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Please help with trip to Schuylkill County and theme parks in PA

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My husband and I will be traveling to Pennsylvania at the end of July to visit family. He is from a small town in Schuylkill County near Tamaqua. We will be staying at a hotel in Hazleton and visiting with family in the Tamaqua area for part of the time. We will also be taking trips to one or more of the following amusement/theme parks: Hershey, Dorney, and Knoebel's (near Elysburg). We may or may not be staying near the parks. Other activities have not yet been decided but could include a visit to the Yuengling factory in Pottsville, parks, and maybe a pretzel factory if I can find one nearby (I love pretzels).

Thank you for helping with recommendations for food in this area. I would prefer to avoid chain restaurants if possible. Previous trips have not yielded many options, and I have not been in the area for several years. We eat anything and have no restrictions or allergies. We are open to any type of cuisine, atmosphere, and price range. We will have our own car and are willing to drive. I would especially like input on options in and or near the amusement parks, and the Hazleton area.

Anyplace that has birch beer on tap (my husband prefers the clear version) would be a bonus, food aside. I did turn up a reference to a place called Werts Cafe in Allentown that offers this, but think there must be others in the area.

Oh, and I am also having difficulty locating farmers' markets in the area (the one in Jim Thorpe seems to be defunct), so if anyone knows of a good one, with local produce, or even a reliable roadside stand or truck market or whatever, I'd appreciate the info.

Here is my current list from research. Please weigh in with opinions and advice on any or all of these, and tell me what I have missed.

in Jim Thorpe: Flow, Maya, and Black Bread

near Jim Thorpe: Trattoria 903

Nesquehoning: Macaluso's

Lansford: Kelly's Pub

Dorney Park area: Grille 3501, Pistachio's

Paxinos (near Elysburg and Knoebel's): Massers Restaurant

Hershey: restaurants in the Hershey Hotel

not a restaurant but Dietrich's Meats in Krumsville sounds good

Again, thank you so much for any help you are able to give. It would make my trip much more pleasant!

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  1. If you visit Dorney Allentown has a very good farmers market open Thursday through Saturday

    www.fairgroundfarmersmkt.com. It is onl y a couple of blocks away from Werts. Werts is hardly upscale, but does have some of the best onion rings I have ever had (actually more like onion strws). Their burgers are also very good.

    (PS.The 'clear' birch beer is known locally as 'white').

    1. Knoebel's is the best!

      as for pretzels -- two top-notch factories are Gettysburg Pretzel Factory and Martin's Pretzel Factory (the one in Akron, PA). Great places to pick up 10-20lbs of pretzels. (as you can tell, I love pretzels too!)

      5 Replies
      1. re: Chowrin

        "Knoebel's is the best", interesting comment when comparing it to Dorney and especially Hershey Park. Obviously this is your honest opinion. Just curious as to how you concluded this? Childhood memories, like smaller older parks, admission price?

        1. re: Bacchus101

          It's a fabulous historic park.
          Hershey park is nothing remarkable, just, um, there.
          Never been to Dorney.

          Guess I've known too many people working at Hershey...

          1. re: Chowrin

            It's all just personal experience and what you are looking for. I love Hersheypark, and I think they've made some great improvements over the years. They are competing with places like Busch Gardens, Cedar Point (best I've been to) and the Six Flags franchise and doing well at that.

            I find Knoebel's boring and only worth a few hours of my time now that my kids are thrill ride age. When my kids were smaller they had more carousels and more trains. I wish they hadn't removed some of those, it made it unique. But it is still an excellent park to go to if your children are small and not interested in roller coasters. The Phoenix is the only worthwhile coaster there. The Twister did nothing for me but give me whiplash. Many of the other "thrill rides" are the kinds of things you see at a carnival - lots of spinning, which I can't do.

            The food is better than most amusement parks and the people watching is . . . certainly entertaining.

            1. re: centralpadiner

              I have to agree "central". I also thought Knoebel's boring and a bit sad actually. As you note "personal experience". Talk about historic, a town, world class chocolate factory, amusement park, a 4 Diamond hotel and restaurant, a zoo and school for orphaned and poor children, gardens and world class golf courses founded by one of the countries most famous industrialists and philanthropists from the late 19th century. Recently his endowment has significantly funded the Hershey Medical Center. I say that is a bit of meaningful history, perhaps worth experiencing.

              1. re: Bacchus101

                *nods* yeah, if you're going to do an "i went to hershey" tour, it's got more things to do and see than out near Knoebel's, that's for sure!

      2. I want to encourage you to fit in the Yeungling brewery tour. Really a great tour and totally worth the time. I can't comment on the Hershey Hotel restaurants. Not because they are bad, but they are expensive and I haven't been since they remodeled and added Harvest. Our favorite restaurant in Hershey is Devon Seafood Grill. We also enjoy the Chocolate Avenue Grill and The Gas Station, which is located in Hummelstown. Since it sounds like you enjoy beer, you should know that Troegs Brewery now has tours available at their new factory right down the road from the main entrance to Hersheypark. They also have a "snack bar" and of course, beer samples.

        1 Reply
        1. re: centralpadiner

          I did not know about Troegs Brewery; thank you for the tip. I checked out the website and it looks like a good tour with lots of varieties to taste. The menu at the "snack bar" also sounds very good; in fact, I might plan to eat there if I am in the area. Thanks again for your help.

        2. If you are driving from Allentown to Hershey on I78, a couple miles from Dietrich's meats is Pinnacle Ridge Winery.

          They are serious winemakers.. it's kinda like the Finger Lakes... with vinifera and hybrids.

          http://www.pinridge.com/

          1. Regarding your list; my current and personal experience is limited to Hershey Park and Hotel. This is a class operation in all areas. The park has kept pace with the newer modern super parks while maintaining the charm of legacy attractions. The Hotel itself, should you be considering an overnight, is a 4 Diamond AAA hotel and a landmark from an earlier age. Over the years we have enjoyed drinks at the Iberian Lounge, dinner and breakfast in the Circular Dining Room and recently lunch at Harvest. I find the Circular Dinning Room provides an interesting and often elusive mix of more formal dining with a relaxed atmosphere and of course very tasty and varied food items: It is also 4 Diamond rated. Harvest was a pleasant experience ; perched on a hill overlooking the hotel golf course it offered a good variety of more casual food choices. Hershey Park and Hotel are gems in the bucolic southern PA countryside.