If You've Got A Sweet Tooth, This Popular US Amusement Park Is For You

After filmmaker Mel Stuart and actor Gene Wilder brought Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and his scrumdidlyumptious chocolate factory to life on the silver screen in 1971, fans all over the world became enamored with the candy maker. Over 50 years later, the character is still a prominent part of pop culture thanks to the 2005 remake starring Johnny Depp and the 2023 prequel starring Timothée Chalamet.

As beloved as Wonka, the Oompa Loompas, and the golden ticket-winning children have become, audiences are just as obsessed with the chocolate factory itself. No matter what version of the story you're devouring, the factory always resembles a theme park with different attractions and adventures. While Willy Wonka's chocolate factory isn't real, the next best thing can be found in central Pennsylvania thanks to Hersheypark.

Located only two hours from Philadelphia and less than three hours from Pittsburgh, Hershey is home to the titular candy company that was founded by Milton S. Hershey in 1894. In addition to setting up Hershey's global headquarters in the Keystone State, the confectioner also opened a family park in 1906 as a leisure time activity for his employees and the community. This attraction began to expand into a full-fledged theme park starting in 1908 by adding more rides like a carousel, a miniature railroad, and bowling alleys. Thanks to the installation of the first roller coaster in 1923, Hersheypark began the process of transitioning into the renowned theme park we know today.

Sweetest Place On Earth

If you're visiting Hersheypark, you're likely either an adrenaline junkie or a parent with a kid with a sweet tooth. The theme park touts an extremely family-friendly environment with attractions for all ages. With its convenient five-point rating system to classify an attraction as mild or wild, you can easily determine if you're ready to marathon the 15 thrilling roller coasters or if you should focus on the various other attractions, like the massive water park or the zoo, which are mostly themed after Hershey's best-selling chocolate treats. You can even meet (but not eat) anthropomorphic versions of Reese's Cups, Kit Kats, Twizzlers, Hershey's Kisses, and more, just like you'd meet Mickey and friends at a Disney park or Snoopy and friends at Knott's Berry Farm.

If high-speed, gravity-defying, and scream-inducing amusements are what you're after, then you're in luck. Hersheypark has earned coveted spots on many top coaster lists over the years. From classic wooden coasters like Comet to sooperdooperLooper, which is a modern-day looping steel roller coaster, this theme park has an option for all flavors of coaster enthusiasts. And Hersheypark isn't done. It's constantly adding new roller coasters to its repertoire. As of June 2023, it opened Wildcat's Revenge, which pays tribute to the past while launching riders into the future. Named after the park's first coaster, the latest Wildcat iteration is a mix between metal and wood that features a 140-foot height, an 82-degree drop, and four inversions.

The Great American Chocolate Bar

While Hersheypark can be fun for the whole family, if you really want a Willy Wonka experience, then you need to go to Hershey's Chocolate World. Located in the same complex as the theme park (but independently operated), this visitor-center-meets-candy-store was built in 1973 as a replacement and expansion for the popular Hershey Chocolate Factory Tour, where visitors loved seeing the beloved candy bars get made. Inspired by the World's Fair, Chocolate World originally started with a ride known as "Hershey's Chocolate Tour," which takes guests on a journey through the chocolate-making process, from cocoa bean to wrapped candy. Along the way, you feel the beans roasting, you smell the sweetness of the chocolate, and you hear singing cows. At the end of the ride, which is completely free of charge, you finally get a taste of the delicious product you've just seen get made.

In addition to the tour, Chocolate World has also come to include a number of other attractions, such as an interactive theater experience, a create-your-own candy bar section, and a theatrical show titled "Hershey's Unwrapped: A Chocolate Tasting." While Hershey's Chocolate World may be a perfect addition to your Hersheypark trip, there's definitely enough to do to warrant a dedicated visit all on its own.