In celebration of all the sweet memories created over the past half-century, we couldn’t resist compiling 50 of our favorites! They actually begin back at the original Hershey Chocolate Factory, because that's where we like to think our story started. We hope you’ll enjoy learning exactly how HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD came to be, some of our major milestones, and best of all – heartwarming moments with guests.
Check back throughout the year as we add to our scrapbook, and don’t forget – share your own memories using our new digital guestbook!
Almost as soon as The Hershey Chocolate Factory began operating in 1905, visitors wanted to see for themselves how HERSHEY'S Milk Chocolate was made. And so formal tours began in 1910, with a route including bar moulding and wrapping, HERSHEY'S KISSES chocolates depositing, box wrapping and label printing. A local Hershey Visitors Bureau opened in 1915 to support a rapidly growing tourist market and within its first three months, it distributed 10,000 factory tour admission cards.
In 1927, a corner of the men's lunchroom was converted into a lobby with a special counter to serve chocolate drinks. James T. Smith, one of the first tour guides, remembered: "The location of the Visitors Lobby was such that company executives had to go through it to get to their offices, and it was a common sight to see Mr. Hershey himself chatting with the visitors. You could tell that folks who went through the factory were really impressed."
The popularity of the factory tours grew quickly - for both visitors and locals alike - to the point that it was no longer feasible to offer chocolate drinks and five-packs of small HERSHEY'S Bars. Instead, visitors now received gift packets including a booklet called “The Story of Cocoa and Chocolate.” The booklet would continue to be printed even into the early 1980s at HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD.
By 1970, almost one million people annually were touring the factory - a factory that had never been designed to handle so many visitors. It was causing traffic jams downtown, overwhelming the building capacity and creating risks for product safety. A task force was created to address the challenge and considered three solutions: 1) terminate the tour program; 2) renovate to accommodate glass-enclosed walkways; or 3) develop a new, separate facility. After choosing option 3, plans for Hershey Foods Corporation's new corporate Visitors Center commenced!
The last Hershey Chocolate Factory tour was held on June 29, 1973, and its new home, HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD, opened the very next day. It was located near Hersheypark's newly-constructed "tram circle," where there would be opportunity for expansion, as well as synergy between the two companies. The primary attraction, of course, was a simulated tour that explained the process of chocolate-making and is still a favorite of our guests today.
HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD was an instant success, drawing 1 million visitors less than 5 months after opening. The tour ride upramp displayed murals about the history of chocolate, and the exit featured a large exhibit exploring the life of Milton Hershey and his model town. Today's jungle was also a part of the original building, known then as the "arboretum." However, the retail area was much smaller, originally three grass "huts" selling sweets and souvenirs. These would be expanded just a few years later to meet the demand for gifts and chocolate - an aspect of visiting that the company had largely underestimated.
One of the shops added during the 1978-1979 expansion - a cookie shop! - may have seemed small then, but it means a lot to us now! Clearly, they were a hit from the start, as just two years later, the shop would grow from one to five ovens. The treats are still a favorite at our Bakery today.
To meet growing demand, the original cafe was enlarged, and its menu was expanded to include more desserts, all of which came from Hershey's Test Kitchens recipes. Renamed "Hershey's Dessert Cafe," we like to think this was just the beginning of all the sweets and eats we offer today.
The tour ride saw its first modifications in 1983, including the re-painting of the Hershey-ets section to depict REESE'S PIECES candies. Not only had Hershey-ets been discontinued at the plant, but also the new 1978-born peanut butter treat had been made quickly popular by the launch of the movie "E.T." (Check out the fun story of how this partnership came to be!)
A major renovation in 1988 resulted in many changes that we still hold dear today. The retail areas were updated and now offered exclusively Hershey branded items (Hello World's Largest HERSHEY'S Store!) A "Chocolate Fantasies" food area introduced new specialties, including our world-famous milkshakes. And a complete tour ride re-design featured the beloved original "Great American Chocolate Bar" song, which we've re-created for our 50th anniversary.
In 1990, Hershey Trolley Works moved its base from tram circle at HERSHEYPARK to HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD, where it remains today to offer a variety of shows year-round. A number of employees began their careers in the interactive show, and many a local have fond memories watching the characters navigate wardrobe changes while in motion driving the streets of Hershey!
HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD opened its first and only sit-down restaurant, the Chocolate Town Cafe, in 1996. It would remain in operation until 2003, when the second floor space was re-branded KIT KAT® Gimme a Break Cafe.
In celebration of HERSHEY'S KISSES 90th anniversary in 1997, Hershey Foods Corporation created the sweet vehicle we all know and love: the KISSMOBILE. At 25+ feet long and 11+ feet tall, it would tour more than 35,000 miles throughout the country that year, giving away "Hugs and Kisses" in more than 25 major cities. Fans could have their photos taken for a modest donation, and funds were donated to Hershey's long-standing charity partner, the Children's Miracle Network. While it no longer tours, the KISSMOBILE remains a favorite photo opp today!
In preparation for our first major anniversary in 1998, significant changes were made to both the interior and exterior of the building. Characters were added above a new entrance, and the tour ride saw a major upgrade. In the queue, guests would now pass through a tropical jungle, cacao plantation, and port-side loading dock. Upon entering the ride, they would experience notable Hershey landmarks, updated audio and video monitors showing actual factory operations.
In the true spirit of celebrating our story, we welcomed back the original HERSHEY'S Chocolate ambassadors for our 25th anniversary. It was a true treat to have so many factory tour guides at this reunion, including our very own Sally Herr, who has been working on our team ever since!
The mission of our very own arboretum - and its caretakers - was recognized in 1998 by Penn State University, when Dr. Mark Guiltinan partnered with the Hershey Technical Center on Theobroma Cacao tree research. To commemorate the collaboration, several of these trees were planted in our jungle, and HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD sold young cacao trees for guests to take home and grow themselves! To this day, our trees are still a pride and joy, tended to with state-of-the-art horticulture and regularly producing cacao fruit.
In response to visitor expectations, HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD began to expand its experiences in 2002. The debut attraction was HERSHEY'S Really Big 3-D Show, a three-dimensional musical film with special effects in a 250-seat theatre. As part of the renovation, the lobby was expanded, and a new exterior facade inspired by the original chocolate factory featured a set of HERSHEY'S smokestacks and a 30-foot clock tower.
Our very first Christmas experience - Breakfast with Santa - was introduced in 2004, and guests have loved it so much over the years that we still continue the tradition today. The original festivities were hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Claus helpers who are employees now during our 50th anniversary!
Another new experience, HERSHEY'S Factory Works, opened in 2004. On this interactive faux assembly line, guests could create an authentic photo ID and hat before packaging HERSHEY'S KISSES Chocolates with the Kiss Works machine. This renovation also included HERSHEY'S Bake Shoppe, a presentation bakery where “Hersheyizers” entertained visitors as they decorated fresh-made cupcakes with Hershey products.
Under the new name "HERSHEY'S Great American Chocolate Tour," our ride underwent another redesign in 2006, emphasizing the importance of farm fresh milk in the creation of HERSHEY'S Milk Chocolate. So naturally, the adorable trio affectionately known as Gabby, Harmony and Olympia were introduced to represent our signature local ingredient. And more cows would come 10 years later. (They never get old, right?! That's why they deserved three spots in our list of favorites. 😉)
The Hershey Company celebrated the brand's centennial by unveiling "The World's Largest HERSHEY'S KISSES Chocolate" at a birthday event hosted at HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD.
A special event dubbed "Sweet Fashions by Hershey's," debuted at HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD in 2007, featuring a display of Project Runway "eye candy" designs inspired by Hershey candies. The Hershey Company sponsored the fashion show and benefit dinner and donated all proceeds to the Children's Miracle Network.
In 2008, Chocolate World's first "Project Fellowship" team was created, pairing a team of employees with Milton Hershey School students to meet regularly and learn, grow and play together. It was part of a larger mentoring relationship established between Milton Hershey School and several Hershey-based partners.
Since the inception of this beloved holiday tradition in 2009, Hershey Company employees have gathered each year to construct sweet masterpieces, typically made of more than 40,000 pieces of candy. Each of their hours laying bricks made of HERSHEY'S Bars and roofs of KIT KAT® wafers equates to a Children's Miracle Network donation.
HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD'S original attraction may have seen several updates throughout the years, but one thing remained constant - our guests' love for the free chocolate-making tour. In 2009, we celebrated our 75 millionth visitor to the attraction, recognizing Sharon O'Donnell and her family.
In 2010, we opened Create Your Own Candy Bar, an authentic factory experience that allows guests to select their own ingredients, see moulding equipment in operation and design packaging for a custom chocolate bar. The interactive attraction, which replaced HERSHEY'S Factory Works, took us back to our roots and the story we love to share with you!
The Hershey Company unveiled several new environmental features at HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD in 2011, including 1,092 new photovoltaic solar panels and Central Pennsylvania’s only two electric vehicle charging stations.
We re-invented another attraction in 2013, introducing Hershey's Great Chocolate Factory Mystery in 4D in place of Hershey's Really Big 3D Show. With new advances in puppetry and electronics, the new show featured real time interaction with visitors and electronically projected characters. It remained an offering until 2022, when we began construction on HERSHEY'S Great Candy Expedition.
We love bringing goodness to the world! In 2014, disappointment over a defective toy turned into a happy outcome for a little girl through the quick response of our customer service team. They sent her a replacement toy (reminiscent of the 4D Chocolate Movie character), and we're happy to hear that Genesis and her siblings still treasure the stuffy years later!
In June 2015, Chocolate World launched a new attraction: the Chocolate Tasting Experience. This introduced visitors to the variety of flavors and scents present in a variety of HERSHEY'S Chocolates through guided tasting.
Also new in 2015 was the Amazing Candy Machine, another fun and interactive feature of our World's Largest HERSHEY'S Store. Guests could now pull the levers with 15 types of HERSHEY'S candy to customize their own personalized mix. Over the years, the machine has featured a variety of seasonal flavors.
HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD welcomed its 100 millionth visitor in 2016! We enjoyed surprising and spoiling the Albert family from Pittsburgh, who became the Mayors of Chocolate World for the day.
For several years, Hershey celebrated a town-wide Chocolate-Covered February event, and in true Chocolate World fashion, we created a huge chocolate sculpture for the festivities! The first one was unveiled in 2017: the HERSHEY'S character, carved out of real HERSHEY'S Chocolate by Pennsylvania-based food artists Jim and Marie Pelton. They designed several more sweet works of art over the years, including Milton Hershey, the REESE'S character, our tour ride cows, and 2023's 50th anniversary sculpture of our building.
We adore this heartwarming story of holiday magic! It's shared by a guest whose daughter gifted Mrs. Claus a colored picture every year during our Breakfast with Santa event. In 2017, the guest recalled that they received a surprise in return: "Mrs. Claus said: 'Morgan, I was hoping you would be here today. I have to show you something.' We walked to the counter and behold - Mrs. Claus brought Morgan's drawing from the previous year. While I was standing in awe, mascara running down my face, Morgan stood in amazement. Christmas magic never sparkled so brightly. One simple, kind, gesture will be remembered for a lifetime.”
The HERSHEY'S Double Chocolate S'more was officially invented in 2017, and we made a big splash to roll it out at Chocolate World, featuring over-the-top signage, photo ops, collectible merch, and of course a whole menu of candy flavors to choose from when s'mooshing your s'more!
A new attraction to dazzle your chocolate-tasting senses opened in 2019. Replacing the Chocolate Tasting Experience, HERSHEY'S Unwrapped presented an interactive theatrical show for the whole family. That same year, the attraction received the highest honor in the attraction industry, a Brass Ring Award for excellence from The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAPPA).
Five ingredients, five days, and more than 5,000 delicious pounds of REESE'S Take 5...made and unveiled right here at Chocolate World in 2020! Our mission to create the World's Largest version of this favorite candy was a success, and the Guinness Book of World Records was on hand for the big reveal.
We were honored to host a local 11-year-old budding baker for a day in 2020, as she honed her s'mores cake recipe alongside our bakery team in preparation to compete at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Emily had won her local competition and went on to earn accolades (against adults) at the state level too!
We treasure opportunities to take part in guests' creative engagements! Over the years, several have touched our hearts, including Jason's chocolate proposal to Jennifer in 2016 and Santa's role helping John pop the question to Melissa in 2018. Then, in 2020, we assisted Dan in re-proposing to his wife, Heather, on the HERSHEY'S Chocolate Tour ride after her engagement ring was lost in their house fire. Watch it unfold below!
Picture the fun we had with this: three confectioners working at breakneck speed right here inside HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD for a special four-part series that debuted on Food Network in 2021. Chocolate Meltdown: Hershey's After Dark was filmed in the wee hours of the night, featuring competitors molding chocolate like champs after dashing through HERSHEYPARK collecting clues. More memories here!
At HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD, it's our job to make your chocolate dreams come true, so we did just that in 2021! REESE'S Stuff Your Cup features a one-pound personalized creation stuffed with your favorite mix-ins and REESE’s peanut cup butter from the factory just down the road. It was received so well that we opened a second location at our Times Square store in 2022!
In 2021, our team had the opportunity to partner on an exclusive version of a nostalgic family treasure - and thus Hershey's Candy Land was born. Later, this would be followed by a Hershey's version of Monopoly, Jr. Just a few examples of the specialty merch that can only be found at HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD!
One of our favorite HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD superfans, Liam, spent a special day with us in 2021. This brave little guy had just undergone his third open heart surgery, and it was our honor to be able to treat him to a day of surprises, along with his parents, also lifelong fans. We love that the magic of chocolate lifts hearts and transcends generations!
We love supporting community partners! It was a pleasure to host Cocoa Packs for a special shopping spree in 2022 to benefit children in the greater Hershey area.
In preparation for our big 50th anniversary celebration, we couldn't resist resurrecting the "The Great American Chocolate Bar" favorite - but in a fun new way! The endeavor became a community-wide project, with local schools and musicians taking part in the song and video that we brought back home to the HERSHEY'S Chocolate Tour ride.
And speaking of love for the tour ride, we also brought back an original car and presented it in the lobby as a fun photo op during our 50th. What a perfect way to honor the very tour that was instrumental in the opening of HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD!
It was a super special day at the Pennsylvania State Capitol, when legislators joined our team in officially proclaiming June 30, 2023 – our actual 50th anniversary – as HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE WORLD Day!
June 30, 2023 - exactly 50 years from the day we opened our doors - was a bash we won't soon forget. The full day of fun featured a re-dedication ceremony, block party with live music, character parades, and a nighttime extravaganza. We can't thank all our fans enough for joining us in celebrating five decades of sweet adventures!
We're bursting with excitement for our new attraction, 50th events and sweets, plus a new twist on your favorite old song!
We're bursting with excitement for our new attraction, 50th events and sweets, plus a new twist on your favorite old song!