Ah, the family vacation: sometimes fun, sometimes tortuous—and usually expensive. In my never-ending pursuit to increase the first factor and decrease the second and third, I decided to give Hersheypark a try. With a candy-themed amusement park featuring 12 roller coasters, a water park, 27 kiddie rides — and only a three-hour drive from Poughkeepsie — it seemed a promising locale to entertain my three kids, ages 4, 13, and 15.
We stayed at the family-friendly Hershey Lodge, rather than the historic Hotel Hershey, and the first thing we saw upon entering was the kids’ check-in desk, where my four-year-old was delighted to be treated like a special guest; he signed a guest register, got a personalized lanyard, guessed how many Hershey’s Miniatures were in a bowl, and received a chocolate treat.
The Lodge’s lobby was modern but rustic with wood walls and beams and a four-sided fireplace. The rooms were spacious and luxurious, and we appreciated the comfortable beds after our visit to Hersheypark. The pools — a small indoor one, and a larger outdoor one — were crowded, but my elder son had fun, and my daughter and younger son played video games in the hotel’s nearby arcade.
Explore: Our primary destination was Hersheypark, but Hershey’s Chocolate World is steps away. If you stay at one of the Official Resorts of Hersheypark, you will receive complimentary admission to nearby Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story Museum Experience; I recommend you visit both. To get a break from the commercialism, head 40 miles southeast to Lancaster, and explore Amish country. Or, on your way home, head to Knoebels, which calls itself “the largest free admission amusement park in America” (you can pay per ride or get a one-day pass).
Dine: As far as dinner options, you have three choices at the Lodge: The Bears’ Den, a sports-themed casual family restaurant; The Forebay, “creative comfort food”; and Hershey Grill, “easy to recognize, simple dishes.” We settled on The Bears’ Den, and the food was what you would expect from a family-friendly restaurant: adequate, but nothing to write home about, and a little pricey. The kids did enjoy the sports-themed décor.
Insider Tip: If you stay at an Official Resort of Hersheypark, take advantage of the deals: One perk was free twilight admission the night before our park visit. It was a great way to map our course for the next day.
Distance from Poughkeepsie: 3 hours by car. Rates: Rates start at $189/night. Stay includes free shuttle to Hersheypark, character visits in the lobby, and discounts and free admission to other attractions. Summer single-day admission to Hersheypark is $61.95 for ages 9 to 54; $38.95 for ages 3 to 8
and 55 to 69; $23.95 for ages 70 and up
325 University Drive, Hershey, PA