Free Things to Do in Hershey, PA with Kids

There’s a lot to love about Hershey, PA. I mean, it is the “Sweetest Place on Earth” and home to all kinds of chocolatey goodness.

Many flock to Hersheypark for roller coasters and water rides, but there’s so much more to see and do in Hershey besides Hersheypark.

Even better, there are loads of free things to do in Hershey, PA, especially for kids.

We’ve been to Hersheypark, not just during the summer, but for off-season events, like Hersheypark Christmas Candylane and Hersheypark in the Dark.

We also love Hershey’s Chocolate World. It’s right next door. Who wouldn’t love learning about (and sampling) Hershey’s chocolate?

Free Things to Do in Hershey, PA   

If you’re thinking about visiting Hershey, PA, I highly encourage you to check out what else is in town.

Here’s what to do that’s both fun and free in Hershey, as well as in surrounding towns, like Hummelstown and the Harrisburg area. 

#1: See How Chocolate is Made 

Singing Cows-Hersheys Chocolate World

At Hershey’s Chocolate World, make a beeline for the free chocolate tour. We  love to see the singing cows with names like Hazel, Cocoa and Blossom.

You’ll see, hear and smell the transformation of cocoa beans into the most famous chocolate in the land on this immersive ride.

The chocolate-making process is incredible. It’s also one of the most popular free things to do in Hershey, PA. Tours run all day, every day.

The website says the tour time is 30 minutes, but that includes time spent waiting in line. I’d say the actual tour is only 7 to 10 minutes.

At the end, there’s a sweet reward. Every guest receives a free piece of Hershey’s chocolate as a thank you for taking the tour.

#2: Hike the Appalachian Trail

More than 220 hikeable miles of the iconic Appalachian Trail (AT) meander across the southeast quadrant of Pennsylvania.

That’s over 10 percent of the entire trail. There are short kid-friendly AT hikes not far from Hershey too. These hikes range from three to five miles round-trip.

Try the dog-friendly 1.6 mile hike to Hawk Rock which rewards with scenic vistas of the Susquehanna River and Sherman’s Creek from the rocky overlook.

The longer 5-mile Clark’s Ferry Loop has some steep sections and rock scrambles, but that’s a big part of the appeal.

#3: Burn Off Energy at Cocoa Castle

Cocoa Castle-Free Things to Do in Hershey PA

Kids will love to run, jump and slide at Cocoa Castle, a super-fun community playground in Hershey.

Here you’ll find a large fenced in area with all kinds of play structures, like slides, bridges and tunnels. There’s plenty of parking, even comfy benches.

The Cocoa Castle playground on Cocoa Avenue is less than a five-minute drive from Hershey’s Chocolate World and Hersheypark.

It’s a fantastic place to stop and let the kids run around before making the drive home after a day spent at the theme park.

#4: Explore Covered Bridges 

There are well over a dozen covered bridges in the Hershey-Harrisburg area, each with its own unique personality and appeal.

The bright red Book’s Covered Bridge in Blain is more than 125 years old. It’s just one of four that crosses Sherman’s Creek.

Interestingly, most of the bridges are red. One covered bridge west of Liverpool is called simply Red Covered Bridge.

#5: Listen to Music at Chocolate Town Park

Chocolate Town Park is a small, nicely manicured park situated in downtown Hershey, right on Chocolate Avenue.

This shady park with colorful blooms in springtime is a delight to stroll on fair weather days.

The park is home to a seasonal farmer’s market that pops up on Saturdays, as well as free concerts and musical events that take place throughout the year.

No tickets are necessary. Just throw down a blanket and enjoy the live music.

Here you’ll also find New Year’s Eve festivities with lots of hot chocolate for those eager to warm up.

#6: Take a Tour of the State Capitol Building

In Harrisburg, take a free 30-minute guided tour of the state Capitol building. Tours are every 30 minutes Monday through Friday between 8:30 am and 4 pm.

Tours are offered on weekends too, but less frequently (9 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm). You can also take a self-guided tour on your own using the mobile app.

Inside the Capitol building, there are fun activities for kids too. Nearly 400 Moravian mosaic picture tiles are on the floor of the main rotunda.

Tiles include a turtle, a fox, a bear and a skunk. See how many of the 15 shown on this printable activity sheet your kids can find.

The interactive welcome center is kid-friendly too. There is a Commonwealth statue made from LEGO bricks and a Schoolhouse Rock video of “I’m Just a Bill.”

You can even snap selfies as if you’re on top of the Capitol Dome. So fun.

#7: Strike a Pose at Riverfront Park

Waiting Statue-Harrisburg

In nearby Harrisburg, make time for Riverfront Park. There’s a fun statue called “Waiting” that’s just begging for a selfie.

The statue is of a serious-looking businessman reading a newspaper on a park bench.

He’s been waiting so it seems at Riverfront Park on State Street since 1985 (oof, now that’s a long time to wait).

#8: Stroll City Island

For delightful panoramic views of Harrisburg and the Susquehanna River, make a side trip over a bridge to City Island.

Kids will love the HarbourTown playground area where they can run, jump and play in a tiny village with a pirate ship, a general store and a lighthouse.

There’s a lot of cheap fun on City Island too, including an arcade ($1 for 4 play tokens) and batting cages ($2 for 12 pitches).

You can also take a train ride around the island for $3.50 per person. There’s even a carousel, an 18-hole mini golf course and a minor league baseball stadium.

It would be easy to spend an entire day at City Island with your kids. 

#9: Play Disc Golf at Shank Park

In Hummelstown, you’ll find Shank Park, the largest of Derry Township’s public parks. You’ll find 90 acres of green space to run and play at this multi-use park.

You’ll also find an 18-hole disc golf course that’s free and open to the public. Bring your own disc to the park.

At Shank Park, there’s also a small playground with swings and slides, as well as a one-mile interpretive nature trail.

This park is a mere 10 minutes by car from Hersheypark, so it’s an easy drive if you want to have a picnic and settle in at one of the pavilions.

Almost Free Things to Do in Hershey, PA

There some really fun and cheap things to do in Hershey, PA, as well as in Harrisburg and Hummelstown. All of these activities are less than $10 per person.

#10: Learn About Hershey Before Milton Hershey

Hershey Museum-Free Things to Do in Hershey PA

Few know what the town of Hershey was like before the first Hershey’s chocolate bar was produced in 1900.

At the Hershey-Derry Township Historical Society, you can find out thanks to multiple hands-on exhibits across the museum.

More than 50,000 artifacts and photos are on display at this museum dedicated to sharing the stories of the area’s early settlers.

Featured exhibits include a history of the Pennsylvania State Police, as well as a pictorial history of the community, from past to present.

The Discovery Room lets kids interact with a make-believe 1830s-style home and general store.

Kids will love the annual train exhibit on display in November and December. Admission is $4/adult and $2/child (ages 4-12).

For visitors that only want to visit the kid-friendly Discovery Room, admission is just $5 for the entire family. Such a bargain. 

Hershey Trolley Works is another good way to learn about the Hershey story, including the history of the town and the life of Milton Hershey, including the Milton Hershey School.

Historical trolley tours last 75 minutes. However, admission is $17.95 for adults (13+) and $14.95 for children (3-12). Children 2 and under are free. 

#11: See the Pennsylvania State Police Museum 

Stop in the Pennsylvania State Police Museum in Hershey.

They’ve got a cool exhibit on state police motorcycles, which have been an integral part of the day-to-day workings of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Another exhibit showcases uniforms worn by Pennsylvania State Troopers and how they changed over the last 100 years (the first uniform dates back to 1906).

Still another exhibit at the Pennsylvania State Police Museum highlights women in the state police force.

The first woman was accepted as a cadet in October 1971. Museum admission is $7/adult and $4/student (ages 6 to 18). Kids five and under are free.

#12: Watch the 4-D Chocolate Movie 

At Hershey’s Chocolate World, make time for the fun-filled 4D Chocolate Movie.

Kids will love interacting with each of the sweet, chocolatey characters to help solve the mystery.

Even better, because it’s 4D, there are fun special effects, like strobe lights and theatrical smoke.

This movie is create-your-own-ending style, so the movie is never the same. In fact, there are more than 100 different variations.

If you can, book your tickets online ahead of time. Tickets are $7.95/adult (ages 13+), $6.95/child (ages 3 to 12). Kids 2 and under are free.

#13: Visit he Pennsylvania National Fire Museum

In nearby Harrisburg, make time for the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum.

Here you’ll find cool artifacts and memorabilia, even parade hats and antique fire engines dedicated to rolling along in parades.

The museum also has nearly 3,000 fire department patches on display. Admission is $7/adult, $6/student. The museum also offers special family rates.

Once you’ve spent time at the museum, wander over to Riverfront Park. It’s just a mile from the museum.

There you’ll find a Fireman’s Memorial Statue, which serves to pay respect to the fire fighters who so honorably served the state.

Where to Stay in Hershey, PA 

Hotel Hershey
Photo Credit: Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company

There are good options when it comes to where to stay in Hershey, PA, including the two official resorts of Hersheypark: The Hotel Hershey and Hershey Lodge.

The Hotel Hershey is the more upscale of the two Hersheypark resorts, boasting more than 275 guest rooms, cottages and suites.

There’s lots of family fun to be had at The Hotel Hershey thanks to a kids’ club, a heated indoor pool, and of course, its proximity to Hersheypark.

Hershey Gardens, which wows with 23 acres of botanical blossoms, is also just .5-mile from The Hotel Hershey.

For craft beer lovers, Tröegs Brewing Company is less than 2 miles from The Hotel Hershey (kids are welcome).

You can take a casual self-guided tour or a more in-depth guided production tour, though tours of all kinds are on hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Hershey Lodge is tops too thanks to a kid-friendly indoor pool and splash pad complete with a dumping bucket, water slides and a water spray area.

The hotel has over 650 kid-friendly hotel rooms and several on-site restaurants, including The Bears’ Den and Hershey Grill.

For more scoop, check out this helpful Hershey Lodge review from Lauren at Where the Wild Kids Wander. 

Beyond the two official Hershey park hotels, there are several other hotels located near Hersheypark. A few top-rated area Hershey hotels to consider include:

Fairfield Inn & Suites Hershey Chocolate Avenue (from $103 per night)

Hampton Inn & Suites Hershey (from $93 per night)

Tru by Hilton Hershey Chocolate Avenue (from $105 per night)

Days Inn by Wyndham Hershey (from $88 per night)

Hershey also has an official Hersheypark Camping Resort with costumed Hershey chocolate bars and Kit Kat bars that make appearances for photo ops.

The campground has sites for both tents and RVs, as well as cozy cabins.

On-site you’ll find two swimming pools, a kiddie pool, several playgrounds, horseshoe pits and an indoor game room.

I hope you enjoy your stay in Hershey, PA. It’s loads of fun for kids and families. free things to do in hershey pa