Located about five hours from Richmond in the heart of Pennsylvania, Hershey is surrounded by pastoral farmland and gentle hills. We passed by Hersheypark Hershey's entertainment theme park and Main Street USA, lined with street lamps in the shape of Hershey's Kisses, on our way to The Hotel Hershey, an exquisite property framed by lush woodlands, majestic formal gardens and calming reflective pools.
As we were checking in, we sensed a hint of chocolate in the air and looked around to see if the arousing scent was wafting from warm brownies. But none were to be found. Later, we were handed our key to the room along with a Hershey's bar, just in case we needed a snack later on.
We noticed the hotel's breathtaking Mediterranean architecture when we arrived. We were told that Milton Hershey (founder of the Hershey empire) was inspired to build a grand hotel after a 1930s trip to Europe. Wanting to rival the finest hotels in the world, Mr. Hershey chose a classic Mediterranean design and built the hotel during the Depression.
One of the most impressive sites on the property is the Fountain Lobby. The hand-painted, skylike ceiling overlooks an 18th-century-inspired Spanish patio with original 1930s fountain and tiles. The lobby actually, the entire hotel features hand-carved oak, which we were told was made from wood soaked underwater for half a century.
Our oversized room turned out to be a cozy retreat where we could sink into the plumpness of the sofa and snack on Hershey Kisses nightly presents during turn-down service.
The next morning we caught the hotel's van and made our way to Hersheypark, originally opened as a shady retreat for chocolate factory workers in 1907. Today the park sits between the GIANT Center (home to the Hershey Bears hockey team), The Hersheypark Sports and Entertainment Complex (arena, stadium and pavilion), Hershey's Chocolate World and the Hershey Museum.
After catching a couple of entertaining shows in the park and again noticing the tantalizing smell of chocolate (where were those warm brownies?), we strolled over to Hershey's Chocolate World and took a tour that explains the chocolate-making process. Did I mention that Chocolate World offers the widest selection of Hershey's products anywhere? Before leaving, we viewed the Really Big 3D Show, a lively romp with the ever-popular Hershey characters.
Before heading back to the hotel, we strolled through the Hershey Museum, filled with early Hershey's products. One of our favorite exhibits was "Kisstory: The Story of An American Icon," which includes a 6-foot gold-sequined kiss that was dropped in September 1990 from the top of 1 Times Square to introduce Hershey's Kisses Chocolates with Almonds.
The museum started as the Hershey American Indian Museum in 1933, containing artifacts from tribes across North America. The entire collection is now housed in the Hershey Museum. We were intrigued with a ceremonial Chilkat blanket from the Northwest Coast, as well as a number of ceremonial masks from the same area. Before leaving, we wandered through the museum's Pennsylvania German collection, filled with beautiful inlayed furniture and interesting ceramics.
That night we were able to score a table in the hotel's elegant Circular Dining Room the circular room overlooks the reflecting pools and formal gardens. There's not a bad seat in the house. We dined on organic pork chops with butternut mousseline and pan-seared salmon with saffron-braised cipollini (rare bitter onions). We managed to save room for dessert, double chocolate cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream.
Before leaving Hershey, I decided to check out The Spa at the hotel. Because of time limitations, I had to pass on being submersed in chocolate via a Whipped Cocoa Bath. There was also the Cocoa Massage and the chocolate fondue wrap. After walking through the park, Hershey World and the museum the previous day, I felt reflexology (think foot massage) was the way to go. My feet were happy with my choice even though they weren't covered in chocolate. Maybe next time.
If You Go
Visit Hershey during Chocolate-Covered February. This month-long celebration includes activities such as wine and chocolate pairings, chocolate-themed arts and crafts, cooking demonstrations and chocolate spa treatments. A complete list of Chocolate-Covered February activities can be found at www.ChocolateCoveredFebruary.com.
Families should check out the official visitors' center at Hershey's Chocolate World. Try the chocolate-themed tours on the Hershey Trolley, have a Chocolate-Covered Lunch Party with Hershey's Product Characters or participate in dessert-decorating demonstrations. The Hersheypark Chocolate Parade, featuring the Hershey's product characters and the Sweetest Brass Band, runs Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Here's a sampling of some chocolate adventures at The Hotel Hershey:
Head to Toe: Relax in chocolate at The Spa with the Everything Chocolate Signature Chocolate Spa Sampler Package. Offered only this month, the two-hour package costs $155 and includes Hershey's popular and patented Whipped Cocoa Bath treatment, a Chocolate Bean Polish and a Cocoa Massage, along with a complimentary sample of Cocoa Body Moisturizer.
Chocolate 101: This course Beer & Wine Pairings, Decadent Demonstrations, and Desserts -- is meant to expand your knowledge of chocolate and wine. Reserve a seat at a Wine and Chocolate Pairing seminar held Saturdays at 4 p.m. during February.
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