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Hershey: The Sweetest Place on Earth

Immerse yourself in everything chocolate in Hershey, Pa, from a chocolate fondue wrap to chocolate martinis to a chocolate museum. There are new rides at Hersheypark too.

 

Few destinations delight the five senses as well as Hershey, Pa. There are the white chocolate-glazed scallops on the menu at Hotel Hershey’s elegant Circular Dining Room to titillate the taste buds. The cocoa-perfumed air in town escapes from the chocolate factories—a treat for the olfactory senses. The chocolate fondue wrap at the hotel’s Chocolate Spa feels silky-smooth. The lampposts are shaped like Hershey’s kisses—talk about eye candy. And every corner you turn, you hear giggles and sighs of pleasure from chocoholics who come to indulge their every chocolate-fantasy whim.

Even the story of Hershey, located about 40 miles from Pennsylvania’s Amish country and 20 minutes from the state capital of Harrisburg, is sweet. While Milton S. Hershey was a genius businessman, who turned the chocolate business into an empire, it’s the Milton Hershey School for orphans that he and his wife Catherine opened many years ago that tugs at the heart. The school still exists today, although it has broadened its admissions criteria since its early days.

It goes without saying that it helps a lot to love chocolate in order to fully appreciate a visit to Hershey. From parks to museums, make no mistake about it: It’s all about chocolate.

Hersheypark

Hersheypark is one of the country’s most popular theme parks and has thrilled coaster-crazed fans since 1907 when Milton Hershey opened it as a place for his factory workers and their families to relax. Today, the park features 65 rides and attractions, live shows and, of course, chocolate. Last year, “Fahrenheit,” the park’s 11th roller coaster, made its debut. Local teen Hannah Roberts gives two thumbs up to the “Storm Runner” coaster ride where you “go from zero to seventy-two mph in two seconds and leave your face back at where you got onto your seat.”

In 2007, the park unveiled “The Boardwalk at Hersheypark,” a tribute to the beaches of the Northeast (think Coney Island and Atlantic City) with water rides. This summer “The Boardwalk at Hersheypark: The SEAquel” opens with two new water attractions, “The Shore” and “The Intercoastal Waterway,“ bringing the number of water rides to nine and angling Hershey as a primo cooling-off destination on muggy summer days.

Several years after Milton Hershey opened Hersheypark, he opened his own animal collection for his workers to enjoy, as well as to the public. ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park turns 100 next year and is home to 200 animals representing 75 North American species. Bonus: Admission to ZooAmerica is free with paid admission to Hersheypark.

Chocolate Tours and Museums

Once upon a time you could tour the chocolate factories in town, but the demand to do so grew too great and the tours ended. Enter “Chocolate World,” an entertainment complex with a 3-D show, lots of food eateries and shops where you can stock up on sweet stuff and learn everything you wanted to know about how chocolate is made. www.hersheyschocolateworld.com.

New this year is “The Hershey Story: The Museum on Chocolate Avenue,” which pays tribute to Milton Hershey. The museum features five exhibit halls but you must take a class at the Chocolate Lab where you’ll make your own chocolate designs.

Golf

Thankfully, Hershey is also a golfer’s paradise—a perfect way to work off those cocoa calories if you don’t want to risk rolling out of here as sluggish as an Amish buggy. The Hershey Golf Collection features three, 18-hole courses and a nine-hole course. At the new Hershey Links Clubhouse you can grab a meal at the Highlands Grill.

Where to Eat

Chocolate connoisseurs will want to check out the newly opened Café Zooka, located on the main level of The Hershey Story: The Museum on Chocolate Avenue. Named after one of Hershey’s first confections, Zooka’s Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting bar is where you’ll sip warm chocolate drinks (think fruity African chocolate flavors to Indonesian chocolate with caramel overtones).

Romantics swoon over the chocolate-inspired menu at the award-winning Hershey Resort’s Circular Dining Room restaurant. The walls are curved and the tables angled away from one another so you’re ensconced in privacy. Tip: The chocolate martinis are tops.  

It’s worth the 10-minute drive to Prudhomme’s Cajun Kitchen in nearby Columbia. Owned by renowned restaurateur Paul Prudhomme’s brother, David, the restaurant is a slice of New Orleans in Pennsylvania (think gator, jambalaya, po’boy sandwiches and catfish fajitas).

The sandwiches at Isaac’s Deli are named for different birds and some are made with “pretzel rolls.” Local teen Rhiannon Roberts recommends “The Mockingbird,” a combo of thinly sliced grilled ham and provolone cheese, topped with tomatoes, onions and mayo.

Where to Stay

Make The Hotel Hershey your home, sweet home while visiting here. The 230-room, 75-year-old hotel recently added 10 cottages, a clubhouse for the kids’ program, and a recreation campus with an aquatic center and an ice-skating rink.

The icing on the cake is the Chocolate Spa, where you can indulge in a chocolate fondue wrap, a cocoa facial, a whipped cocoa bath and, paying tribute to Milton S. Hershey’s ties to Cuba where he owned sugar mills and plantations, succumb to the Mojito Sugar Scrub or the Noche Azul Scrub (a bath with white butterfly jasmine, hibiscus and orange blossom). 100 Hotel Road, tel. 717-533-2171. www.thehotelhershey.com


Destinations: Hershey

Themes: Amusement Parks, Culinary, Family Travel

Activities: Arts and Entertainment, Golf, Museums, Sightseeing


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