By Jeff & Stephanie Sylva
What makes Hershey, Pennsylvania the sweetest place on earth? Could it be street names like Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues, where streetlamps are shaped like the iconic Hershey Kiss? Maybe it’s the creative chocolate martinis at Happy Hour, or possibly the rejuvenating chocolate spa treatments at two world-class spas. Or perhaps it’s the excitement you get when you visit Hershey’s largest candy store at Hershey’s Chocolate World.
Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is less than a three-hour drive from Manhattan, is where Hershey Chocolates’ famed chocolate bars and iconic Hershey Kisses are made. (The chocolate factory produces more than 60,000 of the bite-sized chocolate morsels every day.)
A requisite stop for all chocolate lovers is Hershey’s Chocolate World. Take the Chocolate Tour and experience the transformation of cocoa beans into Hershey chocolate. And, yes, there is a free chocolate sample at the end of the tour! Don’t miss the Create Your Own Candy Bar experience, which lets you be creative as you pick the ingredients for your chocolate bar and design your personalized wrapper. Need more chocolate? Then sign up for the Chocolate Tasting Experience and learn how to engage all senses to taste chocolate—from milk to dark and varieties in between. Have some family fun with the 4D Chocolate Mystery. Through digital animation and special effects, you become part of the show by interacting with the characters helping solve the mystery.
ONE MAN’S VISION
But the proliferation of chocolate is not the sole reason why the town is so “sweet.” The founder of this confection empire, Milton S. Hershey, left an indelible impact on the town that is still evident to this day. Hershey’s success began with his developing a formula for milk chocolate during the late 19th century. Milton’s determination, entrepreneurialism, and subsequent benevolence to the town of Hershey and his employees is evident throughout the town.
One example is the incredible success of the Milton Hershey School. The best way to get the full story of Milton Hershey and his amazing philanthropy is with a visit to The Hershey Story—the Museum located on Chocolate Avenue. Or experience the inspiring story with a journey through the “town built on chocolate” on the Chocolate and History Tour given by Hershey Trolley Works. And, there are plenty of samples aboard!
THE HISTORY OF HERSHEYPARK
In 1907 Milton Hershey opened a picnic and pleasure park for the enjoyment of his employees. That park has evolved into one of the most cleanest and respected parks in the amusement industry. Hersheypark consists of three parks: One is the amusement park, which boasts more than 70 rides, including 13 roller coasters (soon to be 14 with Breakers Edge to debut Memorial Day this year) and more than 20 kiddie rides. History buffs will enjoy a ride on the Comet, a 1946-vintage roller coaster, and the Carousel built in 1919 which features 66 hand-carved wooden horses.
If you visit during the warmer months, cool off in the water park aptly named The Boardwalk at Hersheypark. And for animal lovers, there is ZooAmerica, an 11-acre zoo featuring more than 200 animals from five regions of North America. Since Hersheypark is a year-round facility, there are seasonal offerings, including Springtime in the Park, September Weekends, Hersheypark in the Dark, and Hersheypark Christmas Candyland.
WHERE TO STAY
The official resorts of Hersheypark are The Hotel Hershey, the Hershey Lodge, and the Hersheypark Camping Resort. The Hotel Hershey, a recipient of both the Forbes Four-Star Award and AAA Four-Diamond Award, offers guests luxury and elegance amongst majestic formal gardens, reflecting pools, and terraces. Hershey Lodge is a warm and welcoming full-service resort with 665 rooms featuring chocolate-themed décor and artwork. Guests enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including year-round swimming and fun at the indoor pool complex, Hershey’s Water Works. And for those who want to feel the natural surroundings, Hersheypark Camping Resort offers year-round cabins complete with all modern amenities.
Guests of the resorts enjoy the Hershey Resorts Advantage program, which offers lowest prices on Park tickets, free shuttle service, and other perks—like complimentary chocolate bars at check-in.
WHERE TO DINE
From family-friendly to 4-star fine dining, Hotel Hershey and the Lodge offer a myriad of restaurant choices—more than 13 dining options in all. One of our favorites is the new Fire & Grain at the Lodge. With innovative comfort food and some great Happy Hour specials, Fire & Grain features decadent chocolate desserts and signature chocolate martinis, which are also featured at many of the other Hershey eateries. Be sure to make reservations at The Circular—Hotel Hershey’s flagship restaurant which offers a perfect blend of classic and contemporary; it offers both an exceptional ambience and fine cuisine.
A LITTLE R & R
What better place to relax than at The Spa at The Hotel Hershey? This three-story, 40,000 square-foot oasis is sure to impress even the most seasoned spa-goer. Or perhaps take a treatment at Melt Spa, the recently-opened day spa in downtown Hershey on—where else?—Chocolate Avenue. Both spas offer a full selection of traditional spa treatments as well as services that pay homage to Cuba, where Milton Hershey owned sugar mills and plantations. But their specialties are their chocolate-inspired treatments including Chocolate Fondue Body Wrap and a Whipped Cocoa Bath. Gentlemen especially enjoy the Whiskey Facial, which actually begins with a shot of whiskey.
Be sure to experience a peaceful walk through the 23-acre horticulture delight, Hershey Gardens. The Gardens feature a beautiful collection of seasonal flowers, shrubs, and rare trees. The year-round Butterfly Atrium in the Conservatory and the hands-on Children’s Garden are lovely additions to the Gardens.
For more information on Hershey, PA, visit hersheypa.com.
Jeff and Stephanie Sylva are retired English and Social Studies high school teachers who have been freelance travel writers for over 28 years. They’ve been publishing in many national publications and who love to write about the great outdoors and, of course, travel.