Last week my family got to experience another wonderful, fun-filled trip around Pennsylvania. This time we spent three days and two nights in Lancaster and Hershey, home to some amazing family-friendly vacation spots, including Dutch Wonderland, Hershey Park, the Strasburg Railroad, Choo Choo Barn, and much more. For those who live in the mid-Atlantic area, this is such a wonderful and close place to vacation. For those further away, it is so worth it to come to this area for a family trip! Read on to learn more about this exciting area…
Our Stay at the Willow Valley Resort
We started off our trip at the Willow Valley Resort, a fabulous family destination central to everything in Lancaster and about 45 minutes from Hershey. This was our hub for our trip and it was very comfortable, relaxing, and a nice place for our family to stay. Our double room in the Atrium building was nice and upgraded with granite, had a refrigerator (great for storing milk, fruit and snacks!) and was a convenient walk to everything on property: 2 restaurants (with great Smorgasbords!), a bakery, an indoor swimming pool and water playground, a beautiful lake with playground, and a family-friendly farm.
My children really enjoyed their time playing on the property throughout our stay. They loved the water playground and one of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Willow Valley Farm. My boys learned about all of the animals there, got to feed them and give them water, and pet the animals, too.
We also liked the fact that the hotel was centrally located to Dutch Wonderland, the Strasburg Railroad, and the Lancaster outlet shopping (all about a 15 minute drive), Hershey Park (about 45 minutes) and was around the corner from a nice supermarket (which we went to numerous times!)
Take a look at some more pictures of the hotel and our stay in Lancaster/Hershey.
Dutch Wonderland – an amazing theme park for young children
The first day of our trip was spent at Dutch Wonderland, a very clean, manageable, fun theme park for young children. Of course there are great rides for kids, rides for the whole family, Duke’s Lagoon – a great little water park, and family theme shows and entertainment. Prices within the park are very reasonable, children under 3 are free as well as parking, which definitely helps when visiting!
My kids really enjoyed the Thomas and Friends theme show, as well as a number of rides that they got to go on together (there are plenty of little kid rides that they can ride alone, as well as other rides perfect for our whole family). At ages 4 ½ and 2, there was plenty for both of them to do (and we saw many children both younger and older enjoying the park as well… there are roller coasters for the older ones too!) The water park was perfect for cooling off on a hot day, and a great size for the park (not too overwhelming).
A trip to Dutch Wonderland is the perfect family getaway. Especially when you combine it with some of the other places we went…
Hershey Park – a theme park, water park, zoo, and Chocolate World all in one!
We went to Hershey Park on Sunday – on one of the hottest days of the year! Upon arriving, we, like most people there, went straight to The Boardwalk, Hershey’s water park (which is included in the price of your ticket!). My whole family spent a good hour or so cooling off in the newest ride, The Shore, a huge wave pool that has simulated waves from zero to 6 feet. We all enjoyed this attraction, as well as the Sandcastle Cove (pictured below) and it helped us cool off and enjoy the rest of the day at the park on the dry rides.
Hershey Park is a great family theme park with rides for all ages. There were plenty of “little kids” rides for my boys, and lots of thrill-seeking rides for older teens and adults. We were amazed at the numerous roller coasters and how crazy they were! (I would have tried them if I had a daredevil with me!)
We also enjoyed a stroll through ZooAmerica, a zoo right in the middle of Hershey Park. The kids loved seeing the animals and it gave us a chance to cool off in the shade for a bit. Another highlight was the “Great Candy Caper” featuring sea lion detectives, which was cleverly performed and enjoyed by the whole family. It didn’t hurt that we got splashed a bit, too!
Of course a trip is not complete without a visit to Chocolate World, which was one of the highlights for us. We got to experience a 3D movie about chocolate (who wouldn’t like that!) as well as the main attraction at Chocolate World – a ride through the history and the making of Hershey’s chocolate. At the end of it we got to sample some chocolate too, yum! We all loved concluding our visit to Hershey Park in the amazing Chocolate World store, filled with everything you can imagine and then some. Let’s just say I did my fair share of eating that day!
The Strasburg Railroad and Choo-Choo Barn – a train lover’s dream come true!
Anyone who knows my son Jacob knows that he is a BIG train and Thomas fan. So our last day in Lancaster was spent doing everything train related: a visit to the historic Strasburg Railroad, and then a visit to the Choo Choo barn, an amazing model railroad display.
Strasburg Railroad allows you to explore and ride old-fashioned, restored steam engine trains. Seeing the coal-burning, huge steam train was so exciting for my kids (and for us!) and riding was even more exciting. Inside the train it was plush, with beautiful lighting fixtures and every little detail polished and perfect. We all loved riding, listening to the conductor talk about Amish life, agriculture, and learning a lot about the area. After our train ride, we enjoyed riding the little “cranky cars” that the kids could steer, operating a hand-powered pump car, and browsing the numerous gift shops (including an all Thomas shop!).
You can eat in the Dining Car of the train, at the Trackside Café, or you can get off the train at a shaded picnic spot.
Stratsburg Railroad is a host to Day Out With Thomas three times a year, when a huge Thomas festival comes to town. You can ride Thomas the Train, meet Sir Topam Hat, and play with numerous train tables and Thomas Legos. It’s definitely something a Thomas lover shouldn’t miss!
After our great experience at Stratsburg, we headed across the street to the Choo Choo Barn. This 1,700 square foot train attraction features over 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles and 22 operating trains. It is an exciting sight to see for anyone, train lover or not.
We all loved watching it turn from day to night and seeing the train town change… and all of the exciting animated scenes before our eyes. Take a look at what the Choo Choo Barn is like… it’s truly awesome!
Coming to this area?
I just want to reiterate again how fabulous I think the Lancaster/Hershey area is for a family trip. Children of all ages will have so much fun, learn a lot, and the whole family will enjoy quality time together in this wholesome yet exciting town. For more information on Lancaster and Hershey, please visit the Tourism websites, which offer a lot of great information including itinerary advice. It’s an easy drive for many of us, and for those who fly in, Philadelphia’s airport or Harrisburg are both within 45 min – 1.5 hours. Finally, take a look at some more pictures of our stay in Lancaster/Hershey.