Last week I attended a conference at Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA. I will be summarizing some of the conference in a different post. But I also wanted to use the opportunity to do a mini-review of some of what we visited while we were there.
Here is my special needs travel review of Hershey Lodge, Hershey Chocolate World and Troegs Brewery.
Where To Stay in Hershey, PA: An Honest Hershey Lodge Review
Hershey Lodge is one of the most well-known lodging options in Hershey, PA. It’s huge, with over 650 rooms and several restaurants on-site. But is it worth it?
Overall, it’s very nice and there is a lot for kids to do. It is also one of the more expensive hotels in Hershey. So if you’re not going to be spending much time at the hotel, I’d shop around. The restaurants are good, but a bit pricey. We spent an average of $50 for four people to eat breakfast and lunch, $75+ for dinner.
And that was usually without alcohol because a glass of wine is $9 and up. Yes, you could get in the car and go nearby to a fast-food place or Panera or something. But I had to be at the conference early each day so there is the convenience factor.
Hershey Lodge Activities & Amenities
One great thing about the Hershey Park Lodge isthat there are plenty of onsite amenities. The kids had plenty of things to do while I was busy at the work conference all day.
My boys loved playing miniature golf and bingo. There was no fee for either activity and it was held daily. On Wednesday, little K won the bingo and got a huge Hershey kiss.
The pools looked nice. My husband took the boys while I was at the conference and he said it was very clean. The room we had (2 queens) was cozy. The AC unit left much to be desired. They use one of those swamp cooler things, so you either freeze or it’s very humid.
Before You Book a Room
I recommend that you look at a map of the Hershey Lodge prior to taking a room. The walk was much further than we anticipated to get to the lobby and restaurants for activities.
I did not specify that we needed a handicapped accessible room as we usually don’t. But endurance is a challenge sometimes. It was quite an unexpected walk for Kevin to be doing several times a day.
Chocolate Martini Hershey Hotel
While I have since stopped drinking alcohol, when we visited, I still did.
So, of course I had to try the famous Chocolate Martini at the Hershey Lodge. It was $12 then, and with inflation…only $13 now. According to what it says online, anyway.
They also have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Martini and Jolly Rancher Martini.
Cleanliness of the Hershey Lodge
The place overall was clean, but there was much detail-y type work to be done. I used the same glass door every day that rarely got cleaned and our room needed detail and edge vacuum and dusting.
The refrigerator in the room was not that cold. Better than nothing, but I’d be leery of keeping things like yogurt or milk in there if you needed to. In summary, yes I would stay there again but definitely not at full, peak-season rates.
I would look for deals and discounts online (there are many!) or go in the off-season. I have heard that they have renovations in their future plans. So maybe if we go again, it will be even better.
Hershey Lodge Restaurants
Hershey Lodge dining offers many options, with 6 different restaurant options onsite.
- Fire & Grain (breakfast & dinner, resort casual, great happy hour options)
- Hershey Grill (temporarily closed as of 1/23)
- The Bears’ Den (hockey themed, lunch and dinner)
- Cocoa Beanery (coffee and snacks)
- Cocoa Cabana (snacks at Hershey’s Water Works)
- Revelry (dinner, a more upscale option)
Menus for each site are available online. The kids’ menus were fine for us. Despite Kevin’s many feeding challenges we were able to give him variety and things he liked.
I did not see any allergy options on menus (maybe I missed it) or carb counts for kids with T1, though I did see that Fire & Grain has allergy information on their website.
The noise level in some of the restaurants was high, particularly in the Bears Den and Hershey Grille. But on one evening we were seated in a side room adjacent to the main room which helped. Overall, the entire facility is much larger in person than it seems online.
So again, I’d make sure ahead of time you know how far of a walk it will be for your disabled child if that is an issue.
Things to Do at Hershey Chocolate World
Our time was limited due to my being at the conference so the only Hershey activity we chose was Hershey Chocolate World.
Activities at Chocolate World
Brian liked it, Kevin did not. We arrived at mid-day during peak season so it was very crowded. It is free to enter and you can take the 15-minute tour for free, plus visit the gift shop and food court. The desserts looked amazing but we had just eaten lunch.
We chose two paid add-on activities at Hershey Chocolate World: the chocolate tasting and Create Your Own Candy Bar which came to $93 for the four of us.
The layout of Chocolate World is horrible in my opinion. It’s just like a giant cluster and people go everywhere. It’s not arranged in lines or directions for people to follow. People are just walking in every which direction, trying to get at what they want to see. It’s very noisy and the lighting is just ok.
It was very unsettling for Kevin and his sensory issues.
The chocolate tasting is not really for kids. Mine were bored and just wanted to eat the chocolate. I did see a family restroom. And notices about nuts being on premises for food allergies. I did not see any quiet areas or place you could possibly sneak off to get a break for a few minutes.
For most of Chocolate World, strollers are prohibited, though they were going to allow me to use ours since it has a ‘handicapped accessible’ tag on it and is his assistive device.
What to do at Hershey Chocolate World. Or not.
For kiddos with sensory issues, I would not recommend going in peak season. I would try again in the off-season. Kevin just doesn’t do well with lots of noise and crowds and waiting in line.
It was overwhelming for him, which means that Mom doesn’t enjoy herself either. Still, the gift shop is not to be missed. I’ve never seen so many Hershey things in one place!
We really enjoyed the Create Your Own Chocolate Bar.
But again, it was very crowded. While the activity is fun, it’s a lot of waiting in lines throughout the activity for each station. Overall, for Chocolate World, I would go back but at a much less crowded time of year. Luckily I have that option since I live close.
Things to do Near Hershey Park
Our visit to Troegs was a total bummer.
Ok, now for our last outing-Troegs.
Yes, it’s a brewery and not an attraction for kids. Still, Hershey is a vacation destination for families. And Troegs is right down the street from Hershey Park, and they have a kids menu.
So they certainly acknowledge that kids will be visiting, including kids with autism and sensory issues. And, kids have parents. Parents who like Troegs.
So here is what to expect if you want to go.
Overall, unless your kids are super-tolerant and very well behaved, I’d avoid taking the kids if you can. It’s just overwhelming in noise and smells. In full disclosure, I really don’t like beer.
But my husband loves Troegs and since we were staying at a hotel near Troeg’s, we felt like we had to visit.
And we plan on going back as maybe a day trip or something when my brother or FIL is visiting because they also love Troegs.
But if at all possible, don’t take the kids. It was sensory overload for me, I’m very surprised that Kevin did as well as he did. Dan had no complaints.
There were very strong beer brewing smells. Yes, it’s a brewery, I know that. But I have visited several other breweries and I don’t remember there being such a strong, offensive smell.
Brian complained about it several times. It’s very open and airy and warehouse-y inside, which means it’s noisy. Add to that, people drinking beer and having a good time, and the volume level is incredible.
So, we chose to sit outside thinking it would be quieter for Kevin and that backfired. Outside, depending on the breeze, the beer brewing smell was stronger and more offensive and smelled more like a dumpster.
The only table they had available was right next to their smoker (which I can’t figure out why they’d put that on a restaurant patio?!) and my hair smelled like campfire for 2 days afterward.
So, what could possibly make it even more unpleasant?
Well, FLIES! Yes, on top of the noise and the bad smells, the flies and gnats were annoying even though they had fans to try to keep them away. Their kids’ menu was just ok. The PB and J we got for Kevin had very tough, artisan type bread. I was stuffed from lunch so didn’t eat much.
Brian did not like any of the choices so he just ate the chips that came with Kevin’s sandwich. They did not have any beverages for small kids except a cranberry lemonade which they didn’t like.
Dan said his food was good and that the beer was reasonably priced and “it doesn’t get any fresher than this.” The building itself is very new so accessibility is not an issue. The bathrooms were just ok as again, a very strong perfume-y smell in them and the floors were wet.
But again, I recognize that this is a brewery and not a kids attraction. Leave your kids behind if you can and you’ll probably have a better time.
Is It Worth It To Visit Hershey, PA?
I have lived Pennsylvania for over four decades and this was my first real trip to Hershey. Once I was there in the 1980s and I’ve still never been to HersheyPark.
There were what looked like several families having extended family vacations with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, much like some of our vacations we have done. But we do ours at ranches in NY.
The Hershey Lodge and Hershey would be a good spot for something like that, but it is an expensive trip.
You can look beyond Hershey and find things to do in Lancaster, Gettysburg, and Harrisburg to maximize your vacation.
If you are taking a child with sensory issues or a child who struggles with big outings like this, you’re going to really have to prepare ahead of time. It is a sensory overload place and even NT kids will be overwhelmed. But, with the preparation I think it can be done and that your family can have a great time.
I think we will go back but that it will be as a day trip. I still love Hershey, I still love their chocolate and other items but I just wasn’t as “wow’d” at Chocolate World and the Lodge as I had hoped to be.
We did not go into Downtown Hershey or the Town of Hershey, with the exception of going to Troegs. Others suggested the AACA Museum, but we did not have time to get there.
Things to do in Hershey. Or not.
Or, at least really think them through and plan.
- Hershey Lodge: It’s expensive, but you don’t have to use your car if you don’t want to. There’s food, swimming, bingo, miniature golf and other things to do right there.
- Troegs? No thanks. Just an overall unsatisfactory experience.
- And Chocolate World. Maybe. I would return as a day trip in the offseason, and I certainly won’t drop $100 on activities this time. I would definitely drive up there for a day in the off-season to visit the Chocolate World Store.
- HersheyPark: We still haven’t been! We couldn’t fit it in this trip and didn’t get there. To be honest, we prefer Knoebels and it’s only about 90 minutes from Hershey.
Author’s Note: I’ve been mulling over this post in my mind, long after I wrote it. I am wondering if it’s too harsh. Hershey and Troegs are two of PA’s most beloved brands, right? But I’ve read it and re-read it, and I can’t help but be honest.
Keep in mind that I am blogging from the perspective of a family with sensory needs. I feel that I have to be honest with my readers as far as what to expect with their kids if you choose to go.
This was written in 2014 but was updated to fix links and photos.