What do you get if you cross a giant candy store, an Amish farm, and an overloading of Christmas cheer? A fun day out from New York City.
We had a booked a tour to visit Hershey Chocolate World and Koziar’s Christmas Village. It took over 3 hours to get to Hershey Chocolate World and the driver didn’t know where it was so we circled around it a few times before finding the right road. (You’d think a gigantic candy store wouldn’t be that hard to find, but you’d think wrong.)
Anyway, the original Hershey’s Chocolate World is located off of Hersheypark Drive, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and is in an entertainment complex which also includes Hersheypark, Hersheypark Stadium, Hersheypark Arena, Hershey Museum, and…Giant Center. We were only visiting Chocolate World, not the park or anything else.
Chocolate World has a free tour that has a deceptively long queuing line, stretching for approximately six miles, up stairs, down stairs, around corners, into Narnia, out from Wonderland. When you finally reach the front you’re ushered into a little car on a conveyor belt going through a fake “factory” which shows you all the steps involved in making Hershey chocolate. It features singing cows and gave me a headache, but I’m sure if I was six years old it would have been terrific. Also, the process notably lacks any mention of the bucketloads of artificial ingredients they presumably use (although they do seem like a generally commendable company from the brief google search I just did. Kudos Hershey!).
Outside Chocolate World, on the way to Hersheypark (why there’s no space in that mess of a word I don’t know), there are some more smaller stores selling more Hershey goodies, a few restaurants, and a store selling “traditional” Christmas stuff that mostly appeals to people that get outraged when you say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Happy Christmas”. They offered tinsel and stockings and mugs that said “Only Jesus Helps Me More Than Coffee”.
After that we headed back to the bus. Everyone was happy, so the tour guide decided to take us to an Amish farm. The natural follow-up to commercialized worshipping at a chocolate temple is of course a visit to an Amish farm. Now, before we get into it, this visit surprised most people, and came at additional cost, so naturally there were people who didn’t want to pay the $20. However, the Amish farm was going to be a 2-hour visit, half of which was on our bus being driven around the area. So people that didn’t want to pay up couldn’t even stay on the bus. Luckily there was a Target the size of Neptune directly opposite the Amish farm gift shop because giant corporations love fucking with people.
We decided to do the tour because we didn’t want to go to Target and end up buying another 12-pack of tupperware we won’t ever use. Instead we saw the Amish going about their daily lives, with almost nothing they’d bought from Target. That said, after we’d finished gawping at Amish horse and carts, we did go to Target and we saw a few Amish people looking intently at brands of toilet paper (everyone needs that two-ply, right?).
Finally, we went to Koziar’s Christmas Village. Unfortunately, so did everyone else in Pennsylvania. The traffic was horrendous. We sat, sweating in the too-hot bus, peering out the windows at the stream of car tail lights ahead of us. Children started fidgeting on the bus. Parents were trying to placate them, secretly and not so secretly wishing they’d never had children.
Eventually we made it past the entrance, and we joined the shuffling of ponderous white Americans and their gaggles of children along a designated path, stopping periodically to go “oooh” and “ahhh” at all the pretty lights. And to be fair, it was very pretty.
Very pretty, but knowing that this is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Pennsylvania, one might rightly wonder why Pennsylvania doesn’t have better tourist attractions.
By the time we’d shuffled all the way round, our time was up. Our tour guide had a strict time to get everyone back to NYC by. Maybe she had a hot date waiting, who knows. Overall, it was a fun day out, probably a little more expensive than we would’ve liked (~$90 each), but we got our dose of holiday cheer. And, err, we can say we’ve seen Amish people in their natural habitat too…buying toilet paper at Target.
Happy holidays everyone!