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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.


          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.

            1. The Yuengling tour is well worth the trip. We visit there every couple of years and always enjoy it.

              Is there anything in particular about Massers that appeals to you? I ask because I remember it being a typical diner type of place with average PA Dutch style food. Ful disclosure - I was born and raised PA Dutch and, with very few exceptions, have no desire to revisit the cuisine again.

              It has been several years since my last visit but a few places worth investigating are Ghezzi's, Harry's (in Shamokin, a real coal region experience) and Mattucci's (another coal region experience)

              We like the Hershey Hotel. We get to the area a couple of times a year. While I normally avoid buffets at all costs, I do enjoy the buffet in the Circular Dining Room. If you like wine, ask to meet with the sommelier. We have gotten great recommendations at tolerable prices (I like wine but not $100 bottles). The menu at Harvest just doesn't do much for me so we stay away. I can't remember the name of the bar in the Hotel but we like to stop in there for a drink or two prior to going to the dining room. It is an elegant setting and the food I have seen looked good. I think the menu is limited to a few items.

              Devon has dissapointed us each time we visited. We had several good meals at their Philly location but our Hershey visits were not good. Issues included poor quality (brown, really brown romaine) and really awful service. My relatives eat there weekly and they really like it (and they are fussy) so maybe it is just our own bad luck.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cleobeach

                Cleobeach, no, there is nothing in particular about Massers that appeals to me; I just found a reference to it somewhere and put it on my list. I am not born and raised PA Dutch but do know the cuisine and while it's fine, I don't know that I would go out of my way for it, although it's still better than McDonald's. Right?

                Thanks for the specific info on the Hershey Hotel restaurants. I still don't know if we will be heading there, but I like to be prepared. And I do plan on stopping at Yuengling if at all possible.

                1. re: kyra1

                  If you make it out to Yuengling, the Roma Pizza downtown (maybe three blocks away) has good consistent slices. I seem to remember Charlie's pizza and subs being a local favorite (the pizza are square cuts). And you may find Centralia interesting; I found it more interesting on a rainy foggy day than a hot summer day. Good luck!

              2. I want to thank everyone for their replies. I honestly didn't expect to hear from so many people (based on older threads asking for recommendations in the area) and really appreciate your help.

                If anyone can chime in on Hazleton, please do. It sounds like the Dragonfly Cafe has good food, El Mariachi might be decent Mexican, and there is possibly a bagel place to try. Other than that, I am coming up empty handed. I know there have to be good taquerias or other Mexican places, but can't find recommendations.

                Thanks again!

                2 Replies
                1. re: kyra1

                  I can't help with Hazleton but if you want to swing by Bloomsburg and Danville, there are some good options.

                  Danville - Olde Forge Brewery and Restaurant on Mill Street.

                  Bloomsburg - Inn at Turkey Hill, both the casual side and the fine dining side. This is located just off of Interstate 80.

                  1. re: cleobeach

                    I agree the Inn at Turkey Hill is nice. If you need a place to stay the Inn is quite nice and very comfortable, plus it is a nice breakfast included. Highly recommend staying there.

                2. If you can, I'd recommend swinging by Lenhartsville and stopping at Deitsch Eck, an interesting old restaurant with wonderful hex artwork inside and out and delicious food. (http://www.deitscheck.com/) Peter Bros. Meat Market is right across the street as well and also worth a visit.

                  If you swing through Orwigsburg and enjoy Italian, try Valenti's. You could also head towards Reading on Rt. 61 and stop at Fiore in Shoemakersville. Order the Rigatoni Carbonara.

                  I do enjoy Knoebels more than Hersheypark because being able to camp on-site and then just walk over to the park is enjoyable, and it's also a heck of a lot cheaper. I used to get season passes to Hersheypark as a kid, but it's far too expensive, too crowded, and just not what I enjoyed when I was little. That said, brunch at the Circular Dining Room is a real treat. Harvest is also good though a little spendy. The Hershey Pantry just a little past the factory on Rt. 422 is an enjoyable place to eat. If you're looking for a decent farmers' market while you're in town, and if it happens to be on a Thursday afternoon, try the farmers' market on the campus of Hershey Medical Center near the Cocoa Beanery just off Bullfrog Valley Road. The market is a project of a couple of doctors at the Medical Center and is wellness-themed. They have free health screenings there, great produce and cheeses, meats, and more, plus live music.

                  Back towards Berks County, the Fairgrounds Farmers Market in Reading, just off 5th Street Hwy, is a must-see. Hit up the Dutch-Maid Bakery while you're there, or else stop at the main bakery location off Rt. 61 in Hamburg, right near Cabela's. Have a giant pretzel donut. Trust me.

                  1. We returned home from our trip today, and I wanted to check in and thank everyone again for their replies. We ended up eating most of our meals at home with family, so I do not have much to report about restaurants in the area. Nor were we able to fit in the brewery tour at either Yuengling or Troegs, but it will be on the list for another trip.

                    I can recommend Dunn's Produce Market in Tamaqua, PA. They had great produce, much of it locally grown, and were very friendly. They also had a cart/stand that was serving Leiby's ice cream, which is a favorite with my husband's family. I tasted the peach and the rum raisin and it was very good.

                    The only restaurant we went to was the Beacon Diner in Hometown. We went for breakfast and the food was good and the service fantastic. The menu was large and offered every possible combination of eggs, waffles, pancakes, etc. The regular menu was even larger and more varied. I ate scrapple for the first time and found it very tasty. I believe they've been in business since the 1940s. I noted that their bar opens at 7 am--a good thing to know!

                    This is not strictly food-related but we did go to Hershey Park. We had a great time and I thought all the employees were friendly and super helpful. Also I thought their soft pretzels were above average. And although it was expensive, the create-your-own-candy bar thing was really fun!

                    Oh, and I got to taste teaberry ice cream for the first time. I gather this is a local PA thing? I thought it was a pleasant, mild, minty sort of flavor. I assume the pink color was artificial and unfortunately it looked rather Pepto-Bismol pink to me, but I was still glad to taste it.

                    I will certainly hold on to your recommendations for pretzel and beer factories for another visit. Thank you all!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: kyra1

                      yeah, calling it teaberry is a local thing. it IS what flavors pepto bismol, though. the berries are naturally red.

                      1. re: Chowrin

                        To be more precise, "teaberry" is another word for Wintergreen. Pepto bismol has always had a wintergreen flavor.
                        I have never seen teaberry ice cream outside of Pennsylvania

                        1. re: brookquarry

                          Teaberry ice creams can be found in various location outside of PA, which include but are not limited to Southern CA, Portland Maine, Wisconsin and locations in both north and south Jersey to mention a few.

                          1. re: brookquarry

                            Strange. peptobismol doens't taste at all like root beer (which is also flavored with wintergreen)

                        2. re: kyra1

                          I adore teaberry ice cream, hard only, not the soft serve type.

                          I assumed it was a PA thing. As kids, we would pick teaberries when hiking. My grandmother kept a little jar of teaberry candies that were the size of the real things. We loved them.