Hershey's Chocolate World, epicenter of the "Sweetest Place on Earth," is morphing into even more of a treat for chocolate fans with the addition of two new experiences this month.
The first, Create Your Own Candy Bar, is the closest visitors can get to a bona fide chocolate factory experience.
They select add-ins to flavor their personal chocolate bar, design its wrapper and trigger production equipment to start. Then they can follow their bar from its start as melted chocolate to the moments when it emerges from a cooling tunnel and is wrapped.
This new experience opened June 12.
The second experience, The Dessert Creation Studio, invites guests to fashion their own desserts using fondue (dark chocolate, white chocolate or milk chocolate), cookie-style pizzas, waffles or the makings for s'mores. While waiting for their personalized desserts to arrive, kids and parents also can exercise their creativity by wielding paint brushes laden with Hershey's chocolate, strawberry and caramel syrups.
Located in the newly expanded area above the Create Your Own Candy Bar experience, the studio will open within the next two weeks.
Adding in Chocolate World's other attractions including the Great American Chocolate Tour, the Chocolate Tasting Adventure, Hershey's Really Big 3D Show, Hershey Trolley Tours and a food court filled with additional chocolate temptations, a family could devote half a day to chocolate before spending the rest of the day working it off at neighboring Hersheypark.
Chocolate World also could host an extreme marathon for chocolate lovers, requiring advance training (abstaining from chocolate for at least a week before the visit), special attire (that's cut generously and contains expandable waistbands) and strategy (pacing oneself between the "experiences" and eating chocolate, more chocolate and still more chocolate).
The winner of this marathon? The person who begins their Chocolate World day with hot or frozen cocoa and a triple chocolate fudge cookie or a Reese's peanut butter blossom, devours six more chocolate miniatures and a sample of Aztec-style cocoa during the chocolate tasting experience, ends lunch with a slice of an outrageously rich chocolate cake or a cupcake or brownie in the food court, downs a chocolate milkshake or chocolate-studded sundae as a late afternoon snack and still wants to buy more chocolate to take home like a five-pound Hershey's Bar, the world's largest Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or the biggest Hershey's Kiss you'll ever find (a two-pounder that's hollow and filled with more Kisses).
The only downside to this chocolate-coated day trip is its price. Spending money could melt as quickly as a Hershey's bar in the hot sun, unless you treat Chocolate World's assortment of activities like a box of chocolates and carefully select a few caramels or butter creams to enjoy.
The Create Your Own Candy Bar experience and the Chocolate Tasting Adventure are my top choices, totaling $25 for adults and $22 for kids.
Still have a little more you can spend? I'd order one of the least expensive treats, like makings for s'mores, because it'll also buy you the chance to paint with brushes and syrups. Note to parents: Kids will get disposable bibs and chef's hats, so their clothes and hair won't become parts of their art.
If you're in the mood to splurge, add a Trolley Works tour ($12.95 for adults; $5.95 for kids) staffed with actors mixing Hershey's history with songs and Hershey's Kisses.
The Hershey's Really Big 3D Show ($5.95 for adults and $4.95 for kids), would be my last choice, although others might enjoy the highlights including colorful animation, music and experiencing Hershey's Kisses projected in the air, a rainy mist filling the theater and the sensation that mice are running under their seats.
No matter which paid experiences you select, make the free Great American Chocolate Tour a part of your Chocolate World visit. This long-running attraction still is fun. Like an amusement park ride, you'll climb into a little car that whisks you to the jungles where cacao beans are grown and harvested before arriving at the factory where you'll see the processes involved in turning cocoa nibs and milk from Hershey's happy cows into Kisses and candy bars.
Your reward for taking the ride: getting to eat another sample of Hershey's chocolate before it melts in your pocket.
Fortunately, you won't have to eat the candy bar you make as soon as you finish the Create Your Own Candy Bar Experience. Visitors will get a taste of what it's like to be a candy maker, from wearing hair nets and aprons to keeping a watchful eye on chocolate production equipment while breathing the intoxicating scent of chocolate in the air.
Hang onto your admission ticket because you'll need to scan it several times during your create-a-candy-bar session.
Prospective candy makers will use two touch screens to design their personal candy bars. The first screen is used to select as many as three add-ins for their bars from a list including graham cracker crumbs, chocolate cookie bits, rainbow jimmies, vanilla chips and blueberry fruit jells. Just when you think you're finished, you'll be asked to make another major manufacturing decision about your candy bar. Do you want it to be topped with rainbow-colored sprinkles that are shaped like miniature Hershey's Kisses?
Then it's time to follow your personal bar on its way through the automated chocolate production equipment that shapes melted chocolate and flavorings you've selected into your bar. You'll always know which bar is yours because your name appears on light screens as the bar enters each new phase of the production process.
While your candy bar is in a cooling tunnel, you'll design its wrapper on another touch screen. You can take the easy way out and choose one of four standard designs that are offered. Or you can take charge of your own wrapper, from selecting its background color to positioning other art on the front of the wrapper.
When you're through designing the wrapper, you'll need to watch a scheduling screen that's much like the arrival screen at an airport. In this case, you'll be checking to see when your candy bar will emerge from the cooling tunnel and enter the wrapping process, which you can watch.
First, another piece of automated equipment will slide your bar into a paperboard box. Then, the box will be hand-packed into a tin and enclosed in the wrapper you've created. It will look so good that you'll want to spend several days admiring it while waiting for your chocolate cravings to return.
What: Hershey's Create Your Own Candy Bar
When: 9 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, during the summer
Where: Hershey's Chocolate World, 251 Park Blvd., Hershey
Cost: $14.95 per person
Tip 1: A second new chocolate experience, The Dessert Creation Studio, will open later this month. Watch the website for news of its opening day.
Tip 2: The first two hours of Chocolate World parking are free; two to five hours cost $10 and more than five hours cost $30.
Info: 717-534-4900, www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld
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