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Hershey, PA; Where Goodnight Kisses Are Wrapped in Silver

WHY GO: The product that made Milton Hershey a household name – chocolate – dominates everything here; at Hershey Park, in the Resorts, and on Chocolate Ave. downtown where the streetlights are shaped like Kisses. One of the most overlooked attractions in Hershey, PA is, arguably, its most important; The Milton Hershey School. If you come to Hershey and do nothing else, take a tour of this free residential school for 1,900 disadvantaged kids in K-12.  A part of every dollar you spend in this company town goes toward the care, feeding, and education of the children there. Of course, most people come to Hershey for the amusement Park, the Chocolate Spa or the stars who appear at the Arena. But make it a point to learn a bit about The Hershey School.  You will be moved.

 Sign to Catherine Hall - Milton Hershey Residential School for Disadvantaged Boys and Girls

Things To Do In Hershey, PA

VISIT: The Milton Hershey School. Built in 1909 by Milton Hershey and his wife as a school for orphan boys, it has grown from a handful of students to nearly 1,900 boys and girls today. Childless Milton left his complete fortune to the foundation that keeps this free sanctuary in operation for kids from broken families or dysfunctional homes. Dedicated teachers are of the Miss Honey variety; compassionate, engaged and warmhearted.  You’ll stand within the World’s Second Largest Rotunda – Founders Hall – and learn about the difference this place makes to many kids. 10am-3pm daily to see Founders Hall and 15 Minute Video, Free.

 External shot of downtown museum that tells story of Milton Hershey

VISIT: The Hershey Story Museum. During WWII, when aluminum foil was unavailable, the Hershey Chocolate Co. stopped making Chocolate Kisses and churned out 1.6 billion Ration Bars for US Troops instead.  Find this bit of trivia and the Parade Magazine version of Milton Hershey’s life at this engaging, interactive museum downtown.  In response to the harsh and abusive conditions Hershey saw in other Industrial Company Towns, he vowed to make his a kinder, gentler, prettier place.  He offered decent housing at reasonable prices for his employees and encouraged residents to start their own businesses. He built community buildings, two theaters, a school for orphans and a recreational park that would become roller-coaster central, HersheyPark.  His Foundation established the Penn State Milton Hershey Medical Center in 1963, and according to one bank Chair,  “Milton measured success not in dollars but in the usefulness of those dollars for the benefit of his fellow man.”  Stop long enough to watch videos of the kids who went to or are attending the Hershey School; they talk about the stability, motivation and compassion they find there.  I dare you to leave the museum dry-eyed. 9am-5pm daily in season, $10 adults.

TASTE: A “Flight” of Six Chocolates From Around the World at Cafe Zoosk.  You’ve never sampled chocolate like this. Like wine or olive oil, each world region produces a slightly different flavor of cocoa. In the Hershey Story Museum, $9.95 per selection.

VISIT: AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) Museum.  This showcase for dozens of iconic motorcars displayed in a hanger-sized building is fast becoming a hotspot for “quirky” weddings. Pick up a souvenir in the Dog House Garage Store on your way out. 9am-5pm daily, $10 adults, $7 kids.

 Entrance to Hershey's Chocolate World with large Kisses, Hershey's Chocolate Bar, Reeses

DO: Hershey’s Chocolate World.  It’s free, its fast (only 15 minutes) and it’s fun – just like a Disneyworld ride without the expense. Jump aboard carriages that convey you through the chocolate-making process.  Animatronic cows croon “it’s all about the milk,” as you see cocoa beans roasted, milled, pressed and mixed with milk and sugar to become, ta-da, Hershey’s kisses and other chocolate products. Amazingly, Hershey Chocolate Co. still produces over 80 million kisses every day. Opens daily at 9am and closes at 6, 7 or 9pm depending on season. Check Website.

DO/SPA: Chocolate Spa, Hotel Hershey. Luxuriate in a 15 minute patented Whipped Hot Cocoa Bath ($50). Awarded a U.S. patent in 2001, it’s an experience comparable to sitting in a cup of hot chocolate and the spa’s most popular treatment. There are dozens of various treatments including a new, edible facial and Whoopie Pie Mani-Pedi. Leave it to the folks at Hershey to determine all kind of ways to be immersed in the sweet stuff; dipped like fondue, wrapped like a burrito and submerged — all without a single calorie! Contact the Spa far in advance to secure reservation, since they fill up quickly. 

 Naturalist and Falconer Jack Hubley holding large hawk in his gloved hand

DO: Learn Falconry.  “There’s nothing like calling a hawk and seeing this small bird getting bigger and bigger as it approaches your gloved hand,” says Master Falconer and NBC News 8 Naturalist, Jack Hubley.  Take a 1 ½ hour lesson, then holler for your own hawk. Wed –  Mon Memorial Day to Labor Day, Weekends in Spring and Fall, April – October,  11am- 12:30, $75 or $65 if staying in a Hershey Resort.

The round bar at the center of updated Hotel Hershey dining room, The Circular

What To Eat In Hershey, PA

EAT: The Circular, Hotel Hershey.  After an extensive renovation, The Circular has been updated to reflect the tastes of today’s foodie traveler. An O-shaped bar and baking station takes up the center of the whitewashed room (no more mural).  Gas-light-style lamps illuminate wood furniture made in the USA accented in various chocolate hues. Gone are “bartenders” and in their place inventive “mixologists” who use house-made infusions in artful (and delectable) cocktails.  Chefs and managers have been culled from Four Seasons Hotels, so they understand the new au courant – small-plates market. Sit at the circular bar (hey ladies, it’s got built-in purse hooks!), graze on absurdly scrumptious “Wild Mushroom Wellington” ($20), Pretzel-Crusted Rock Shrimp ($9) – the PA Dutch version of Popcorn Shrimp and infinitively better – or go full-tilt for the 18oz  “Prime Cowboy” steak ($49, but big enough for at least two). End with the Chocolate Fondue for Two ($12).  The Circular is Hershey Hotel’s return to excellence and relevancy on the upscale, destination dining scene.

 Golden brown pastry stuffed with seasoned wild mushrooms

EAT: Trevi 5, Hotel Hershey. You can hear screams from the nearby roller coaster riders while enjoying your meal on the patio of this lovely linen-tabled Contemporary Italian restaurant.  The food is terrific, and service warm and gracious. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet a local elderly couple who dine there each and every night. Witnessing the tender way they are treated by Trevi 5 staff is sweeter than a Hershey’s Kiss.

EAT/BREAKFAST: Hershey Pantry. Go “off campus” to the local favorite breakfast place, The Hershey Pantry, where you can stuff yourself with Stuffed French Toast and other only-on-vacation breakfast splurges

EAT: The Chocolate Avenue Grill, downtown– offering an inventive and delish take on burgers, sandwiches and salads.  Try the Grilled Cesar Salad with Grilled Chicken ($12) – crisp, smokey, fresh, tasty, and not an ounce of cocoa in it.

Hershey Hotel Guest Room

Where To Stay In Hershey, PA

STAY: The Hotel Hershey. Philanthropist Milton Hershey put 600 people to work during the Great Depression in 1933 to build this marquee hotel. Though a bit bland on the outside, the interior, particularly the colorful Moorish Fountain Lobby (designed like the Heliopolis Hotel in Egypt), and The Circular Dining Room, are magnificent. Family-crest chic rooms in soothing neutral shades of creams and butterscotch, are lusciously appointed. The Chocolate Spa is located on premises, as are a slew of resort amenities and of course lots of shops that carry all things Hershey. $279 and up per room includes chocolate bar at check-in, discounts to Hershey Park, free shuttle to local attractions, free passes to area museums, and a host of amenities.

colorful tile Moorish room with palm trees and center fountain

STAY: Inn at Westwynd Farm. Not every lodging in the Hershey area is part of the company town.  Take this 32-acre working horse farm /B&B, just three miles away. With an ambience ripped from the pages of a romance novel, 11 pasture-view rooms have a fireplace and bedside Jacuzzi and are done up in whites and creams offset by deeply colored window treatments and bedding. Watch a variety of horses, alpacas and donkeys gambol all over a vast expanse of farmland.  Westwynd Farm is known for its three course hot breakfast served in the cathedral-ceiling great room or on an outside patio besides a koi pond. $109-$209 per room gets you unlimited baked snacks, soft drinks, beer, wine and gourmet 3 course breakfast for 2.

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