When traveling to Hershey, Pennsylvania, I recommend taking the time to spend at least one night at one of the Hershey properties, even if a trip to Hershey is typically a day trip. The reasons might include a more relaxed pace for your getaway, the ability to take advantage of amenities like the Chocolate Spa or Hershey’s Water Works, and the added bonus of free admission to both the Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story.
When checking in to Hotel Hershey, Hershey Lodge, or Hersheypark Camping Resort, you’ll receive complimentary admission tickets to both atttractions as one of the resort amenities. Admission is typically $12.50 for each adult for each attraction so the savings can add up. But the bigger value for my family is that we took the time to go see something we might normally have passed over and the included tickets were our incentive.
We arrived at the Hershey Lodge later on a Saturday than we planned. It was also really hot outside and my friend at the park warned me that the lines were especially long. So we quickly changed our itinerary and planned to visit Hersheypark on Sunday instead.
With time to kill (or spend in a leisurely fashion), I thought it might be time to take advantage of those Hershey Gardens tickets and I’m so glad we did. When I stayed at the Hotel Hershey last year, which is directly across from the gardens, I briefly considered taking a walk through but passed it up thinking there wasn’t much to see. How wrong I was.
The History of Hershey Gardens
You don’t have to be remotely interested in history but to know the history of Hershey Gardens really helps bring it to life.
A sign is displayed near the entrance recognizing Harry Erdman, who was Milton Hershey’s Horticulturalist.
Hershey Gardens opened in 1937 with Milton Hershey’s request to “create a nice garden of roses.” More than 75 years later, the small rose garden has blossomed into 23 acres of botanical beauty providing visitors with unique experiences and enriching opportunities.
But you’ll see more reminders from the past throughout the park, like The Boy with the Leaking Boot statue purchased in 1913 for his home. It then traveled to Hershey Park, the Hershey Reptile House, and finally the Hershey Rose Garden in 1938. Although the original has been removed for conservation, this statue is an exact replica of the original and it located just through the atrium entrance to the Gardens.
In The Children’s Garden, we also found a unique planter that was actually once part of the original Hershey Park. We loved the historical touches throughout the park and a reminder that rides didn’t always have to go upside and make you scream to be entertaining.
In fact, the children’s area as a whole was our favorite part of the park.
The Children’s Garden and the Butterfly House
I’ve recently admitted that I’m a bird nerd and a tree nerd. But I’m also a butterfly nerd which is why I was so excited to head to the children’s area. Seasonally open, the Butterfly House houses North American butterflies fresh from their chrysalis. Before stepping in, we were given a brief lecture to ensure we were cautious and respectful once inside. And our reward was an amazing show of butterflies.
If you happen to arrive at a time of year where the Butterfly House is closed, no worries because there is a Butterfly Atrium inside the main building that will have a show of more exotic butterflies to show you.
Just outside the Butterfly House is the actual Children’s Garden. You’ll find fun plants and herbs (lots of things to smell and touch) and some cool outside play pieces. We would have explored more but it was HOT.
Domesticated Plants and Wild Animals
After the Children’s Garden, we meandered throughout the rest of the Gardens in a one mile loop. If the weather was a touch cooler, I could have easily spent another hour on the longer paths. Instead we took a slow walk and found lots of patches of shade.
Note: They do have complimentary umbrellas available for sun shading but sadly, there were none available when we were walking.
The Japanese Garden was my favorite area with plenty of Japanese Maples, of course, a little brook, and even a Giant Sequoia.
After the Japanese Garden, we traveled through Rock Garden and the garden of Ornamental Grasses (this is beginning to sound like a video game).
As we were walking the path, we came across the Mother Tree – the genetic mother of all Dense Jade trees – right here in Hershey, PA.
While the plants were delicately manicured and maintained, it was the wildlife that was the most unpredictable.
Where’s the Chocolate?
Now I’m sure you’re thinking, where’s the chocolate? This is Hershey, after all. Surely there is something candy related here. And you’re RIGHT!
Hershey Gardens aren’t designed to be a theme park but you will see enough in the Children’s Garden to remind you that you’re just across the street from Hersheypark.
Ending the Visit in the Rose Garden
While I’m not sure of the best time to see the roses in full bloom, the Historic Hershey Rose Garden is a must see because it’s where it all began. As we finished our one mile loop (and walked through this gorgeous tree), we had no choice but to see the Rose Garden.
Whatever color you fancy for roses, you’ll be able to see and smell your favorites here.
Coming Back to Hershey Gardens
Perhaps the best part of Hershey Gardens is knowing that I’ll get a different show every time I come back. Whether it’s tulips in the spring, or chrysanthemums in the fall, the scenery will change and give the whole family new things to discover.
This post is part of my role as a Hershey’s Sweetest Mom. Hershey provided me one night’s accommodation to the Hershey Lodge and I took full advantage of my complimentary admission to Hershey Gardens!