groupon available that gives a combo package for the Museum Admission + the Tastings Bar that would save you quite a bit off the price if you were wanting to do both.
  • The Tastings Bar experience was fun, but honestly, I would recommend the Chocolate Lab over it in a heartbeat. If you do decide to do the Tastings Bar, you only need to purchase one for every 3-4 people as that’s enough to go around and for everyone to get to taste the chocolate.
  • We really enjoyed the Chocolate Lab. Not only did our kids have so much fun making their own chocolate bars, but we thought that the information shared about where chocolate comes from, how it’s made, how they use every single part of the cacao bean, and the history of chocolate was really insightful and we learned a LOT while there.
  • You can’t purchase tickets for the Chocolate Lab ahead of time so if you are wanting to do that, just know that tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis the day of.
  • I thought that the upstairs was geared a little more toward adults, but it was interactive enough for our kids to enjoy it. I think the price is on the high side for what the museum offers. If you’re just looking for a little fun adventure related to chocolate and how chocolate is made, I’d recommend just doing the free Hershey World tour (see below).

Next, we went to Hershey’s Chocolate World to do the free tour — which was a fun experience! Here are more details on this free tour:

Follow cocoa beans on a delicious journey in this immersive & FREE chocolate making tour. See, feel, hear and smell the transformation of cocoa beans to HERSHEY’S famous chocolate on this fun tour. Then, enjoy a FREE Hershey’s product sample on us!

A few things to note:

  • There was almost no waiting time, but based upon the HUGE area they had set up for a line, I’m guessing that they sometimes do have a very long line.
  • The tour is 30 minutes long and it’s a “ride” that you’re sitting in and just going through the tour.
  • The admission is free, no tickets are required. The tours run continuously until closing.
  • If you have a child who tends to get over-stimulated by a lot of noise and color and lights and sounds, this might not be an attraction for you because there is a lot of that going on during this tour.

(And yes, near the end of the day, being around all that sugar kind of made me feel like I should go eat a kale salad after I left! ?)

We had planned to visit the Flight 93 Memorial, but there was a big thunderstorm on our way there, so we ended up having to skip it & hang out at a gas station until the storm had cleared.

We made it to Pittsburgh around 9 pm and I enjoyed some quiet (see my book stack photo) while the kids watched a show.

Tomorrow: exploring Pittsburgh and then driving to Cincinnati!

To be continued…

P.S. I hesitate to share so honestly because I know that we’re so blessed to get to go on this trip & many, many people would love to be in my shoes. But at the same time, I want to be honest that traveling is not always roses & rainbows.

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  • We loved the chocolate factory tour as well. Our kids are too young to enjoy those. But we are looking forward to taking them once they grow older.

  • Katie says:

    Looks like you had a great time! We go to Hershey Park and Chocolate World every year for Christmas. You’re correct that the chocolate ride gets VERY crowded at times.

    Weirdly enough, I’ve never been to the museum (and as a lifelong Philadelphian, I’ve been going to Hershey since I was a little girl). I think we need to add it to our itinerary this year.

  • Jodi says:

    Ha ha! Don’t feel bad. I appreciate you keeping it real because let’s face it, life doesn’t always go how it looks on Facebook! ? I hope you can go to the Cincinnati Zoo and to Jungle Jim’s! We live in Indy and just visited both places in Cincinnati this past year for first time. They were both great!

  • W strohecker says:

    Oh how I would loved to have seen you and your family. We live here in Hershey, the sweetest place on earth! So glad to see you were able to visit.

  • Heather says:

    If you haven’t read this hilarious article yet on the difference between a trip and a vacation, you must:

  • JB says:

    Cinci is close to my neck of the woods! The Cincinnati museum center is very cool. if you’re considering the Newport aquarium, imho the cost is high for how little time necessary to spend there. We got thru easily in 2-3 hours and overall weren’t thrilled with the cost vs. time spent. (Maybe if you go later in the day you get a discount.) The surrounding area at the levee is really fun. The cinci zoo is AMAZING. But, you could also just head north to Dayton and visit carrillon park. 🙂 It’s indoor/outdoor, tons of variety, lots of information about dayton history (which is rich in innovation that impacted the whole country!) And the price is good for what you see. You can easily spend a whole day.

    This is all unsolicited info…you probably have plans set in stone but I got excited to read that you’re coming this way!

    If you need a home base while you’re around here (Dayton area so not exactly where you’re headed)…feel free to email me…might be internet creepy to say that but after being on the road so long you might just want a house house for an hour or two… and you’d be welcome here. 🙂

  • Connie says:

    Your honesty is refreshing and appreciated! My boys are 21, 18 and 18 now. We have fond memories of Hershey (we live in NY) but there were some not-so-great moments on those trips too. It’s nice to know we aren’t the only ones!

  • Charlene says:

    Oh my. I love how your children get to see an expanded view of our country and the world in general by taking this trip. I sure have enjoyed your posts and I’m rather vacationing vicariously through you. When it comes to wanting to be home and even the kids feeling a little cranky it all makes sense to me. It’s a lot of togetherness and extremely peopley. I’d have wanted to be home by day eight, so you’re doing great. I did in fact cut a trip short once because I just wanted to go home. A vacation my husband and I are planning for next year is a very people filled area so we are planning it with a lot of downtime to escape the crowds. BTW. Plymouth Rock??? What a load of nothing. IMHO. They could at least have it set in a well groomed and maintained setting if they want to honor it’s history.

  • Christine says:

    No need to apologize. I’m sure there are many of us who have memories of endless car trips with our parents when we were children. There was even less to do in the car then. My parents would pack the car so full of stuff there was barely enough room for us. On one car trip we could not put our feet on the floor because of all the stuff. My dad would NEVER stop and sometimes would not run the air conditioner!!! Mind you we were in Florida in the summer! So I completely understand where you’re coming from. Our family roadtrips were miserable experiences. Because of my experience of vacationing in the car with my parents, my children will never be taken on a vacation that involves more than 4 hours of driving to the destination. I do not like roadtrips.

    • For the most part, my kids LOVE road trips — and I did when I was a child, too. But they aren’t always blissful experiences the whole entire time. 🙂 But about 85% of our vacation was amazing and it was so worth pushing through the not-so-great in order to experience that wonderful memories we did. I’ll share more on that in my final vacation post that’s coming in a few days. 🙂

      I’m so sorry you had such terrible road trip experiences growing up. That’s so sad.

  • Tracy says:

    Last Month my Son and I went on a road trip for the first time together. Growing up road trips were how we vacationed every year. Well with my son it was a totally new experience for me. I am learning more and more what it is like to live with an Introvert. We ended up needing to stay at our hotel one day for the whole day because he needed a break. I had never done this before and I was going crazy with boredom. I am used to going and seeing things each day of a vacation. We even ended up fighting as well. I felt like an awful Mom for this being the case. Sometimes being a Single Mom is really tough. However even though it wasn’t all smooth sailing, we actually had a good time. Being on the road for 7 days really taught both of us that we need to really work more on our communication skills.

    His 12th Birthday is this month and he didn’t want a party or anything. We have had a very rough year with my Father and Grandma who was like a second Mom to me passed away 6 months apart. So for his birthday we are going to Nashville. He really wants to go and this time we are flying. He loves to fly. So it should be a good time.

  • Elizabeth K says:

    Pennsylvania is such a beautiful place! I’ve got to go there twice for the purpose of going to Sight and Sound Theaters! I don’t know if you all are theater people, but if you are… Sight and Sound is absolutely amazing! They do top notch biblical productions (think quality like broadway) Currently they are doing Jonah in Lancaster, PA and Moses in Branson, MO (both are very excellent)! If you’ve never heard of them, I encourage you to cheek them out 🙂

  • Cathy says:

    We have done mostly road trips with our kids, who are now 18, 16, and 13. We’ve been over thousands of miles together through National Parks and small towns and museums and attractions. There have been not-so-stellar moments when we’re all tired of one another and plans fall through and I’d rather be home, but now that they’re older they talk so fondly of all the trips we’ve taken. I used to feel sad that we couldn’t take them to see the world, but there is so much to see here in the U.S., most of it accessible with a car, that we never run out of vacation ideas. Trust me, when your kids are older they won’t remember the moments you were grouchy. (That makes you human, by the way.) They will remember you took them to tour fantastic cities and a chocolate factory. I’m so glad you’ve shared all the ups and downs.

  • Janet says:

    If you are going to Cincy see the Union Terminal it is a must.

  • Angie says:

    Oh, please tell me you went to Gettysburg while you where in PA! 🙂 My family went there for the first time in June and it was amazing! We stayed three nights and still didn’t get to see everything. We are planning to go back for another mini-vacation next year.

    I’m anxiously awaiting your post on Pittsburgh. We are hoping to spend a couple of days there soon. And Philadelphia. Traveling is so much fun!

    We have our moments on vacations too, with the kids getting on each other’s nerves, and mom and dad’s nerves. Lol. And five people sharing a bathroom in the hotel. Sometimes we do get cranky, but oh, the memories! 🙂


    • We’ve been to Gettysburg in the past, so we didn’t do that this time since we were focusing on doing things we’ve never done before and also because Jesse loves it so much that he knew he’d want to spend the whole day there — and we couldn’t find that time in our itinerary while keeping it to a 14-day trip!

  • Alex says:

    Crystal, it’s great that you’re willing to be honest and acknowledge the challenges during travel! I think you’re spot on that character issues can easily arise in such close quarters (in 2015, my husband and I stayed in a shoebox in Tokyo for 10 days, and let’s just say we recognized each other’s character issues! But in 2016, we stayed in beautiful castles in Europe and faced some of the same issues). Being able to travel is such a blessing, but you realize it isn’t the circumstances or beautiful surroundings that make for a good time; it’s having a good attitude and being kind and content in all circumstances that makes for good memories. Thank you for being honest about your challenges, because it makes it harder for people to covet your circumstances. And thank you for sharing all of those fun photos! I hope we’ll have a chance to make it out to the East coast someday!

  • Kristin A. says:

    Hey Crystal, I would love to hear what your family did for sleeping arrangements on your big road trip. Obviously, a typical hotel room is two queen beds, which doesn’t work well for families of 5+! I am in a similar boat with three big kids (similar aged to yours and even two girls, with the younger a boy), and then a baby as well. In the past we’ve, on rare occasions, gotten a family suite, but more often that not our son sleeps on the floor in a nest of blankets or hopefully there is also a pull-out sofa in the room he can use. How does your family work all this out? Thanks!

    • We searched online for hotels that would allow 2 adults and 3 kids in one room and went with those. Most of them had 2 queen beds and a pull-out couch. When we were in Alexandria, we went with a regular hotel room and got a rollaway bed.

  • Liberty says:

    I live about an hour away from Hershey– and I love what you did there! I think the museum is great– did you see that Milton Hershey had bought a ticket for the Titanic and did not use it!?! Thank goodness or we may not have his chocolate!!

    Liberty @

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