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Youth Focus: Hershey / Harrisburg

Courtesy Hershey Park

Call it a sweet destination: Hershey, Pennsylvania, has a tourism scene as exciting as its namesake candy bar. Youth groups will enjoy a variety of great attractions in the area, including a chocolate experience, an amusement park and a hands-on zoo. Nearby Harrisburg is a historical town that gives students a great introduction to the Civil War.

[ The National Civil War Museum ]
In Harrisburg, the National Civil War Museum gives visitors an overview of the Civil War, which had a large impact on much of central Pennsylvania. Exhibits at the museum present the events of the war from the points of view of both the Union and Confederate armies using hundreds of artifacts, high-definition videos and life-size mannequins. Groups can take self-guided tours through the museum’s 17 galleries or arrange to have an educational presentation by one of the Civil War historians who  work with the museum.

[ Hersheypark ]

Youth groups could spend a whole day roaming Hersheypark, an amusement park that offers a variety of shows, rides and other attractions. Among the 65 rides at the park is Skyrush, a roller coaster on which the outer seats of each car are flanged at an angle away from the track. The park also features a water park called the Boardwalk, a kids area with 20 rides, live entertainment and special events during the spring and around Christmas and Halloween.

[ ZooAmerica North America Wildlife Park ]
Located next to Hershey Park, ZooAmerica is an 11-acre zoo that specializes in showcasing animals from around the United States. Visitors will find 200 native animals from five areas of the country: the Southern Swamps, the Eastern Woodlands, the Northlands, Big Sky Country and the Great Southwest. Groups can arrange after-hours tours, two-hour behind-the-scenes experiences that go into animal care buildings and include hands-on interactions with animals such as otters, reptiles and birds of prey.

[ Hershey’s Chocolate World ]

Much of Hershey’s candy comes from central Pennsylvania, and Hershey’s Chocolate World is a re-creation of a candy factory. Groups can take a tour of the chocolate line, where the popular Create Your Own Candy Bar experience allows visitors to dream up their own confectionary products. Chocolate experts offer special candy-tasting experiences for visitors; the attraction also features a 3-D show, a bakeshop and a dessert creation.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.