Living in the Washington, DC metro-area, I’m lucky in that there are a lot of great places to visit for the weekend. One place that we had frankly ignored for years was Hershey, Pennsylvania. In retrospect, I think it was because we had the misconception that it was a place just for kids and families. To be honest, we decided to go because of Hershey Park but after booking our hotel we realized the park was closed for the season. My partner and I thought about cancelling, but at the last minute threw caution to the wind and made the short drive up to central Pennsylvania. I’m thrilled we did, because I quickly learned that Hershey is as much fun for adults as it is for kids.
1. Stay at The Hotel Hershey – I was absolutely blown away by this remarkable, luxury hotel almost immediately. I’m still shocked that I very nearly didn’t book us there, but I thankfully listened to my partner who said we wouldn’t regret it. The Hotel Hershey is a classic hotel; built in the 1930s it echoes the era of Gatsby and incredible wealth. The Hotel has kept these exacting standards over the years and today the property is just as luxurious as it was when it first opened. The Hotel itself is an attraction in its own right and be sure to spend some exploring both the beautiful interiors as well as the immaculately sculptured gardens. They’re also famous for their spa and after spending a morning there I can say without exaggeration that it really is one of the best I’ve been to. Their most popular treatment is the cocoa massage, using essential oils for a relaxing and fragrant experience. But it’s the overall feeling of grandeur that is at the heart of the Hotel Hershey’s greatness. The staff makes everyone feel important, even if only for a weekend and that is a rarity in today’s travel world.
2. Corny tourist at Hershey’s Chocolate World – The heart of the Hershey experience in town is the mammoth Chocolate World facility. Tour buses line up almost year round to offload passengers who want to learn about the company and taste some delicious chocolate. While a busy place, don’t overlook spending some time here and embrace your inner corny tourist. The complex features a huge store and a lot of different activities for both adults and children. While I enjoyed the 10-minute simulated factory tour, what I really loved was the opportunity to make my own chocolate bar. For $14.95 (it’s also included in some hotel packages, so check those out) you can go through the process of designing your own chocolate bar, from conception to packaging. Visitors can choose the type of chocolate to be used as well as the add-on ingredients, everything from pretzel bits to toffee chips. The best part though is following your personal chocolate bar as it’s made, watching it at every step of the way. The activity takes about 45 minutes depending on the crowds, but it is a really fun experience and you walk away with a massive chocolate bar in its own special tin.
3. Dinner at Fenicci’s – I didn’t expect Hershey to have any notable food in town, but I was surprised more than once as we searched out meal options. My favorite meal was at the historic Fenicci’s of Hershey, which has been serving up great Italian food since the 1930s. The menu is expansive and offers something for every budget, from simple hoagies to steaks. The true hallmark of a great Italian restaurant is how they prepare their meatballs and after I tasted the one placed delicately in my baked penne dish I knew we had picked the right restaurant. More than the food, the ambiance of sitting out on the restaurant’s veranda, enjoying a perfectly crisp autumn evening was pure perfection, a kind that can’t be planned or crafted.
4. Chocolate flight at the Hershey Story Museum – I find myself recommending this activity to a lot of people; for whatever reason I just really enjoyed it. Located in downtown Hershey, the Hershey Story is a museum dedicated to sharing the history of Milton Hershey and his legacy over time. The Museum’s cafe, Café Zooka, offers something a little unusual – a chocolate flight. For $10 per person (or free with certain hotel packages) guests are presented with a variety of chocolate drinks made from cocoa in places as diverse as Sao Thome and Tanzania. The drinks are meant to show guests the differences that regions provide in taste, as well as the taste differences between varying cocoa percentages. Some were bitter while a few were downright delicious. My partner and I had a great time experimenting with the chocolates and learning more about them in the process. My only complaint is that the flight is currently set up as a do-it-yourself activity. I’d love to see them set up a wine tasting style room where an expert could lead visitors through the process of tasting the chocolates. It’d be a much more fun and engaging experience.
5. Visit nearby Strasbourg Railroad – Hershey is also convenient to other local attractions, including Harrisburg and Amish Country. My partner is a big fan of trains though, so we spent an afternoon exploring the Strasbourg Railroad. Strasbourg is one of the few operating steam locomotives in the country, and visitors get a taste of the grand era of railroading when they visit. At the heart of the attraction is taking a ride on the train itself. The tour into the farmlands of Pennsylvania takes about an hour round-trip and is a fun way to get out and see more of the surrounding countryside. Plus there’s the thrill of being in a steam train, which is really what drew us there in the first place. In addition to the train there’s also a train museum, with many examples of classic trains on display. You’ll see a lot of families at Strasbourg, but from our experience it’s also great for adults without kids. I didn’t feel out of place and had a fun afternoon riding the rails.
So there you go, an amazing adults-only getaway in a town known for family-centered entertainment. I admit I was wrong about Hershey before my visit and it has made me rethink a lot of other destinations around the country that I had previously discounted as being too family-oriented. Next stop Disney? (Not sure I can handle that just yet)