YOUR VACATION IN LIGHTS

Hershey's Sugar High

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Julia McGill of Keswick, Va., is the latest contributor to our Your Vacation in Lights feature, in which we invite Travel section readers to share the dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. Your hot tip can be the next guy's day-maker; your rip-off restaurant, the next family's near-miss. To file your own trip report -- and become eligible to win a digital camera -- see the fine print below.

THE TRIP: Long weekend in Hershey, Pa.

WHO WENT? Myself, my husband, our two sons (ages 8 and 6) and my mother-in-law. Yes, I said my mother-in-law.

WHEN? June 2005.

WHY? For years I've been telling my sons that Oompa Loompas make chocolate bars. My 8-year-old was beginning to have doubts and said he wanted to tour a chocolate factory and see for himself.

GETTING THERE WAS: "Are we there yet?" "Are we there yet?" "Are we --"

I CAN'T BELIEVE I . . . successfully kept alive the legendary Oompa Loompas. The Hershey Factory is closed to visitors, so you go on a "simulated" factory tour ride at the Chocolate World Visitors Center. This enabled me to tell my sons that the Oompa Loompas were working too hard at the factory to be visiting with tourists like us.

BEST/WORST THING ABOUT MY HOTEL: Being budget-minded, we opted for the Hershey Econo Lodge. The worst thing about it would be its lack of decor, but that's only a negative if you're seeking decor in a lodging; all we wanted was a cartoon network for the kids and a soft landing when we collapsed. The best thing about the hotel was its surprisingly generous and fresh continental breakfast, included in the room price.

FAVORITE MEAL: The chocolate pastries at Hershey. They were the best I've tasted, outside of France.

COOLEST ATTRACTION: The chocolate tour ride. It was Willy Wonka come alive, and only plexiglass prevented us from diving en masse into the swimming-pool-sized vat of liquid chocolate.

THING I WISH I'D BROUGHT WITH ME: An extra cooler, for all the chocolate goodies I bought. We did have one cooler, which I promptly emptied to fill with chocolate -- and then had to listen to complaints about warm juice boxes and tepid soda. What are those compared with chocolate?

BIGGEST SPLURGE: A musical candy jar for Chocolate Kisses, with an Anti-Kiss Theft Device so co-workers won't steal your chocolate. Unless you know how to disable it, the candy jar blares loud music when the lid is opened (a repertory including Hall & Oates, "Because your kiss, your kiss, is on my lips . . . ").


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