I was talking with Will’s mom a few days before his birthday and she asked if they could come surprise him and spend a few days with us (we are at a campground outside of Lancaster, PA, so only about 3.5 hours from “home”). Will is not huge on surprises, so obviously I immediately agreed and started helping her scheme. After many texts and several sneaky phone calls, they had hotel reservations around the corner and were on the turnpike making their way across the state.
On the afternoon of their arrival, I conveniently ran errands when they pulled into town. I stopped by their hotel, gave them directions to the campground, and made our final arrangements. Will claims my eyes gave away the surprise, but I think it was more the fact that he saw their car coming down the road. If the fact that my deep clean of the camper that morning had not given the surprise away, I am not sure how it was my eyes that did it, but regardless, he was, in fact, surprised, and we were all very excited to see them.
On the day of his birthday, we made our way to Hershey’s Chocolate World. The 30-minute drive there was beautiful, even on an overcast day, with the rolling hills dotted with farms and the leaves starting to change color. As we got closer to Hershey, we saw more and more dairy farms and so much influence from the Hershey name, especially when driving through the Milton Hershey School campus.
Prior to our visit, I had done some research on what the COVID procedures were and what we should expect. We felt reassured by the information provided on their website and the requirement to “purchase” free tickets for timed entry to limit the number of people in the store at once. We also hoped that by going during the week when Hersheypark was closed that there would not be many people.
When we pulled into the parking lot, we were pleasantly surprised to find very few cars and procedures just as explained on the website. We lined up to have our temperatures checked and I marveled at the signs requiring masks to be worn over the mouth and nose (what a concept!), and we made our way inside.
Even with all our travels recently, we have managed to keep Little Bird out of stores, so walking into Chocolate World was a lot for her little brain to take in. She was in awe of the lights and colors and all the things to try to grab from her stroller.
The first thing we did was go on the chocolate tour ride that goes through the chocolate making process. This was Little Bird’s first “ride,” and she had no idea what to think about the talking cows, animated chocolate characters, and a woman talking to us from a screen in our little car. However, she seemed to really enjoy the experience, and it was so much fun seeing the ride through her eyes, seeing what caught her attention, and pointing things out to her.
As with our entire experience at Chocolate World, we were impressed with the sanitation procedures in the ride (our car was wiped down the second we stepped out). The store and bathrooms were amazingly clean, they were wiping down tables in the eating areas as soon as they were vacated (and even wiped ours down in front of us when we asked), and we saw them frequently wiping down high-touch surfaces, including the statues of chocolate characters by the entrance. As anxious as we have been about doing things where crowds could be an issue, the procedures they had really helped put us at ease.
After the ride, we made our way through the many areas of merchandise and went just a little crazy. We do not typically buy “things” where we visit, but for Hershey we made an exception. We could not pass up a couple of cute onesies and fun things for Little Bird, and of course we had to stock up on chocolate. Thankfully, most of our purchases will be consumed, so we do not have to make permanent space for much. During our shopping, we split from Will’s parents and it was so much fun to see how excited Little Bird got when she caught sight of Grandma or Grandpap across an aisle.
Once we made our difficult choices of what flavors of KitKat (lemon, birthday cake, and apple pie, for the record), Hershey’s Kisses (one bag of caramel), and all the other things to buy (chocolate syrup, cocoa, chocolate covered pretzels, and so much more we had to have and do not regret for one second), we joined Will’s parents for lunch in the dining area (I was impressed again with their COVID procedures and the changes they have made to limit food handling), then made our way back to the parking lot. I truly could not believe how few people we encountered in our entire visit and how comfortable I felt actually doing something like shopping and eating out. Aside from the masks, temperature checks, and all the signage to keep the pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it almost felt like the “good ol’ days.”
I think we were all surprised at how much fun we ended up having at Hershey’s Chocolate World. I am so glad we were able to share these memories with Will’s parents, and Will says he had a really great birthday. It was a sweet day.