As the summer was coming to an end, my family and I hopped in the car and took the short 2 1/2 hour drive from the DC area to Hershey, Pennsylvania. My husband has been in the Navy for over 17 years and travels often, so we have learned to seize every opportunity enjoy some fun and family time — and this opportunity sounded especially tempting. Hershey, Pennsylvania, is known as “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” and it lived up to its reputation upon our arrival; as we arrived at The Hotel Hershey, we were greeted by friendly staff who handed each of us a full size Hershey Bar. Our 8 year old son’s eyes almost popped out of his head, and our 11 year old daughter was convinced they were delivered fresh that morning from the Hershey Chocolate factory. We all, of course, agreed with her, since she is 11 and therefore knows everything.
We checked into our beautiful room, which overlooked the extensive gardens, and within minutes we had our bathing suits on and were ready to hit the pool. We spent the entire day at the expansive outdoor pool facilities equipped with huge slides that could rival any water park. The hotel also offers an adult only pool and whirlpool, which we felt obligated to check out in the name of research. During lunch, we embraced the Hershey atmosphere by ordering chocolate wings, which were delivered right to our poolside lounge chairs – that’s what I call a vacation!
Taking a break from the pool, we headed back to explore the incredible grounds and rich history of The Hotel Hershey. The Hotel Hershey was built by Mr. Hershey in 1934, employing virtually the entire town to work at the hotel and in the Hershey Chocolate factory. This was one of the most incredible hotels I have ever had the privilege of visiting. The Hotel Hershey has preserved much of its original rich decor in many of the rooms, including such gems as the Fountain Lobby, The Circular Dining Room, and the Iberian Lounge. The walls are lined with stories and photos of Mr. and Mrs. Hershey with some of the countless celebrity guests who have stayed there. Walking those halls, I felt as though I had stepped back in time, yet with all of the modern amenities of a four-star luxury hotel.
We all ventured outside on the large front porch, sprinkled with old fashioned rocking chairs and comfortable lounge chairs. Everyone in our party claimed their spot and enjoyed the view of the valley below and watched the roller coasters of Hershey Park roar in the near distance. Topping off the cool summer evening, my husband and I tried the famous Hershey Chocolate Martini and Reese’s Martini — again, all in the name of research. They did not disappoint, and we felt a bit like the proverbial kids in the candy shop.
The next morning we were ready to conquer the rides and attractions of Hershey Park. Our family has some experience with theme parks; in fact, we are a fanatical amusement park family. One of my first dates with my husband was at Busch Gardens, Virginia, and in the ensuing years I’ve gained some experience with roller coaster ride we call military life. We are also proud to have produced two roller coaster junkies (maybe they never had a choice), so for us, this was a trip made in chocolate heaven.
We kicked things off in spectacular fashion with the new ride called Fahrenheit, described as a “vertical lift inverted loop coaster,” a modern marvel of a ride that ascends 121 feet before plummeting down a 97-degree track. I love that Hershey Park combines the cutting edge rollercoasters, like Farenheit, with the old fashioned wooden rollercoasters and rides my husband and I remember from our childhoods.
And as we stood in line for various attractions, our family talked. We analyzed how the previous ride compared to other rides, chatted about the upcoming school year, and tossed around ideas about the sports the kids might want to try out for. We took turns riding with each other, racing dueling rollercoasters and, now that the kids are old enough to ride together, I was thrilled to have a chance to ride a few rides seated once again next to my date — the sweet circle of life.
We ended our day with a stop in the Hershey Chocolate store, a magical place that might best be described as “you name it, they have it — in chocolate.” We opted for the unlimited toppings ice cream bar, with everyone creating their own unique ice cream sundaes that included edible frosting that could be used to paint on the table. Truly a sweet memory!
Our family felt extremely fortunate to be able to go on this little escape together, since Ed has been away most of this current tour. In fact, as I write this blog, he is on the road again, overseas. This periodic separation is something our children have learned to endure, but is not necessarily something they enjoy. The silver lining, though, is that because of his constant travel with the military, we are a family who does celebrate life as much as we can at every opportunity — we have experienced enough time apart to truly appreciate the time we get to spend together.
And knowing that our family would be taken care of in the event that the unthinkable happened, thanks to our life insurance policies, allows us to enjoy life that much more. In addition to the standard SGLI, my husband and I decided many years ago to also purchase additional life insurance through USAA. Some people think this is a hard conversation to have, but we didn’t. Simply put, death is a fact of life, and the sooner you take steps to protect your family, the faster you can enjoy life.
Thank you to USAA for providing this sweet trip as a gift to our family. Ready to create your own sweet memories with your family? USAA is also providing one lucky reader with a $300 VISA gift card to celebrate the sweetness of life. What memory will you create? Enter below…