I have never been a fan of chocolate. Where others crave chocolaty delights for dessert, I have always been one to shy away from such treats — preferring alternatives like key lime pie, crème brulee, and vintage bread pudding in its stead.
So when my college-bound son Karson asked for a chocolate-fix and quick trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania before hitting the road for another grueling university year of engineering studies, of course I obliged. But not without thinking how I might concoct an itinerary for non-chocolate lovers like me. Since Karson loves chocolate — like most normal people do — I wanted to include a chocolate immersion for him while I, too, could enjoy non-chocolate alternatives. And judging by the variety of activities and delicious fun we both had, I was successful in accommodating both sides of the spectrum. So, here’s what we did during our chocolate/non-chocolate weekend getaway.
A little more than two hours from Washington, D.C., Hersheypark offers over 65 rides and attractions including 11 roller coasters, over 20 kiddie rides, live entertainment and nine water attractions in The Boardwalk at Hersheypark. While Karson conquered the roller coasters, I enjoyed star-studded entertainment in the park. With five distinct entertainment venues to choose from, ranging from classical to contemporary performances, I easily filled up my day.
The Hotel Hershey
A stay at this lavish hotel guarantees you world-class hospitality. A Forbes Four Star rated hotel and a AAA Four-Diamond Awards property, The Hotel Hershey is also a member of the Historic Hotels of America. Upon check-in, you receive Hershey chocolate bars for each guest. This proved to be double the fun for Karson as he now had two chocolate bars to savor for his sweet tooth. Then, at turndown service, we spotted Hershey kisses on our pillows. Again, a double-treat for Karson. Also, by staying at the hotel, you receive the best prices for Hersheypark tickets and can take advantage of complimentary seasonal shuttle service to Hersheypark.
The Spa at The Hotel Hershey
The Spa at The Hotel Hershey, affectionately called The Chocolate Spa, is known for signature treatments like their Whipped Cocoa Bath and Cocoa Facial Experience. However, for non-chocolate lovers like me, they offer more including traditional massages, body treatments,hydrotherapy, and facials.
With specialty treatments to choose from four signature collections, it can be difficult to decide: chocolate, roses, country or Cuban inspirations? Continuing with my non-chocolate theme, I chose a Mojito Body Wrap from the Cuban treatment collection — inspired from Milton Hershey’s acquisition of a Cuban sugar mill in 1916 that supplied sugar for his chocolate factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The Mojito Body Wrap is a hydrating, anti-aging body wrap that wafts with the citrusy scent of Cuban lime. Combined with clay and vitamin C, the treatment left my skin feeling smooth, soft and supple. Be forewarned that this is a minimal draping procedure. Bring a swimsuit bottom to wear if you prefer more modesty.
The Hershey Story and The Museum on Chocolate Avenue
Across town beneath Hershey Kiss streetlights, is The Hershey Story and The Museum on Chocolate Avenue, an informative tribute to Milton Hershey and how Hershey managed to simplify and standardize the recipe for chocolate and make it affordable for the average American (Prior to this, chocolate was considered an expensive luxury by Europeans; the Mayans incorporated chocolate into their daily lives, giving it as gifts to their gods and using it in ceremonies).
Here you learn all about chocolate and the important tools of chocolate making, including how Hershey simplified a chocolate recipe by roasting beans at higher temperatures and mixing sugar and milk before condensing, giving Hershey chocolate its distinctive and unique flavor.
Afterwards, cocoa connoisseurs can taste the best cacao growing regions in the world through a sampling of hot chocolates from regions like Madagascar, Sao Thome, and Tanzania. Located in Cafe Zooka, the Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting goes for $9.95 (Hint: Focus on texture, sweetness, and flavor). Karson tried the taste testing and voted the Tanzania sample, a robust and nutty blend, as his favorite. Though he enjoyed all tastings, he suggested that because of the amount and the concentrated chocolate, the experience is best shared with two!
Hershey Gardens is a 23-acre botanical garden with more than 5,000 roses and an artist’s palette of colorful seasonal flowers. Located just down the hill from the front of Hotel Hershey, it’s an easy 10-minute downhill walk (Note that you can also catch the hotel shuttle, which might be preferred for the uphill walk back to the hotel). With 11 themed gardens, a Butterfly House, and a Children’s Garden, the manicured gardens are well worth two-hours time. If staying at the Hershey Hotel, you will receive a complimentary pass to Hershey Gardens; otherwise, admission is $10.00 for ages 13-61 and $7.00 for ages 3-12. Children under three are free.
The Falconry Experience
One of the most memorable immersion activities during our weekend getaway was the day we participated in The Falconry Experience. Master Falconer Jack Hubley, having trained and hunted with hawks and eagles for more than 20 years, is an ardent yet charismatic advocate for the natural world.
He deftly brings his television hosting experience to the world of falconry, the ancient sport of Kings. The predator program includes a free-flight demonstration, simulated ground pursuit, and up-close encounters with photo opportunities.
Sign up with the concierge and then head to the hotel lobby for a shuttle that whisks you away for a phenomenal birds of prey encounter. Karson was elated when a falcon landed on his leather-gloved hand. Next, he was instructed to form a circle with both arms as Hubley stood on the opposite side to demonstrate how falcons will fly the most direct course to their prey — in this case, the meat in Hubley’s hand (Rather than fly over Karson’s circled arms, the falcon flew right through). "This is all about the meat," Hubley quipped and then added that is why parrots make better pets. Prices for guests of The Hotel Hershey are $80 for ages 13 and older, $65 for youth aged 8-12.
Hershey Street Lights across from the Hershey Story