20 May A Grown-Up Weekend in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Trip Overview: To say that a weekend in Hershey is a sweet escape is quite the understatement. There’s literally chocolate everywhere. The streetlights are topped with jumbo Hershey’s kisses, the coffee’s roasted with cocoa beans, the people are all as nice as can be and — heck — in certain places even the air smells like chocolate. This small, central Pennsylvania town is where Milton S. Hershey began his chocolate empire over a hundred years ago, and today his legacy lives on.
Many people know Hershey simply as a destination for kid-friendly entertainment, thanks to the popular Hersheypark theme park. But, you may be surprised to know that there are plenty of attractions geared to grown-ups, too. If you’re looking for an adult weekend in Hershey that doesn’t involve stepping foot in an amusement park, keep reading… for you’re in for a treat.
Time needed: 36 hours
Distance from DC: 260 miles, roundtrip
Best time to visit: Year round
Best suited for: Couples, Girlfriend Getaway, Friends, Solo trip… while there are plenty of things to do in Hershey that are suited for families, this particular itinerary is geared towards adults. I went with my girlfriend Molly, and it’s “girlfriend getaway approved!”
A GROWN-UP WEEKEND IN HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA
SUGGESTED ROUTE – DAY 1
1.) Lunch at Tröegs Brewing Company (200 E Hershey Park Dr., 717.534.1297, $-$$)
Hershey is conveniently located just 2 1/2 hours from D.C., so you can sleep in a bit and then hit the road at a reasonable time. Leaving around 9:30 a.m., you’ll arrive just in time for lunch. My pick? The mouth-watering gastropub fare from the Snack Bar at Tröegs.
Tröegs is one of Pennsylvania’s most well-known breweries, and the company has built a huge 5,000-square foot space in Hershey. It’s a popular spot with a fun, lively vibe that attracts both locals and visitors, and the food and the beers are top notch and affordable. Share the Mad Elf Fondue served with a baguette and fruit ($12) or perhaps try the massive seasonal meatloaf sandwich, topped with hearty slabs of bacon and a scoop of red-skin mashed potatoes. Wash it all down with the $7 beer sampler and discover your favorite. (I loved the Pale Ale and left with a six-pack from the brewery’s General Store.)
2.) Hershey Gardens (170 Hotel Rd., 717.534.3492, $10.50 per adult)
Within eyeshot of Hersheypark lies a flower-lover’s paradise… the Hershey Gardens. Opened by Milton Hershey in 1937 as an attempt to “create a nice garden of roses,” over the years the garden has continued to grow and expand. Today, the 23-acre botanical garden is a lovely way to spend an hour or so on a temperate day.
Walk the paths admiring manicured gardens and ponds, the trees in the Arboretum and the impressive 5,000 bush rose garden. Even if you’re traveling without kids, be sure to stop in to admire the whimsical Children’s Garden that features –what else– Hershey’s candy-themed decorations.
NOTE: The Gardens are open April through December, though a planned 2016 addition of the Milton & Catherine Hershey Conservatory will transform the Hershey Gardens into a year-round attraction.
3.) Indian Echo Caverns (368 Middletown Rd., Hummelstown, 717.566.8131, $14 per adult)
Did you know that some of the area’s most fascinating history lies far beneath the ground? The nearby Indian Echo Caverns is a surprising local attraction that formed over millions of years as water wound through the limestone that lies just under the earth’s surface.
Entering the pitch-black cave is jarring at first, but that’s all part of the fun. As your eyes slowly adjust, details begin to emerge: Jagged rocks, nuanced colors, stalactites and stalagmites are all around you. With a little guidance from the cavern tour guide, soon you’ll begin to spot familiar characters and shapes– like a dragon or a gigantic ear of corn or a tower of jellyfish –seemingly carved into the rocks, yet amazingly “carved” by nature. The 45-minute tour (which runs 10-4, daily) is an interesting and entertaining escape into the area’s hidden natural beauty.
4.) Cassel Vineyards (80 Shetland Dr., Hummelstown, 717.533.2008)
To relax and enjoy the afternoon at a slower pace, head on over to Cassel Vineyards, where the wine is as nice as the view. This family-operated vineyard features estate wines that are grown and bottled on their 135-acre family farm, and it’s not uncommon to see co-owner Craig Cassel hard at work out amongst the vines or pouring samples with a glass of crisp Vidal Blanc in hand.
The tasting room is open Friday through Sunday (12-6), and the tastings are incredibly well-priced ($3 for 5 pours). Find your favorite and grab a bottle (ranging from $12-$20/ each) to enjoy at one of the outside tables overlooking vines, horse pastures and rolling hills of picture-perfect Pennsylvania farmland.
5.) Check into the Hotel Hershey (100 Hotel Rd., 717.533.2171, $$$$)
Hershey has an abundance of great places to stay– ranging from budget motels to big-name chains to three Hershey-operated properties. For this adult getaway, my pick is the luxurious and historic 4-star Hotel Hershey. It’s not cheap (rooms run upwards of $300/ night during peak season), but this destination resort offers a lot for guests that decide to stay here.
Inspired by Milton Hershey’s Mediterranean travels, the whole property is extremely elegant, catering to an upscale, adult crowd. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with a romantic European style. The whole property is big— with cottages, gardens, a pool complex, tennis courts, a popular spa, 3 full-service restaurants, a coffee shop, bakery, expansive terraces and a late-night lounge all situated on 300 acres.
The Hotel Hershey brings a dose of sweet luxury to each guest, with decadent touches like complementary Hershey bars for each guest at check-in as well as a nightly Hershey Kiss turndown service.
6.) Late Dinner at Harvest (Located at the Hotel Hershey, 717.534.8800, $$$, reservations highly suggested)
After settling in at your hotel of choice, head on over for a late dinner at Harvest. Featuring farm-to-table regional cuisine, Harvest’s menu changes every 12 weeks in order to highlight the freshest seasonal ingredients. A sample spring dish includes red-wine braised beef short ribs from a farm in neighboring Annville, served with local potato and goat cheese gratin and green beans ($25.)
Harvest takes a lot of pride in celebrating the region’s best, and between the inventive menu and the top-notch service, it’s sure not to disappoint.
7.) Nightcap at the Iberian Lounge (Located at the Hotel Hershey, 717.534.8800, $$)
As you wrap up your first, full day in Hershey, it’s only fitting that you end it on a sweet note with one of the signature chocolate cocktails at the Iberian Lounge. From the Hershey’s Signature martini (with chocolate and vanilla vodkas, and white crème de cacao — $12) to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup martini ($12), you’re sure to satisfy your sweet tooth with one of these deceptively potent cocktails.
If you prefer your spirits a bit stronger, the lounge also offers a sizable list of whisky, bourbon, beer, wine and more. Sweet dreams…
8.) The Chocolate Spa (Located at the Hotel Hershey, 717.520.5800, $$$, appointments required)
Begin your second day in Hershey with a visit to the Chocolate Spa at the Hotel Hershey. Here you can enjoy traditional or chocolate-based treatments like the signature Cocoa Massage ($135 for 50 minutes), which pairs chocolate scented oil with a classic Swedish massage– a decadent zero-calorie treat!
Before and after your treatment, take in sweeping views of the hotel grounds from the terrace, relax in the sauna and be sure to try one of the complementary chocolate chocolate chip muffins. Enjoy the fun, fleeting feeling of smelling like a chocolate bar before getting ready to get out and continue on with your day.
9.) Hershey Trolley Works (251 Park Blvd., 717.533.3000, $)
Next up, learn all about the history of Milton Hershey and how his chocolate empire came to be with a ride with Hershey Trolley Works. Chances are, you’ve probably seen the old-school green and cream-colored around town– that’s because this 60-minute tour ($12.95 per adult) really gets around. You’ll see Milton’s childhood home, the original Hershey’s chocolate factory, get up close to the philanthropic Milton Hershey School and more while entertained by a couple of spirited tour guides. Oh, and there’s chocolate samples includes… would you expect anything less?
10.) Hershey’s Chocolate World (251 Park Blvd., 717.534.4900, $$)
By now, you’ve probably driven past Hersheypark a half-dozen times. Sure, you didn’t intend to go into the theme park this weekend (this is an adult getaway, after all…) but perhaps you’re feeling a little disappointed that you didn’t plan it into your itinerary after seeing all the roller coasters zipping by. Never fear!
Adjacent to Hersheypark (and also the meeting place for the Hershey Trolley) is Hershey’s Chocolate World, a one-stop shop with a handful of fun, chocolate-themed attractions like a 4-D movie, the Chocolate Tasting Adventure and a delightfully cheesy Disney-esque animatronic ride. Each attraction at Hershey’s Chocolate World is individually priced (except the ride— that one’s free!), so you can pick and choose what you’d like to do. A must-do for kids and adults alike is the “Build Your Own Candy Bar” experience ($14.95 per person). From touch screens where you get to decide what goes in your candy bar to watching your bar get made on step-by-step on a working conveyor belt, visitors get to experience an essential part of the Hershey factory process… and get to leave with a nice-sized custom created candy bar. Fun!
**DISCLAIMER: Many of my meals, accommodations and activities for this trip were provided by the Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company and the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. I worked closely with my contacts there to customize an itinerary that best fit my travel perspective and all opinions are my own.**