Your Adventurous Summer Family Experience Awaits in Harrisburg, PA

An easy weekend getaway full of family-friendly fun!

By Nicole Donnelly, Macaroni Kid Annapolis June 16, 2019

My oldest son (now 6-years-old) was barely two-years-old when his brother was born and sometimes I feel guilty that he didn't get to be "the baby" for longer. I've been yearning to have some one-on-one quality time with him for a while now; to say "yes" over and over again rather than "no," "we need to wait," or "in a minute." I had the opportunity to reconnect with him earlier this month and took him on a trip to Harrisburg, PA, and Hershey Park, on adventures we wouldn't normally do just the two of us. It was truly a trip to remember and I encourage you to take my experiences into consideration to reconnect with your own children. Have fun!


We stayed at The Best Western Premier: The Central Hotel and Conference Center.

What I loved: The rooms are large and clean, with a king bed and a pullout sofa for sleeping accommodations. The staff is helpful and responsive to any concerns or questions we presented. There is a restaurant on-site, making mealtimes easy and convenient when you just don't want to leave. The lobby was warm, large, and comfortable with tons of seating, computers for more than just checking into flights, and several TV's with sofas to lounge in.

What my son loved: "The shower was so fun because I could just walk in and stomp in the water. I like that I got to sleep with you and snuggle, too. But my favorite part was the pool. It was huge, but I could touch the bottom in the shallow end. Oh! And the pool was so warm. Remember? Like a hot tub, but not as hot. I really liked jumping in with my friends and splashing them. And I liked that you could sit close to me while I was swimming."


We played at Adventure Sports in Hershey.

What I loved: There was a little bit of everything here without being overwhelming. Seven adventurous attractions made for a nice visit of a few hours that my son and I both loved! We could do everything together; nothing was "just for kids" or "just for adults." From a mom's perspective, the fact that there is no admission fee and parking is free was a major win in my book. Attractions included: go-carts, bumper boats, mini golf, outdoor laser tag (moms won!), arcade, batting cages, and driving range. Added bonus: ice cream parlor!

What my son loved: "My favorite part was playing laser tag against the moms. The field was very cool with a little house to hide in and that crashed plane. No one even saw me hiding behind that plane! But the one thing I didn't like is that the moms won. I am pretty sure you guys cheated. The go-carts and bumper boats were fun, too. Remember I didn't want to get wet but you sprayed me anyway? At first, I was mad, but then I got you back and we water-battled!"

We played at Hershey’s Chocolate World.

What I loved: I love that you don't need a Hersheypark ticket in order to visit Hershey's Chocolate World. While on the same grounds of the park, it is a separate attraction that is free to visit. With quite a few shows and experience right there, this could easily be a day-long adventure by itself! We saw Hershey's newest attraction, “Hershey’s Unwrapped," which introduced us to use all five senses to taste chocolate. Think wine tasting, but for chocolate. Yum. We also had the opportunity to view the 4D Mystery Movie, which gave us a full body experience to help the Hershey characters solve the ultimate mystery. Also at Hershey's Chocolate World: Hersheys' Chocolate Tour, Create Your Own Candy Bar, Trolley Works, and more!

What my son loved: "The chocolate and cookies and milkshakes and ice cream. Duh."

We played at Hersheypark.

What I loved: Where do I even start? Hersheypark is my favorite family-friendly park of all time. Home to more than twelve rollercoasters, kiddie rides, the Boardwalk water attractions, and more, this park is manageable in one day and keeps the entire family entertained regardless of age. Live music and shows around the park lure you to take a probably-much-needed break. There were ample bathrooms within a minute or two of wherever you are at any given moment. Food vendors are scattered throughout the park. The park is clean, staff is friendly, and fellow thrill-seekers are even polite. Parking is easy to boot!

What my son loved: "All of the rides were the best part. The fast ones are my favorite and I really liked riding on a lot of rides with you, mom. The Reese's Cupfusion ride was fun with the laser guns but my favorite part of all was the waterpark. When can we go back?"

We played at Roundtop Mountain Adventures.

What I loved: Guys, this place was seriously cool and I cannot wait to bring my entire family back. Located at Roundtop Ski Resort, the adventures offered during the summer season are so much fun! From zip lining to a huge slip and slide to OGO balls for two, I feel like this place seriously had it all for adventure-lovers. The walk-through Cedar Maze was super cool and a fun way to do some problem solving together. Bonus mom tip: only active participants have to pay admission. Anyone who isn't playing watches the fun for free.

What my son loved: "I did not think zip lining would be that cool! There were so many things there that took a lot of bravery for me to do, and I'm really glad I did because it was so awesome! I loved the giant water slide {the Super Slide} and the big clear ball {OGO Ball} was very cool even though the water was cold."


We learned aboard the Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat.

What I loved: 
One of the few remaining true paddle boats, this ride was a treat for both of us. They provided a portion of their  "river school" program for the kids that featured lessons on how the river was formed, the parts of the boat, and other science lessons. They demonstrated the tectonic plate movement with an OREO, which was obviously the most delicious part of the ride! We embarked on a scavenger hunt afterward, looking for PA sites along City Island and in downtown Harrisburg. It was a relaxing and smooth way to start our morning.

What my son loved: 
"It was kind of cool to ride a big boat like that. I liked that the top didn't have a roof and the bottom did. The scavenger hunt was fun because we got to use binoculars and I don't really get to do that too much. The OREO was my favorite."

We learned at the Pennsylvania Capitol.

What I loved: 
Being the most elaborate and ornate state capitol building in the country, this building was seriously amazing. Our tour guide was full of fun, interesting facts about the building and property and had answers for almost all of the questions the children came up with! My son enjoyed seeing where history is made in Pennsylvania way more than I ever would have expected. With 24K gold covering many surfaces in the building, it truly is priceless.

What my son loved: 
"The best part? Oh, that's easy. All of the gold!"

We learned at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.

What I loved: 
This museum was great for hands-on kids activities. The TinkerToy exhibit was my favorite, with lifesize TinkerToys on display, and plenty to build your own creation with. I really enjoyed watching my son learn with his hands and body, whether it was building and racing cars, experiencing a hurricane simulation, or figuring out which type of paper airplane will fly furthest.

What my son loved: 
"Being in the hurricane box. It was so windy and my shirt even flew up! Does that ever happen in real life?"

Our weekend together was much needed and will not be forgotten. We have a gem of a city only a couple hours to our north, and it is absolutely perfect for a day, week, or weeklong trip with your littles.

I received complimentary passes for the purpose of this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.