The month of May brings Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. With vacation budgets shrinking, many folks are opting to use their free time for day trips or long weekend jaunts. They’re on the lookout for close-to-home destinations, easily accessible by car, that offer all the qualities of a great vacation: a little bit of history, cultural options, outdoor fun, shopping — and great places to sleep and eat. From Massachusetts to New Jersey, we’ve scouted out nearby areas that fit the bill. So pack the car and the kids, and roll out for summer fun!
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Photographs courtesy of Hershey Park
HERSHEY PARK Pennsylvania
Get sweet savings on admission to this three-in-one, family theme park.
By Greg Ryan
The great chocolate baron Milton S. Hershey must have enjoyed catering to our need to indulge ourselves. There are his eponymous candy products, of course. And in 1907, the founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company created a park near his factory where employees could grab a little R&R, off the clock, with their families. (Back then, leisure time meant canoeing and picnics — not riding 2,600-foot-long Sooperdooperloopers.)
A century later, this same land is home to a 110-acre theme park that thrill-seekers along the East Coast flock to every summer (it’s about a four-hour drive from Poughkeepsie). Hersheypark features 65 rides, including: 11 roller coasters (one of which is the aforementioned Sooperdooperlooper); the ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park, a 200-animal, walk-through zoo that got its start 100 years ago from Milton’s private animal collection; and the Boardwalk, a water park modeled after the beachside attractions of Coney Island and Atlantic City. New this summer is “The Shore” wave pool and the Intercoastal Waterway, a “lazy river” float. The park’s admission tickets grant you entry to all of these attractions. Additionally, right outside the park is the new Hershey Story museum, where admission is $10 and less, and the Hershey Chocolate World factory, where you can take a free tour (and eat free chocolate).
This summer, the theme park’s “Family Stimulus Package” can net you some sweet savings. One option is to make a pit stop at a Giant Food Store on your drive down to Hershey and pick up discount coupons. The best bargains are available early in the season: In May, the coupons are valued at $15 and include a free parking voucher; in June, $11 and a free parking voucher; and following that, just $11. (Check www.familystimuluspackage.com each month for other deals with retail partners.) Book a room in the Hotel Hershey or Hershey Lodge in May or June, and any kids under 18 you’ve brought along gain complimentary breakfast and free admission to the theme park; stay overnight in July or August, and your family receives a $50 spending card. Mmmmm. That’s good stuff.
• Hershey Park
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